Posted on March 14, 2024

A Small City in Oklahoma Elected a White Nationalist. Will It Be Able to Vote Him Out?

Brandy Zadrozny, NBC, March 13, 2024

The photo of Judd Blevins was unmistakable.

In it, Blevins, bearded and heavyset, held a tiki torch on the University of Virginia campus, on the eve of Unite the Right, a 2017 coming-together of the nation’s neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

Connie Vickers had found the photo online along with others showing Blevins marching alongside an angry mob — a crowd of men recorded throughout the night spitting and shouting “Jews will not replace us!” Vickers had it enlarged at a local print and copy shop. On a January night in 2023, she and Nancy Presnall, best friends, retirees and rare Democrats in a deeply red Oklahoma county, brought it to a sparsely attended forum where Blevins, a candidate running to represent Ward 1 on Enid’s six-seat City Council, was making his case.

They had hoped to get a question in while Blevins was on stage, but settled for confronting him after.

Hearts pumping, Presnall and Vickers approached the 41-year-old former Marine. From a kitchen trash bag, Vickers pulled out the blown-up photo of Blevins and asked about his ties to white nationalists.

As his campaign manager whisked a red-faced Blevins away, Vickers and Presnall followed, yelling, “Answer the question, Judd!”


Two weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, Blevins won his race, unseating the Republican incumbent, widely viewed as a devoted public servant, who died from cancer later that year. Voters seemed to appreciate Blevins’ bio: a veteran who’d served in Iraq and who’d worked a manual job in Tulsa before moving back to his hometown to take over his father’s roofing business. Blevins described himself as a man of God and extolled the city as a place where “traditional values” remained the norm.

The message resounded in Enid, a city nearly 100 miles north of Oklahoma City with just over 50,000 people. In 1980, more than 90% of the area’s residents were white; now less than 3 in 4 are. Enid is both one of the country’s most quickly diversifying places and one of the most conservative, where residents describe the ever-present whirring of jets from nearby Vance Air Force Base as “the sound of freedom.”

It’s not clear how many voters knew about Blevins’ white nationalist ties. There was an article in the local paper, which Blevins labeled “a hit piece,” but beyond the confrontation with Vickers and Presnall, it just wasn’t talked about. Blevins wasn’t asked about it at campaign events or forums and his opponent never brought it up.

But a white nationalist campaigning for office is one thing; his election is another. And Blevins’ win didn’t sit well with many in Enid. It marked the beginning of a fight to expel Blevins from the City Council — a fight for the very soul of Enid that would unite a coalition of its most progressive residents, divide its conservatives and show the power of community organizing.

Over the next year, grandmothers would be branded antifa radicals, local organizers would be accused of attempted murder, and a national white power movement would stake its claim on the City Council. And for a growing number of state and local governments confronting extremism in their ranks, the outcome of that fight — Blevins’ recall election on April 2 — will serve either as a model or a warning.

Blevins has declined multiple interview requests. (In response to questions about his white nationalist ties, he told a reporter, “I hope you find God.”) So when, how and why Blevins got involved with a white supremacist movement may never be known.

What is clear is that from at least 2017 to 2019, Blevins was an active leader in Identity Evropa {snip}


After his unmasking, which included antifa activists posting photos of his family and the Tulsa lawn-care business where he worked, Blevins shut down his social media accounts.

In one of his final messages in the Identity Evropa internal chat, he said he was moving back home, and, in one of his last tweets, he hinted at wider ambitions.

Under another pseudonym, Blevins posted that “our guys” — meaning fellow white nationalists — should be supported in pursuing local elected office “such as city council.”

“Basically positions where one can fly under the radar yet still be effective,” Blevins posted.


The credit — or the blame — for Blevins’ victory depends on whom you ask. Some say it was name recognition; Blevins shares a last name, but is no relation, to the beloved owners of the only locally operated grocery store, Jumbo Foods. Most credit a local conservative activist who managed his campaign and his supporters from the Enid Freedom Fighters, a Facebook group-turned-political force that warred against mask mandates and then certain library books. Blevins’ campaign materials, which leaned into this hard-right Republican identity, were unprecedented in an Enid City Council election — which had always been nonpartisan.

Blevins’ win represented the kind of quiet progress white power groups had been preaching. As the alt-right splintered after Charlottesville, leaders urged their members to log off the internet, remove their masks and get involved in the political establishment.


In Enid, Blevins’ election galvanized an opposition. In March 2023, around 100 people, including Vickers and Presnall, met at a community center. By the end of the evening, they had formed the Enid Social Justice Committee and decided on its first order of business: recalling Judd Blevins.


When former state Sen. Jake Merrick hosted Blevins on his Freedom 96.9 talk radio show in March, he noted Blevins was “under attack.”

