The Montgomery Republican Party has dropped its support of a County Council candidate after disclosure of an e-mail he wrote containing anti-Semitic statements.
Jim Kirkland, the GOP challenger to District 1 incumbent Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), ran unopposed in the June primary. On Tuesday afternoon, while researching a story about next month’s general election, a Washington Post reporter discovered a Feb. 5 e-mail Kirkland had sent to him that included the slurs.
After reviewing Kirkland’s e-mail Tuesday evening, the county GOP executive board decided to remove his name from the Republican sample ballot that the party had started printing. His name has also been dropped from the party Web site. It remains, however, on the official state ballot voters will see Nov. 4
County Chairman Michael Higgs said he spoke to Kirkland on two occasions at party events this year and encouraged him to run. At no time, Higgs said, did Kirkland make any anti-Semitic comments.
“I never received any commentary like that from him,” Higgs said, adding that if he had, “I would have asked him not to run.”
Kirkland, 57, who describes himself as a part-time yard worker, wrote to The Post on Feb. 5, complaining that the county had fined his 86-year-old mother $500 over the 2013 Christmas holiday for failing to complete work on the roof of her home.
Kirkland said he blamed a Jewish couple in his North Bethesda neighborhood for filing an anonymous complaint. He said Jews were responsible for half of the county’s property code complaints.
“The obvious complainant is usually Jewish,” Kirkland wrote. “We have concluded that this amounts to an unacknowledged (Jewish) policy of forcing blue-collar residents out of the county. Sounds harsh? MAYBE IT’S TRUE!”
Asked Tuesday if he stood by the comments, Kirkland said: “Yeah, probably. . . . The percentage of Jewish people in this district is quite high.”
On Wednesday evening, Kirkland said he would have no comment on the party’s decision until he heard officially from Higgs.
Higgs said that the party had no vetting process in place for primary candidates and that because Kirkland had no opposition, his views did not come to light.
“We stay away from picking and choosing our candidates preprimary,” he said. “We encourage any and all to run. Unfortunately, when you fail to get enough interest in a race, you’re left with no primary to judge people.”
Asked how the party might prevent candidates with Kirkland’s views from running in the future, Higgs said, “We can find more qualified candidates to run for office in the first place and have primaries where this kind of thing can be ferreted out.”
Democrats hold a 3-to-1 registration advantage in the county.
Berliner, running for a third term, commended Republican leaders for acting quickly to disavow Kirkland.
“I’m grateful that the Republican Party recognizes there is no place for people like that in the political process,” said Berliner, who is Jewish.