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Republican Virginia Senate candidate Danny Diggs has ties to hate groups and extremists

Diggs accepted payments from anti-immigrant extremists and spoke at a pro-gun rally attended by militia groups.

By Josh Israel - October 20, 2023
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Danny Diggs speaks at a Virginia Citizens Defense League rally against gun safety legislation in on Jan. 20, 2020 in Richmond, VA.
Danny Diggs speaks at a Virginia Citizens Defense League rally against gun safety legislation in on Jan. 20, 2020 in Richmond, VA.

Danny Diggs, the Republican nominee for Virginia’s competitive 24th Senate District seat, is running on his credentials as the former sheriff of York County and the city of Poquoson and a promise to “never waver” in his support for law enforcement. But he has significant ties to right-wing extremists and hate groups that do not follow the law.

Diggs is challenging Democratic Sen. Monty Mason in this year’s election, which ends Nov. 7. With all 40 Senate seats on the ballot, the Hampton Roads-area district could determine which party controls the state Senate for the next four years.

Public disclosures filed by Diggs during his time as sheriff show that he accepted $1,100 in payments for attending conferences hosted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated anti-immigrant hate group.

In 2021, he accepted $465.35 worth of expenses or other things of value from FAIR to attend a two day “immigration crisis seminar” in Washington, D.C. In 2018, he accepted $635.31 worth of payments to take part in the group’s “immigration issues meeting.”

FAIR’s late founder, John Tanton, pushed to keep America majority-white by limiting immigration by people of other races. His group has promoted “great replacement” conspiracy theories that nonwhite people and religious minorities are being brought to the United States by entities scheming to dilute the influence of white Christians.

According to SPLC, FAIR received $1.2 million between 1985 and 1994 from the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi group that promotes eugenics, a racist theory that some races are genetically superior to others.

A spokesperson for Diggs did not immediately respond to the American Independent Foundation’s questions about his positions and ties.

In January 2020, the far-right Virginia Citizens Defense League held a rally in Richmond in opposition to pending gun safety legislation. Prominent leaders and members of the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, the Three Percenter movement, and other extremist groups reportedly attended, after the league explicitly invited militia participation.

Diggs’ office posted a video of his speech at the event on its official YouTube page. Wearing a “Guns Save Lives” sticker, Diggs told attendees: “I’m from Yorktown, where we struggled against a tyrannical government and gained our independence in 1781. It’s been about 240 years, and we are now faced with tyranny again.”

In August 2022, Diggs tweeted a photo of himself with the league’s president, Philip Van Cleave, who wrote in a 2019 letter to the Winchester Star: “There’s nothing wrong with being extreme in the preservation of our civil rights. VCDL is proud to be categorized as an extremist organization, and we fully intend to continue being such!” The league’s PAC has endorsed his Senate candidacy, though Diggs does not include the group on his endorsements list.

While Diggs has fiercely opposed gun safety laws, he did push to preserve and enforce a now-repealed Virginia law prohibiting “profane swearing.”

Diggs appeared on the right-wing talk show “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” on Sept. 27. Fredericks has been a leading purveyor of false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and also claimed Democrats were trying to steal the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, which Republican Glenn Youngkin narrowly won.

On Oct. 16, the progressive blog Blue Virginia reported that after running for sheriff in 1999 on a promise not to punish his political rivals, Diggs quickly fired one political opponent and demoted another after winning election. In 2017, he defended a deputy who was photographed wearing blackface for Halloween as part of a portrayal of U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

As the American Independent Foundation first reported on Oct. 9, Diggs is running a campaign ad featuring Newport News mother Heather Clements criticizing Mason for being “soft on crime.” Clements and her husband attended the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to Facebook videos posted by her husband. In comments, Clements said she was there “to protest because dems cheated” and wrote, “I want to go down with a fight.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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