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A West Virginia Republican lawmaker who resigned in the middle of his re-election campaign after receiving backlash for discriminatory remarks and disparaging comments he made about gay people and Muslims was re-elected to his seat and will return to the legislature next year.
John Mandt Jr. (R-Cabell Co.) ended up winning the third of three delegate slots in the race for the 16th District over fellow Republican Mark Bates by 71 votes. That means, in January, he’ll be returning to a body overseen by Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay Co.), who criticized Mandt for his controversial comments.
“Silly faggots, Dicks are for Chicks!” Mandt wrote on social media, criticizing other Republicans for sponsoring the Fairness Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ employees. Mandt also suggested a fellow Republican lawmaker might be bisexual because “he can be a little feminine” and that another colleague was a “hostage to the left” because he was afraid they would “expose his homosexuality.”
Mandt was also criticized after screenshots of previous posts he made disparaging Muslims came to light. The backlash was so strong that Mandt not only resigned, but decided to withdraw from the House of Delegates race in early October, although his name remained on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election. He later backtracked on his decision not to seek the seat, but some political observers expected him not to emerge as one of the top three vote-getters.
At the time Mandt resigned, Hanshaw said that bigotry had “no place” in the state. But other Republicans refused to condemn the remarks.
Mandt seems ready to bury the hatchet, though, praising Hanshaw as “a great man and a phenomenal leader,” and saying that he looks forward to “continuing my hard work in the legislature and along with my colleagues” in an email to The Associated Press.
The LGBTQ rights group Fairness West Virginia says that it intends to push for a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Gov. Jim Justice (R) has promised to sign the bill into law if it passes.
Despite Mandt’s historic hostility toward the LGBTQ community, Andrew Schneider, the group’s director, says the “vast majority” of voters support protections for LGBTQ people.
Schneider noted that anti-LGBTQ animus isn’t always rewarded, pointing to the fate of Del. Eric Porterfield (R-Mercer Co.), who came in last in the Republican primary for re-election after implying he would drown his own children if they were gay.
“We’re long past the days when those views can be openly embraced,” Schneider said.
He also noted that Mandt initially claimed the screenshots of his social media comments had been digitally altered, before then attempting to pass them off as a joke.
“He tried to downplay the incident, because he knew that people in his district just want him to treat people fairly,” Schneider said, adding that he believes Mandt won despite his rhetoric, as he was aided by the presence of President Donald Trump and a pro-Republican wave that was specific to West Virginia, in which the GOP picked up 18 seats in the House of Delegates.
Asked to comment on Mandt’s victory, State GOP Chairwoman Melody Potter told the AP” “The voters of the 16th spoke on November 3rd.”
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