Citizens in Enid, Oklahoma boot white nationalist from town council
Father James Neal, a priest in Enid, Oklahoma, at a community forum where removal of Judd Blevins was discussed. Blevins was removed from the town council yesterday by a vote of the citizenry. | Sean Murphy/AP

ENID, Okla.—A citizens movement ousted white supremacist city commissioner Judd Blevins in a recall election in Enid, Oklahoma—a city so deep red that when the local paper endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency eight years ago, hundreds of subscribers canceled, in a county Trump carried then by a three-to-one ratio.

Results from the Oklahoma Elections Board showed Cheryl Patterson, a Republican with a long record of civic engagement who ran in the non-partisan election, won the recall vote over Blevins 829-561 in a 25% turnout in Enid’s First Ward. Blevins had won his seat in the regular election the year before, in a 14% turnout.

Patterson benefited from a citizens movement, the Enid Social Justice Committee, organized after disclosures Blevins marched in the infamous Charlottesville, Va., “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in 2017, carrying torches and chanting “The Jews will not replace us.” Many in the extreme right push the anti-Semitic and racist conspiracy theory that Jews are working to replace white citizens born in the U.S. with immigrants and people of color.

The committee was a grass-roots organizing effort by aroused activists that resulted in a victory over the avowed white nationalist and assorted rightists in the town who backed him, including Trump’s MAGAites. Blevins, meanwhile, compared himself to Trump as a target of what he called leftist radicals.

Began six months ago

The committee’s recall petition against Blevins began six months ago after he took office and reports of his white nationalist views, posts, and activities spread. It eventually forced the special recall election on April 2.

The Enid recall follows other citizen movements that have beaten MAGA, notably the mass movements supporting the right to abortion in states across the country.

Those movements reacted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision two years ago ending that federal constitutional right to abortion. The justices said the future of abortion should be left to the states, and abortion rights have won every time since, including referendums in deep-red Kentucky and Kansas and pinkish Ohio.

“We did it,” Kristi Balden, chair of the ESJC, said to cheers from a crowd in Enid, when the race was called for Patterson on the evening of Election Day.  The lesson, Balden told NBC, was that aroused voters anywhere could fight extremism. “You can do this because we did this. We didn’t even know what we were doing, and we did this. This is possible.”

“We won,” said Connie Vickers, who was among the first to publicly confront Blevins. She also helped lead the grass-roots recall campaign. “Blevins lost. Hate lost,” Vickers told NBC News.

Blevins also was an Oklahoma leader in a now-defunct national hate group, Identity Evropa, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate trackers. His mission was to integrate the haters into mainstream Republican politics by seeking local office—including his city council seat—while disguising the haters’ true values.

But he didn’t pull punches in the recall campaign, telling a Republican women’s group that the Social Justice Committee recruited Patterson, that the “deep state” dominated the Enid City Council, and that “a fringe group of radicals” targeted him.  He blasted “anti-white hatred in the media and entertainment,” two more white nationalist themes.

Patterson stressed kindness, civility, and a return to normalcy. She told a public forum Blevins’s nationalist stands and actions led her to run. Recall elections in Oklahoma require an opponent. “It was time to step forward,” she said. “It’s time to restore our reputation,” she told that group.

The Charlottesville rally Blevins marched in prompted his god, Trump, then the Oval Office inhabitant, to declare “there were good people on both sides,” even after a neo-Nazi drove his car at high speed into a peaceful group of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. The driver is now serving a life sentence.

The neo-Nazis, including Blevins, defended a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from removal. And removal, in turn, was a demand of local citizens, including progressives in the “blue” college town in otherwise deep-red southwestern Virginia. The bronze statue has since been taken down—and melted down.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.