Missouri candidate with ties to the KKK can stay on the Republican ballot, judge rules

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A longshot Missouri gubernatorial candidat e with ties to the Ku Klux Klan will stay on the Republican ticket, a judge ruled Friday.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker denied a request by the Missouri GOP to kick Darrell McClanahan out of the August Republican primary.

McClanahan is running against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, state Sen. Bill Eigel and others for the GOP nomination to replace Gov. Mike Parson, who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection.

McClanahan’s lawyer, Dave Roland, said the ruling ensures that party leaders do not have “almost unlimited discretion to choose who’s going to be allowed on a primary ballot.”

“Their theory of the case arguably would have required courts to remove people from the ballot, maybe even the day before elections,” Roland said.

McClanahan, who has described himself as “pro-white” but denies being racist or antisemitic, was among nearly 280 Republican candidates who officially filed to run for office in February, on what is known as filing day. Hundreds of candidates line up at the secretary of state’s Jefferson City office on filing day in Missouri, the first opportunity to officially declare candidacy.

The Missouri GOP accepted his party dues but denounced him after a former state lawmaker posted photos on social media that appear to show McClanahan making the Nazi salute. McClanahan confirmed the accuracy of the photos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In his decision, Walker wrote that the Republican Party “has made clear that it does not endorse his candidacy, and it remains free to publicly disavow McClanahan and any opinions the plaintiff believes to be antithetical to its values.”

“I’m not sure they ever actually intended to win this case,” said McClanahan’s lawyer, Roland. “I think the case got filed because the Republican Party wanted to make a very big public show that they don’t want to be associated with racism or anti-Semitism. And the best way that they could do that was filing a case that they knew was almost certain to lose.”

The Associated Press’ emailed requests for comment to the Missouri GOP executive director and its lawyer were not immediately returned Friday. But Missouri GOP lawyers have said party leaders did not realize who McClanahan was when he signed up as a candidate back in February.

McClanahan has argued that the Missouri GOP was aware of the beliefs. He previously ran as a Republican for U.S. Senate in 2022.

In a separate lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League last year, McClanahan claimed the organization defamed him by calling him a white supremacist in an online post.

In his lawsuit against the ADL, McClanahan described himself as a “Pro-White man.” McClanahan wrote that he is not a member of the Ku Klux Klan; he said received an honorary one-year membership. And he said he attended a “private religious Christian Identity Cross lighting ceremony falsely described as a cross burning.”

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