12-06-2016  4:06 am      •     

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A county-level GOP official who refused to cut his ties to a group that calls itself ``pro-white'' resigned from his position with the Republican Party of Arkansas on Wednesday, the state party chairman said.

John Casteel, who has been linked to a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens, stepped down as Jackson County's chairman, state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said.

``Mr. Casteel told me he felt his resignation is in the best interest of the party because of his involvement with the Council of Conservative Citizens,'' Webb said in an e-mail. ``We appreciate Mr. Casteel's past service to the party and efforts to build a Republican presence in Jackson County.''

Casteel didn't respond to several messages seeking comment on Wednesday. His e-mail address had been listed as the contact for the Arkansas chapter of the council's website until earlier this week, when The Associated Press called the group about his involvement. The liberal-leaning blog Blue Arkansas reported the matching e-mail addresses on Monday.

A council newsletter shows Casteel at a Conservative Citizens board meeting in 2007. His insurance agency had also advertised in the same publication earlier in the decade. The St. Louis-based organization grew out of groups that battled school integration in the 1950s and 1960s.

Webb had called on Casteel to quit the group, saying its principles run contrary to the GOP's. Webb said that when he spoke with Casteel on the phone Tuesday, he learned that Casteel decided to ignore the state GOP's request.

The GOP says its Jackson County committee will elect a new county chairman at a later date.

The Council of Conservative Citizens has declined to confirm whether Casteel belongs to the organization. The group's CEO, Gordon Lee Baum, didn't immediately return a message left at the office Wednesday.

``We're not white supremacists,'' Baum said earlier in the week. ``We're not racists. We are pro-white, but we have non-white members. . . . We're not the Ku Klux Klan or goofy crap like that.''

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