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Westampton Township Committee Candidate Defends Wearing Blackface For 2009 Kanye West Halloween Costume

WESTAMPTON, N.J. (CBS) -- A Republican candidate for township assembly in Westampton is defending a photo of himself in blackface as others call for him to leave the race. Karl Eversmeyer says it was a picture from a decade ago taken out of context. He claims he's not racist and he will continue to campaign until election day.

"I consider myself intuitive," Eversmeyer said. "I think I'm a problem solver."

That is partly how Eversmeyer describes why he should be elected as the next township committee member of Westampton.

But there's just one problem.

"They've called me a racist. They've been defaming my character," he said, "saying that there's no place for racism in Westampton politics."

This is the picture that has some calling for Eversmeyer to drop out of the race, a photo from a Halloween party from 2009.

karl eversmeyer philip goodlet
(Credit: CBS3)

Eversmeyer says he dressed up as Kanye West that year and his then-girlfriend -- now wife -- dressed up as Taylor Swift.

"I'm not a racist," Eversmeyer said. "This wasn't racist intent, this isn't blackface where I'm going to a party with a Klansman like the Virginia guy."

But the Burlington County Republican Committee isn't taking the resurfaced Halloween picture lightly.

In a statement, the committee says, "The Burlington County Republican Committee has a proud history of diversity and of promoting women and minorities as candidates for elected office dating back decades. Anyone who thinks it's a good idea to paint themselves in blackface is not consistent with those values."

The committee says it's withdrawing its support for Eversmeyer's committee candidacy.

"By today's standards with the cultural appropriation, I understand why people are upset and I would never do it today," Eversmeyer said.

Eversmeyer says the Halloween party was thrown by his friend, Philip Goodlet.

Goodlet wrote a statement on Eversmeyer's behalf.

"Karl and his wife Kristin came as Kanye West and Taylor Swift after the incident happened at the awards," Goodlet said. "No one took it as racist that attended the party. Everyone took it as he thought outside the box and won the best costume party."

Eversmeyer says he won't drop out of the race and will let the voters decide in next month's election.

He maintains that darkening his skin was not blackface.

But numerous township and state officials are disavowing his offensive actions and are also calling for him to step aside and apologize.

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