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Local Republicans are facing what many consider an embarrassing choice between two perennial candidates in the race for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 3rd Congressional district, which includes a portion of Forest Park south of the Eisenhower expressway.

The two candidates are Art Jones, a Chicago insurance broker with past ties white supremacist organizations and Ray Wardingley, who used to perform as Spanky the Clown.

“It’s a terrible embarrassment and it’s a unique situation,” said Christopher Robling, a Republican activist from Riverside. “I will vote for Wardingley, but I am not endorsing him. He is not a credible challenger to (incumbent) Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs).”

The district, which includes the southwest side of Chicago and many west and southwestern suburbs, is considered a reliable Democratic district. In the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry received 59 percent of the vote in the district and Lipinski received 73 percent of the vote.

Jones, 58, is an insurance broker who lives in Chicago. He says that he is not a white supremacist.

“I say they’re talking about ancient history,” said Jones. “[The year] 1979 was the last time I had anything to do with any white supremacist organization. I consider myself a white racialist, and I define it this way. A white racialist is someone who believes in the greatness of his people’s past and the destiny of his people’s future.”

Jones also denies that he is a neo-Nazi. Jones admitted that he appeared in a Nazi get up, complete with a swastika, at a rally against integration on the southwest side of Chicago in 1979. A photograph of Jones, in the Nazi garb, appears in the book “Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party.”

Jones has an additional response to questions about whether he is a neo-Nazi.”Even if I was, I have that right,” said Jones. “I fought for it in Vietnam. I’m an honorably discharged veteran.”

Jones’s campaign brochure lists his past membership in the NSWPP (National Socialist White Peoples Party).

Jones calls for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, an unusual position for a Republican. Jones said that Bush and Cheney should be impeached for leading the country into the war in Iraq on behalf of a foreign power, Israel.

“If America is to survive, Bush and Cheney must go and take with them their corrupt, Neo-conservative, kosher-approved cohorts,” reads a statement on Jones campaign Web site.

Jones’s web site also says Bush and Cheney should be impeached for failing to defend America’s borders, for supporting international trade treaties, for failing to use the veto to cut spending and for abusing civil liberties.

Jones supports the orderly, but speedy withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. His also supports the repeal of what he calls treasonous trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and others.

He also supports replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

Wardingley, 70, is a much lower key personality who has run for Congress numerous times, and in 1995 managed to become the Republican candidate for mayor in the City of Chicago.

“I am a regular guy,” said Wardingley, who worked as taxi and limousine driver in a long and varied career that included acting in commercials. He developed his Spanky the Clown act and used it to raise money for St. Jude Hospital and in some of his past political campaigns, but now is tired of being called a clown.

“That was a long time ago,” said Wardingley, who says he hasn’t used the clown outfit since about 1995. “After a while you say ‘enough is enough.’ I just put away that little red wig.”

He is a devout Catholic who describes himself as a Reagan Republican. At joint appearances he refuses to shake Jones’ hand.

The Riverside Township Republican organization has not endorsed either candidate in the race, wrote Riverside Republican Committeeman and Gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka in an e-mail.

Jim Nalepa, who gave William Lipinski his toughest race in 1994, is dismayed by the situation and blames poor Republican leadership.

“We should have been able to do better and we didn’t,” said Nalepa who no longer lives in the 3rd Congressional District, but has endorsed Wardingley. “The Republican Party in Cook County, Judy included, was asleep at the switch. Here we have such a lack of Republican leadership in the 3rd District that we have a clown versus a Nazi.”