Ohio Lawmaker, Urged by Own Party to Resign After Anti-LGBTQ Facebook Screed, Doubles Down

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday August 7, 2019

A Republican Ohio state lawmaker who hastened to Facebook after one of last weekend's mass shootings to "place the blame" on Democrats, married gays, trans people, and "snowflakes" for the gunman's actions shocked even her fellow Republicans, some of whom called for her to resign.

As is de rigeur for extremists in public office these days, State Rep. Candice Keller responded by refusing to back down — and setting her MAGA cap at even greater political power.

As previously reported at EDGE, Keller sent out a tweet in which she slammed everything except the white nationalist manifestos that multiple mass shooting perpetrators have posted in advance of their murderous actions. Among other factors Keller found to point to were "video games," "recreational marijuana," "open borders," "Obama," and — typical for this line of reasoning — "transgender," "homosexual marriage," and "drag queen advocates," summarizing her post with the cryptic sentence, "And the fury will continue."

A fellow lawmaker, Democratic Cincinnati councilman Chris Seelbach, posted Keller's diatribe on Twitter and encouraged his followers to phone her up and weigh in with their own opinions.

Other Democrats chimed in with calls for Keller to step down, with the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, Nan Whaley tweeting, "Candice Keller needs to resign," reports UK newspaper The Guardian. "No matter where you're from, who you love, or what you look like, you're welcome in Dayton."

Democratic Party chairman for Butler Country Brian Hester told the media that Keller "loves to fan the flames and play the role of victim here, not the nine people who were killed." Saying that Keller was "fundamentally unfit for office," Hester opined that Keller is "an embarrassment to her party" — an assessment that even some of Keller's fellow Republicans seemed to agree with.

The chair of the state's Republican Party, Jane Timken, was just as unsparing in her words as Keller's Democratic critics were, reported the New York Times. Said Timkin: "Candice Keller's Facebook post was shocking and utterly unjustifiable."

Added Timken, "Our nation is reeling from these senseless acts of violence and public servants should be working to bring our communities together, not promoting divisiveness."

Timken went on to say: "I am calling on Candice Keller to resign."

No such similar calls were made from Republicans with respect to President Donald Trump, whose recent comments on immigrants and on a quartet of female Democratic members of congress have been widely seen as implicitly racist, with many noting that the president's comments mirror the language used by white supremacists. A number of mass shooting perpetrators have cited white nationalist propaganda in online comments posted prior to their rampages.

But Keller has merely shrugged off calls from her own party to step down in the wake of her jeremiad. In fact, she's planning a Senate run — and her recent comments seem to indicate that she's counting on the notoriety of her Facebook screed to help propel her to victory.

"Establishment moderates have never been fans of mine because I ran against their endorsement and won," Keller declared in a rejoinder to Timken's call fro her to resign, reported the New York Post. "As the only conservative in this race, I will be taking my Senate campaign to the voters to decide."

Keller's disregard for her party's sense of propriety is only the latest example of candidates with extreme views seeming to play to a coarsened political culture for career advancement. Roy Moore, whose 2017 Senate ambitions were derailed by allegations of sexual harassment involving underage girls, has similarly shrugged aside calls from his party to abandon his latest campaign, declaring that the "mere mention of my name scares the hell out of the Washington D.C. establishment." Meantime, longtime Iowa Rep. Steve King charged full steam ahead even after his fellow Republicans voiced their dismay and distaste for his expressions of support for white nationalists and white supremacists, the New Republic recalled in an article on how both of those politicians have become potential GOP liabilities in next year's elections.

But are they truly liabilities for a party that has seemingly abandoned its longtime core principles? GOP officeholders have successfully clung to power despite conduct that would, in ordinary times, be instantly disqualifying. Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte paid no significant political price for assaulting a journalist in 2017 and has now filed paperwork to become a candidate in Montana's 2020 gubernatorial election, The Huffington Post reported.

In 2018, Washington State Rep. Matt Shea cruised to reelection despite revelations that he had authored a manifesto in which he outlined steps for overthrowing democracy in the United States and replacing it with theocratic rule. The manifesto was overtly violent in character, calling for Christian warriors to "kill all males" who refused to submit. Shea then easily weathered a subsequent scandal in which it was revealed that he had discussed attacks, including physical violence, and surveillance of political opponents such as liberals or "Antifa" activists. Among the suggestions made during that online exchange were tactics for attacking opponents' homes, places of employment, and the daycare attended by their children.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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