January 25, 2022
Oregon State Rep. candidate Dan Tooze wearing hat with Proud Boy symbol (Source: Telegram)
The American political landscape one year after the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol reflects the yawning divides highlighted on that violent day and reveals the extent to which extremist beliefs have become part of the mainstream.
As the 2022 midterm election campaigns kick into high gear, ADL’s Center on Extremism is tracking more than 100 problematic political candidates who claim to be running for political office this year.
This includes candidates who promote extreme views, associate with extremists, and/or promote potentially dangerous conspiracy theories. Support for such candidates demonstrates a continuing shift of the so-called Overton Window – the parameters of what is considered “normal” or “acceptable” in political and social discourse. This ever-shifting window signals an expanding mainstream acceptance of extreme beliefs and ideologies.
Explicit Extremist Connections
The list, which continues to grow on a near-daily basis, includes at least a dozen candidates with explicit connections to extremist groups or movements including white supremacists, anti-government extremists and members of the far-right Proud Boys.
Self-described “lifetime member” of the anti-government Oath Keepers Wendy Rogers, a Republican member of the Arizona State Senate running for re-election, has appeared on the antisemitic TruNews streaming platform and tweeted support for Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist leader and organizer. She is also one of the loudest voices in the 2020 election-denial movement. In a December 9, 2021, Gab post she wrote, “Trump won and anyone who doesn’t see that the election was stolen is a FOOL!”
Other extremist candidates include longtime white supremacist Chester Doles, who is running for a seat on the Lumpkin County (GA) Board of Commissioners and Proud Boy Daniel Tooze who, according to his campaign website, is running as a Republican candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives. Tooze regularly advocates for January 6 insurrectionists and tweeted as recently as December 7, 2021, that the 2020 election was stolen.
Praise for Extremists
At least two dozen candidates have expressed admiration for or appeared in public alongside extremists. In September 2021, during a “Justice for J6 rally,” Arizona State Rep. Walter Blackman, U.S. congressional candidate (R-AZ), reportedly told the crowd, "The Proud Boys came to one of my events and that was one of the proudest moments of my life.” In March 2021, former Texas GOP chair and 2022 Texas gubernatorial candidate Allen West appeared on the same stage as Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes during an anti-immigration rally in Laredo, Texas.
In June 2021, Nick Taurus, U.S. congressional candidate (R-CA), took to social media to boast about meeting with Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist leader and organizer. Sharing a photo of himself posing with Fuentes he tweeted “A legend and inspiration to us all!” On Facebook Taurus shared the same photo with the caption, “This guy is the truth and it was an absolute honor to meet him! AMERICA FIRST IS INEVITABLE! #AMERICAFIRST #NICKFUENTES.” On January 6, 2022, Taurus tweeted, “A great night honoring the J6 Heroes!”
In November 2021, Neil Kumar, U.S. Congressional candidate (R-AR), attended a conference organized by American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication. During the conference, Kumar posted an image of himself posing with white supremacist Peter Brimelow, founder of the racist and anti-immigrant website VDare. Kumar has written articles for American Renaissance and VDare, as well as other racist and white supremacist entities such as Identity Dixie, The Political Cesspool, Counter Currents and The Unz Review. Kumar has also expressed white supremacist views. His December 2021 Gab posts include, "If you’re not pro-White, you’re anti-White,” “America is a White Christian nation” and “Diversity is our greatest weakness.”
Neil Kumar and Peter Brimelow at the American Renaissance conference (Source: Gab, November 2021)
Boosting Conspiracy Theories
We know conspiracy theories have the power to inspire people to violence; the bizarre claims behind Pizzagate, QAnon and many more have been linked to attacks, kidnappings and targeted violence. When candidates use their campaigns to elevate these fabricated “crises,” they are exposing the public to dangerous lies and contributing to the mainstreaming of extreme beliefs.
At least forty-five candidates running for office in 2022 have lent credence in some way to the QAnon conspiracy theory; many posted QAnon-related social media content in 2020 or earlier. Several candidates have continued to support the conspiracy theory even as it has morphed into something less recognizable. In 2021, candidates tweeted QAnon’s WWG1WGA slogan, including Darren Aquino, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives (R-FL), so-called election-fraud witness Mellissa Carone who is running for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, and U.S. congressional candidate (R-CA) Alison Hayden.
Ruben Landon Dante, U.S. congressional candidate (R-TX) was linked to the conspiracy as recently as June 2021, and Mary Lynn Wagner, a Republican candidate for Colorado’s Statehouse, reportedly reiterated her support for QAnon in September. In July, Cordie Williams, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in California, repeated the QAnon slogan during an appearance on MatrixxGroove, a QAnon podcast. Meanwhile, numerous politicians and candidates have attended a variety of conferences organized by or featuring QAnon influencers.
Dozens of candidates have promoted a range of disproven conspiracy theories including those related to the 2020 election, the January 6 insurrection, the deep state and the COVID-19 pandemic that have been associated with violence.
A recent sampling:
- On December 27, Abraham Hamadeh, a Republican candidate for Arizona Attorney General, tweeted “The corrupt media, deep state, the establishment, and even the COURTS worked to rob President Trump and the American people in November 2020. We will never forget — or forgive...”
- On December 27, Brian Perras, U.S. Congressional candidate (R-FL), tweeted, “…I have given you nothing but facts. This whole plandemic against humanity is Genocide! De-populate us! This was never about health and safety!”
- On December 20, Neil Kumar made a Gab post that read, “Anyone promoting the Vaxx, regardless of their stance on any other issue, even if they try to soften it by saying they’re ‘anti-mandate,’ is the Enemy.”
- On December 19, Sam Peters, U.S. congressional candidate (R-NV), tweeted, “The pandemic ends when democrats are stopped! Leftists world-wide are using this as a power move, not a healthcare decision.”
- On December 17, Ryan D. Kelly, GOP candidate for Michigan governor, tweeted, “Of course the Democrats will continue to lie to push their J6 insurrection narrative. When actually the big lie and insurrection was Nov 3, 2020.”
- On December 11, Alex Rotar, U.S. congressional candidate (R-PA), tweeted, “…no one cares about January 6 Committie (sic) everyone knows FBI set it up and @SpeakerPelosi assisted…”
- On December 6, Josh Barnett, U.S. congressional candidate (R-AZ) tweeted, “You do understand that the underlying reason why we are experiencing the pain we are experiencing is because of a stolen election, right?”
- On December 5, U.S. Senate candidate Tim Swain (R-SC) tweeted, “Good morning to everyone except the FBI and all the others staging fake events to try and give Conservatives a bad name.”
- On December 5, Arizona State Rep. Wendy Rogers tweeted, “The fake group called Patriot Front that marched on DC with US flags and shields with masks on are Feds. Probably the same Feds who were at the J6 event checking their watches.”
- On November 11, Patrick Witt, U.S. congressional candidate (R-GA), tweeted, “The work of deconstructing the Deep State begins with the FBI and the DOJ.”
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