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US Midterms: Far-right candidates reelected, neo-Nazi gets 56,000 votes

Racism, Islamophobia and identity politics played a major role in several US midterm election contests
Congressman Duncan Hunter used Islamophobic rhetoric against his Palestinian American opponent (AFP)

On the same night that diversity advocates celebrated the election of two Muslim American women to the US Congress, a Holocaust-denying neo-Nazi received more than 56,000 votes in an electoral race in Illinois.

Art Jones, a self-avowed white supremacist whose candidacy was condemned by the Republican Party that he represented on the ballot, lost his bid for Congress to Democratic incumbent Dan Lipinski by nearly 50 percentage points.

Still, for a candidate with clear and unapologetic ties to racist groups to secure tens of thousands of votes - in a district that includes parts of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs - it demonstrated the increasingly divisive nature of US politics.

Racism, Islamophobia and identity politics also played a role in other contests on Tuesday, when millions of Americans turned out to cast their ballots in midterm elections largely seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump and his policies.

In California, Congressman Duncan Hunter was reelected despite the fact that he faces criminal charges for allegedly using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses.

Hunter employed starkly Islamophobic rhetoric against his Palestinian American opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar during his campaign, baselessly accusing the Democratic challenger of "working to infiltrate Congress" and receiving support from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hunter's rhetorical attacks went as far as calling Campa-Najjar a "national security risk".

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"Hunter’s tactics against his opponent are deplorable, but they are not entirely surprising, given the success of other candidates who opportunistically stoked passions against minorities and portrayed them as a threat, including President Trump during his presidential campaign," the Arab American Institute wrote in a letter to the Republican National Committee last month.

Nonetheless, Hunter won by a comfortable nine-point margin.

He also wasn't the only federally indicted member of the House of Representatives to emerge victorious on Tuesday night.

Chris Collins, a Republican from upstate New York, was reelected despite facing insider-trading charges.

Sisi supporter loses reelection bid

In California, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher lost to Democratic challenger Harley Rouda.

Dubbed "Putin's favourite Congressman" because he had advocated for warmer US relations with Moscow, Rohrabacher is known for his headline-making foreign policy positions.

The soon-to-be-former California congressman - he will officially leave office in January - regularly lauded Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In 2014, he formed a congressional delegation to support the Egyptian government, which human rights groups have accused of silencing dissent and free speech.


Elsewhere, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a staunch supporter of Israel who has also made Islamophobic statements, narrowly secured his own reelection against Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

Steve King, a far-right congressman from Iowa, will also be returning to Capitol Hill next year after winning on Tuesday despite his racist, anti-immigrant statements. "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies," he tweeted in March.

The Washington Post reported last month that King met with members of a right-wing party with historical ties to Nazis while on a visit to Austria. He also endorsed white-nationalist activist Faith Goldy in her failed bid to become mayor of Toronto, Canada's biggest city, earlier this year.

'Racist question'

Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, while Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate.

Despite the setback for his Republican Party, Trump hailed the gains Republicans made in the Senate and warned Democrats against using their new powers to investigate him.

"They can play that game, but we can play it better," the US president said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, Trump dismissed questions about whether he stoked racism during the election campaign, even going so far as to accuse Black PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor of racism when she asked him about it.

"That’s such a racist question," he said.


Last week, Trump released a racist campaign ad featuring an undocumented Mexican immigrant in court bragging about killing two police officers.

The ad was deemed so unacceptable that even right-wing television network Fox News stopped airing it, AFP reported on Monday. NBC and Facebook pulled the ad, as well.