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Elephant in the Room

California GOP grapples with irrelevancy and a top-polling neo-Nazi challenger to Dianne Feinstein

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It's been a couple of wild weeks for the California State Republican Party now that it's been revealed that one of the highest polling Republicans in the state is a blatant neo-Nazi who denies the Holocaust happened.

The party has been dealing with fallout from a recent statewide poll, which revealed that self-described "counter-Semite" Patrick Little was leading all challengers, Democrat and Republican, in the race for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat. Feinstein is Jewish.

The state GOP’s Little headache piled on to a set of grim statistics that keep mounting for a party whose support is cratering in the state since Donald Trump’s election as President. Only about 25 percent of registered voters in the state are Republicans, and the last time the party took a statewide race was in 2006, when immigrant Arnold Schwarzenegger took the governor’s race. This year, immigration hard-liners in the southern part of the state have rallied around their antipathy for the state’s sanctuary law, while more moderate Republicans helplessly fret over Latinos’ wholesale abandonment of Republicanism in the Trump era.

DISTANT NEIGHBORS The East Bay is home to militant antifa protests and Patrick Little's campaign headquarters.
  • DISTANT NEIGHBORS The East Bay is home to militant antifa protests and Patrick Little's campaign headquarters.

Enter Patrick Little. He tried to attend the state GOP spring convention in San Diego over the weekend. It didn’t go well, he said in a brief interview. Little was booted from the event when he attempted to register at the VIP table, despite his declaration to organizers, he notes, that he’s the top-polling Republican in the state. As a parting shot, he stomped on an Israeli flag as he departed the convention.

Little has taken a square aim at the powerful lobbying organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in his campaign. The organization did not respond to requests for comment. In scanning leading state newspapers in the lead-up to the convention last weekend, a consensus view emerged in the various editorials and analyses which indicated that among California’s political and media class, ignoring Little seems to be the best strategy to make him go away. News stories about the convention barely mentioned Little, if they mentioned him at all, and focused on the party’s challenging work ahead in a state whose Democratic supermajority has dug in as the loyal opposition in the aftermath of Trump’s minority-vote victory in 2016.

The state GOP has tried to gain traction with California voters this year with its initiative to repeal a new state gas tax—but it’s really hard to ignore the fact that the same party is fielding a candidate for U.S. Senate who doesn’t believe there were gas chambers at Auschwitz. Can Little be so easily dismissed? It’s a hard row to hoe for the GOP. The party wants voters to believe that Gov. Jerry Brown has bankrupted the state, even as last week California leapt over Great Britain to become the world’s fifth largest economy.

When the poll broke that showed Little’s surprising surge, national political outlets such as right-leaning The Hill were replete with stories from state GOP leaders of the “we’ve never heard of this horrible person before” variety.

The Bohemian made numerous attempts to contact the state Republican Party to discuss the Little phenomenon, to no avail. They clearly want him to go away. The takeaway from state party leaders is that they are aghast that an unapologetic anti-Semite could lay claim to the mantle of the state GOP’s messaging with his 18 percent showing in the polls.

Yet this is the same state GOP which supported a candidate for president in 2016 who refused to disavow an endorsement from American Nazi David Duke; who said there are “good people” among violent white supremacists; and whose “America First” platform is a throwback to anti-Semitic American isolationism prior to WWII, though wrapped in a proverbial “dog whistle”—coded language that appeals to a specific constituency while not rattling the mainstream.

There’s no dog-whistling in Little’s campaign, where he calls for the deportation of Jews, among other “counter-Semitic” policy proposals.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League recently reported that incidences of anti-Semitic violence have spiked since Trump’s election, including in California. The organization conducted a workshop on combating anti-Semitism recently in Silicon Valley.

Trump visited the state in March. At that time, Kurt Bardella (a Republican messaging strategist and former staffer to retiring California Congressman Darrell Issa) wrote on CNN’s opinion page online that “the reality is Trump’s brand of xenophobia is toxic to what little is left of the Republican Party in California. . . . Instead of evolving with the changing demographics, Republicans in California have continued to embrace the fringe policies and rhetoric of the most extreme edges of the GOP.”

Bardella did not respond to requests for an interview for this story. In the end, the state Republican Party did not endorse anyone at its weekend convention to run against Feinstein, who is both a deeply unpopular and unmovable force in California Democratic politics. Her would-be challenger from the left, State Sen. Kevin de León, crawled in at a meager 8 percent support in that same poll which found Little at 18 percent. The growing irrelevancy of the Golden State Republicans appears to have provided political space for a candidate such as Little to emerge, especially given that the fix is in on Feinstein’s re-election. The party hasn’t pushed out a favored candidate in what’s sure to be a losing race for her seat, and has struggled to find candidates to run at all this year. The big promised news going into the state GOP convention was over whether the party would endorse John Cox or Travis Allen in the governor’s race. It ended up endorsing neither man. Into this political vacuum enters Patrick Little.

So who is he? The former Marine has filed campaign certification paperwork with the California Secretary of State that lists his address as an apartment located in a student housing complex owned by UC Berkeley. But he’s not a student there and has never been. Little confirms this in a phone interview and says, “That’s my campaign address.”

The address under file with the Secretary of State is in the city of Albany, which is just north of Berkeley and where the university owns a sprawling apartment complex with various amenities, called University Village.

The Bohemian is not printing the address given that, according to UC Berkeley, the person at the address has every right under university policy to allow Little to use the location as his campaign address.

But it does raise a question about Little’s connection to the university, the site of numerous protests and tense stand-offs between Trump supporters and anti-fascist activists over the past couple of years.

A university spokesperson says no person named Patrick Little is currently enrolled at Berkeley, nor has anyone ever been enrolled at the university who has that name. The spokesperson could not identify the person who lives at the Berkeley-owned apartment associated with Little’s campaign. “We didn’t find any name matching that name either now or in the past,” says spokeswoman Janet Gilmore, who added, “I can’t talk about who may or may not live there because of state privacy laws.”

Little’s Twitter account says that he lives in Albany. He reported online that he was thrown off the social media site on April 29 over his denial of the Holocaust, and wrote that “Hitler saved more [J]ewish lives than any man in history.”

His campaign slogan is: “Liberate the U.S. from the Jewish Oligarchy.”

UC Berkeley has come under intense fire from the so-called alt-right for its security concerns, and cancellations of appearances by such hard-right Trump supporters Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. Those episodes have called the university’s vigorous and historic embrace of free speech into question among critics on the right. Has the university now become a free-speech zone for anti-Semitic students who support the likes of Little and are using university housing to promote his campaign?

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