Far Right Extremism Finds Footing in Some States Following Election

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly elected congresswoman from Northwest Georgia with ties to QAnon, wasted no time engaging in presidential election conspiracy theories.

“President Trump has the votes,” Greene tweeted in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. “Stop the Steal!” She encouraged followers to retweet if they agreed.

Former Trump adviser and convicted felon Roger Stone has long been associated with the hashtag #StopTheSteal, which some Twitter users have used to cast doubt on the process of counting votes. A “Stop the Steal” group linked to Stone emerged in the lead-up to the 2016 election, targeting potential vote-counting measures then.

One America News Network correspondent Jack Posobiec, a far-right extremist and disinformation peddler, has promoted the hashtag #StopTheSteal during the runup to the 2020 election. Posobiec is an associate of Stone’s. Ali Alexander (aka Ali Akbar), another far-right political operative known for using social media to spread disinformation, has also repeatedly promoted the #StoptheSteal hashtag on Twitter.

Greene and other candidates with extremist ties — including the newly elected governor of Montana — prevailed in their races.

Despite having disavowed QAnon on Fox News, Greene’s previous beliefs in it will no doubt follow her to Washington. QAnon is an umbrella term for a sprawling web of right-wing internet conspiracy theories with antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ elements. Believers falsely claim the world is run by a secret cabal of pedophiles who worship Satan and are plotting against President Trump.

Greene was “Teflon-proof” during her entire campaign, said Mickey Tuck, a Republican from Floyd County who volunteered with the campaign of John Cowan, Greene’s opponent in the primary election.

“She ran pretty much a populist campaign and evidently QAnon up here was part of her game plan, whether she believed that or not while she was campaigning — you’ve seen the videos.”

Republican party leaders in Washington, D.C., criticized Greene for her QAnon association, with Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana citing her “disgusting comments” about Black people, George Soros and Muslims. Greene weathered the storm and eventually prevailed.

“She kept to her talking points, you know: ‘I support Trump, I support the wall. I’m against socialism.’ She never got off those talking points,” Tuck said.

Greene and newly elected Colorado District 3 Congresswoman Lauren Boebert are the only two candidates known to have ties to QAnon to win seats in Congress. A newcomer to politics, Boebert also distanced herself from QAnon conspiracy theories after facing criticism. A month before the primary, she said of QAnon: “I hope that this is real. … Because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values,” according to The Denver Post. The newspaper said she rallied with the Proud Boys and American Patriots Three Percenters before her primary. Boebert defeated Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush and will represent the western half of Colorado.

Other Key Races Involving Candidates With Apparent Ties to Extremist Groups

U.S. Congressional District 24, Texas

Former Irving, Texas, Mayor Beth Van Duyne, who became a favorite of anti-Muslim activists and right-wing pundits in 2015, still holds a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Candace Valenzuela, though no official winner has been declared.

Van Duyne shot into the headlines in 2015 when she fought for an anti-Sharia law City Council resolution. A group of imams setting up a dispute-resolution practice based on Sharia at the Islamic Center of Irving sparked the move.

Van Duyne claimed the imams were setting up America’s first Sharia law court. PolitiFact researched the claim and determined it was false.

U.S. Congressional District 3, Louisiana

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, the Republican incumbent from Louisiana’s Third Congressional District, with ties to the antigovernment militia group the Oath Keepers, knocked off three challengers in Louisiana’s open primary.

Higgins, who is based in Lafayette, Louisiana, won 68% of the vote.

Higgins spoke at a rally in June 2017 before a crowd of white supremacists and neo-fascists in Washington, D.C. At the rally, headlined by white nationalist Richard Spencer, Higgins addressed the antigovernment militia group the Oath Keepers. At a campaign event in 2018, as documented by the newspaper The Advocate, Higgins sold shirts featuring the logo of the Three Percenters movement.

The Oath Keepers website has a page dedicated to Higgins’ speeches and comments. In one video, Higgins, dressed in his Lafayette, Louisiana, City Marshal uniform, attacks Washington, D.C., politicians and “the threats we face.”

On Twitter, Higgins posted on Oct. 23 that his wife — who he says has premonitions — dreamt of “Federal squads” in their home “seizing guns, knives” and other items.

