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Republicans call for Groton town councilor to resign over Trump criticisms

Groton — Republicans are calling for Democratic Town Councilor Aundré Bumgardner to apologize and resign over social media comments he posted after President Donald Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” during last week’s presidential debate.

Bumgardner posted on Twitter and Facebook that: “Trump says, 'Proud boys, stand back and stand by.' He fails to condemn white supremacists. He is a racist, and he doesn’t even care to hide it. If you vote for him, so are you.”

The news release, issued by Republican Town Committee Chairman John Scott, alleges that Bumgardner’s “post stated quite clearly that all Republicans, especially those who support President Trump are racists.” Bumgardner said he did not say “all Republicans.”

“The leadership of the town committee and its membership finds this post to be inappropriately divisive and highly offensive,” the RTC news release states of Bumgardner’s post. “By making such unfounded, broad brush, and accusatory statements of racism, we question his ability to serve the community in an unbiased fashion; therefore, we are demanding an apology and his resignation from the Groton Town Council.”

“The Groton RTC stands firm in its position that we do not support racism in any form which, in this case, includes unfounded and clearly biased accusations thereof," it said. 

Bumgardner, a former Republican state representative who split with the party in 2017 over Trump’s comments in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and now serves as a town councilor, said he earned the support of not just Democrats but Republicans and unaffiliated voters who understand he puts their issues first and doesn’t wade into party politics as an elected official. He said he still talks to several Republican officials and there are certainly some Trump supporters he considers friends, and their support for Trump does not by any means impact the way he represents them as a councilor.

He said every Democrat, Republican and unaffiliated person in Groton is entitled to vote for whomever they want, and it’s a private decision. But he said he certainly questions those who would cast their ballot for Trump, especially after he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

“I think any reasonable Republican would say that that comment was certainly a dog whistle,” Bumgardner said.

The Proud Boys are designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

Bumgardner said he, like millions across the country, was beside himself when he heard Trump’s comments.

“This was the president’s single opportunity to disavow white supremacy and he states, 'Proud Boys, stand back (and) stand by,'” Bumgardner said. “Perhaps he was referring to the Proud Boys when he stated in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protest that some of them are fine people. Well no, Proud Boys are not fine people, and certainly the presidential candidate I support did not make the statement, ‘Proud Boys, stand back (and) stand by.’”

Bumgardner said he is not apologizing for his social media comments or resigning, but he is willing to have a civil conversation with Scott or anyone else.

“Aundré (and) I both served as Republican State Representatives,” Scott said in a statement. “He seems to have forgotten that he once worked very closely with many Republicans and Donald Trump supporters while he was a State Representative. He knows that none of us have a racist bone in our bodies.”

Scott said he watched the debate, and he thinks the president’s comments are being taken out of context.

Lauren Gauthier, RTC vice chairman and a Groton Representative Town Meeting member running for state representative, said by phone that she had concerns over Bumgardner’s social media comments, which she described as divisive, because he is an elected official.

“You’re representing everybody, and I think what got us to this point in our country and this divisive political landscape is having elected officials make remarks, such as, ‘if you vote for so and so, you’re a racist,’ and that’s completely discounting any other concern that an individual might have about an upcoming election,” she said.

Scott said he issued the news release on behalf of the committee and with its support. A formal vote was not taken to call on Bumgardner to resign, and he said a vote was not necessary.

“This is just another ridiculous political stunt by a party that doesn’t have any more tricks in the bag, and considering the source, I’m not surprised,” Groton Democratic Town Committee Chairman Conrad Heede said. “The president dog whistled white supremacists during the debate, and Aundré, a person of color, responded on his personal Facebook page with his opinion. If the Groton Republicans find it to be ‘inappropriately divisive and highly offensive,’ they should be calling out the president, not a town councilor.”

k.drelich@theday.com

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