Two races for minor offices in the Inland Empire wouldn’t ordinarily get much attention – but this time around is different.
That’s because two candidates are white supremacists – and proud of it. One of the candidates heads the state chapter of the largest neo-Nazi group in the country.
As chief of the National Socialist Movement’s California chapter, Jeff Hall has led swastika-waving demonstrations against a Riverside synagogue and organized anti-illegal immigration protests in Latino neighborhoods that sometimes turned violent.
Hall, a Riverside plumber, says he’s putting aside the Nazi garb to run for a seat on the Western Riverside Municipal Water District.
“I’m running on a conservative platform of conservation and sensible solutions and green jobs,” says Hall.
The Western Riverside Municipal Water District manages water supplies for nearly 900,000 Inland residents. Hall is trying to unseat an incumbent with 30 years in the energy business. The district covers east Riverside, including March Air Reserve Base. Hall insists he’s not looking to promote the NSM’s dream of an Aryan nation.
“The water you receive, the water the Jewish family or the black family across the street receives is not going to be any different from the water I receive,” says Hall.
But it’s not so easy to dismiss the NSM’s guiding principles, based on Adolf Hitler’s so-called “25-Point Program,” that call for the forced deportation of all “non-Whites” to their presumed “land of origin.”
“Yes I do want to see a white nation. I do. I mean hey, let the Japanese have Japan, let Mexicans have Mexico,” admits Hall.
“But I’m not looking to focus on my activities with the NSM, although the NSM, look – they have adopt-a-highway programs, they do litter and graffiti cleanup. What’s so surprising about someone on the ticket that wants to serve his community?”
There’s nothing particularly surprising about a white supremacist running for office. Dan Schruender, a former member of a national neo-Nazi group, is also running for a seat on the Rialto Unified School Board. The predominantly black and Latino district has about 30,000 students.
On his swastika emblazoned blog called “National Socialism – Sense & Sensibility” he describes himself as a retired teacher who grew frustrated with the educational system. Shruender did not respond to interview requests. But in a recent newspaper interview Schruender claimed that he too was only interested in bettering his community.
And before Hall and Schruender there was Tom Metzger, a renowned white supremacist who ran for and lost a U.S. House of Representatives seat in San Diego 30 years ago. Now Metzger is running for an Indiana congressional seat.
“This is part of a strategy, even Tom Metzger talked about; run for office, grow your hair out, join the police department, get ensconced into the system. It’s a low cost way of getting a potentially decent payoff on the investment,” says professor Brian Levin. He heads the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
Brian Levin says running for public office can be a win-win for white supremacists. “If they lose and no one knows about it, no harm/no foul. If they win they can show off; look, a Nazi can be a credible candidate for public office in the U.S. in 2010,” says Levin.
“At a time when there is severe anti-incumbent sentiment they might be able to play up the fact that they are an outsider to the extent they could garner some votes.”
Hall and Schruender might also get support from voters who actually like their white supremacist agenda. They could get a few votes from those who choose a name on a ballot without studying who the candidates really are. Brian Levin at Cal State San Bernardino says he’d prefer it if voters studied the Nazi candidates – and then ignored them.