Hundreds sign petition to get Holocaust denier back on ballot, but voters say they were in the dark
The Illinois Republican Party says it’s stepping up efforts to make voters aware that Arthur Jones is once again a candidate for the U.S. Congress.
Embarrassed that an anti-Semitic activist and Holocaust denier nabbed the 2018 GOP nomination, the Illinois Republican Party says it’s stepping up efforts to make voters aware a man it has called a Nazi, Arthur Jones, is once again running for a seat in Congress.
And similar to two years ago, Jones did not mention his controversial views to many voters when he asked them to sign petitions enabling him to appear on the ballot in the upcoming March primary, according to several people interviewed by the Sun-Times.
Jones, 71, is a retired insurance agent from Lyons who has run for the GOP nomination eight times before in the 3rd Congressional District that covers parts of the South and Southwest sides and southwestern suburbs. He’s also an outspoken Holocaust denier, anti-Semite and white supremacist who founded the American First Committee, whose membership is limited to “any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent.”
Jones, who couldn’t be reached for comment, said previously that his views on the Holocaust are a non-issue.
“It never comes up. When I got my signatures, nobody asked me about the damn Holocaust,” Jones told the Sun-Times in 2018. “It’s totally irrelevant to my campaign. Totally irrelevant.”
Records show Jones collected 844 signatures in Palos Hills, Hickory Hills, Stickney, Oak Lawn, Bridgeview, Worth, Countryside, Bedford Park, La Grange, Chicago Ridge, Hometown, Lyons and Willow Springs. Just over 600 signatures were required to get on the ballot.
He also managed to get one Chicago voter to sign his petitions after not getting any signatures in the city in 2018.
The spotlight in the race has been on the rematch of Marie Newman, a progressive, and incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, a social conservative, in the heavily Democratic district. Rush Darwish, a Palos Hills man who runs a radio and television production business, is also running in the Democratic primary. Newman previously lost by just 2.2 percentage points.
But next year Jones will face two other Republicans: Will County GOP Board member Mike Fricilone and Catherine O’Shea, a real estate broker from Oak Lawn. In the general election, Jones got 57,885 votes to Lipinski’s 163,053 votes in 2018.
Illinois Republican Party executive director Anthony Sarros said the party is planning an awareness campaign that could include digital advertising, Facebook ads or mailers ahead of the primary, to outline Jones’ beliefs and remind voters that there are two other Republicans running.
“We want to make sure that the Republicans, Democrats, any Illinois citizens know that this is not a candidate that we support and we don’t want him winning the election,” Sarros said. “ ... We hate this. we don’t want this to happen and now I kind of want to know how this happened and how do we prevent this.”
An attorney for the state party and a representative from Lipinski’s campaign are among 10 people who requested to review Jones’ 844 petitions. But the party says nearly 87% of his signatures were valid, and no one challenged his right to appear on the ballot.
In total, 217 of those who signed identified as independent voters. Another 118 were “hard Democrats” —those who have voted Democrat in two or more of the last four primary elections — and 111 were “hard Republicans” — those who have voted Republican the same amount. Another 68 had voted in both party’s primaries.
“The deeper story to this is just people who signed a petition for an old gentleman not knowing who he was, what he supported and not knowing what he was running for,” Sarros said. “It’s unfortunate these folks are signing this petition. I’m sure he didn’t advertise who he was because he was able to get all of these signatures.”
‘I had no idea’
Some of those who signed his petitions confirmed in interviews with the Sun-Times they didn’t know Jones’ background.
A woman who answered the door to a home in Hickory Hills said her husband is a Democrat and she wasn’t quite sure why he’d signed Jones’ petition.
“Nobody’s voting for any white supremacists here,” a man screamed from the back of the house.
Jones’ history was also a surprise to Ronald Ogarek, a Palos Hills man who signed the petition, along with his wife.
Ogarek first asked a reporter for proof of Jones’ views, but then googled him on his phone.
“That’s him right there, and that’s the uniform,” Ogarek said, pointing to a picture of Jones wearing Nazi garb.
Ogarek said he’s a Republican and a President Donald Trump supporter, “but I don’t support white supremacists.”
“I had no idea that he was a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist,” Ogarek added. “I would have kicked him out if I knew that.”