Democratic congressional candidate Kathie Allen posted a tweet Wednesday afternoon that urged her Republican opponent, Provo Mayor John Curtis, to “pick a torch” with a picture showing two options: neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Va., under Tiki lamps and the Statue of Liberty holding a burning flame.
“You can’t have it both ways,” she wrote, a comment she said was meant to poke at Curtis for indicating that he supports Donald Trump’s agenda but not the president’s “distractions” during a debate this week in the special election to fill Utah’s vacant 3rd District seat.
Curtis’ campaign called on Allen to apologize and take down the message Thursday, saying it wrongfully suggests that the mayor is sympathetic with the alt-right movement.
“Allen insinuating that John Curtis is a white supremacist is a ridiculous charge and a new level of desperation for her struggling campaign,” said Danny Laub, Curtis’ spokesman, in a statement.
Corey Norman, deputy mayor of Provo, also tweeted back a response to the post that called it a “horrible message.”
Allen, a first-time candidate, runs her own Twitter account and does not intend to delete it.
Her spokesman Daniel Friend said “no one is calling John Curtis a racist.” The point of the tweet, he added, is that “you cannot compartmentalize the man [Trump] from his agenda — they are one and the same.”
“John Curtis has stated repeatedly that he is ‘squarely behind’ the Trump agenda,” Friend said. “In so doing, he appears to align himself with the ultimate apologist for racists and white supremacists: Donald Trump.”
Allen’s campaign believes several of the president’s polices, including his calls for a Muslim ban and a border wall between the United States and Mexico, are “inherently racist.” She, too, has called Trump “very disappointing.”
Allen called out Curtis in late September for running two campaign ads on Facebook — one exhorting Congress to “build the wall” and the other calling to “stop sanctuary cities” — that were later taken down. The mayor has said it was a mistake by a vendor and that he regrets the “contentious” messages.
Curtis did not vote for Trump in the 2016 election and instead wrote in a “good friend’s name.” He supports the Republican president’s ideas for tax reform and a strong national defense.
The mayor has polled strongly in the race, nearly 38 percentage points ahead of Allen and more than 48 points ahead of the new United Utah Party’s Jim Bennett, in the deeply red 3rd Congressional District. The three, along with five other third-party and write-in candidates, look to fill the opening left by former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
There are at least two more debates before the Nov. 7 election. One is set for Friday at Sandy’s Eastmont Middle School at 6:30 p.m. The other will be Oct. 18 starting at 6 p.m. at Brigham Young University’s KBYU Studios.
Correction: Oct. 12, 5:45 p.m. • An earlier version of this story misstated the city of a white nationalist rally, which was held in Charlottesville, Va.