The Jolt: A Sixth District candidate withdraws after calling himself ‘a white nationalist’

Former congressional candidate Donnie Boleno.

Former congressional candidate Donnie Boleno.

Chances are you haven't heard of Donnie Bolena. He's the owner of a small business, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Sandy Springs, and a weightlifting fan.

Until this weekend, Bolena was also a candidate for the Sixth District congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. You can listen to him here in a GPB audio spot.

On Saturday, two days after identifying himself as “a white nationalist,” Bolena said he was persuaded by state and Fulton County GOP officials to exit the contest.

"Some of it was self-inflicted. Some of it wasn't. My account was hacked. Things have taken place," said Bolena, wearing a red Donald Trump re-election cap, in a 22-minute Facebook video.

In that video, Bolena alludes to a woman who had accused him of making “filthy” online propositions to her – which Bolena denies doing. “That was a hack,” he said.

He focused on his post of last week. “I said I was a proud white nationalist. Due to the shootings that happened in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, I was very aggravated and very mad at the way the liberal media comes after conservatives. It comes after our Second Amendment,” he said.

CNN picked up on his remarks, Bolena said, though we haven’t seen that cable network has published anything. Since then, the candidate alleges that the Trump campaign had contacted the Republican Party of Georgia, which then applied the pressure.

“I was told, ‘Donnie, if you stay in it, and CNN breaks this story, you’re going to hurt President Trump, and you’re going to hurt District 6, and you’re going to hurt the country. They will use this to destroy every Republican,” he said.

Bolena said he was puzzled by the semantics of the situation. “Has anybody ever looked up the word ‘nationalism’? It’s not a bad word. But now, the liberal media has made it a bad word. I said I’m a white nationalist. Which means I’m a white man. I’m a proud white man. And I’m a nationalist. I still don’t think that’s a bad word. I think every American should be a nationalist,” he said. More:

"I said this to the chairman when I talked to him this morning. I said, I am so sick of being at attacked for being white. Why are white people apologizing for being white? What is wrong with them.

"I don't see no black people out there apologizing for being black. And I don't see no Asian people out there apologizing for being Asian. I don't get it.

"That's what I wanted to do in Congress. I wanted to be a guy with a voice for the people. I wanted to say, it's okay if you don't want to accept homosexuality. You don't have to. And it's okay if you like being white. You should. And it's okay if you want to be a nationalist. You're not doing anything wrong. If we go out and say that, the liberal media pounces on us, and I get called a racist."

We contacted David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia GOP, to confirm Bolena’s account. Shafer declined comment. But if true, the above is an indication of how seriously the state party is taking the effort to win back the Sixth -- and how closely it’s paying attention to what’s being said by candidates.

In the meantime, Bolena has moved on. He's dropped the world "nationalist" and has created a Facebook page for the "Ultra Conservative Party." It is a closed group with 3,102 members as of this hour.

Republicans remaining the race include: Former congresswoman Karen Handel, state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, and businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Milton.


Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports that a federal judge has ruled today that Georgia voters can cast ballots on "antiquated" and "vulnerable" electronic voting machines one last time, writing that it would be too disruptive to switch to paper ballots before this fall's elections. Read more here.


Today's big news in Democratic circles: State Sen. Zahra Karinshak, who won Republican David Shafer's vacated Duluth seat in 2018, has jumped into an already crowded Democratic race for the Seventh District congressional seat.

Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came within a whisker of unseating U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, last year, must still be considered the frontrunner.

But Karinshak presents the intriguing possibility that Georgia’s new anti-abortion “heartbeat” law could become the central issue in 2020. Karinshak was at the core of Senate Democratic opposition to House Bill 481 earlier this year.

The bill was carried in that chamber by state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, one of two women in the GOP caucus. Unterman is now a candidate for the Seventh District congressional seat.


The National Republican Senatorial Committee plastered the face of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson on billboards declaring her "too liberal" for Georgia.

The former mayor of Columbus was delighted. "David Perdue and his special interest cronies are already scared of the grassroots movement we're building across Georgia," she wrote on Facebook.

But perhaps she shouldn't be so thrilled. Roll Call reports that Republicans might have had ulterior motives in mind when they did what they did. The story singles out one that targeted Erica Smith, a candidate for Senate in North Carolina. From the Roll Call:

Republicans were targeting Smith because they believe she's the weaker potential general election foe, not because they're afraid of her.

It's a page directly out of Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill's playbook from her winning Senate reelection campaign from 2012.


Two Michael Bloomberg-backed gun control groups are dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ad campaign to pressure Republican senators, including David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, to support "red flag" and expanded background check legislation in the aftermath of last week's mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. In all, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America say they'll spend $1 million on digital and television ads aimed at 13 Republicans.

Read our Georgia-themed primer on the gun debate here.