Enid City Commissioner Judd Blevins recall election
Cheryl Patterson unseated Enid Ward 1 City Commissioner Judd Blevins in a recall election Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (NonDoc)

ENID — Local issues that normally define municipal campaigns have taken a back seat in the recall election to unseat Ward 1 City Commissioner Judd Blevins, who attended a community forum Tuesday night and ultimately defended his decision to march with white nationalists in Virginia in 2017.

On April 2, Ward 1 residents are set to choose between retaining Blevins or replacing him with Cheryl Patterson, who has a long history of public service. The impetus and driving theme of the recall effort that began five months ago has been Blevins’ alleged association with white supremacist groups before he moved to Enid in 2018.

Blevins, 42, returned to his hometown and began working at his father’s roofing business in Garfield County. He won election to the six-member city commission slightly more than a year ago in February 2023 when he defeated incumbent Commissioner Jerry Allen in an election with light voter turnout. During his election campaign, the Enid News and Eagle published an article linking Blevins with a white nationalist organization called Identity Evropa.

Patterson, 61, has lived in Enid for 40 years with her husband, Wade, a former Garfield County assessor. She was appointed secretary of the Garfield County Election Board in 2014 and stepped down in 2018. Before that, she had served on boards for Enid Public Schools, the Human Services Alliance and the local foster grandparents program.

Blevins’ past dominated the candidate forum Tuesday night, with the roughly 150 people who showed up at Enid’s Mark Price Arena writing and submitting most of the question.

For the most part, Blevins played dodgeball, avoiding direct responses by saying some of the white nationalist organizations in question “disbanded five years ago.”

Patterson, meanwhile, emphasized that she wants to bring normalcy and civility back to the city commission in an effort to clean the blemish of Blevins’ past from Enid’s national reputation.

Blevins confirms he carried 1946 Oklahoma flag at ‘Unite the Right’ rally

From left, Rev. James Neal, and Kristi and Byron Balden, members of the Enid Social Justice Commitee, attend a forum for the recall election in Enid City Commission Ward 1 on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Michael McNutt)

The first question set the night’s theme: What has been your affiliation with or role with the American Identity Movement, Identity Evropa, or similar organizations?

“Right off the bat,” Blevins said. “Well, those organizations no longer exit, and I think that this election is really about the next three years of this city, not about organizations that disbanded five years ago. Now, if speaking out against what was being done to this country, what is continuing to be done to this country, is a crime, then I would gladly plead guilty to that.”

Blevins said he has never identified as a white nationalist or a white supremacist, and he described his prior activism by outlining his priorities.

“The same issues that got Donald Trump elected in 2016: securing America’s borders, reforming our legal immigration system and, frankly, pushing back on this anti-white hatred that is so common in media and entertainment,” Blevins said.

Previously, Blevins had refused to acknowledge photos appearing to show him taking part in the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and carrying the 46 Oklahoma flag.

After the forum, Blevins told NonDoc he was at the Charlottesville rally, which turned deadly after a man drove his car into a crowd of protestors.

“I went there to protest the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue,” he said.

Asked whether he carried the 1946 Oklahoma flag, Blevins at first hedged his response.

“I mean the guy looks a lot like me,” he said.

Pressed further, Blevins acquiesced.

“Sure, you know, yeah, I did, you know, the reason (was) because a lot of socialists in Oklahoma love, they kind of adopted that flag,” Blevins said. “So, it was basically just to troll them.”

Asked why he took part in the event, Blevins hinted at regretting the decision.

“I’ll say this: When we’re young and foolish, you know, yeah, we do things that are young and foolish, but the past is the past,” Blevins said.

During the forum, Patterson said she had considered running for the Enid City Commission in the past two elections but that she felt compelled to do so now when Blevins’ past activities attracted a national spotlight.

“With the recent national attention on my opponent’s past involvement with a white nationalist group, I felt it was time to step forward,” she said. “His inability to clearly state that he is no longer affiliated with those groups creates a sense of mistrust for the people that he would be representing. It’s time to restore our reputation, return to stability and revive the Enid community spirit.”

Patterson said she was not recruited by members of the Enid Social Justice Committee, which spearheaded the recall petition against Blevins that set the April 2 election.

“A group of well-respected business leaders and friends encouraged me to run,” she said.

While Blevins has identified himself as a member of the Republican Party in campaign material in the predominantly GOP Ward 1, Patterson said she has not mentioned her own Republican registration in the nonpartisan race.

“People know I’m a fiscally responsible conservative Republican,” she said. “In fact, I’ve been a registered Republican longer than my opponent has been alive. I chose to leave Republican off my campaign signs because city council members are elected as nonpartisan representatives, and I believe in respectful representation for all, regardless of race, political party, economic status, or which side of town you live on.”

Blevins said he is confident he will win the recall and serve the remaining three years of his term.

“I firmly believe on April 2 they are going to reaffirm that I am the best to represent them,” he said. “It is my hope, it is my prayer that when they do, that decision will finally be respected by all.”

Earlier, he suggested to the audience that he may not serve beyond that.

“If I get re-elected, I can tell you I’m probably not going to do a second term after this,” he said.

