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Neo-Nazi with History of Felony Convictions Gets OK to Run for NC House on GOP Ticket

Source: Editorial Board

Republicans in Rockingham County and the state party were left reeling last week after county and State Board of Elections officials cleared a neo-Nazi with a history of felony convictions to run for state House despite late attempts by the GOP to have the candidate removed, The News & Observer reported.

Joseph Gibson III, a registered Republican and Rockingham County podcaster, filed to run in the state House District 65 Republican primary against incumbent Rep. Reece Pyrtle. This is the second time Gibson and Pyrtle will face off in a primary.

Stephen Wiley, the caucus director for House Republicans and the person who works to recruit candidates to run for office, told CBS 17 he was unaware of Gibson’s background when he first ran against Pyrtle in 2022. That time, Pyrtle won the primary by a 4-1 margin over Gibson.

Had Wiley done his job two years ago and performed a background check, he would have noticed the decades’ worth of criminal convictions (in both Connecticut and North Carolina) on Gibson’s record and perhaps he wouldn’t have been so surprised this time around when he announced his intention to run again.

Although he failed miserably at his job, Wiley deserves at least some credit for his honesty. He told CBS 17 that he simply “didn’t have time” to do his job properly in 2022 and that’s why Gibson is still a problem for the NCGOP today.

“So, with how often the candidate filing period kept starting and stopping in 2022, I mean, he’s just got a talent for slipping through the cracks and I just didn’t have time to see it,” Wiley said. “It’s pretty impossible to verify information on a lot of these folks quickly enough.”

It is true that properly vetting a candidate can take a significant amount of time and effort, but even given two years to learn more about Gibson, Wiley and the NCGOP still failed to do their jobs.

Following his primary loss in 2022, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism published a report on Gibson based on his social media posts and podcasts, describing him as a “white supremacist and anti-government extremist” and that the “neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) promoted his candidacy on their Telegram channel as ‘one of our members in NC.’” 

Wiley said he was unaware of what the ADL had uncovered until earlier this month.  

“We didn’t really know much about his policy positions, some of the more extreme policy positions that have since come out,” he said. “His integrity is clearly very low. He has repeatedly lied.” 

After discovering Gibson’s felony convictions and neo-Nazi beliefs, the Rockingham County GOP filed a challenge to his candidacy in December, The N&O reported. Within the last month, the state board and the Rockingham County Board of Elections each heard Gibson’s case twice and bounced the responsibility of making a ruling back and forth. After Rockingham County elections officials determined that his citizenship rights had been restored following the completion of his probation in 2008 for felonies committed in Connecticut, they approved Gibson’s candidacy on party lines with the Democratic majority voting in favor and Republicans voting against.

The decision was then sent back to the state board who came to the unanimous conclusion that Gibson should be allowed to run for state House.

If you ask Wiley, the only reason Gibson is being allowed on the ballot is to embarrass the NCGOP by allowing a literal neo-Nazi to run as a Republican.

Rockingham Democratic elections board member Thurman Hampton refuted those claims to WRAL.

“How would I know he’s a Nazi?” Hampton said, adding that if the GOP was concerned about that, they never brought it up during either of the hearings. “We were not there to talk about his credibility, or his suitability, or anything like that. It was one simple question: Was he eligible?”

Instead of pointing fingers at Democrats, Wiley may want to consider looking in the mirror and acknowledging not just his personal failure to properly vet a candidate, but also take a broader look at the Republican Party’s policies and its leadership to try and better understand why it is that right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis find themselves so drawn to the GOP.

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