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Right-Wing Extremism in the 2022 Primaries

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Note: this article was updated on August 12, 2022 to reflect the finalized results of two primary elections. This story was originally published on August 4, 2022. 

In January 2022, the ADL Center on Extremism identified more than 100 right-wing extremists running for elected office nationwide, and warned that these candidates had the potential to shift the Overton Window -- what is considered “normal” or “acceptable” in political and social discourse. While some of these candidates have lost their races, the results from the primaries held over the last few weeks demonstrate that ties to right-wing extremist ideologies and groups have ceased to be a political poison pill.  

In fact, as of August 10, 2022, of the 119 right-wing extremist candidates that participated in the primaries, about 25 percent of the candidates won their race, putting them one step closer to winning their general election in November and gaining access to or retaining political power. More alarming, of the 30 victors, 10 won by a margin of 10 percent or greater.  

The right-wing extremist candidates who won their 2022 primaries subscribe to or espouse a range of extremist and fringe ideologies, including support for  QAnon; ties to anti-government extremists like the militia movement and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association; white supremacy; and antisemitism. Other candidates have sought to undermine the United States electoral system by propagating election conspiracies and participating in the January 6 Capitol attack. 

ADL is also watching closely the outcomes of primary races featuring radical anti-Israel candidates on the left.  While both are problematic and deserving of attention, these two issues should not be equated in terms of the threat, degree of rhetoric, and embrace by the political mainstream. 

The following is a partial list of the right-wing extremist candidates who won their primary races as of August 2, 2022: 

ARIZONA: 

  • Kari Lake, a former Phoenix television news anchor, won the GOP primary for governor of Arizona. Lake has repeatedly called for the 2020 election to be decertified. While Lake has not voiced explicit support for QAnon, she has been endorsed by Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor in the Trump administration and a hero in QAnon circles. She also appeared with with QAnon influencer intheMatrixxx at the Cyber Symposium; organizers, including conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, falsely claimed the event would present "evidence" to support claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Lake also held a rally in Morristown, Arizona, with U.S. Rep Paul Gosar and Mike Lindell in March 2022.

  • Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem (R) won his primary to become Arizona’s Secretary of State, a position that controls the state’s electoral system. Finchem has self-identified as an Oath Keeper, shared QAnon content, vocally denied that President Biden won the 2020 election, and attended the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the Capitol riot.   

  • Current Arizona State Senator and self-proclaimed Oath Keeper Wendy Rogers (R) won the race to retain her Arizona State Senate seat representing District 7. In addition, Rogers spoke in February at the America First Political Action Conference, a white nationalist conference organized by Nick Fuentes; appeared on the antisemitic TruNews streaming platform; has been a prominent voice in the effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election; and was censured in March for threatening rival politicians with violence.    

  • U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (R) won the primary to retain his congressional seat representing Arizona’s 9th District. Gosar has ties to the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and America First, and has been seen with far-right fringe figures including Steve Bannon, Ali Alexander and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. Gosar has a history of promoting conspiracy theories - including those surrounding the 2020 election – and in November 2021 he was censured for sharing an anime cartoon that depicted a character killing a character meant to be Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  

  • Mary Ann Mendoza (R) won the primary for Arizona State House District 9 despite having been pulled from the speaker line-up for the 2020 Republican National Convention after she shared a thread on Twitter that contained the antisemitic conspiracy theory that the Rothschild family is plotting on taking over the world and “enslaving” non-Jews and promoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Later in January 2021, she shared an antisemitic post on Facebook. In addition, Mendoza has expressed her belief that the insurrection was “staged” and that the 2020 election was rigged.   

COLORADO: 

  • U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert (R) won her primary to retain her seat representing Colorado’s District 3. Boebert is known for her anti-Muslim bigotry, ties to militia groups, and appearances on QAnon-related shows.  

MARYLAND: 

  • Dan Cox (R), a January 6th participant, won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in a close race. While at the January 6th riot, Cox tweeted “Mike Pence is a traitor.” He has also used a QAnon hashtag in a tweet and previously spoke at a QAnon-linked event.  

  • Michael Peroutka (R), a former member of the neo-Confederate, white supremacist group League of the South (LOS), won the Attorney General nomination in a close race. At an LOS event in 2012, Peroutka played the Confederate song "Dixie," calling it the "national anthem.” He also spoke at the same QAnon event as Cox in April. 

MICHIGAN: 

  • John Gibbs (R), who previously served in the Trump administration and has espoused QAnon conspiracy theories, defeated the state's 3rd Congressional District incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer in a tight race. Gibbs has also echoed ‘Stop the Steal’ rhetoric ahead of his own primary.  

  • Angela Rigas (R) won her primary for state House in District 79 by a large margin despite being a January 6th participant. In response to being called an insurrectionist or treasonist, Rigas said, “I consider all of those terms a compliment, because our Founding Fathers were called all the same things.” 

NEVADA: 

OHIO: 

  • January 6th participant JR Majewski (R) won in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District. Majewski was also a devout QAnon adherent, once saying he believed in “everything that’s been put out by Q.” He has also posted the movement’s hashtags on Instagram and appeared on Fox News while wearing a QAnon shirt. 

OREGON: 

  • Securing the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in a close race, Jo Rae Perkins (R) is a QAnon supporter. In 2020, Perkins further explained her beliefs in QAnon saying, “there is a ‘very strong probability/possibility that ‘Q’ is a real group of people, military intelligence, working with President Trump.’” Perkins has doubled down on her support for the conspiracy theory movement, citing it as her “source of information.”   

PENNSYLVANIA: 

  • Doug Mastriano (R) won the gubernatorial primary despite expressing numerous problematic beliefs, including promoting 2020 election fraud theories, embracing QAnon, and supporting the idea that America should be a “Christian nation.”  He has also aligned himself with Andrew Torba, the antisemite who runs Gab.

WASHINGTON STATE:

  • Joe Kent will be the Republican nominee for the U.S. House seat representing Washington State's 3rd District. One day after his win was announced, Kent appeared on Steve Bannon's podcast, where he said, "We are at war [with the left]," adding, "We have to go after these people."  Kent has ties to and has praised the putatively religious far-right group Patriot Prayer and its leader, Joey Gibson, who spoke at a Kent fundraising event in June 2021.  Gibson and Patriot Prayer often appear alongside other right-wing extremist groups in the Pacific Northwest, including the Proud Boys and Washington State Three Percenters. Kent attended and spoke at the March 5, 2022 “GRIT” (Government Resistance Impedes Tyranny) event at the Washington State Capitol and posted about his participation on Twitter.  The rally was hosted by anti-government extremist group Washington State Three Percenters. 

This is just a sampling of the right-wing extremist candidates who have won their primaries, and there dozens more candidates vying to win their primaries over the next few weeks, meaning more are likely to get at least one step closer to having the power toto advance their right-wing extremist agendas. While some of these candidates will face stiff competition in November, others are running in safe Republican districts, and are therefore essentially assured victory. Given these candidates’ proclivity for engaging in conspiracies that undermine democracy and indulgence in ideologies that scapegoat and target perceived enemies, this is a dangerous development that risks further normalizing right-wing extremist activity and imperiling our political system.   

Disclaimer: As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, ADL takes no position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office. 

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