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Knox County GOP neutral on Fawell

August 18, 2018

GALESBURG — The Knox County Republican Party has not yet joined other GOP organizations in renouncing the party’s candidate running for the U.S. 17th Congressional District seat.

The Illinois Republican Party and Rock Island County Republican Central Committee withdrew their support from candidate Bill Fawell on Aug. 7. Both organizations cited past posts Fawell made on his “Elect Fawell” Facebook page regarding conspiracy theories as the reason for distancing themselves from him.

Fawell called both the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting “false flag” operations in Facebook posts from 2012 and 2016. In another post from 2017, Fawell said he was “not buying” that the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. happened as history recorded.

The Whiteside County Republicans this week not only withdrew their support for Fawell, they also said they would not recognize him as the party’s candidate against U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline.

The Knox County party has not endorsed Fawell as an individual beyond the generic support the organization grants to all Republican candidates, said Knox County Republican Party Chairman Scott Erickson. He was on vacation last week when the news about Fawell broke and did not know about Fawell’s posts, he added. The party’s members would have to research and read the posts to see if they would like to discuss the issue at their next meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11.

“There has to have been something if it was a strong enough concern for Rock Island County or for the state party,” Erickson said. “I’d have to look at it and see exactly what the heck is going on.”

Addressing the Facebook posts Wednesday, Fawell said he has “absolutely no idea” if the Sandy Hook incident was a false flag attack, adding that he made the posts on the conspiracy theories “to get people to ask questions and think for themselves.” He believes the 9/11 attacks require “a great deal more of in-depth investigation.”

“I say that jet fuel burned at 1,500 degrees and steel melts at 2,500 degrees,” Fawell said. “I ask questions and get no answers, and they call me a conspiracy theorist.”

Media Matters, a progressive blog, posted a blog entry calling attention to Fawell’s social media posts on the same day the state and Rock Island parties repudiated Fawell. Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, said a constituent from Fawell’s district brought the Facebook posts to the state party’s attention. The party’s staff first checked Fawell’s Facebook page, which led them to Fawell’s blog containing other comments similar to the social media posts.

“There’s no evidence to back up what he’s saying,” Sterling said. “Bill Fawell obviously has a problem with the truth.”

Drue Mielke, chairman of the Rock Island County Republican Central Committee, had not seen the posts until Google Alerts sent him a notification that he had been mentioned in the Media Matters blog entry. The blog quoted from a July article in The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus in which Mielke said his organization supported Fawell. Afterward, the Rock Island Republicans removed signs advertising Fawell’s campaign and his campaign literature from their office.

Both Mielke and Jan Weber, state central committeewoman for the 17th Congressional District, said Fawell’s views do not represent Republican principles. Weber added that Fawell as a candidate “has failed to talk about the issues that affect the people of this district.”

“I think we need to have an issue-oriented campaign,” Weber said.

Fawell said the Illinois Republicans withdrawing their support “reflects the inherent corruption in Illinois.” He expected the state GOP to rebuke him eventually for that reason, he said.

Fawell raised $14,072 in total contributions for his campaign thus far, none of which came from party committees, according to the Federal Election Commission’s website. The candidate expected to continue his fundraising efforts through public outreach and social media.

Fawell filed to run as a write-in candidate for the seat against incumbent Bustos on Nov. 27. Jared Smith, press secretary for Bustos, said in a statement that Bustos “is focused on bringing down the cost of health care and raising paychecks by investing in Illinois, because that’s what the hardworking families she serves care about.”

“There’s a pretty clear difference between what she’s focused on and what her opponents are spending their time thinking about,” Smith said.

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