Virginia Republican John Gray figured he was being smart. He paid $30 to delete some offensive and inflammatory tweets as part of his bid to become chairman of Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors.

But after Gray’s campaign disclosed two $15 payments to a service that scrubbed his Twitter account, the line-item entry attracted attention from his chief opponent, Democrat Ann Wheeler, whose team easily dug up the deleted posts and shared them with The Washington Post.

The thousands of tweets reflected Gray’s often-confrontational and incendiary worldview. Some used stereotypes to mock violence and political protest in African American communities, exhibit religious intolerance against non-Christians and denigrate people with opposing political opinions.

Now, as Gray seeks the highest office in the rapidly diversifying county of 456,000 people, he finds himself doing exactly what he had hoped to avoid:

Explaining why, in 2016, he tweeted the falsehood that Islam sanctions domestic abuse; why he wrote “a funny tweet” that same year that said African Americans would stop “rioting” and take a knee if someone played the national anthem; and why, in 2017, he called former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson “a moron” for wishing Indians a happy Diwali.

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