In a laundry list of reasons why the United States is grappling with mass killings, an Ohio state lawmaker has settled on immigrants, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, disrespect toward veterans and “drag queen advocates.”
Candice Keller, a Republican state representative from Middletown, near Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed early Sunday, offered her diagnosis on her personal Facebook page, the Dayton Daily News reported. On Monday, the state leader of her own party called for her to resign.
“Candice Keller’s Facebook post was shocking and utterly unjustifiable,” Jane Timken, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Keller’s post came only hours after the Dayton shooting, as the nation still reeled from the Saturday mass killing of 22 people in El Paso and the discovery of an anti-immigrant, white nationalist manifesto believed to have been written by that alleged gunman.
Her comments sent shock waves through the state and local Republican Party, where there is a groundswell of calls from fellow conservatives urging her to resign, said Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, who oversees law enforcement across Keller’s district.
“It’s an embarrassment. It’s shameful. It does not reflect our party, our community, or the people who are hurting right now,” Jones told The Post on Monday. “She only left out people who look like her.”
The comments stunned the mustachioed, cigar-chomping, pro-Trump lawman who himself has taunted immigrants with billboards but has called for civility amid toxic partisan politics. Jones said he was worried Keller’s posting would have a chilling effect on future victims in the county who may believe police officers have similar notions. “She made our job that much more difficult in law enforcement,” he said.
Keller is running for a state senate seat in Butler County, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. One of her opponents, Rep. George Lang (R), was endorsed by Jones.
Other Republicans distanced themselves from Keller.
“Some want to politicize these events, and I cannot condone such comment and behavior,” Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall said in a statement.
Keller did not return a request for comment.
Her list also included fatherless upbringing, violent video games and two arguments that conservatives have leveled at former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — that kneeling protests over police brutality are insults to both law enforcement and veterans.
Amid an apparent rise of domestic terror arrests, Keller did not include anything about white nationalism, an ideology President Trump condemned Monday; the availability of semiautomatic assault rifles and 100-round ammunition drums like the one used in the Dayton killings; or how the alleged killer legally obtained a firearm after he was kicked out of a high school for writing a list of girls he wanted to kill.
Keller also blamed President Barack Obama for “disrespect to law enforcement,” along with Democratic lawmakers, public schools and “snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.” Her post was later either removed from view or deleted.
She has courted controversy before. At a 2018 gun rights rally a month after the Parkland high school killings, Keller said that a 15-year old survivor “would just as soon be eating Doritos and playing video games.”
Butler County Democratic Party Chairman Brian Hester said that Keller is symbolic of a bigger problem of racist and vitriolic language, some of it modeled after Trump, passing as “acceptable political discourse.”
It was especially offensive for Keller to say immigrants and LGBTQ acceptance played a role in mass shootings, Hester said. El Paso has a large immigrant community, and seven Mexican nationals were among the dead. The gay Orlando nightclub Pulse was targeted by a gunman who killed 49 people in 2016.
“It’s almost as if she wants to blame the people being targeted in these attacks,” Hester said. But he stopped short of demanding Keller resign. “It’s time for voters to reject her,” he said.
Jones, who wrote “Shame shame shame” in reference to Keller on Twitter, noted that Keller represents a diverse group of constituents across western Ohio.
“Some of the people she talked about in her rant, those people work for me. They’re family members,” he said. “She assaulted all of them.”