Prominent Republicans back a conspiracy theory-promoting congressional candidate in Georgia
race to watch
Marjorie Taylor Greene has outraised a crowd of Republicans in one of the nation’s most conservative districts
More than $3 million has been raised in Georgia’s 14th congressional district in the race to succeed Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), who announced in December 2019 he would not seek re-election. Nine Republicans are battling it out to replace the five-term Graves in one of the safest GOP districts in the country.
The primary race has attracted national attention, with candidates raking in congressional endorsements and PACs spending hundreds of thousands of dollars pushing their preferred candidates.
The House Freedom Caucus’s political arm, the House Freedom Fund, has endorsed and donated nearly $200,000 to businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has trafficked in conspiracy theories and posed for photos with a former neo-Nazi leader. Prominent conservatives including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — as well as Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk — have also endorsed Greene.
The Fund also threw nearly $44,000 in outside spending behind Greene, who — along with Jordan, Biggs, Gaetz, Kirk, the Freedom Fund and the other members of the Freedom Caucus — did not respond to a request for comment.
Greene leads the field in fundraising; in addition to raising more than $450,000, Greene has poured $700,000 of her own money into her campaign.
In photos, which former Ku Klux Klan leader Chester Doles shared on social media, Greene is standing in a group with Doles and several other individuals, holding a sign advertising American Patriots USA, a political group founded by Doles. On the same account, Doles also described Greene as a “friend.” The photos of Greene and Doles were first identified earlier this year by a Georgia anti-fascist group.
Greene has yet to seriously address the images. When the Atlanta Journal Constitution asked the campaign about the photos, she dismissed the newspaper’s questions as “silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump.”
In 1993, Doles was imprisoned for beating a black man nearly to death because he was in the company of a white woman, and has other assault arrests on his record. In 2004, he was imprisoned on a federal weapons charge. Since founding American Patriots USA, Doles claims to have cut ties with his former white supremacist associates. He did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2017, Doles attended the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA, which attracted a large contingent of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other far-right activists. As recently as September 2019, Doles organized a march featuring at least one far-right activist, Jovi Val — who has been pictured giving a Hitler salute in front of a Nazi flag.
Georgia State Rep. Matt Gurtler, who is running for Congress in Georgia’s 9th district, was also photographed with Doles at an event organized by American Patriots USA, and also brushed off the incident. Gurtler is being backed by another conservative group, the Club for Growth.
Before her congressional run, Greene became popular in early 2019 among far-right social media circles as a conspiracy theorist.
In a post on the now-defunct website American Truth Seekers archived on the Wayback Machine, an author named Marjorie Greene made claims about George Soros, the Rothschild banking family and factions of the Saudi Arabian monarchy as part of QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims that President Donald Trump is secretly working to take down a massive cabal of political elites and celebrities who practice pedophilia, satanism and human sacrifice.
On her campaign’s Facebook page, Greene speculated that demonic possession or military technology allowing individuals to project messages into others’ heads could be responsible for school shootings, and indicated that she believes some school shootings are fake.
Greene appears to have deleted much of her social media activity predating her congressional run.
Most recently, Greene gained media attention for an ad she posted online in which she brandishes an assault rifle and tells “Antifa” to “stay the hell out of northwest Georgia.” Facebook deleted the advertisement for violating advertising policies on firearms, earning Greene an appearance on Fox News on Monday and coverage in other conservative media.
Greene is far from the only Republican candidate running a strong campaign in the district. Physician John Cowan has banked $700,000, followed by former Pentagon official Ben Bullock with $356,000 and prosecutor and former White House fellow Clayton Fuller with $338,000. Nearly all of the other candidates have raised at least $100,000.
Other candidates in the race, all of whom tout their support for Trump and conservative policies and values, have sought to differentiate themselves in various ways.
Cowan told JI his experience with foreign trade — he owns a toy company that manufactures some parts in China — and his medical background make him the best choice to handle the challenges facing the 14th district and the country as a whole.
Bullock highlighted his military experience and desire to continue to serve the country. He also cited his family’s long history in the district — pushing back against criticisms of his decision to first declare his candidacy in the 7th district before switching to the 14th district when Graves announced his retirement. “If I had to choose a district that I have a stronger connection to, and a stronger desire to serve it is clearly the 14th, where my whole family’s from,” Bullock told JI.
Fuller — who recently spent several weeks in the National Guard service assisting with Georgia’s coronavirus response — focused on his “Manhattan Project for Main Street” proposal, which aims to attract venture capital firms to invest in local businesses in rural America. “What you could do by creating incentives for venture capitalists that have traditionally been concentrated on the coast to pour money into these small towns, you start to be able to win the battles, whether it’s the opioid crisis, the methamphetamine epidemic,” he explained to JI.
Some of the leading candidates have fleshed out their platforms on the Middle East in position papers and interviews. Others have not publicly addressed the issues.
Bullock, who visited Israel in 2016, said his experience there made him believe a two-state solution is the best option for the region. “That was… really interesting to see. Crossing over [to the West Bank] from East Jerusalem, through the checkpoints and just looking at the stark contrast in the landscape was pretty incredible,” he said, providing JI with his position paper. “I think the two-state solution is really the right way to go after seeing it.”
He believes the U.S. can help bring about this outcome by applying further pressure to the Palestinians. “They won’t come to the table and put terms forth that can be negotiated,” he said. “First of all, they don’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist… Problem number two is they won’t give an inch on anything.”
Bullock added that his business partner and several of his college professors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School are Israeli, which has given him an appreciation over the years for what he called the “Israeli mentality.”
“It’s ‘let’s go dig and try to accomplish great things,’” he said. “It’s a very entrepreneurial mindset.”
In addition to addressing his views on Israel in a position paper, Cowan said his support for the Jewish state is grounded in his evangelical Christian faith. “I’ve had a strong affinity for my Jewish brothers and sisters my entire life,” he said. “I do feel that we have a sacred bond with our brothers and sisters in Israel.”
Cowan also supports a two-state solution. “As a pure Bible person like I am, there’s nothing that would please me more than to see the Lord’s chosen people in the chosen land,” he said, “but I do think we live in a broken, fallen world and the two-state solution is probably the only means of maintaining a long-lasting peace there.”
He believes the U.S. should continue to strengthen Israel, rather than trying to “appease Palestinians who really, for the most part, are working as proxies to the Iranians and other interests.”
Fuller said he does not support any particular peace plan, but said the U.S. “should always be working toward maintaining stability and ensuring that the Israeli interests are protected and maintained,” he said. “We’d play a prominent role in any sort of negotiations that may happen in the future.”
Greene’s campaign website makes no mention of foreign policy.
Although she leads the field in fundraising, Greene’s chances of victory are unclear, Charles Bullock (no relation), a political science professor at the University of Georgia, told Jewish Insider.
“She’s pretty far hard right, but that may well fit with what the district is looking for,” Bullock said. “It looks like she has tried to make herself out as the most conservative, strongest Second Amendment supporter.”
But a clear winner may not emerge Tuesday night. With the large number of candidates in the race, Bullock said, a runoff set for mid-August is likely.