The state’s largest teachers union on Friday joined those criticizing the Berlin man running against House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz for social media posts, including one attacking a school shooting survivor and another expressing anti-Muslim sentiments.
Democrats in the 30th House District, which includes portions of Berlin and Southington, also said voters should find the posts concerning.
“I found them completely appalling,” said Kathleen O’Donnell Moss, vice chairwoman of the Berlin Democratic Town Committee.
Moss shared screenshots of social media posts by Republican Steve Baleshiski with the Record-Journal.
Baleshiski couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, but Brian Callahan, his campaign manager, said the posts were from his past and don’t reflect the candidate’s current views.
“Things were said in the heat of the moment,” he said. “They don’t reflect his beliefs at all, not even close.”
The posts were made as recently as March, when he criticized David Hogg, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Hogg has become a prominent advocate for gun control.
“I’m not supposed to speak ill of David Hogg because he’s a ‘survivor,’” Baleshiski wrote in the post. “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.”
Another post, dated Nov. 1, 2017, targets Muslims.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to realize Islam isn’t compatible with western civilization,” he wrote. “How many of our people have to die before we free ourselves from the idea that Islam is just like any other religion?”
Earlier in the campaign, Callahan spoke with Baleshiski about the posts and said he asked, for instance, if he has any prejudice against followers of Islam. According to Callahan, Baleshiski said he made the posts in the heat of debate and they don’t reflect his views.
Gary Brochu, the chair of Berlin’s Democratic Town Committee, questioned how Baleshiski’s views could change in such a short period of time.
“If you’re 21, why was it that 6 months ago was so dramatically different?,” he asked.
The Connecticut Education Association joined the criticism Friday, noting in particular that 17 victims died in the Florida school shooting.
“No candidates running for office, Republican or Democrat, should make vile comments and attacks regarding students who speak out on matters of public concern,” Connecticut Education Association President Jeff Leake said in a news release.
CEA also denounced Baleshiski’s comments about Muslims and a post questioning the intelligence of U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, who is black.
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