HELENA — A former organizer for the Ku Klux Klan said Wednesday he is running as a Republican for Montana's U.S. House seat because he believes people will back him as part of a backlash to the nation's first black president.
But John Abarr, a 41-year-old night auditor at a Great Falls hotel who lost a local Republican legislative primary in 2002, could have a hard time getting any backing from Montana Republicans. His platform promises to legalize marijuana, increase mental health programs, keep abortion legal, abolish the death penalty because he argues it is unfair to poor people — and "save the White Race."
Abarr said the election of President Barack Obama prompted him to get back into politics.
"I think that the fact Obama got elected shows that the white people are starting to lose their political power," said Abarr, who last week filed the paperwork to let him start raising money. "I am running to draw attention to the fact that white people are becoming a minority and losing our political power and way of life."
Abarr, who has previously backed the notion of "deporting non-whites back to their homeland," said he no longer organizes for the KKK but is still on its mailing list. He wants a flat income tax and said he chose to run as a Republican because of the party's fiscal policies.
Republicans who actively undermined Abarr's 2002 campaign again rebuked him as a racist. Former Congressman Rick Hill said Republicans were founded on freedom, liberty and equal opportunity.
"There's no room for racism in our party," said Hill, who is considered a front-runner for governor in 2012. "That is not what we are about, and we have never been about that."
Leading state Republicans have already rallied around Bozeman businessman Steve Daines in 2012 as the popular choice to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Democrats challenged Republicans for attracting a candidate with a racist message.
"This is a relationship that the Klu Klux Klan and Montana Republican Party are going to have to explain to Montanans," said Chris Saeger, spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party. "Republicans should join with Democrats and the rest of Montana in rejecting the extreme, hateful agenda of the Klu Klux Klan."