Political newcomer Jeff Hall has run a discreet campaign trying to unseat an incumbent on an obscure Riverside County water board. He hasn't posted any signs, didn't show up to a candidates forum and lists no occupation on the November ballot.
But Hall is well-known as a white supremacist.
As California director of the National Socialist Movement — the nation's largest neo-Nazi group — Hall has helped lead demonstrations in Riverside and Los Angeles, where white supremacists waved swastika flags, chanted "white power" and gave stiff-armed Nazi salutes surrounded by hundreds of counterprotesters.
Hall's bid for a seat on the board of directors of the Western Municipal Water District has drawn outcry from community groups dismayed that a neo-Nazi who has held racist rallies at a day laborer center and a synagogue wants to administer their water — or at least gain publicity in the quest to do so.
"It looks like he's hoping to get a certain percentage of the vote as an anonymous anti-incumbent and then claim that some percentage of the electorate support the Nazis," said Kevin Akin, a member of Temple Beth El in Riverside, where Hall and other neo-Nazis have demonstrated. "He apparently intended to do nothing, just to be a stealth candidate."
Not so, said Hall, a 31-year-old plumber who in a phone interview Monday called for water conservation and affirmed his belief that all non-whites should be deported.
"I want a white nation," he said. "I don't hide what I am, and I don't water that down."
Hall has been campaigning by handing out business cards, he said, but turned down an invitation to a candidates forum because it was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and a Latino community group.
He is not the only known white supremacist running for office in Southern California this fall.
Dan Schruender, a member of the Aryan Nations, known for distributing racist fliers in Rialto, is seeking a seat on that city's school board.
Neo-Nazis have periodically sought a platform for their views by running for local office, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
"We see this from time to time. They push things like school boards — local elections that kind of slip under the radar," Levin said. "It gives them publicity, it gives them a foothold and it gives them an anchor to spew their bigoted opinions in other forums."
Hate group experts say Hall's bid for the water board is a reminder to be careful when deciding whom to vote for, because some candidates' beliefs lie well outside the norm.
The platform of the National Socialist Movement, for instance, advocates limiting citizenship to those of "pure White blood" and deporting people of color.
It is the largest such group in the nation and has been expanding its activity in California over the last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Even with its growth, it's still quite small, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the ADL.
"We're talking about a couple dozen people in the most populous state in the country," he said.