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Candidate for Congress Stands by His Words: Diversity Is ‘Evil’

SOMERS POINT, N.J. — The only word bigger than “Support Trump” on the flyers and lawn signs dotting this town are the last name of the congressional candidate who paid for them.

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Candidate for Congress Stands by His Words: Diversity Is ‘Evil’
Nick Corasaniti
, New York Times

SOMERS POINT, N.J. — The only word bigger than “Support Trump” on the flyers and lawn signs dotting this town are the last name of the congressional candidate who paid for them.

“I see a path to victory by saying things that everybody knows are true, but that Jeff Van Drew, and other politicians are afraid of saying because of political correctness,” said Seth Grossman, the Republican candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant House seat in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District in the southern part of the state.

Grossman, a 69-year-old lawyer, won his primary by trying to mirror President Donald Trump’s no-holds-barred rhetoric at nearly every turn. After he was heard in a video saying that “diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American,” he offered a complicated explanation before doubling down on his comments.

But his incendiary opinions are imperiling his long-shot bid against Jeff Van Drew, a well-known Democratic state senator, and are prompting potential Republican allies to abandon him. And if the election swings more toward Drew, the Democratic Party will be able to direct more money elsewhere in New Jersey, and put other Republicans on the defensive.

Grossman, a relatively unknown former Atlantic City councilman who won an upset victory in the primary, gained national notoriety when the The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about the video in which he mocks diversity and says the only reason the former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno became the Republican nominee for governor last year was because she is a woman.

At first, Grossman claimed that the video had been selectively edited by a left-leaning opposition group who caught him in a “tired, hungry, cranky” moment and that he was primarily talking about affirmative action.

But then Grossman followed the Trump playbook: attack the media and increase his rhetoric.

In a fundraising email with the subject line “They Tried to Knock Me Out,” he amplified his views on diversity by attacking a new initiative by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, to diversify state law enforcement agencies.

“If you want to know where this evil and un-American idea of ‘diversity’ will take us, go to Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Syria,” Grossman wrote. “Before Governor Murphy completely screws up the State Police with his diversity quotas, why not try it on the Rutgers basketball team, and see if it helps them win more games.”

Then, in a letter to a local newspaper, he suggested that white Americans were to thank for ending slavery.

“For several years, I taught U.S. History at Atlantic Cape Community College,” he wrote. “I did it when I realized how much the fake, hate-America history taught in our schools, colleges, and Hollywood movies for the past 50 years affected my children. America didn’t create slavery. However, 350,000 mostly white Americans died to end it more than 150 years ago.”

Grossman’s penchant for racially charged comments are not necessarily new — when he challenged former Gov. Chris Christie in a Republican primary, he called Islam a “cancer.” But, as he runs for Congress, it is another comment that he does not disavow.

“Obviously, radical Islam is dangerous, and I don’t see evidence that moderate or mainstream Islam is doing anything to fight or to marginalize radical Islam,” he said in an interview Friday. “If anything, they appear to be enabling it and making excuses for it.”

His comments have threatened the increasingly tenuous Republican hold on the seat, which Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who is retiring, has held for 24 years, and have led to condemnation from other Republican candidates facing tough races.

“Offensive and racist rhetoric has no place in our party or our public discourse,” said Bob Hugin, the Republican challenging Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat. “New Jersey is strengthened by its diversity and should embrace it always. No exceptions.”

Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Republican who is facing a surging challenge from Andy Kim, a Democrat, also criticized Grossman.

“As the father of two adopted children from Korea, of whom my wife Debbie and I couldn’t be any more proud or love any more deeply, the fact that we are even having this debate in 2018 is disappointing,” MacArthur said in a statement. “We’ve seen what prejudice looks like up close, and it’s ugly.”

Grossman also may have lost the chance of receiving financial support from the state and national party. The National Republican Congressional Committee declined to comment on Grossman’s comments, but it has no plans to invest in the race as it does in other state races. The New Jersey Republican Committee also has no plans for now to provide financial help to Grossman.

“The demographics of New Jersey are changing, the face of the state is changing, we’re growing the party with a diverse group of participants,” said Doug Steinhardt, chairman of the Republican committee, adding that comments made by Grossman “don’t belong in the party that we’re building.”

In his platform during the primary race, Grossman called not just for “cracking down” on illegal immigration, but limiting legal immigration to levels before a major loosening of restrictions in the 1960s. As for the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the southern border, Grossman said, “I don’t understand the outrage,” adding that he worried emotion would hamper officials from carrying out the law.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently shifted Grossman’s race to likely Democrat and the seat has long been on the wish list as the party seeks to win control of the House.

The district, in which the 205,000 unaffiliated voters outnumber the more than 147,000 registered Democrats and 131,800 registered Republicans, voted for Trump in 2016 but had been viewed as fertile ground for a moderate Democrat like Drew, who has voted against laws dealing with gun control and same-sex marriage.

Drew enjoys the backing of powerful local politicians and his race is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list.

In a state that is tilting more Democratic and where Trump is deeply unpopular, Grossman’s attempts to tap into Trump momentum may be a losing strategy.

“How do you out-Trump Trump?” asked Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “And does that get noticed? I don’t know that it does.”

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