Republican congressional candidate Andrew Grant rushed to post a photograph of him with two leaders in front of the Muslim Community of Folsom building on Sunday.
In his quest to unseat Rep. Ami Bera, the Democratic incumbent, Grant thought it demonstrated his ability to represent diverse groups.
Instead, he got outrage.
“You ain’t getting my vote,” one commenter wrote minutes after Grant’s Facebook post published. “(A)nyone who befriends muslims will never get my vote.”
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“I want someone to represent me,” another commented. “The white, heterosexual, conservative man seems to be forgotten. Politians (sic) seem to search out victims.”
Grant said he has emphasized representation and diversity in his campaign and has spoken to religious and minority groups throughout the district. This month, he has attended the Folsom Sikh community’s annual picnic, the Sacramento Jewish Food Faire, the Indus Valley American Chamber Event and events for the Sacramento Rainbow Chamber of Commerce.
“Am I someone who would like to convince them that I can represent the people in the photo as well as I can represent them? Of course,” said Grant, who visited the mosque and community center to attend their Eid al-Adha celebration. “It frustrates me that the immediate response was you don’t have my vote because of that photo. It was a surprise.”
While the race for the 7th Congressional District, which spans Sacramento’s suburbs, has been extremely competitive in the past decade, analysts at The Cook Political Report, a non-partisan online newsletter, have labeled the seat as likely to stay in Democratic hands after the Nov. 6 election. Grant is a first-time candidate. Bera has represented the district since 2013.
“One of the reasons that I decided to run was that I saw this happening across the state in 2016, and I thought maybe I could be someone who could bridge the gap,” Grant said. “I want to convince them but at the end of the day it’s their vote.”
“I don’t think that anti-Muslim sentiment is Republican,” he continued. “I don’t think our party has any room for that. People ask me, why are you Republican? It’s because I trust people and the role of government.”
His Facebook post received support from people of both parties, including Folsom City Councilman Roger Gaylord, who wrote that there are “plenty of conservative Republicans who support you doing this kind of thing.”
“I live by the fact that we are not the letter at the end of our names for the party we represent,” Gaylord said. “As a Republican myself, it was enlightening. You can see some of the comments on Andrew’s post about losing votes. I got the same thing on mine when I ran for councilman. We are all human and we represent who we can represent.”
Sara Collette, 36, also voiced her support on Grant’s page, writing that though she planned to vote for Bera, she respected Grant’s leadership.
“We need more people on both sides of the aisle that are going to stand up for what’s right and not just what’s politically expedient,” Collette, a psychotherapist, said in an interview. “He didn’t apologize for meeting people that he’s running to represent. I hope Ami Bera wins because he aligns much more with how I view things, however, if he doesn’t, I am glad that at least Mr. Grant is one, wanting to meet with not just one demographic in his district, and two, calling out injustice and saying what’s wrong when it’s wrong.”
Grant is a former Marine and worked at the Pentagon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a body of senior officers in the Department of Defense. Most recently, he’s worked as the CEO of the Northern California World Trade Center.