RAHWAY — A longtime Democratic operative from Union County has responded to the Wednesday shooting of a congressman by calling for a “hunt” of Republicans.

James Devine posted several messages on Facebook and Twitter following the Alexandra, Virginia, shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and several others by a gunman with a history of violence and of making online rantings against Republican officials and their policies.

“We are in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people. Why is it a shock when things turn violent?” Devine posted on social media, ending the message with the hashtag: #HuntRepublicanCongressmen

Devine used the hashtag #HuntRepublicans in another message about Scalise speaking at a event hosted by a group founded by racist David Duke.

“I have little sympathy for the Republican Congressman who got shot today because he viciously opposed President Obama's effort to reduce gun violence and instead, he accepted more gun lobby money than all but 15 other members of the House of Representatives," he said on Facebook.

The comments drew criticism from others who follow Devine on Facebook and Twitter.

But Devine told New Jersey 101.5 that he is not backing down, although he insists his comments were meant to shock but not advocate violence.

"It is insensitive and I don’t care. You want me to be politically correct? I don’t have time for that anymore," he said.

Devine said his tweets were inspired by 2016 tweet by Tea Party-backed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who repeated a quotation about the 2nd Amendment being about "shoot[ing] at the government when it becomes tyrannical!"

Devine said Republican policies to take away people's healthcare, enact voter ID laws, and oppose gun regulations are his idea of "tyrannical government."

I'm not apologizing if it offended snowflake Republicans.

"I'm not going to shy away from harsh rhetoric. We have a president elected largely by people who were tired of politicians who shied away from harsh rhetoric. I don’t think it's appropriate; I'd much rather have a rational and reasonable debate. But we can't have that."

"I'm not apologizing if it offended snowflake Republicans," he added.

But other local Democrats did not agree with Devine's attention-seeking tactics.

Union County Democratic Chairman Jerry Green on Thursday condemned the comments after a reporter read them to him.

“In this day and age, we have to be very careful in what we say or how we say it,” Green said. “I do not support the hunting of any people — Democrat or Republican.”

“I’ve had Republican friends that I have developed over the 25-plus years in Trenton. I consider them to be good human beings,” said Green, who is an assemblyman from Plainfield.

What he is saying is no different than what the shooter was saying.

Devine is not an elected committeeman with the city's Democratic committee, nor is he a member of the city's Democratic club, municipal Chairman Kevin O'Brien said Thursday.

"I abhor all political violence. It has no place in our American democracy," he told New Jersey 101.5. "And my prayers go out to the congressman, to the police officers and the other people who were wounded. It was a terrible, terrible tragedy, as are all senseless acts of violence."

Rahway Republican Chairman Patrick Cassio said that what Devine "is saying is no different than what the shooter was saying."

"This could have been a massacre and this nut is going to say that?"

Devine's website notes that he has been working on Democratic campaigns for three decades. Among the elected officials he has worked for are Carteret Mayor Dan Reiman, former Rahway Mayor James Kenned, former Hillside Mayor Joseph Menza, and Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz before he had a falling out with her.

In 2014, he ran against now-Mayor Sampson Steinman in his hometown of Rahway.

His partner, Lisa McCormick, this year raised money for an abortive campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but she dropped out before the June primary after not submitting a nominating petition with 1,000 signatures.

Devine's website also includes a 2006 photo of him standing with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. A spokesman for the senator on Thursday forcibly condemned Devine's comments, adding that Menendez has "absolutely no connection with Mr. Devine."

"As for his comments on social media, the senator believes they are irresponsible, reckless, and only serve to fan the flames of division in this country," Steven Sandberg said. "The senator is disturbed and appalled by his hateful, dangerous rhetoric.”

Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria, Va.
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Scalise on Thursday remained in critical condition after undergoing a third surgery.

As when U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011 in Tucson, Arizona, Wednesday’s shooting has drawn attention to heated and divisive political rhetoric.

The gunman, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, who was shot and killed by police, left a trail of online comments excoriating Republicans.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi chastised "sanctimonious" Republicans for suggesting that rhetoric from liberals and progressives in the wake of President Donald Trump's election may have been partially responsible for the shooting.

"How dare they say such a thing, how dare they,” said Pelosi, who noted that she’s been getting calls to her home and has been the target of attack ads in her latest re-election campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Also on New Jersey 101.5:

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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