For minority Republicans in blue districts, recruiting candidates can be challenging, to say the least.
So when party leaders faced with underdog races put principle over party and politics, it’s worth taking note.
The bigger the race, the harder it is to convince potential public servants to spend the personal and political capital necessary to make a credible bid. When the battle is against a Democratic incumbent so popular she out-polled Donald Trump in 2016, and she will again be running in a district drawn to favor her party, it’s even more daunting.
That’s what 17th Congressional District Republicans faced in trying to unseat rising Democratic Party star and incumbent U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline. So it must have been a relief when Bill Fawell launched his energetic GOP bid for Congress in the 17th District.
Some party leaders first welcomed his candidacy. But as his more controversial views became more widely known via media reports, and Fawell’s postings on social media, GOP leaders, including 17th Congressional District committeeman Jan Weber, took note.
Then, on Aug. 8, Illinois GOP leaders took action.
State Republican Party chairman Tim Schneider, Rock Island County Republican Party Chair Drue Mielke, and Weber formally announced that the GOP had removed its support of Fawell’s candidacy.
They specifically cited Facebook page posts and reports in which Fawell appears to support 9/11 conspiracy theories, and called some mass shootings, including the school shooting at Newton, Conn., “false flag” events.
“Bill Fawell has a problem with the truth and his statements have done a disservice to the individuals who lost their lives from terrible acts of violence,” Schneider said.
Mielke, who told our editorial board he supported Fawell back in July, said he changed his mind after reading some of the candidate’s Facebook posts.
“It’s a huge distraction and I agree that it’s very disrespectful to these human tragedies like Sandy Hook and 9/11,” he said of Fawell’s campaign, “This is certainly not what the Republican Party is about, not even close,” he added.
Fawell and his supporters are free to believe what they want to believe, of course, just as GOP leaders and we are free to disagree vehemently in no uncertain terms, and to speak out against them.
Fawell also is entitled to run. He’s not entitled to his party’s support, nor ours, for that matter.
For his part, Fawell says the goal of his Elect Fawell Facebook page is to get people to read information from alternate news sources.
“What I try to do is put in posts from bloggers that are not mainstream,” he said. “I call it the daily lie of omission. It might be something off the beaten path that is not being reported by mainstream media.”
As a citizen in a free society, Fawell has the right to post what he wishes to post.
Importantly, as a candidate for Congress, he also has a duty to share all of his views with those he wishes to lead. Indeed, Fawell’s posts speak directly to why Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites must cease efforts to censor those whose views make others uncomfortable. Denying their existence and sending them underground doesn’t make them go away.
Fawell wasn’t surprised by the party’s reaction. In fact he seemed to relish it. “I wear the badge proudly of being excommunicated by the (party) of the state of Illinois. Now independents will say, ‘He’s our guy.’”
Before you do, however, please do as Fawell urges.
Read his Elect Fawell Facebook page, as well as anything else he’s written that will help enlighten you about his views.
Then, importantly, vote accordingly.