Here’s an ad from today’s Flathead Beacon, paid for by a community group called the North Valley PAC, exposing some alarming and deeply disturbing aspects of a right-wing candidate named Derek Skees whom I’ve written about before.
Skees is running for the open Whitefish legislative seat being vacated by Mike Jopek. It’s a competitive district and during the last several campaigns, Jopek himself got ruthless amounts of negative media dropped on him by various third party groups, calling him every name under the sun, most of it blatantly false.
And now Republicans are getting a little of their own medicine, except it appears that in this instance what is being said about their candidate is true.
The ad makes three simple claims. The first claim is that Skees uses racist imagery. It cites the well-known incident last May in which Skees wore a Confederate flag in public–a symbol of racism–to the local Memorial Day parade of all places.
Skees then wrote an e-mail bragging about it, and it got around. In the e-mail he says, among other things, that 1) he and his family enjoy wearing the confederate flag, 2) Lincoln had no right to meddle in the South’s affairs, 3) yes, slavery was bad, but 4) the South could do, constitutionally, what it wanted, including break away from the United States without interference from the Union [and thus, I presume, continue on with slavery].
Secondly, the ad claims that Skees’ campaign has connections to anti-Semitic activity because the Skees campaign treasurer was one of the major underwriters of a recent conference at which Red Beckman, the notorious anti-Semitic writer, was a headline speaker.
Indeed, Rick Breckenridge, the right-wing nutjub extraordinaire who is listed on Skees’ campaign website as his treasurer (and who was defeated by loyal Cowgirl reader Will Deschamps for the GOP Chair spot a few years back), was a platinum sponsor of the “Liberty Conference 2010.” This conference got on the radar of the Montana Human Rights Network and other national hate-watch groups, not only because of Beckman’s presence but also the presence of two or three other scary figures who dabble in white supremacy or other Far Right endeavors.
As for Beckman, he has written that during the Holocaust, Jews got their comeuppance because they “worship Satan” and are “the evil anti-Christ religion.” Nice guy. Also, the mailer doesn’t mention it, but a tipster tells me that there are photos and other proof that Skees was in attendance at the conference.
The third allegation, accompanied by an incriminating photo, is that Skees and his pals run around wearing masks of Guy Fawkes.
This is creepy. Fawkes is the man who tried to assassinate every member of British Parliament in the 17th century and take over the government, and is now the favorite icon of the Far Right. Skees has obviously forgotten (or does not care) that a few years ago an armed militia, Project 7, almost pulled off a plot to assassinate dozens of judges and other officials in Whitefish and Kalispell.
This Fawkes business also puts in perspective a police report from Whitefish a few weeks ago, where a frantic woman called the cops because a campaign worker (almost certainly from the Skees campaign) knocked on her door brandishing a side arm.
Skees is a questionable character in other respects. He teaches a course on The 5000 Year Leap, a wacked-out treatise which to me is veiled white supremacy. He also goes around telling people that God told him to become a state legislator.
If God reads the Flathead Beacon, God will soon be distancing herself from Derek Skees. As will mortals too. I’d say from here on out, nobody of any repute will give him money, let alone open the door for him. And the GOP will have to walk away or risk having to defend whatever Skees does or says. No doubt Skees will pull the old “they’re lying about me!” response, but I don’t see where the wiggle room is. You wear a confederate flag, you live with the consequences. You go to a conference where a guy like Beckman is a headliner, you own it (like Obama owning Jeremiah Wright. Remember that, Derek?). You show up in a Mask of an anti-government assassin in a place that is especially sensitive to the implications the mask carries with it, you own that too.
Great work on the part of Steve Braun, the organizer of the North Valley group, who is showing that progressives in Montana aren’t afraid to take the gloves off and call a nut a nut.
And send a donation to Will Hammerquist, Skees’ opponent, who has been spending his time not consorting with extremists, but supporting Whitefish’s vital tourist economy and jobs by protecting two of it’s most important assets–Glacier Park and the Flathead River–from pollution from Canadian mining companies.