NEW YORK (Jul. 10)
The victory of a Ku Klux Klan leader in a Congressional primary in California last month does not indicate any upsurge in popular support for that racist, bigoted group. It does suggest that a candidate who addresses himself to the deeply-felt emotions of many voters may succeed in attracting votes in spite of his Klan identification.
This conclusion is reached in an American Jewish Committee analysis on the recent victory of Tom Metzger in the Democratic primary in the 43rd Congressional District in California. Metzger, a 42-year-old television repairman, is the California Grand Dragon of one Ku Klux Klan faction.
In analyzing Metzger’s success, the report states that “Metzger ran a populist -oriented campaign as a conservative Democrat and small businessman rather than as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.” He did not use anti-Semitic materials to promote his efforts, it continues, but rather hammered away on his apposition to immigration, especially from Latin American countries. The report, compiled by Alisa Kesten of the AJ Committee’s Trends Analysis Department, points out that the campaign took place during the time when a wave of Cuban refugees was arriving in the United States, and while rioting of newly-arrived Cubans took place at Fort Chafee in Arkansas.
The report also points out that Metzger’s program included attacks on big business, opposition to affirmative action, stopping entry of foreigners into the U.S. for at least five years, and cutting off welfare for the “bums who are too lazy to work.”
DISTURBING FACTOR CITED
While noting that Metzger’s campaign played down his Ku Klux Klan affiliation, the report also points out that Metzger never denied his Klan identification. The AJ Committee analysis suggests that it is disturbing “that so many people obviously had no compunction in voting for a man who is an active leader of the KKK.”
The 43rd Congressional District in California, where Metzger won in the Democratic primary, is located near the Mexican border. It includes a large Hispanic community, more than 30,000 Filipinos, and 20,000 Indochinese refugees Federal officials estimate that there are as many as 100,000 illegal aliens in the district.
The district is currently represented in Congress by a Republican, Clair Burgener, who has been reelected three times and is widely believed to be certain of election again this year. Because the district is so heavily Republican, the Democratic Party in the area did not put much effort into the primary contest and no Democrat of stature entered the contest.
Metzger had two opponents in the primary, one of whom dropped out before the election but too late to have his name removed from the ballot. The latter received 22,940 votes, Metzger received 32,344, and the third man was close behind with 32,026.