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John James, then-Republican candidate for the 10th District, speaks during former President Donald Trump’s Save America rally at Macomb County Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, Michigan, on October 1, 2022. | Source: JEFF KOWALSKY / Getty

A communications official for a group working to elect Republicans to Congress has accused a Michigan Democrat who is white of employing colorism against his incumbent Republican opponent who is Black.

The accusation came days after Carl Marlinga, a candidate for the 10th district of Michigan, posted a campaign ad soliciting donations. The ad included a split photo with Marlinga on one side and U.S. Rep. John James on the other.

But on the side of the photo with James’ smiling face, an apparent photo filter was employed with what appears to be heavy shadowing. The side with Marlinga’s face, by contrast, was well-lit without any filters or extra shading.

“In 2022, we came less than 2,000 votes away from flipping Michigan’s 10th blue,” Marlinga wrote on the social media app formerly known as Twitter. “ No one saw it coming. In 2024, we will finish the job. Michiganders deserve it.”

The photo – and, more than likely, blind partisan loyalty – prompted a press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to call out Marlinga on social media.

“Extreme Democrat Carl Marlinga shows us his true character as he darkens a photo @JohnJamesMI to raise money,” NRCC Midwest press secretary Mike Marinella posted. “@MarlingaForMI10 should apologize and refund the money he raised on this despicable effort.”

Although Marinella never indicated why he thought darkening a photo was “despicable,” the presumptive white supremacy-informed implication is that dark-colored skin is already bad and that any effort to darken it in any way – even through a social media filter – only reinforces that negative stigma.


Carl Marlinga, a candidate for the U.S. Representative in Michigan’s 10th District, poses before a “Get Out the Vote Rally” at Renaissance High School in Detroit on October 29, 2022. | Source: JEFF KOWALSKY / Getty

James, a 42-year-old Iraq War veteran, carved out a narrow victory over Marlinga in 2022 – the same year the NRCC touted a Fox News report alleging the Democrat and his law firm “solicited accused sexual predators as clients and ‘claimed on its website that authorities ‘lead and manipulate’ children in sex abuse cases to get ‘incriminating statements.’”

James was also among state Republicans accused by a Democratic congressional group of “taking thousands of dollars in donations from the Michigan fake electors facing eight felony charges” for trying to rig the 2020 election results. James was accused of not returning donations from the fake electors who contributed to his campaign.

While running for U.S. Senate that same year, James tried to distance himself from Donald Trump, whom he had previously defended as having “done everything that he has thought was best” in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years earlier during yet another failed U.S. Senate bid, James appeared in a campaign ad that complained about failing schools and featured an image of a school hallway showing a swastika on a bulletin board.

James, who was endorsed by Trump in that race, notably said at the time that any accusation of racism was an “indication of how low people are willing to go.”

Marlinga, for his part, was notably acquitted of federal corruption charges in 2006. A jury found the former county prosecutor not guilty of two counts of bribery and one count each of wire fraud, making a false report to the federal election agency and exceeding campaign contribution limits.

The Macomb Daily reported that Marlinga had been accused of “exerting influence in two criminal cases while he was prosecutor in exchange for more than $30,000 in campaign contributions for his 2002 unsuccessful run for Congress.”

In 2022, the Metro Detroit Times reported that a survey of candidates running for Macomb County Probate Court judge a decade earlier revealed that Marlinga “ indicated that the justices who most possess a judicial philosophy similar to his own were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, uncompromising conservatives who were appointed by Republican presidents.”

The primary elections for the 10th district of Michigan are scheduled to be held in August.


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