Opinion: Trump’s white separatist delegate William Johnson was once almost voted in as an L.A. judge
You already know all about William Johnson, the white nationalist who was selected as a Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention. That is, you already know about him if you keep up with Los Angeles judicial elections.
Mother Jones magazine broke the news Tuesday that Johnson had become a convention delegate pledged to Trump. The Trump campaign quickly issued a statement that Johnson’s inclusion was due to a computer error, but state officials said it was too late to remove him. Mother Jones later reported that Johnson said he would resign as a delegate.
Johnson apparently glommed on to Trump in much the same way he tried to affiliate himself with the Ron Paul presidential campaign in 2008, when Johnson was a candidate for Los Angeles Superior Court judge. He hosted Paul supporters at his home for at least one fundraiser, sign-making and other campaign events. The campaign later denied knowing that Johnson, under the pseudonym James O. Pace, was the author of a 1986 book calling for all nonwhites to lose their U.S. citizenship and be deported (“repatriated”).
A wrap-up post accompanying Times judicial endorsements last week cited the Johnson campaign as a reason for voters to do their homework before casting their votes in Superior Court races.
“Several years ago, Los Angeles County came very close to seeing a white supremacist elected to the bench,” we wrote.
Johnson, with enthusiastic help from unwitting Ron Paul supporters, easily could have won his judicial race against court commissioner James Bianco. Voters generally don’t know much about judicial candidates and there is a school of thought that many opt for Anglo-sounding names – like, say, Bill Johnson – over slightly more ethnic names like Bianco.
Two years earlier, for example, voters ousted experienced and well-regarded Judge Dzintra Janavs in favor of a bagel shop operator named Lynn D. Olson who had not practiced law or been in a courtroom in years. There was little evidence that voters knew anything about either candidate other than their names.
In Johnson’s race, The Times endorsed Bianco even before we knew Johnson was the author of the white separatist tract. That’s because Bianco was a good candidate and Johnson was secretive about himself, his past and his involvement with a Carson minister’s mysterious attempt in the same election to oust six Latino judges from the court through an odd write-in campaign.
Johnson’s racial beliefs were finally exposed by the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a Los Angeles newspaper covering the legal community (and where I once worked as a reporter).
After the story came out, the Ron Paul campaign quickly severed ties to Johnson and denied any prior knowledge of his white separatist writing and organizing. Likewise, the Trump campaign on Tuesday tried to distance itself from Johnson.
“Upon careful review of computer records, the inclusion of a potential delegate that had previously been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in February 2016, was discovered,” Tim Clark, the state campaign director, said in the statement, as reported by The Times. “This was immediately corrected and a final list, which does not include this individual, was submitted for certification.”
Submitted, yes, but after the deadline. Johnson apparently could remain a Trump delegate if he wanted to.
The Los Angeles judicial run was at least the third time Johnson ran for office. In 1989, he ran in (but lost) a special election for the Wyoming seat in the U.S. House of Representatives being vacated by Dick Cheney, who had resigned to become secretary of Defense. In 2006, he ran for an Arizona congressional seat but also lost.
According to Mother Jones, he now cohosts a radio program with Ronald C. Tan – the minister who tried to disrupt the 2008 Los Angeles judicial election with his six write-in campaigns.
In his book, Johnson calls for expulsion of all African Americans but argues that they should be given enough money to employ black workers to build housing for them in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana “that is superior to their current ghetto shelters.”
Asians, Semites and Latinos would also be expelled, except that “Hispanic whites who are basically indistinguishable from Americans whose ancestral home is the British Isles or Northwestern Europe, need not be repatriated.”
For people whose “homelands” are not yet willing to take them, “Hawaii could become a comfortable layover station for them.”
Hawaii could also be a temporary home for people who are of mixed race but mostly white and “nearly white in appearance.” But only if they’re not part black.
Under Johnson’s proposed constitutional amendment his current radio cohost, Tan – a Filipino – also would have to leave. Go figure.
This year’s L.A. judicial races don’t (as far as I can tell) include any white supremacists, but there is a candidate who bears a somewhat similar story to the bagel baker. Stepan Baghdassarian is a wine wholesaler who hasn’t practiced law in years and is trying to unseat an incumbent judge. No, he does not have an Anglo name, although in increasingly diverse Los Angeles County, that may no longer be the advantage that it once was.
Want to do more research on this year’s judicial candidates than the Trump campaign apparently did on delegates? Check out The Times endorsements here and here, and check out my conversation on KCRW with Warren Olney here.
Follow me @RGreene2
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