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The GOP committee for Luzerne County, Penn., is trying to determine whether it can eject from its ranks a white supremacist who was elected to the committee with only one vote during the state’s April 24 primary election, the Scranton Times Tribune reports.
Steve Smith, a longtime racist activist with a history of violence and top-level ties to numerous white nationalist hate groups, reportedly won the election by writing himself in as a candidate for one of the two committee seats allotted to his district, Pittston City Ward 4.
In a statement released Monday, the Luzerne County GOP Committee denounced Smith’s “abhorrent” and “hateful” views but noted that its bylaws contain no language permitting it to expel a committee member for his or her beliefs.
Under Pennsylvania’s state election code, any registered Republican or Democrat may write in his or her name to become a committee member. Luzerne County GOP bylaws state that write-in candidates must have been registered party members for the two years before their election. The seats are apparently not hotly contested: Pittston City Ward 4’s other GOP committee member was elected with two write-in votes.
Smith, 41, is the co-founder of a racist skinhead group now known as Keystone United (which until 2009 was known as the Keystone State Skinheads, or KSS), one of the largest and most active single-state racist skinhead crews in the country. In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for assaulting Antoni Williams, a black man, with stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.
These days, he has distanced himself somewhat from his violent past and focused on political activism. Explaining Monday why he is no longer active in the skinhead movement, Smith told WNEP-TV that he left “because of the nature of the name skinhead. People get a knee-jerk reaction from it and they think of movies like ‘American History X’ and think we are a bunch of violent thugs.”
KSS is hardly Smith’s only racist affiliation, however. The ex-con serves as state chairman for American Third Position (A3P), a white nationalist political party that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule. He has been active in the Council of Conservative Citizens, is a former Aryan Nations member, and once led the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, which was created by former Klan leader David Duke but is no longer associated with him.
Last fall, Smith co-founded the European American Action Coalition (EAAC), a “pro-white” group whose website features a picture of Smith and another EAAC member posing with Derek Black, whose father, Don Black, founded Stormfront, the leading white supremacist web forum. (In 2008, at age 19, Derek Black won election to a seat on Florida’s Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee, but the GOP refused to seat him because he failed to sign a GOP loyalty oath.)
Smith scoffed at reports that county GOP officials were looking into ways to remove him from office and said he intends to press on with his work as a “white activist.”
“I am going to try and get candidates not to be cowardly on these issues,” he told WNEP. “The crime rate is out of control. People are moving in from New York and Philadelphia and people are afraid to address the problem head on without fear of being called a racist or white supremacist.”
He continued, “I’m not a racist. A racist is someone by the definition that someone that hates other races, which I do not. Just standing up for white people, yeah. That’s it.”