Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox abruptly withdrew from a GOP unit gathering Monday after a Jewish group said the event’s name evoked memories of the deadly white supremacist event in Charlottesville.
The event “Unite the Right”. was planned at a restaurant in Arnold on October 22nd. Organizers said the concert and rally were designed to bring together a fragmented Maryland Republican Party for the final weeks of the campaign.
But Cox and fellow campaigner Gordana Schifanelli condemned the event after a leading Jewish organization noted that it appeared to be the first time anyone had used the name “Unite the Right” since the 2017 riots in central Virginia.
One person died and dozens were injured in this melee. Attendees carried Nazi and Confederate flags, and some chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Russia is our friend.” The rally followed the removal of Confederate monuments and the massacre of a black church in Charleston.
In a statement, the Cox campaign said the Maryland event was publicized “without knowledge of the campaign title.”
“Upon discovery, Delegate Dan Cox and the Dan Cox For Governor campaign immediately distanced themselves from any further involvement,” the statement said. “Dan Cox, Gordana Schifinelli [sic] and the entire campaign denounce any association with this event.”
“We will not be associated with anything incidental or otherwise reminiscent of the untold tragedy that occurred on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA. Anything else is unacceptable.”
The October 22 event was sponsored by Red Renaissance, Inc., a group that bills itself as “the next generation of conservative leaders.” It is described as a fundraiser to benefit Republican candidates.
General admission tickets are $17.76. For $45, VIP attendees will have the opportunity to meet country artist James McCoy Taylor, the evening’s performer, and WBAL radio talk show host Kim Klacik, an organizer assigned to serve as host.
The group boasts a number of “special guests” that include the likes of Cox, Schifanelli and several congressional candidates including Chris Palombi, Nicolee Ambrose and Yuripzy Morgan.
The two party activists asked to chair the event said they never intended to repeat what happened in Virginia.
“This has nothing to do with Charlottesville,” said LaToya Nkongolo, an unsuccessful candidate for the Anne Arundel County House of Representatives. “When the name came up, it fitted our definition of what we want to do in Maryland. What we want in Maryland is to make sure our candidates here have the support they need from the community. … And that’s it.”
“This is a concert,” she added. “I can tell you unequivocally that I do not want to be attached to anything that is anti-Semitic or white racist or whatever the connotation attached to it is.”
Nkongolo said Klacik chose the name. In a video posted on Twitter on October 3rd, Klacik said, “I know I often complain that Republicans are a bit broken. … We must all come together. On election day we have to vote Republicans up and down.”
Co-organizer Dawn Pulliam, a former borough council candidate in Anne Arundel, said a Charlottesville connection was “never, never, never” the intention. “I love him,” she said of Cox. “If we did anything to make him look bad, it wasn’t on purpose. That’s a shame. We just wanted to bring people together.”
Asked if she knew the name of the event, Morgan, who is hoping to unseat MP John Sarbanes (D), said: “Hell no.”
“An event with connections to white supremacy or anti-Semitism has no place in Maryland and America in this regard,” she wrote in a text. “I would never attend an event that promotes these ideas. Also, I am deeply offended that I was included as I would never give permission to have my name on it.”
The leader of a prominent Jewish group said if the use of the name Unite the Right was unintentional, organizers would have to choose something else.
“To me, using the phrase ‘unite the right’ to name a rally feels like a dog whistle at anti-Semitic white nationalists,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “It’s clearly reminiscent of the tragic rally in Charlottesville.”
Klacik, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in Congress in 2020, said Fox45 (WBFF-TV) in Baltimore that the rally will go ahead despite the withdrawal of Cox and Schifanelli. She scoffed at the idea of anyone linking her event to the violence in Charlottesville.
“I just think it’s pretty silly that anyone is trying to associate the name with Charlottesville and white supremacy,” she told the network. “As a black woman running in a mostly black city, that’s the last thing on my mind, maybe because I’m black.”