Southington Republican Steve Baleshiski dropped out of the 30th House District race amid continued criticism over Facebook posts.
Republicans in the district, which includes parts of Berlin and Southington, have until Wednesday, or 21 days before the election, to find a replacement to run against House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.
Baleshiski, 22, gave no reason for his decision in a one-sentence letter he filed with Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill and did not return requests for comment.
Southington Republican Chairman Stephen Kalkowski and Berlin Republican Chairwoman Anne Reilly issued a joint statement saying they will continue to work to “to elect Republicans so that Connecticut can prosper through strong fiscal responsibility.”
“We had given Mr. Baleshiski time to reflect on his use of extremely inappropriate language regarding several highly charged politically divided topics facing our state and nation, as well as to confer with his family and friends regarding his decision,” they said in the statement. “The Southington and Berlin Republican Town Committees do not, and will never, condone this hurtful and dividing behavior and therefore, we had withdrawn our endorsement of Mr. Baleshiski prior to his resignation.”
Fundraising could also be complicated for the next candidate. Baleshiski received a campaign financing grant through the state’s Citizens Election Program.
A spokesman for the State Election Enforcement Commission said Friday it’s unclear whether a new candidate would qualify for the program.
Baleshiski had been facing public criticism for the previous week over several Facebook posts, culminating with a group of roughly 20 residents rallying at Berlin Town Hall Thursday evening.
The criticism revolved around posts targeting Muslims, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, and others.
“I’m not supposed to speak ill of David Hogg because he’s a ‘survivor,'” Baleshiski wrote in a post about David Hogg, who became an advocate for gun control after a shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. “Apparently if you’ve survived horrific events, that makes the stupidity spewing out of your mouth above reproach. I disagree. Hogg can burn in hell, I don’t care what he survived. Survivors who wage war on my country are my enemies.”
Baleshiski also made several posts about Muslims and Islam, including saying the religion “isn’t compatible with western civilization.” He also wrote other posts blaming “the left” for mass shootings due to criminal justice reforms and gun control restrictions, and states that African Americans would not have been lynched if they owned firearms.
He also defended his rhetoric in a few posts, which were made to both his personal page and one he created called “Steven’s Political Views.”
“‘Steven you’re full of hate,’” he wrote in one post. “You’re goddamn right I’m full of hate. What emotion do you expect me to feel for people who trying (sic) to destroy my country and impose their sick, dystopian will on me and my family?”
Baleshiski set his personal page to private, meaning only friends can see his posts, but his political views pages remained active and public as of Friday.
Along with Thursday’s rally, he also drew criticism from Southington and Berlin Democrats, the Connecticut Education Association, and Aresimowicz.
On Friday, Aresimowicz did make a post on Facebook inviting Baleshiski to a food drive hosted by Berlin High School Football team at Veterans Park Saturday.