GOP tries to link torchbearing Charlottesville protest to Democrat in Va. Congressional race

RICHMOND – With images of the torchbearing white nationalists who met in Charlottesville last year, the Republican Party of Virginia has spread a kite accusing a Democrat who runs to 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 secret operations in the United States.

"Racists in Charlottesville chanted & Jews will not replace us." Leslie Cockburn's book adds fuel to the fire ", reads the mailer, who has photo's of torchbearers with Cockburn and her book & # 39; Dangerous Liaison & # 39; combines. " Refuse anti-Semitism. Refuse Leslie Cockburn. "

Riggelman's campaign refused to say whether he supported the use of the fliers and referred questions to the Republican Party of Virginia. The party said that the mailers go to & # 39; thousands & # 39; voters throughout the district.

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.

On Monday she released a statement quoting seven clergymen who were in charge of her, including the rabbi of the Beth Israel Congregation in Charlottesville. The clergy complained of making political hay from the deadly August Unite the Right rally and two smaller, torch-fueled protests.

This image shows a side of a kite made by the Republican Party of Virginia, accusing Democrat Leslie Cockburn of anti-Semitism. (Thanks to RPV / Courtesy or RPV)

"I find it awful that members of the Republican party expect me not to be offended by calling on Charlottesville's tragedy to play politics," said Rev. Thomas Motley of Elba Mission Church, Elba of Danville, 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. Tom 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 introduce a thin connection between her Republican opponent Denver Riggleman and white suprema.CISM.

Virginia's expansive fifth congress district, stretching from the North Carolina border to almost the Maryland border, includes Charlottesville.

Considering how powerful Charlottesville was shocked by the white supremacy rally of 2017 that ultimately claimed three lives, both parties are trying 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, which is one of the things to draw from this flier: to ask a politician to take a chance, will probably leave a disappointment behind. & # 39;

Because they are provocative, the GOP mailers could pay attention to the controversial 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."

During Last year's gubernatorial race, the state-of-the-art Democratic ticket paired photos of the Charlottesville torchbearers with President Trump and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie.

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 pilots 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.

In his failed attempt at the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year, Stewart made a few gigs at rally organizer Jason Kessler prior to the deadly Unite the Right rally. 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 race, Stewart distanced himself from Kessler and said that he was initially unaware of his 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 anniversary of the Charlottesville rally 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, vote 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 worked with him and Corey Stewart last year to demand 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 who had Kessler queue to speak.

Smith says he has turned away from his flirt with the alt-right and in the past year has worked on organizing events in Charlottesville, meant to help cure the city.

But when he appeared at Riggleman's public event this year, Democrats saw him in the crowd in news pictures and made a statement 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 on 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. " [cq] Welcome to Va-5. "

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