Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and the Orange County Republican Party Thursday defended their endorsement of a school board candidate and Huntington Beach official for making what some say were bigoted remarks online.
The Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the Orange County Republican Party for its endorsement of Gracey Van Der Mark, a member of the Huntington Beach Finance Commission and a candidate for a seat on the Ocean View School District Board of Education.
Rohrabacher’s Democratic opponent in the November election, businessman Harley Rouda, ripped the incumbent for his stamp of approval of Van Der Mark as well.
Citing an OC Weekly article referring to a now-deleted YouTube video, Van Der Mark is accused of joining group of “right-wing protesters” at an anti-racism workshop in Santa Monica last year, CAIR officials said.
In a comment on the video, she is accused of writing, “This meeting was being ran by the elderly Jewish people who were in there. The colored people were there doing what the elderly Jewish people instructed them to do.”
Van Der Mark did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The alternative newspaper also reported she created a playlist on YouTube dubbed, “Holocaust hoax?” Van Der Mark reportedly later said the playlist was “research,” according to CAIR.
CAIR officials also accused her of posting anti-Islamic comments on social media.
“It is unconscionable that the OC GOP would endorse a candidate who has proven herself to be an equal-opportunity bigot,” said Hussam Ayloush, CAIR-LA’s executive director.
“That the OC GOP would make Ms. Larrea-Van Der Mark its sole endorsed candidate in this race — especially over other Republican candidates — is both shocking and telling of the message the party is sending to its constituency.
“At a time when biased-driven school bullying is at an all-time high, the last thing our schools need is a bully and a bigot setting the vision and goals of a school district.”
The Orange County Republican Party released a statement defending Van Der Mark.
“The Republican Party of Orange County fully vets our endorsed candidates. Gracey is a respected local leader. The issue/quote in question was taken out of context, and when first revealed was reviewed in full context by Huntington Beach officials.
“Gracey retained her commission appointment. Our committee reviewed Gracey in full context of her positions and who is she as a person. We are proud to endorse a young Latina mother trying to improve her local school district.”
Rouda characterized Van Der Mark as an “alt-right activist” who has been criticized for “anti-Semitism and hate speech.”
“Dana Rohrabacher’s endorsement of Ms. Larrea-Van Der Mark as a candidate for Huntington Beach school board is simply wrong,” Rouda said.
“Dana’s embrace of a school board candidate who professes bigoted ideas, who associates with white supremacists and anti-Semites, means Dana is embracing hate,” Rouda added. “Let me be clear, Dana’s choice to endorse bigotry, when hate crimes in the United States are on a perilous rise, goes far beyond the politics of any election.
“For the public good, for the safety of all our citizens, bigotry and hatred must be confronted, disrupted and dismantled. That is the true work of a true patriot. It’s dangerous when Dana labels white supremacists as patriots. Dangerous and against everything our country stands for in the world.”
Rohrabacher’s campaign spokesman, Dale Neugebauer, said Van Der Mark is a “dedicated and compassionate Huntington Beach parent who has been subjected to a vicious smear campaign by the most extreme elements of the far left, the same groups that are working for Harley Rouda.”
Neugebauer added that Van Der Mark, “had the fortitude to speak up and challenge the priorities being advanced by liberal members of her school board. Huntington Beach residents who know and work with Gracey respect her and appreciate the courage she has displayed in the face of their withering and unfair attacks. By piling on, Harley Rouda reveals himself as just another censor in (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi’s speech police.”