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Arthur Jones is a white supremacist. He denies the Holocaust happened. And he will likely be the only Republican on the ballot in November for a Chicago-area congressional seat. The state GOP has denounced Jones and his candidacy, but says it had no way to stop him. Mariah Woelfel of member station WBEZ reports.
MARIAH WOELFEL, BYLINE: Dacia Smith moved to Western Springs, Ill., about two years ago. The registered Republican has three children under the age of 5 and says she hasn't paid much attention to local politics since moving to the 3rd Congressional District. But that changed a few days ago when the name Arthur Jones made national headlines.
DACIA SMITH: It's discouraging that someone with such strong beliefs that I disagree with as a human could make it this far.
WOELFEL: Here's a taste of what it's like to have a conversation with Jones.
I'm wondering if you would consider yourself a neo-Nazi.
ARTHUR JONES: There's nothing new about me. I was involved with the National Socialist Movement.
The necessity to build a wall and to keep these people out.
A white racialist is somebody that believes in the greatness of his people's past, the white people's past.
Race mixing is, in fact, against the laws of nature and God.
WOELFEL: Arthur Jones is not new to the scene in the predominantly Democratic district that includes parts of Chicago and its south suburbs. He's tried to run for Congress there at least five other times before, stretching back to 1998. But this year is the first time he looks to be headed past the primary and into the general election.
TIM SCHNEIDER: We've tried to do everything we possibly can to prevent this person from getting on the ballot.
WOELFEL: That's Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. Under his leadership in 2016, the party successfully got Jones booted from the ballot with a legal challenge to his campaign signatures. But this year, Schneider says Jones' nomination petitions checked out. Another option to prevent him from winning the GOP nomination was to run a candidate against him in Illinois' March primary. But...
SCHNEIDER: There aren't very many people who want to go to the time and the effort to become the sacrificial lamb in these districts.
PAT BRADY: There is limited resources.
WOELFEL: This is former chair of the Illinois GOP Pat Brady.
BRADY: You can't put all your money in every district and then the - all the districts we have here. So we have to focus on where we can win. And probably the bigger problem is these districts all over the country are gerrymandered.
WOELFEL: Democrat Dan Lipinski is in his seventh term as a congressman in the 3rd District. He's one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. This year he's facing a challenge in the Democratic primary from Marie Newman, who's running as a more liberal alternative, and up until Jones came on the scene that was the only story coming out of this election. For Republican voter Dacia Smith, even in Democratic strongholds, preventing self-proclaimed Nazis from getting on the ballot is an investment worth making.
SMITH: Sometimes we roll over before we try. But I think that we should put emphasis into every district.
WOELFEL: So in her first time voting for Congress in the 3rd District, Smith says she'll cast her vote for the Democrat. And former Illinois GOP head Pat Brady says he hopes other Republicans will do the same.
BRADY: We need to inform people this is not a guy that shares our values, not a guy anybody should vote for. And you should get out in that district and vote for the Democrat.
WOELFEL: Current Illinois GOP leadership says it's exploring other options, including encouraging voters to write in a candidate they have yet to find to prevent Jones from winning. For NPR News, I'm Mariah Woelfel in Chicago.
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