His district is historically blue, but a North Carolina Republican is running for state Senate while comparing Democrats to Nazis, roaches and a "mean" TV character.
Rickey Padgett, a former deputy in the Durham County Sheriff's Office, is running against incumbent Democrat Mike Woodard. Woodard, an administrator at Duke University, is seeking his fourth term in office this fall as Democrats try to break the Republican supermajority in the legislature.
Padgett is running on "common sense leadership" and has decried a "war on police." He's an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump who once referred to conservative radio show host Joe Walsh as a "deep state Democrat."
On Twitter, his account hurls insults at U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters as well as Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. He defended the tweets on Tuesday, telling The News & Observer "I am not your politically correct candidate."
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On Jan. 31, Padgett's account posted an image depicting Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer in Nazi uniforms with the words "Chuck's SS anti Trump unit."
The SS — which stands for "Schutzstaffel" — served Adolf Hitler, ran concentration camps that killed Jews and after World War II was classified as a criminal organization. Schumer's family is Jewish.
Padgett described the cartoon as a "comparison of attitudes," and said the comparison is apt because both involve "persecution with malice."
"Again their rhetoric is clear and obvious as it promotes hate and anger," he wrote in an email. "Their Anti-Trump position of resist promotes poor behavior and sets a precedent for the next President that it is okay to resist everything regardless of the party affiliation."
Padgett is a vocal critic of Waters, the Democratic congresswoman from California. Last week, his account compared Waters to TV's "Aunt Esther of Sanford & Son," adding that Waters is "unhinged and suffers from Trump Deranged Syndrome!"
In another tweet on May 12, Padgett posted that he feels like television character Fred Sanford because "every time (Waters) says something, it always seems to be the stupidest thing you've ever heard since the last time she said something."
Asked about the tweets, Padgett said the comparison is fair because Waters promotes "intolerance, terrorist behavior and destruction of property" while Aunt Esther was "mean, hateful and angry when it came to yelling at Fred, and he handed it right back.
"Maxine is the same way when it comes to dealing with President Donald Trump and he also hands it right back to Maxine," he said.
A tweet from Feb. 28, 2017 features a cartoon roach labeled as Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In the cartoon, the roach says "Come on Pelosi and you Democrat cock roaches, Trump is on the way!"
In August, Padgett tweeted that "Deep state thugs and liberal rats are a major part of the Democrat party need to be drained from the swamp! (sic)"
The rat and roach comments are referencing Trump's calls to "drain the swamp," Padgett told The N&O.
"As to the cockroach it was just a character showed to be running as they do when their activity is brought to the light. Scurry, hurry and hide," he said.
Padgett compared Durham politicians to the Democrats in D.C.
"Special interest candidates in Durham are running wild with support of those who support hate, anger and destruction. The Swamp of Durham also needs draining," he told the N&O. "It is time to stop the nonsense of a resist movement and work together for positive change."
The North Carolina GOP, which last month disavowed a Republican candidate who said "God is a racist and a white supremacist," didn't respond to requests for comment.
Robert Howard, spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, called on the GOP to distance itself from Padgett.
“First white supremacy, now anti-Semitism," Howard wrote in an email.
"North Carolina Republican candidates for office continue to openly share prejudice and hate that have no place in our society," Howard said. "Republicans across the state, including Senate Leader Phil Berger and NC GOP Chairman Robin Hayes, must immediately denounce this anti-Semitic candidate and his hateful views. Anything less sends a clear message that these views have a home in the Republican party.”
Padgett is the second candidate from Durham to face criticism for social media posts this year. In May, Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews lost support after his Facebook page responded to a controversial post with the word "Amen."
The comment from the Andrews supporter said: “Durham County you better not apathetically sit home on your tails tomorrow … as city block [sic] voters immigrants and minorities will flock to the polls. Then the city special interests will vote out the old … and man … you won’t like the ethic [sic] take over new!”
Andrews later denounced the post and said the "Amen" from his account was posted by a campaign volunteer. That week, he lost the Democratic primary to retain his seat after receiving only 31 percent of the vote.