The Washington County Democratic executive committee, in a news release issued Sunday, denounced the party nominee in the 49th Legislative District because of “the racist and xenophobic nature” of posts found on his Facebook page.
Randy Barli, 65, of Coal Center, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary June 2 with the aim of unseating incumbent Republican state Rep. Bud Cook, 64, of West Pike Run Township, in the Nov. 3 general election.
The district includes parts of the Mon Valley in Washington and Fayette counties.
Reached for comment Monday, Barli said, “I don’t even use Facebook. I tried to explain that to (those) people. I don’t understand what it’s all about.”
Barli said he had spoken with Ben Bright, Washington County Democratic Party chairman, “and I told him the exact same thing.”
The Democratic executive committee meets monthly, and issued the press release in conjunction with its July gathering.
“Based on the racist and xenophobic nature of his social media posts, it is clear Barli does not share the principles and values of the Democratic Party, and therefore the Washington County Democratic Committee will not be supporting his candidacy,” Bright said in a news release.
“Xenophobia,” according to Webster, means “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or anything that is strange or foreign.”
One post is a photo of a large group of black-veiled women labeled “America in 2045” and showed a blue-eyed, blonde woman at the center asking, “Grandpa, why didn’t you stop them?”
Another post addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expresses outrage at U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who is a Muslim, for taking the oath of office on a copy of the Koran.
A quotation purported to be from Hilary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate reads, “If I’m indicted, I’ll take half of D.C. with me.” It bears the label “false” and carries a disclaimer that independent fact-checking determined there is no evidence “Clinton ever said or wrote this.”
Another post labeled as false has as its subject matter former President Barack Obama and the Iran nuclear deal.
Some content labeled as false is covered by a gray screen but is still visible.
Several posts in the Facebook account bearing Barli’s name and photograph, when viewed Monday, had been deleted or marked that the content was unavailable or had been shared only with a small group. Some photos could only be viewed by clicking on them because of content that could be seen as objectionable.
Barli said he was not aware that the Democratic executive committee members had denounced him.
“But that’s OK,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on seeking their endorsement anyway.”
Barli disagreed with the characterization of the Facebook posts that would brand him as racist or xenophobic.
It’s possible an independent or third-party candidate could get into the 49th District legislative race before the Aug. 3 deadline, but neither could the party support that type of bid according to its by-laws.
“We’re not going to be involved in that race in any way,” Bright said.
Cook, who is seeking a third, two-year term, won re-election in 2018 by a dozen votes over Democrat Steve Toprani, former Washington County district attorney. Last month, he handily defeated Republican challenger Tony Bottino of Carroll Township.
“I guess I will have to seek additional help once I get together with my people,” Barli said. “I think we’ll have to figure that out.”
A nominated candidate can remove himself or herself from a political contest by a preset date, according to the election calendar, but Democrats are going to attempt to replace Barli.
“The voters selected him as a candidate,” Bright said. “We’re not going to actively support his candidacy.”
Barli, a former mine electrician, has run many times over the years for county commissioner and against former state Rep. Peter J. Daley in Democratic primaries.