“They said we had been ‘reported.’ Becca awoke crying,” Higgins wrote. “What happened to our freedom? She asked. What indeed.”

BuzzFeed reported that Facebook pulled two posts by Higgins deemed threatening to a group planning to attend protests in Lafayette over the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, while she slept in her home.

“If this shows up, we’ll consider the armed presence a real threat,” Higgins, a former law enforcement officer, posted in September on his personal, verified Captain Clay Higgins Facebook page along with a picture of an armed Black militia group that has protested the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. “We don’t care what color you are. We don’t care if you’re left or right. If you show up like this, if We recognize threat… you won’t walk away.”

Montana Governor’s Race

Republican Greg Gianforte, who has served as Montana’s U.S. representative from the state’s at-large district since 2017, was elected governor with 54% of the vote to Democratic opponent Mike Cooney’s 42%. Gianforte was first elected to Congress in a special election that was held when President Trump appointed Ryan Zinke, the previous officeholder, Secretary of the Interior.

He made national news the night before that election when he body-slammed a reporter from The Guardian and was charged with misdemeanor assault. Gianforte is also known for donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBTQ organizations through his family foundation, including almost $300,000 to anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and other donations to anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), whose action PAC endorsed his candidacy in February.

In 2014, Gianforte opposed an ordinance in Bozeman, Montana, that sought to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and employment. Gianforte claimed the ordinance would discourage Christian businesses from coming to the city, and worked with ADF to propose language to provide a defense for religious businesses and organizations if they discriminated in public accommodations and employment. The ordinance passed in June of that year.

Arizona State Senate District 10 Race

Arizona state Senate candidate Justine Wadsack, a QAnon-aligned Republican, lost her bid for the state Senate District 10 seat. Wadsack took just under 40% of the vote, falling to Democrat Kirsten Engel for the seat representing parts of Tucson and Pima county.

Wadsack has a history of tweeting out QAnon hashtags.

On April 12, Wadsack tweeted a thread about QAnon, complete with a link to a site that hosts original posts about the conspiracy theory, seeking to back the credibility of the mysterious “Q,” who periodically drops messages to followers.

“To prove that Q’s following isn’t merely a few thousand baby-boomers in America’s Heartland (as the media claim), #Qanon occasionally posts messages of support from around the world,” Wadsack tweeted.

Florida State House District 32

Incumbent Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Republican from suburban Orlando, won his race for the state house despite being called the worst person in the state legislature by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

Sabatini defeated Democrat Stephanie Dukes in House District 32.

He drew the ire of colleagues when he tweeted out a picture of a semi-automatic rifle popular with militia groups. The tweet came in the wake of national protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police officers.

“Attention potential ‘protesters’ coming near Lake County, FL. This is an AR-15 — this will be a very common sight upon illegal entry at any Lake County business — FYI!” Sabatini tweeted.

Sabatini tweeted a link in May to a site that collects “Q” posts. Sabatini is a “public QAnon believer” who has been mentioned in one of the sprawling conspiracy theory’s posts, which are billed as secret, coded messages from the anonymous user “Q,” according to the website The Daily Dot.

Sabatini also has engaged in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. “What’s happening right now in Florida and around the nation in terms of gender reassignment is really sort of the Wild West,” Sabatini told Miami New Times. “There are no real valid, serious diagnoses given to a child before they go down the path of changing their gender and their sexual identity.”

In pushing legislation that would have criminalized the prescription of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery for minors in February, Sabatini cited support from the American College of Pediatricians, a fringe group that pushes junk science about the LGBTQ community. The bill died in committee.

Idaho State Senate District 23

Idaho state Rep. Christy Zito, who has appeared publicly at events involving conspiracy theorists and militia members, won state Senate District 23.

Zito won 76% of the vote, defeating Democrat Laura Bellegante, a hospital volunteer coordinator.

Zito, a member of the Idaho House of Representatives from Hammett, spoke at a rally called “Freedom is the Cure” in August, the Twin Falls, Idaho, Times-News reported. The John Birch Society, a long-standing antigovernment conspiracist group, inspired the name of the rally, and the Real Three Percenters of Idaho militia appeared.