“They would like to see me apologize and denounce everything that I’m accused of, but I don’t have anything to apologize for,” Blevins said.

On May 1, two-and-a-half months after he was elected, Blevins was sworn in at City Hall. Dozens of Enid Social Justice Committee (ESJC) members gathered outside, holding signs that read, “What happened in Charlottesville, Judd?” and chanted a riff on the hateful Unite the Right cry, “Judd, we will replace you!”


His hard-right posturing has won Blevins supporters who signed up for public comment to counter the “mob of weirdos and miscreants” at the ESJC and compare Blevins to venerated conservative figures like Ronald Reagan. A woman with a “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirt beseeched the council to look inside their own hearts and ask whether their pasts included anything they “wouldn’t want known.” Another man with a long ginger beard commended Blevins for his courage in attending the Charlottesville rally, which he called a “demonstration to protect American history.”

Outside the council, too, Enid’s conservatives were rallying.

Wade Burleson, former president of the Southern Baptists of Oklahoma and a retired pastor of Enid’s largest church, was an early supporter of Blevins on Facebook. Burleson, who also sits on the faith advisory committee of the state’s controversial school Superintendent Ryan Walters, said attempts to unseat Blevins are a “race-bait trap,” an attempt by “communists” and the “mainstream media” to “divide the world over race.”

From the office of his new ministry, an old Pizza Hut remodeled by his wife, Burleson explained that Blevins’ time with white nationalism was a response to his service in the Marines and a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“He made some mistakes,” Burleson said, “but he’s not a racist.”

By the fall, organizers with the Enid Social Justice Committee were knocking on doors in Ward 1, collecting signatures. But committee members agreed they would forgo a recall if Blevins acknowledged his white nationalist activities and associations, renounce them and apologize. Blevins refused.

Behind closed doors, Enid Mayor David Mason said Blevins was more forthcoming.


Mason couldn’t remove Blevins, but he wanted to do something, so he wrote a measure for the next meeting’s agenda: a censure that would announce the loss of confidence in Blevins and formally repudiate white nationalism.

Meanwhile, Blevins and his supporters went on the offense.

On Nov. 12, Blevins walked into the Enid Police Department and filed a report. The brake line on his silver pickup had been cut, he said, and he offered as suspects two members of the Enid Social Justice Committee, who have denied involvement. He typed up an account of his claims on city letterhead, blaming the attack on “far left wing fringe groups.”

He went back on Jake Merrick’s radio show, where he asked the audience to pray for him and the Enid police as they investigated. Merrick described it as an “attempted murder,” a characterization that Blevins repeated at a future council meeting, in a critique of the media for its lack of coverage: “I guess attempted murder of an elected official isn’t newsworthy!”

Outside of Enid, news of the upcoming censure vote and the alleged attempt on Blevins’ life attracted the attention of Blevins’ other allies: national white supremacist groups.

Jason Kessler, a neo-Nazi and organizer of the Charlottesville rally, and Jared Taylor, a self-described “white advocate” who edits the racist website American Renaissance, came out in support of Blevins. Taylor posted a video praising Blevins as “the perfect man for the job.”


The chamber was packed with members of the ESJC and Blevins supporters for the Nov. 21 meeting where the motion to censure Blevins would be decided. Mason, the mayor, was sure he had the votes.

And then Derwin Norwood spoke. Norwood, the owner of a concrete business, a registered Republican and the council’s only Black member, took the floor for eight minutes. In a fiery speech that sounded at times like a sermon, Norwood told of his own experiences with racism and quoted scripture.

“We need to stop this foolishness, stop fighting, stop bickering,” Norwood said.

And then, although Blevins hadn’t directly asked for his forgiveness, Norwood was moved by the Holy Spirit to offer it. {snip}

“Stand up,” Norwood told Blevins. “Do you love me?”

“Yes I do, as a brother in Christ,” Blevins replied.

“l forgive you,” Norwood said, and the men embraced to applause and groans.

With that, the votes were gone. The council voted unanimously to table the matter until after the recall election.


The ESJC collected more than enough signatures and filed its petition to recall Blevins. There was still one hiccup: finding someone to replace him. They discussed supporting a progressive Democrat, but this was no time for delusions — Blevins was already sending out campaign mailers featuring pro-LGBTQ Facebook posts from Balden and Neal, the chair and vice chair, as evidence that any candidate who tried to unseat him would be a tool of the ESJC. At a City Council meeting in December, Blevins pointed his finger toward Balden and offered a warning.

“I want anybody who’s thinking about filing to understand this. You will be the social justice squad’s candidate,” he said. “You will have to campaign as this candidate in a ward that went for Donald Trump by 80%. So good luck with that.”


[Editor’s Note: Here is Mr. Blevin’s re-election campaign website.]