GOP tries to link protest photos of Charlottesville to the Democrats' congress race in Virginia



RICHMOND, Va. – With images of the torchbearing white nationalists who met in Charlottesville last year, a flyer distributed by the Republican Party of Virginia accused a Democrat running for Congress to be anti-Semitic.

The party bases this accusation on a book from 1991 that Leslie Cockburn wrote, and that is very critical of US-Israeli secret operations.

"Racists in Charlottesville chanted that & # 39; Jews will not replace us." Leslie Cockburn's book adds fuel to the fire, "says the mailer, who combines photo's of torch-carrying protesters with a photo of Cockburn and her book "Dangerous Liaison." "Ignore anti-Semitism and reject Leslie Cockburn."

The party said that the mailers go to & # 39; thousands & # 39; voters throughout the district. When asked if Cockburn opponent Denver Riggleman supports the use of the flyers, campaign leader Joe Chelak said in an e-mail: "Denver Riggleman has condemned White Supremacy and all forms of hatred, he is alarmed and appalled by the use of Leslie Cockburn & # 39; s book on White Supremacy websites, its radical position on Israel is a matter of foreign policy on which voters of the 5th arrondissement should be informed. "


Cockburn, who remains with her book, has cited her approval of the pro-Israel J Street PAC as proof that her criticism of Israel does not mean she is anti-Semitic.

She issued a statement on Monday in which she quoted that there were seven clergy who were in charge of her, including the rabbi of the Beth Israel Congregation in Charlottesville, Virginia. The clergy complained of making political hay from the deadly August Unite the Right rally and two smaller, torch-fueled protests.

"I find it terrible that members of the Republican party expect me not to be offended by the tragedy of Charlottesville to play politics," said Rev. Thomas Motley of Elba Missionary Church, one of the seven.

But the Democrats used the same images last year against Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for governor.

Cockburn and Riggleman compete for a place that is vacated by Rep. Thomas Garrett, who announced in May that he is an alcoholic and will resign at the end of this term to treat his illness.

Riggleman ran successfully behind the governor last year; this is Cockburn's first foray into politics.

Even when she pushed the mailers on Monday, Cockburn turned to Twitter to suggest a weak connection between Riggleman and white supremacy.


Virginia's vast 5th Congressional District, stretching from the North Carolina border to almost the Maryland border, includes Charlottesville.

Considering how powerful Charlottesville was shocked by the rally that claimed three lives, both parties try to use that emotional impact in reporting – while they are sometimes rivals for exploiting a tragedy.

Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist from the University of Mary Washington, said that the power of those images makes them irresistible.

"Especially in the 5th district and in Charlottesville these are not half remembered memories," Farnsworth said. "The images of Charlottesville, a year ago, still resonate very powerfully, that's one of the things to draw from this flyer, asking a politician to wait for a chance is likely to leave a disappointment."

Because they are provocative, the GOP mailers could pay attention to the book that Cockburn wrote with her husband, Andrew Cockburn. The mailers note that white supremacy websites have promoted the book and quote from a review of the New York Times.

"The first message is that, win or lose, smart or stupid, right or wrong, suave or crap, Israelis are a threat," wrote The Times. "The second is that the Israeli-American connection lies somewhere behind, just about everything that hurts us."

Gillespie repeatedly condemned the white nationalists, but stopped criticizing Trump for claiming that there were "very nice people" on both sides during the rally. The Gillespie spokesman condemned the flyers as an "ugly political attack that has no place in the political discourse of our Commonwealth."

Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, saw the GOP mailer as an attempt to help down-ticket Republican candidates such as Riggleman to stand out from the nominee of the US Senate, Corey Stewart.

Last year in his failed attempt at the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Stewart made some appearances with rally organizer Jason Kessler prior to the fatal event. Stewart, a provocateur in the style of the Trump, was the only Republican from Virginia who did not condemn white nationalists in the aftermath of it. In his current Senate contest, Stewart took a step back from Kessler and said that he was initially unaware of Kessler's extremist views.

"In some ways, the GOP may try to change something that is negative for them … and throw it back to the Democrats," Skelley said.

Farnsworth had a similar vision.

"The Republican party offers a very different message in this leaflet than the Republican president and the Republican candidate for the Senate has offered in the past," he said. "It may indicate that the Trump and Stewart approach is not a winning hand in that convention district, and the best thing for the Republican candidate to do is muddy the waters."

When the birthday of Charlottesville, Virginia, was approached earlier this month, Riggleman issued a strongly worded message against white supremacists.

"To white supremacists who want to return to Charlottesville on August 12 this year, I say this: you are not welcome," he wrote. "Go back to your cave, stand for someone else, I do not want your support, your help or your voice."

At the same time, the Democratic Party and Cockburn Riggleman have been accused of campaigning with "recognized white supremacist Isaac Smith."

Smith was once a close associate of Kessler and joined him and Corey Stewart last year for the preservation of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville. But Smith broke into public with Kessler for the race of August 12, alarmed by extremists Kessler had arranged to speak.

Smith says that he has turned away from his flirt with alt-law, which is looking for a white state, and in the past year has worked on organizing events in Charlottesville, meant to help cure the city.

But when he appeared at a public event for Riggleman this year, the Democrats saw him in the press in news reports and reported that Riggleman was campaigning with a white supremacist.

Smith and a spokesperson for Riggleman say he has no role in the campaign.

In a tweet Monday, Cockburn Riggleman and Stewart, "who share the Republican card, were being photographed with the same white supremacist, who is now a" recovering white supremacist. "Welcome to Va-5."


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