Arthur Jones (or “Art,” as he likes to be called) is a 70-year-old self-confessed racist and Holocaust denier who is known to hang out with neo-Nazis. He is also almost certainly going to be the Republican candidate in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District for the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Illinois Republican Party attempted to challenge his right to run under its name, but could find no legal basis to have him removed from the ballot based on the signatures he gathered for his nomination.
There is much visual, audio and written evidence of Jones’ belief in white supremacy and his denial that the Holocaust occurred. But just for a sample, Jones told the Chicago Sun Times Sunday: “Well first of all, I’m running for Congress not the chancellor of Germany. All right. To me the Holocaust is what I said it is: It’s an international extortion racket.” He also told the paper he regrets voting for President Donald Trump, partly because Trump has “surrounded himself with hordes of Jews” including his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner.
It is, of course, not unknown for far-right candidates to run for office. Jones has done it in this district, and in other areas, before — but not under the Republican banner. He has managed to insert himself into the race because the Republicans decided not to put up a candidate, knowing they’d have no chance of winning this district.
A key reason they have no chance is because of how and why this district was drawn. It’s a suburban district with an absurd-looking little string linking it to Chicago’s southwest side, mainly the 23rd ward. That ward is the long-time fiefdom of 80-year-old committeeman Bill Lipinski, formerly congressman for the 5th District but then for the 3rd, and the oddly-shaped district was drawn largely for his benefit.
Bill Lipinski served for more than 20 years before retiring in 2004. The Democratic machine then helped him hand the seat to his son, Dan Lipinski, who is now the incumbent in the 3rd district.
Both father and son are deeply conservative Blue Dog Democrats. The younger is pro-life, opposes gay marriage, voted against the Affordable Care Act, supports strong surveillance laws, and is a hawk on immigration, including opposition to the DREAM Act.
These stances have played well over the years to the Lipinskis’ socially conservative constituents — those old-school Polish, German, and Irish people, many of whom were solidly union, that slowly moved out of the city into the southwest suburbs as African Americans moved in.
Now the Republicans, by failing to put up a candidate, are left with a ridiculous, hate-mongering, trilby-wearing former insurance salesman running in their name. It could be both frightening and illuminating to see just how many votes he manages to gather.
But Dan Lipinski doesn’t really have to worry about Art Jones, at least electorally. He has to worry about the changing demographics of the 3rd district, which has a growing Hispanic population and favored Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by nine points in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Lipinski’s reelection is being severely threatened by a March 20 primary challenge from businesswoman Marie Newman. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) endorsed Newman on Friday, citing Lipinski’s opposition to the $15 minimum wage. Newman is also backed by Emily’s List, MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Human Rights Campaign, according to Politico.
And last Friday, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was in Chicago to fundraise and stump for Newman.
As disheartening as it may be to see the likes of Jones being able to slither on to the stage to air his views, the breakout play in this district is coming from a completely different direction.