Kkk Leader Running for Democratic Nomination in California Primary
Menu JTA Search

Kkk Leader Running for Democratic Nomination in California Primary

Download PDF for this date

A sequel to the near-victory by an avowed Nazi who sought the Republican nomination for State Attorney General in North Carolina’s May 6 primary is the campaign by an avowed Ku Klux Klan leader for the Democratic nomination for Congress in California’s primary June 3.

Harold Covington, who at 26 heads the National Socialist Party of American which also is known as the American Nazi Party, drew 43 percent of the vote in North Carolina and carried 45 of the state’s 100 counties. However, a former federal prosecutor, Keith Snyder, was chosen by the Republicans over Covington.

In California’s 43rd Congressional District, which embraces part of San Diego and communities northward including La Jolla, Oceanside and Riverside, Tom Metzgar, formerly the “grand dragon” and now “state chairman” of California’s KKK, is trying to be the Democratic nominee to oppose the incumbent, Republican Clair Burgener who is looking for his fifth term.

While Metzgar is considered a likely winner against “unknowns” competing for the Democratic nomination, the district is overwhelmingly Republican and Burgener, who, incidentally, has a positive record of U.S. aid to Israel, is expected to triumph in November.


Republican leaders have disowned Covington and Democratic leaders have disowned Metzgar and neither want any part of them in their electioneering. The Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies at Yeshiva University in Los Angeles, called attention to party officials in Washington about both candidates. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s dean, observed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that extremists have “switched tactics from howling on the street corners to enticement at the ballot boxes. Indeed there are quite a lot of people in the United States prepared to vote for such racists and anti-Semites and that is a most frightening reality.”

Harry Compton, Burgener’s administrative aide, told the JTA that Metzgar owns a small television repair shop and was the California KKK’s grand dragon before the post was renamed “chairman.” Compton said Metzgar “claims it proudly and is campaigning on it. “Previously, Metzgar was a member of the American Independent Party but he switched to the Democratic Party last year, Compton said. When he ran for country supervisor in San Diego two years ago he drew 11,000 votes, Compton added.

Les Francis, executive director of the Democratic National Committee, told the JTA that Metzgar “will receive no aid and no comfort from this committee. “Francis observed “one of the beauties of our system is that any citizen can run for office whether he is noble or repugnant” but “voters of all parties will reject candidates who espouse policies of racism, anti-Semitism or other perceptions that are antithetical to the concepts of civil and human rights.”

After the North Carolina primary, Snyder remarked about the support for Covington: “I am appalled. I really am, I would hope that it’s because I just am unknown. “Covington, noting the 56,000 who voted for him are “either Nazis or fools,” was quoted as saying “most conservatives are closet Nazis. If you scratch a conservative you will find a Nazi underneath just as if you scratch a liberal you’ll find a Communist.”


Republican National Committee chairman Bill Brock personally wrote Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of outreach at the Wiesenthal Center. His letter said: “To each of us who have indelibly learned the lessons of the Holocaust and who are dedicated to efforts to assure the elimination of the forces of hatred that inspire such crimes against humanity, the recent vote in North Carolina was sobering and of urgent concern. It mandates a vigorous and effective response, tempered only by the need to give no further public recognition to the representative of the National Socialist Party.”

Brock said that Snyder “was the object of a campaign to confuse him with Covington on the basis of the possible Germanic derivation of his name. We are thankful this tactic was not sufficiently effective, that ignorance did not prevail.” Brock added that while “the Republican Party on both the national and state levels has unequivocally condemned the Covington candidacy” and successfully defeated Covington, “this occurrence must serve as a source of inspiration to each of us to redouble our efforts toward the elimination of every vestige of ignorance and malice that provides a fertile seedbed for the development of repugnant ideologies and activities.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund