Last week Florida Republicans and Democrats picked their candidates for an open governor’s seat.
Democrats chose Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Republicans selected Congressman Ron DeSantis. The seat is being vacated by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is waging a fight for a U.S. Senate seat. The governor’s race is expected to be close.
The race was roiled right after the primary by DeSantis asserting that Gillum would “monkey up” Florida’s economic progress under Scott. Gillum’s camp asserted that was racist.
Adding to the fire, late last week, the Florida race was stirred up by widespread racist robocalls.
The source? According to a Tallahassee newspaper, the origin was a Sandpoint, Idaho, white power group known as Road to Power. It seems to have limited funds but is probably using this form of broadcasting because it is inexpensive.
According to Politico, the robocall ad attacked Gillum “in a black minstrel-style voice as jungle noises play in the background”.
Road to Power is also the name of a podcast run by Scott D. Rhodes and he appears to be the person behind the robocalls. According to The Spokesman-Review, he moved to Sandpoint in 2015. Rhodes has been active in spreading his racist views in Sandpoint where he targeted the mayor that year and later a black resident specifically. He was banned from school property after he left racist flyers on the vehicles of high school students.
Road to Power has been active around the United States, garnering widespread press attention. I have reviewed numerous reports from many locations and each points out the Idaho connection.
In Virginia, calls were sent into the Charlottesville area after the neo-Nazi forces marched. That was followed by calls featuring recordings of Hitler and anti-Semitic material to elected officials in Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year calls went out in California backing a neo-Nazi who was running against Democratic U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, calling her a “traitorous Jew”. The calls to California encouraged residents to “relocate to North Idaho, where very white is very right.”
The Des Moines Register in Iowa just revealed that Rhodes tried to capitalize on the death of Mollie Tibbets by an illegal immigrant. Her family has tried to put the focus on the wrongdoer rather than any particular group. At her funeral, family member Rob Tibbetts pointed out: “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans.”
The automated call blasted into Iowa by Road to Power states: “If after her life has now been brutally stolen from her, she could be brought back to life for just one moment and asked, ‘What do you think now?,’ Mollie Tibbetts would say, ‘Kill them all!’”, referring to immigrants. That is just vile.
Reports are that Road to Power also deployed into Oregon this year.
This kind of press all over the country hurts Idaho. We were badly damaged years ago by Richard Butler in North Idaho. That has tarnished the Gem State’s ability to recruit businesses for decades.
Rhodes’ actions are a new stain on Idaho’s reputation. The key is how we react.
Our politicos — at all levels —should aggressively denounce him (Republicans and Democrats in the states he has targeted have) and our people need to make clear that he is not one of us. Not one of the recent out-of-state stories had a single quote from an Idaho official denouncing Rhodes.
We are better than this and need to make sure the rest of the U.S. knows that.