Arthur Jones is a racist, denies the Holocaust happened, and will likely be the only Republican on the ballot for a Chicago-area congressional seat in November.
The state GOP has denounced Jones and his candidacy, but says it had no way to stop him.
“We’ve tried to do everything we possibly could to prevent this person from getting on the ballot,” Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider said.
Jones is not new to the scene in the predominantly Democratic district that includes parts of Chicago and its south suburbs.
He’s tried to run for Congress there at least five times before, stretching back to 1998.
Under Schneider’s leadership in 2016, the party challenged signatures on Jones’ petitions and successfully got him booted from the ballot. Not so this year, as the petitions passed muster.
That’s left some voters in the 3rd Congressional District frustrated with local party leadership.
“It’s discouraging that someone with such strong beliefs that I disagree with could make it this far,” Republican voter Dacia Smith of Western Springs said.
The December filing deadline for next month’s primary passed with no other candidate stepping up to go against Jones. Schneider says it’s difficult for the Illinois GOP to recruit viable candidates to run in heavily Democratic areas.
“There aren’t very many people who want to go through the time and the effort to become the sacrificial lamb in these districts,” he said.
That’s a sentiment echoed by the former head of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady.
“There is limited resources,” he said. “You can’t put all of your money in every district, so we have to focus on the districts where you can win, and probably the bigger problem is these districts all over the country are gerrymandered.”
Rep. Dan Lipinski, the incumbent, is in his seventh term and is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. He’s facing a primary challenge by Marie Newman, who’s more liberal.
Up until Jones came on the scene, that was the only story coming out of this race.
Dacia Smith says that even in Democratic strongholds, getting a viable Republican name on the ballot is an investment worth making — not just when it prevents a self-proclaimed Nazi from stealing the party’s nod.
“I think sometimes as the underdog party, we’re a little too relaxed in believing that it’s a fight not worth standing up to,” she said. “Sometimes we roll over before we try, but I think we should put emphasis in every district.”
So for her first time voting for Congress in her new district, Smith says she’ll cast her vote for the Democrat.
Brady says he hopes other Republicans will do the same.
“We need to inform people that this is not a guy who shares our values, not a guy anybody should vote for, and you should get out in that district vote for a Democrat,” he said.
Current Illinois GOP leadership says it’s exploring other options to prevent Jones from winning, including encouraging voters to write in a candidate they have yet to find.