In 2018, Zito appeared at an “Idaho Second Amendment Alliance” with antigovernment activist Ammon Bundy, who is known for his participation along with his family in two prolonged standoffs with law enforcement. In 2014, Ammon’s father Cliven Bundy and his supporters engaged in an armed confrontation with federal agents at Cliven’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, over his refusal to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management, and in 2016, Ammon Bundy led a group of far-right extremists in an armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Idaho State Senate District 26

The founder of the Real Three Percenters Idaho militia, Eric “EJ” Parker, lost his bid for the Idaho State Senate.

Parker, the Republican candidate for Idaho state Senate District 26, got 44% of the vote in challenging incumbent Democrat Michelle Stennett.

Parker came onto the antigovernment scene in 2014, when he joined the Bundy family at Bunkerville.

Parker, of Hailey, Idaho, pleaded guilty in 2017 to failing to comply with officers’ orders to leave his armed position on an overpass during the standoff.

In 2020, Parker was a featured speaker at the August “Freedom is the Cure” event, and his militia group apparently provided event security.

As his campaign for the south-central Idaho district heated up, Parker has toned down some of the antigovernment rhetoric. NPR reported that during a Sept. 17 debate, Parker pledged to obey the law, but left himself an out as well.

“An unjust law is an illegal law per the Constitution,” he told the audience.

Lindsay Schubiner of the Western States Center, a Portland-based civil rights nonprofit that tracks militia activity in the region, said Parker and his group always carry the potential of violence.

“Parker is still the leader of an armed paramilitary movement that is not accountable to any civil or government authority,” Schubiner told NPR. “That’s incredibly dangerous.”

Idaho State House Seat 1A

Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard, won re-election to the state House seat she’s held since 2015, taking 68% of the vote against Democrat Gail Bolin. Scott has taken a pledge to the antigovernment militia group Oath Keepers and spoke at the “Liberate America” rally in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in June, where Oath Keepers provided security.

Scott has called COVID-19 regulations “draconian” and an “over-response,” touching on themes popular among far-right activists claiming that the government is tyrannical and impeding on citizens’ civil liberties.

“And every death, no matter what the reasoning, is COVID,” Scott told rallygoers, falsely claiming the Covid-19 death toll is manufactured.

Scott said Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a fellow Republican, imposed restrictions under “martial law,” using phrasing from a long-standing conspiracy theory on the far-right about the government repressing citizens.

“His edicts have come under martial law,” Scott said at the rally. “He has essentially repealed laws.”

The legal citation given by Scott — Idaho statute 46.601 — allows the governor to call up the state and National Guard as well as “the organized militia” during a state of emergency.

The law does not give the governor the power to repeal laws or impose new ones unilaterally.

Scott also has close ties to antigovernment activist Ammon Bundy, and outgoing Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, who an investigation found helped Bundy and his followers pre-plan a standoff with the federal government at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016.

Idaho State House Seat 11B

Republican Tammy Nichols, who has made public appearances with right-wing conspiracy theorists, won a seat in the Idaho legislature with almost 80% of the vote. Nichols defeated Democrat Edward Savala.

Nichols told the Twin Falls Times-News that conservatives can’t get a fair shake.

“The media is not our friend,” she said. “They are out there spewing information that is not correct.”

Two years earlier, as Nichols sought her first term in the state House, she appeared at a gun rights rally with Erich Pratt, a spokesman for Gun Owners of America, an extremist antigovernment organization that once put forth the baseless conspiracy theory that the Obama administration planned to buy up ammunition, confront American citizens and establish a dictatorship.

Nichols also appeared at a 2020 rally with antigovernment activist Ammon Bundy.

Idaho State House Seat 32B

Incumbent Republican Chad Christensen defeated his Democratic opponent Bill Leake, garnering 75% of the vote. Christensen has associated with The Real Three Percenters Idaho militia group. Earlier this year, he spoke at an event where Eric Parker (of Real Three Percenters) was a featured speaker.

Christensen has additional ties to extremist groups. According to a poster on Facebook, Christensen was scheduled to speak at the August “Freedom is the Cure” rally where Eric Parker of the Real Three Percenters also spoke and Parker’s group provided security.

Based on Christensen’s voter and government pages, he is a member of Oath Keepers, Gun Owners of America, and John Birch Society.

Hatewatch staff writers Brett Barrouquere and Michael Edison Hayden contributed to this report.