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Republican Senate candidates race to the bottom

Republican Senate hopefuls are eagerly gathering up endorsements from extremists and conspiracy theorists.

By Josh Israel - January 26, 2022
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J.D. Vance

On Tuesday, Ohio Republican Senate hopeful J.D. Vance celebrated receiving the endorsement of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

Though she is a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has spread antisemitic, racist, and Islamophobic hate and been stripped of all committee assignments for conduct that does not “reflect creditably on the House,” as House rules put it, Vance tweeted, “Honored to have Marjorie’s endorsement. We’re going to win this thing and take the country back from the scumbags.” His campaign told Fox News that the two would campaign together on Sunday in Ohio.

Around the country, Republican Senate hopefuls like Vance are doing everything possible to appeal to the far-right wing of their party and are touting endorsements from an array of bigots, pardoned criminals, conspiracy theorists, and shock jocks.

Greene has also backed former football player and accused domestic abuser Herschel Walker for the Senate nomination in Georgia. After the two posed for photos together and Greene began running Facebook ads backing Walker, the Democratic Party of Georgia filed an ethics complaint in October alleging campaign finance violations.

After receiving an endorsement from Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who among other issues has a history of making antisemitic comments, North Carolina Senate hopeful and former Rep. Mark Walker hailed him as “a fierce conservative and a proven fighter who will ensure our North Carolina Values are not forgotten in Washington, D.C.”

Vance and other candidates have also touted backing from bigoted anti-LGBTQ extremists and organizations.

Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, an organization that says that it fights against “sexual promiscuity,” “cohabitation,” and efforts to “eliminate natural distinctions between men and women,” has endorsed Vance and Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler in their Senate races.

FRC Action, the political arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council, has also endorsed Hartzler for Missouri’s open Senate seat. The group’s Alaska state affiliate is backing Kelly Tshibaka, a Republican candidate taking on incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

A handful of right-wing figures who accepted pardons from former President Donald Trump for their crimes have also been in high demand.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, pardoned for felony tax fraud, has endorsed the Senate campaign of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and campaigned with Jane Timken, the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party.

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, pardoned for making false statements to federal investigators, has backed Greitens, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, New Hampshire Senate hopeful Don Bolduc, and Pennsylvania candidate Kathy Barnette.

Bobby Jeffries, a Pennsylvania Senate candidate, has touted the backing of former Trump lobbyist and political dirty trickster Roger Stone, pardoned for witness tampering and obstruction.

Other Trump apologists and election conspiracy theory spreaders have also been a hot commodity.

Ric Grenell, a Twitter troll and former Fox News contributor who was selected by Trump to briefly serve as his acting director of national intelligence, has claimed that the real tragedy of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was that it cost his former boss his social media accounts. He has backed Ohio candidate Bernie Moreno, Alaska’s Tshibaka, and Arizona’s Jim Lamon.

Jenna Ellis, an attorney who helped oversee Trump’s unsuccessful effort to overturn the 2020 election results, endorsed former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser known for his neo-Nazi ties who also pushed false claims that President Joe Biden was not the true victor in the 2020 elections, is supporting Greitens in Missouri and Barnette in Pennsylvania.

Some candidates have also enjoyed the backing of pro-Trump media figures.

In December, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he was “honored” have Dana Loesch “standing with me in my campaign for the United States Senate.” Loesch, a talk show host and former NRA spokesperson, headlined a Texas “Stop the Steal” rally for Trump after the November 2020 election.

Mark Levin, who was among the radio hosts told by their network, Cumulus, last January to stop making claims about the 2020 election having been stolen, has endorsed Mandel in Ohio and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Arizona.

Informal Trump adviser and conspiracy monger Sean Hannity has thrown his support to Walker in Georgia and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.

Republican candidates at all levels continue to highlight the endorsements of far-right figures who traffic in conspiracy theories and extreme positions that polls show are popular with a growing segment of the GOP primary base.

While most Americans now support LGBTQ rights, a May 2021 Gallup poll found only a minority of Republicans support allowing transgender people to serve in the military and participate in sports teams that match their gender identify.

Despite there being no evidence that Trump was the real winner in 2020, polling shows most Republicans have bought in to the claim. A December University of Massachusetts at Amherst/YouGov survey found just 21% of Republican voters believe Biden’s victory was legitimate. According to the results of a September CNN poll, 59% of Republican voters and GOP-leaning independent voters said believing that Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him was an “important” part of being a Republican.

A summer 2021 poll by Citizen Data found that 62% of conservative adults embrace at least one QAnon conspiracy theory.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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