Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Running Women project following 15 compelling women candidates in 2018.
In a growing trend of local pushback against conservative politicians, a Detroit-area country club canceled a fundraising event scheduled to be held last week by congressional candidate Lena Epstein. The club’s move was in response to her political views, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Franklin Hills Country Club in Franklin, Mich., a predominantly Jewish establishment, decided to stop hosting all political events shortly after Michael Simon, the son of the club’s former president, called Epstein a “neo-fascist” and compared the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the southern border to the Holocaust, the newspaper reported.
“I’m so heartbroken to see FHCC’s leaders affiliate themselves with the racist campaign being run by Lena Epstein to tear children from the arms of their parents,” Simon wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post.
Epstein, who is a business owner and a fourth-generation member of the country club, fired back in her own Facebook post, writing: “Republican women should not be treated like outcasts simply because of their conservative views and support for President Trump.”
[Related: Our Q&A with Lena Epstein, who calls for more female leaders in the GOP]
Her campaign had scheduled and confirmed the event with the FHCC over a month ago, she says — around the same time the club held a fundraising event for Democrat Suneel Gupta, who is also running in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.
“I’m an adult, and a strong enough person to deal with things not always going my way,” Epstein said in a statement on her website. “But this isn’t just about one fundraiser being cancelled. It represents a much bigger issue we’re now facing as a nation.”
Indeed, there has been a wave of high-profile incidents of citizens and business owners publicly shunning women — and men — who work for or support President Trump. On June 19, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, was forced to leave a Mexican restaurant halfway through her meal after protesters started chanting “shame” and “end family separation” at her.
Later that week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia by co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson, who said “the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.”
That same night, Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida, had to be escorted out of Tampa Theater after a screening of the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” about Fred Rogers, when people shouted at her in protest of a lawsuit she cosigned challenging the Affordable Care Act.
Amid the rising temperature, Epstein called for more civility in political discourse. “Despite having different views, everyone should treat each other with dignity and respect,” she said.
In spite of the event cancellation, Epstein has amassed more money than any other candidate in the crowded race for Michigan’s 11th District — nearly $1.5 million as of March 31, although she donated $1 million of that sum to herself. Gupta is second in the race for dollars, having raised about $930,000 in the same period. At the cancelled FHCC event, Epstein stood to collect between $250 and $1,000 per plate.