MODESTO, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. House’s top Republican on Tuesday withdrew his support for a Central California congressional candidate over derogatory online posts about Muslims and Hillary Clinton that the candidate says he did not write.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy rescinded his support for Ted Howze in light of the “disappointing comments,” spokesman Drew Florio said Tuesday.

“As the leader has previously stated, hateful rhetoric has no place within the Republican Party,” Florio said.

Howze, who is facing freshman Democrat Josh Harder in the farm belt’s swing 10th District, lost the support last week of the California Republican Party and the campaign arm of House Republicans, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Howze said last week he is the target of “maliciously false attacks” and intends to continue his campaign. He said the posts “do not resemble anything close to my personal words or actions.”

The posts were first reported by the website Politico, which said they were uncovered by Ryan Williams, a Democratic operative who last cycle managed Uniting California, a joint initiative by the California Labor Federation and Tom Steyer’s NextGen America aimed at flipping Republican-held House seats.

Even if Howze dropped out of the race, his name will appear on the November ballot — he cannot be replaced, according to the California secretary of state’s office. Moreover, there can be no write-in candidates in a “top two” general election, such as for the House district, in California.


Associated Press Writer Alan Fram in Washington contributed.