A candidate who campaigned against allowing a mosque in Omaha has dropped out of the race for Omaha City Council because of the verbal attacks he says he and his wife have received.
Paul Anderson had finished second in a three-way race and was guaranteed a spot on the ballot in the general election. Now that he’s dropped out, he’ll be replaced by Grant Sturek, a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Sturek will face incumbent Pete Festersen.
“It was a difficult decision,” Anderson said. “It’s the ugly side of politics.”
Anderson said Monday night that he has no regrets about entering the race, taking a stand against the mosque and ultimately ending his campaign.
“I knew the odds going into this race,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he opposes a mosque planned for west Omaha because he believes it has a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood, a controversial religious and political group that has been accused of having ties to terrorists.
Anderson was rebuked by his opponents and others after running a radio ad that criticized construction of a mosque on the campus of the Tri-Faith Initiative in west Omaha. The campus also will include a Jewish synagogue and Christian church.
Anderson later said he regretted his choice of words in the ad.
Anderson’s remarks in the ad and in interviews with news media have been widely criticized as anti-Muslim.
After losing the primary, Sturek endorsed Festersen and did so, he said, because of Anderson’s “inflammatory comments toward the Muslim and LGBT communities in Omaha.”
Festersen said Anderson’s remarks regarding Muslims have been “false and discriminatory” and have no place in the election.
Anderson declined the nomination Monday afternoon, according to the Douglas County Election Commission.
Festersen easily won the primary, with more than 75 percent of the vote. Anderson received 15 percent, while Sturek garnered 8.4 percent.
Nevertheless, Anderson said, ending the campaign was hard — a decision he made almost immediately after advancing to the general election as the verbal attacks intensified. He said the comments took a toll on him and his wife.
“It’s painful,” he said. “I’m trying to regroup right now.”
Sturek, back in the race with Festersen as an opponent, said he will try to fight the “huge contributions from companies” that Festersen has received, one of the reasons why Sturek said he entered the campaign.
He said companies’ donations “undermine our democracy and make it harder for grass-roots candidates to run.”
Festersen said the donations are part of his “broad-based support across the political spectrum,” and he’s confident that support will help him win the general election on May 9.