Kentucky Republican leaders responded quickly and appropriately to the offensive, racist online posts by the GOP candidate seeking a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Dan Johnson, the Bullitt County preacher challenging incumbent Democrat Linda Belcher in the 49th district, claimed the images he posted of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, with ape-like features were satire, but Republican leaders didn’t get the joke.
“They represent the rankest sort of prejudice present in our society and do not in any way, shape or form represent the views of the Republican Party of Kentucky,” Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown said in a news release.
Brown and House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover both signed a letter to Johnson asking him to drop out of the race.
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The GOP is fighting hard this fall to take over the House, the only legislative body in the South still in Democratic hands, by a slim a margin of four seats. Disowning a candidate challenging a Democratic incumbent makes that math harder.
Johnson has said he will stay in the race, as is his right, just as our First Amendment freedoms protect his right to propound offensive messages in speech or on the internet.
But, as Brown and Hoover said in their letter, “as leaders we are expected to not only understand our rights but also exercise good judgment in how we use them to express ourselves.”
This has been a sad and disgusting footnote in a year that has seen the GOP, including the Kentucky caucus, nominate as its presidential candidate a man who came to political prominence questioning the citizenship of our first black president.
It also comes after years of Republican efforts to limit voting by blacks and other minorities in state after state.
Brown and Hoover wrote that Johnson’s posts were offensive, “to respectable people of any race.” And, we will add, to any political party.
We hope the two leaders will continue to urge the Republican Party in Kentucky to elevate political discussion to an inclusive debate about policy and our future and away from the divisive politics of personality and hatred represented in Johnson’s foul rantings.