An Oklahoma council member with white nationalist links risks recall.

Enid, Oklahoma— Enid city leaders often discuss how to attract a new movie theater, the cost of running a downtown arena, and plans for a solar farm on the edge of town. This municipality of slightly over 50,000 in the state's wheat plains is debating whether to remove a local councilor with white supremacist affiliations.

Judd Blevins, 42, an Iraq War veteran who attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlotesville, Virginia, faces a recall election on Tuesday in one of the city's wards. Voters will decide whether to keep him in office or vote for his opponent, grandmother and longtime youth leader Cheryl Patterson. Blevins and Patterson are Republicans, although the campaign is nonpartisan and available to all ward voters.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's hate-group monitors say white nationalist groups have gained legitimacy in the political mainstream, even though their number stabilized at 100 chapters in 2022 after reaching a historic high of 155 in 2019. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona attended a white nationalist event in 2022.

Best friends Connie Vickers and Nancy Presnall, both Democrats from Enid, initiated the recall drive in Oklahoma, where Republicans have a roughly 4-to-1 voter registration lead. The two helped collect 350 ward signatures to qualify Blevins' recall for the ballot, significantly more than the 240 needed.

Presnall remarked, “There are people on the opposite side of the political spectrum who are totally together on this. “This isn't Republican-Democrat. It's Nazi and non-Nazi.” Blevins said at a community meeting on Tuesday that he attended the Unite the Right demonstration, where white nationalists carried torches around the University of Virginia campus and screamed, “Jews will not replace us.”

He also claimed to being affiliated with Identity Evropa, a defunct white-supremacist group known for its protest involvement. Blevins says he is “opposed to all forms of racial hate and racial discrimination,” but he acknowledges his past.

At the forum, he explained his rally participation and Identity Evropa ties: “Bringing attention to the same issues that got Donald Trump elected in 2016: securing America’s borders, reforming our legal immigration system and, quite frankly, pushing back on this anti-white hatred that is so common in media entertainment.”

In the discussion, the two candidates answered questions from the publisher of the Enid News & Eagle and a radio station reporter. Blevins' remark prompted some applause from the 150 people who jammed into Enid's downtown arena.

However, his election to the city council despite the local paper's revelation about his white nationalism affiliations has many conservative city residents worried about its reputation, especially as city leaders attempt to attract businesses and young professionals.

“I’m surprised anyone thinks that way in this day and age,” said Patrick Anderson, a lifetime Republican and local banker who served Enid in the state Senate for 12 years. Then to find out a member of our community is engaged is alarming and sad.

Anderson said Enid has traditionally welcomed diversity with an Air Force base that educates young pilots, a rising Hispanic population, and a big Marshallese population despite being 75% white. Anderson believes declining newspaper readership and voter apathy, especially in municipal elections, allowed a tiny group of hard-core Blevins followers to help him win by 36 votes over the Republican incumbent. Only 808 of the ward's 5,600 registered voters voted.

Anderson's opinion is shared by Enid's Holy Orthodox Catholic Church pastor Father James Neal. Many in the community, including myself, thought he had no chance of winning, Neal said. “Until now, we haven't been as passionate and dedicated as those who support that ideology. "But this has been galvanizing and helped us get off our asses, frankly, and fight back."

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