In response to the election of two town council members suspected to maintain associations with neo-Nazi Craig Cobb, officials in Leith, North Dakota, are moving forward with plans to dissolve the town government.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock collected enough signatures for a petition for dissolution — 12 in total in a town that counts only several dozen as permanent residents. On Wednesday, Schock brought the petition to the Grant County Commission, which set a July 23 special election for the town to make a final decision, The Bismark Tribune reported.
"Hopefully, it will go away. Nobody can take over the city government without a government,” Schock told the newspaper.
The two new town council members, Michael Bencz and Deby Nelson, who live together, were elected with 10 and nine write-in votes respectively. While Bencz has denied he shares ideological sympathies with Cobb, town officials have noted that he bought a Leith property from Cobb and arrived shortly after Cobb announced on a racist message board his plans to turn Leith in to a white supremacist enclave in 2013.
The Southern Poverty Law Center uncovered the story that year and revealed a host of known racists, extremists such as Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance and Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement, had purchased properties from Cobb. A film called Welcome to Leith documented the town’s efforts to confront the fact that it had been targeted for a white supremacist takeover.
As the Bismark newspaper noted in its Thursday editions, “Until then, Cobb, now 67, was seen as an odd but reclusive man, living in a small corner house and working seasonally as a flagger for highway crews.” But the revelations of Cobb’s plan to turn the town into a white supremacist enclave set in motion a collision with town residents who wanted him to leave.
That year, after finding his house vandalized with anti-racist graffiti, Cobb and his housemate Kynan Dutton responded by marching around town with long guns, threatening and cursing residents. Cobb was jailed for terrorizing Leith residents and, last April, completed four years of probation.
A condition that Cobb stay away from Leith expired with his probation. And the results of the election, and the town’s response, has surprised some Grant County officials who thought the racist nightmare was over.
“I thought it was all put to bed, but obviously not,” Grant County Commissioner Miles Stoller said. “It looks like we’re going to be the new mayor of Leith. It’s sad that it’s coming to this.”
In preparation for dissolving Leith, Schock said the town would will spend the few thousands in its coffers on gravel for its dirt streets and withhold enough to cover the special election.
“We have to dissolve the town because that idiot showed up,” Schock said of Cobb. “He wanted control of it, and now he can’t have it.”