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Patterson: Blevins hurts Vance AFB, Enid business recruitment

A forum for the recall election in Enid City Commission Ward 1 drew a crowd Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Michael McNutt)

Patterson said Tuesday’s recall election is extremely important to “the very fabric of our community.”

“Through a petition, the people said loud and clear, ‘We want a redo,'” she said. “While I believe in second chances, my opponent has not been forthcoming [about his associations] (…) I fear that his recent past puts our Air Force base at risk and jeopardizes our ability to recruit businesses to Enid.

“There is no place for hate in Enid, and if elected I will work hard for the people who love this community as much as I do.”

Only residents in Ward 1, which covers the southwest part of Enid from west of Cleveland Street and south of Chestnut Avenue, can vote in the April 2 recall election.

This is the second recall effort of an Enid city commissioner in less than four years. In August 2020, a recall petition was filed against then-Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell. A group called Enid Freedom Fighters led the recall effort in response to Ezzell’s support for a mask mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. The recall effort failed in January 2021 when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the petition to recall Ezzell legally insufficient.

During the forum, Blevins was asked to respond to the language in the recall petition against him that he had actively pursued a white nationalist and white supremacist agenda for many years.

“I’m opposed to all forms of racial hate and racial discrimination,” he said.

A former Marine who was deployed to Iraq in 2007, Blevins said he treats his constituents fairly.

“I’m going to represent all citizens equally, respect them as fellow citizens and respect their rights,” he said. “Again, I defended their rights in the Marine Corps.”

Asked how she would represent citizens, Patterson called herself a “good listener.”

“I think you just have to watch your language for offensive-type things that might be said and just reiterate that I’m a person who listens,” she said. “I’m a good listener, always have been, and I will respectfully listen to everyone regardless.”

Blevins was asked if he would renounce a white nationalist or white supremacist agenda.

“I can’t renounce things that I never was, but, again, I’m opposed to all forms of racial hate and racial discrimination,” he said. “I’ve never identified as a white nationalist or white supremacist.”

Blevins was asked a series of questions about why he went to the Charlottesville event.

“Because I felt it was important to protest the removal of statues of American soldiers, of American figures, that if they remove statues of men who fought in the Civil War, they’ll move on to whoever they want,” Blevins said. “Defending, protecting, protesting against the removal of historical Americans is important to me. It’s our history, it’s our heritage, it’s who we are.”

Asked if he felt hatred got out of control at the rally — where a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring dozens of others — Blevins couched his answer.

“I was not part of any sort of violent outrage that day. I wasn’t really a witness to a whole lot, so I can’t comment on that,” Blevins said. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel nostalgic about that day.”

Later, Blevins was asked if he would “condemn white nationalism, white supremacy, neo-Nazi beliefs and behaviors and alt-right activities and groups.”

Read more about Judd Blevins’ alleged ties on NBCHuffPost.

“Look, I said I condemn, I reject all forms of racial hate and racial discrimination, but I’m not going to play this game where I take things that the media says are problems from America’s past that are no longer problems today and pretend like they’re serious issues,” he said. “They’re not. I don’t care what the FBI says. I don’t care what the White House says. These are not issues to Enid residents. They’re not issues to American citizens.”

Municipal issues were sprinkled in among the questions asked by local journalists, such as a planned solar farm southeast of the city, attracting businesses to Enid’s recently expanded industrial park, and a desire to add a movie theater to the city of roughly 50,000 residents. Other topics included those that many cities in Oklahoma are facing, such as street repairs and the unhoused.

But the focus Tuesday night repeatedly returned to Blevins and the allegations that stemmed from a March 2019 investigation by Right Wing Watch, which identified Blevins as Identity Evropa’s state coordinator for Oklahoma and as a participant in the 2017 Unite the Right Rally. The organization said Blevins used the pseudonym “Conway – OK” in the group’s Discord server, communications from which had been leaked by the outlet Unicorn Riot earlier that month.

“Conway” led the Oklahoma chapter in a campaign of banner drops and flier distributions in public places. According to Conway’s chat logs, he was involved in coordinating more than 40 instances of putting up racist posters or stickers across the state, including at a dozen college campuses. The campaign lasted from November 2017 until March 2019 when the Discord communications were leaked.

Asked during the forum if he had ever used the name, “Conway,” Blevins said, “I think we need to start asking questions about the future of Enid.”

Then Blevins was asked a battery of questions:

“Have you expressed admiration for certain policies of Adolf Hitler?”

“No,” he replied.

“Did you at any time operate the Twitter account, @AbolishJournalism?”

“No,” he replied again.

“And had you written under the pseudonym ‘Conway?'”

“No,” he said.

A question directed to Patterson asked how she would deal with the fact leadership officers at Vance Air Force Base in the south part of Enid have stopped attending Enid City Commission meetings because of Blevins’ purported views.

“Well, I would encourage them to encourage their people to get out and vote on April 2,” she said.

Election Day for Enid Ward 1 is set for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2. Early voting runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 28, and Friday, March 29, at the Garfield County Election Board, 903 Failing Drive in Enid.

(Correction: This article was updated at 3:17 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, to correct reference to a flag.)