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Steve Smith, reputed white supremacist, causes stir by winning election to Pennsylvania county GOP seat

Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

Steve Smith was elected to one of two committee seats for Pittston City Ward 4 during Pennsylvania's April 24 primary election.

Leaders of the Republican Committee of Luzerne County, Pa., are trying to figure out whether they can oust a reputed white supremacist who was elected to the committee with one vote – his own.

Steven Smith, co-founder of a racist group called the Keystone State Skinheads, was elected to one of two committee seats for his district, Pittston City's Ward 4, during Pennsylvania’s April 24 primary election.

Pennsylvania election law allows any registered Republican or Democrat to write in their name to become a member of the County Committee. Smith was elected with only one write-in vote, which he has since acknowledged was his own, said Terry Casey, chairman of the Luzerne County Republican Party.

“We unequivocally denounce Mr. Smith and his abhorrent views and would like to make it clear that in no way do his personal views reflect the views of the Republican Party,” the Luzerne County Republican Committee said in a statement issued this week.

The county GOP’s executive committee will meet to discuss what action, if any, it can take in response to Smith’s election, Casey told the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. No action is likely until after the next county convention is held to elect a new chairman, which won’t be until late June at the earliest, Casey told msnbc.com.

“I’m not sure what procedure will be introduced,” he said.

“I have heard many people stating they’re very, very unhappy with this situation and are looking to remedy it. I would be surprised if there isn’t such a thing proposed.”

The GOP committee’s current bylaws don’t include a provision that would allow a member to be expelled for his beliefs.

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Smith told the Times Leader he intends to serve out his four-year term and will resist any effort to remove him. "I’m community-minded and wanted to get my foot in the door,” he said, explaining why he sought the political post.

News of Smith’s election victory went viral after he posted an announcement titled “I won election to the Republican Party’s County Committee,” along with a picture of his certificate of election, to an online forum called WhiteNewsNow.com.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party spread word of Smith’s election by posting a link on its website to a Southern Poverty Law Center report on Smith’s white supremacist ties. Luzerne County GOP officials accused state Democrats of trying to "create a political football" out of the issue.

According to SPLC, the 41-year-old Smith is a longtime racist activist with a criminal record. Keystone State Skinheads, the group he co-founded, is now known as Keystone United.

SPLC says of Keystone United:

While its members attempt to project a mediagenic image of being part of a new breed of more sophisticated and less spasmodically violent skins, the truth is that the group’s members have been convicted of a string of remarkably violent attacks dating back to at least 1998, ranging from bar brawls to murder. Keystone United frequently sponsors white-power picnics and music festivals across Pennsylvania, including the annual "hatecore" event known as "Uprise."

In March 2003, Smith and two other members of the Keystone State Skinheads were arrested in Scranton, Pa., for allegedly beating a black man with stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation, according to the SPLC.

Smith told WNEP-TV on Monday that he is no longer a member of the Keystone State Skinheads and denies being a racist. Asked why he left the group, Smith said, “Just because of the name 'skinhead.' People get a knee-jerk reaction from it and they think of movies like ‘American History X’ and think we are a bunch of violent thugs and people don’t listen to you as much, so that’s why I got away from that.”

Smith told the Times Leader he is currently the director of the local chapter of the European American Action Coalition, which describes itself as an advocacy group for white Americans.

He said he was surprised by the media attention his election is getting. "This is not a powerful position. I don’t know why everyone is getting their panties in a bunch,” Smith told the newspaper.

Msnbc.com could not immediately locate Smith by telephone for comment and the European American Action Coalition did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

As a GOP county committee member, Smith’s main responsibilities include making sure he has poll watchers at his voting precinct and organizing door-to-door campaign strategies, Casey said.

The county GOP chief said that as much as other committee members want to distance themselves from Smith, their hands are tied for now by committee bylaws.

“The feedback from my constituents has been very loud and clear: They do not want anyone who espouses these hateful viewpoints to be involved in the governance of our party,” Casey said.

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