A series of recently-resurfaced social media posts have landed Congressional candidate Ted Howze in hot water this month, resulting in the loss of his endorsement from the California Republican Party and earning the former Turlock Council member a rebuking from prominent party leaders.
In now-deleted posts and retweets made public by Politico this month, Howze’s accounts taunted a Parkland school shooting survivor, said “#DeportThemAll” in reference to Dreamers and demeaned Muslims on social media prior to his first foray into high-level politics in 2018. Though Howze is now challenging Democrat Rep. Josh Harder in the general election after coming in second during the primary, he also ran in 2018 and came in third behind Harder and then-incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham.
According to Politico, the first posts revealed by the publication are dated from January 2017 to March 2018 and when asked about their insensitive content, Howze stated unnamed individuals accessed his accounts and published the posts.
This week when additional posts deleted by Howze were published by Politico, the candidate dismissed them as “fake news.” The additional posts, some dated as far back as 2016, compared Dreamers to pedophiles, pushed conspiracy theories accusing Democrats of murder and questioned the Black Lives Matter movement with racial stereotypes.
“The maliciously false attacks on our campaign based on old social media posts being attributed to me are #FakeNews,” Howze tweeted. “They do not resemble anything close to my personal words or actions exhibited during my decades-long record of service in the Central Valley.”
The controversy comes as Howze leads the community-outreach campaign “Operation Compassion,” which is delivering supplies to veterans and those at-risk throughout the Valley during the COVID-19 crisis. In his tweets from Thursday, Howze argued that the disparaging posts were never mentioned during the 2018 primary and that he is now “under attack by national Democrats and their left-wing media” because his campaign is a threat to Harder’s.
“We will not be bullied into a negative campaign or arguing over Brett Kavanaugh style attacks. Instead, we will continue to focus on expanding our local partnerships, getting people back to work, and making life more affordable for Central Valley residents. #LetsGetItDone,” Howze tweeted.
National Republicans weighed in on the issue as well, however, with the National Republican Congressional Committee pulling Howze from their “Young Guns” program for young recruits. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who endorsed Howze in March, expressed his disappointment in the social media posts and said he and NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer would “take immediate action” should Howze be found to be the originator of the posts.
“The content in question on Mr. Howze’s social media channels is disappointing and disturbing. Bigotry and hateful rhetoric — in any form — have no place in the Republican Party,” McCarthy said in a statement. “These posts are unacceptable and do not reflect the Ted Howze that I have briefly interacted with.”
Removal from the NRCC’s Young Guns program will cost Howze national exposure and donors, as will the state GOP’s choice to pull their endorsement of the Republican candidate. As of most recent Federal Election Commission reports, Howze has just over $100,700 cash on hand while Harder has over $3.5 million.
“Mr. Howze’s social media posts recently revealed through news reports are disgraceful, disgusting and do not represent the values we hold or the Party we are building," California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement.
According to sources from Howze's campaign, state GOP leaders didn’t contact the Republican candidate for an explanation about the posts. In the race for state GOP chair last year, Howze was a vocal advocate for Patterson’s opponent Travis Allen.
In a statement to the Journal, Howze said he has denounced the posts and is considering legal action.
“The people of this valley and community have known me and family for decades, and those statements don't represent us then or now. I'm a conservative first and what political party bosses in Sacramento do, that's their business, but quite frankly their track record is horrible. Unlike them, my first priority is the Central Valley and our community. We begin this campaign in order to shake things up, and that's what we will continue to do,” Howze said.
Eight of Stanislaus County’s nine mayors had previously endorsed Howze for Congress, but he seemingly freed them from that commitment Thursday as he tweeted their livelihoods were being threatened. Howze deleted the “endorsements” page from his website completely and stated he was “releasing all local officials from their endorsements to stop these bullying attacks on them.”
In the March 3 primary election, Howze came in second place with 33.9 percent (53,574 votes) of the vote in District 10, while Harder finished with 44.1 percent (69,668 votes). Republican Bob Elliott came in third with 13 percent of the vote, or 20,481 votes.