The Kansas Republican Party mailed election flyers attacking various democratic candidates for “moving terrorists to Kansas” and depicting members of ISIS and scenes of war.
Other flyers praise legislative Republican candidates for keeping ”Kansans safe.”
One flyer, first reported by The Wichita Eagle, depicts a man with an assault rifle wearing a keffiyeh — a tradition middle-eastern headdress and scarf — in a way that covers his faces. In the background is an ISIS flag next to a bucolic silhouette of a windmill.
“Have you met the new neighbors? ISIS is not going away anytime soon,” the flyer reads.
On the other side of the flyer is a smiling Joseph Scapa — a state house Republican running for reelection. Across from Scapa’s picture is a smiling child with her arms open, holding an american flag in one hand and a cowboy hat in the other.
The flyer says Scapa “understands the threat we face here in Kansas,” and in another portion declares, “Let’s Keep Terrorists Out of Kansas!”
Many of the flyers address fears associated with an Obama administration proposal to close Guantanamo Bay, and possibly send detainees to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, one of a handful of proposed locations.
Scapa did not immediately reply to requests for comment about his inclusion in the Kansas GOP flyers, but he told The Wichita Eagle on Friday that refugees are “coming into our state from parts of the world who believe in ideologies that are incompatible with the United States Constitution and our Kansas values and that poses a threat.”
“We know for a fact that we cannot vet the people that are coming into our state from other parts of the world … where they believe in ideologies that we don’t,” Scapa told the paper.
The executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, Clay Barker, also did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment, but told the Wichita Eagle last Friday that flyers like these were being sent around the state.
Barker said that polling and studies conducted by his group showed one issue got a positive response from Republicans: Safety.
“You know, Gitmo, that article that came out back in August that ISIS had named soldiers for assassinations, police being shot and those knuckleheads in Garden City, it all kind of added up to a security issue … the whole feeling that’s there violence out there. And it’s a positive issue for Republicans,” Barker was quoted as saying.
Barker’s mention of Garden City refers to the October arrest of three white men belonging to a militia in Kansas that allegedly plotted to bomb and kill Somali-immigrants living in a large apartment complex on election day. The men, who called the Somalis “cockroaches,” according to the complaint, hoped the bombing would “wake people up” and start a religious war.
"If you're a Muslim I'm going to enjoy shooting you in the head,” one of the men allegedly said in the Justice Department complaint. "When we go on operations there's no leaving anyone behind, even if it's a one-year old, I'm serious. I guarantee if I go on a mission those little fuckers are going bye-bye."
Robert McCaw, Director of Government Affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, worries that these GOP flyers are particularly disturbing because they embolden an already growing and increasingly violent anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
“I think it's shameful that the Republican Party is engaging in islamophobia through its direct mailers," McCaw said. “This type of mailer is responsible for these sort of actions that have targeted Muslims in the state, and Republicans should be held accountable."
“The next time authorities disrupt a plot [against Muslims] they might find these in the car," McCaw added.
The mailing of election flyers to potential voters using the fear of ISIS or terrorists to garner votes is not new.
In October, a Republican-leaning political action committee mailed a flyer to New Hampshire residents depicting what it called “Radical Islamic terrorists” with assault rifles and crosshairs over children and the American flag.
Using fears associated with terrorism are even used to attack candidates within the same party. In July, a Republican running for state senate in Tennessee apparently mailed an attack flyer saying his GOP rival will roll out the “welcome mat” for Syrian refugees which will lead to “ISIS living next door to your family.” The flyer also had faux-Arabic script spelling the words “Welcome” on a door mat.
Another mailed flyer attacked Stan Reeser, a Democrat running for the state house, and asks “Can we trust Stan Reeser to put our safety ahead of party politics?”
Another portion of the flyer is a silhouette of a man in what appears to be the scene of a war. “Stan Reeser’s party has embraced an extreme agenda that will move some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists to Kansas,” it reads.
Reeser told BuzzFeed News that the flyers were “extremely disappointing,” and called them “very sleazy in so many ways.”
“In general I see it as a scare tactic, as a distraction,” Reeser said. “It's also scary to the point that it promotes prejudice, it promotes bigotry,” Reeser said, while also pointing out that Senate Democrats in Kansas have sent a letter to Obama in opposition to sending Guantanamo prisoners to Fort Leavenworth.