On an unusually warm afternoon last fall, residents in Bridgeview opened their doors to a stranger.
Arthur Jones was going house to house in the southwest suburb on Oct. 5, rounding up signatures for his primary election petition for Congress.
Voters signed it after Jones told them he was hoping to run as a Republican against Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski in the 3rd Congressional District.
What Jones didn’t say is that he’s an avowed anti-Semite, Holocaust denier and the former leader of the New American Nazi Party.
“He seemed like a nice guy,” said Michal Bodyziak, whose wife, Anna, signed her name to the petition.
Now Jones is the sole GOP candidate in the 3rd District on the primary ballot March 20, which means he is on track to be the Republican Party nominee in the November general election.
On a 10-degree evening last week, residents in Bridgeview opened their doors once again to tell a Chicago Sun-Times reporter how Jones went about collecting some of the 603 signatures he needed.
Of the six people who agreed to be interviewed, none had heard of Jones until he rang their doorbells.
Jones, 70, of Lyons, is now the subject of national and international news after the Sun-Times reported on Feb. 4 that the he was poised to clinch the nomination.
In an interview with the Sun-Times, Jones has said he’s in charge of an organization called the American First Committee, whose membership is limited to “any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent.”
But while he was collecting signatures, Jones didn’t mention any of that.
“He just told us he was all about the people,” Michal Bodyziak said.
Bodyziak said he and his wife are immigrants from Poland. Jones didn’t say that he denies there was a Holocaust in which 6 million Jews died, many of them in Poland.
“No, he said none of that,” Anna Bodyziak said.
According to her husband, Jones said he “wanted to help the state make everything better, lower taxes and that. Yes, it was very positive.”
When a reporter showed the couple video snippets of Jones’ controversial statements on Jews, they winced. They said they could never support Jones for Congress after seeing that.
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A neighbor down the block also gave Jones his signature. The man said he’d never heard of Jones, either, but he agreed to sign the petition “because I want people to run for office. If I knew he stood for any of that, I wouldn’t have signed.”
About a mile away, Medardo Elizalde was sitting on his couch when his son opened the door to a reporter.
The son said his father mostly speaks Spanish and translated for him. He asked his dad if he remembered signing Jones’ petition.
Jones had said people wanted to keep him off the ballot, Elizalde recalled. Elizalde said he gave his signature so Jones would go away.
Jones managed to collect 834 signatures in Bedford Park, Bridgeview, Chicago Ridge, Countryside, Hickory Hills, Homer Glen, Justice, La Grange, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, Palos Hills, Stickney, Summit and Worth — but none in Chicago.
“I waited on the last day, Dec. 4, to file my signatures. I turned them in, fully expecting for an objection or that there would be a candidate that they’re putting up against me,” he has told the Sun-Times.
Though GOP officials in his own party have now repudiated Jones and his candidacy, he still thinks he’s got a shot even though the district is overwhelmingly Democratic. Lipinski, of Western Springs, faces Marie Newman, of LaGrange, in the Democratic primary.
Said Jones, “Listen, I don’t go to all this damn trouble if I didn’t believe I had a chance to win.”
Contributing: Lynn Sweet