Extremist Watchdog Group Working to Strengthen Inclusive Democracy Identifies Anti-Democracy Candidates to Watch
Western States Strategies, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization affiliated with Western States Center, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan public charity that works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy, has published a list of twelve candidates running for office this November who, if elected, could pose a risk to American democracy.
The report, “Anti-Democracy Candidates to Watch in 2022” includes anti-democracy actors running for statewide or local office in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada who have ties with paramilitary or extremist organizations, QAnon connections, or have espoused explicitly extremist, racist, or anti-democracy rhetoric.
VIEW THE REPORT HERE.
Candidates identified by Western States Strategies:
- Joe Kent (Washington 3rd Congressional District): Organized and participated in events with highly visible anti-democracy actors; been photographed with multiple people who have spent time in jail for political violence; and has repeatedly used rhetoric that echoes white nationalist and bigoted ideology.
- Ammon Bundy (Idaho Governor): Anti-government militant known for starting the “People’s Rights” Group, which specializes in personal attacks and doxing. Many members of their leadership have been arrested for political violence; Bundy himself is facing multiple charges.
- Christine Drazan (Oregon Governor): Drazan is supported by a number of anti-democracy groups such as Timber Unity. Has featured BJ Soper, a longtime paramilitary leader in Oregon and ranking member of Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights, at a campaign event; Drazan has failed to deny conspiracies that the 2020 election was stolen.
- Sheriff Bob Songer (Klickitat County, WA Sheriff): Long been associated with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a group run by a founding board member of the Oath Keepers, a key organizer of the January 6 insurrection. Songer has a long history of espousing extremist rhetoric in-line with the CSPOA’s beliefs.
- Jo Rae Perkins (U.S. Senate– Oregon) Spoke at a rally organized by the insurrectionist The American Patriot Society (TAPS), which was partially organized around the “Save the Children” cause, co-opted by QAnon supporters. She herself took a QAnon “pledge” during a previous campaign.
- Jim Marchant (Nevada Secretary of State) Has spoken at QAnon conferences, claims that a key QAnon activist helped recruit him to run for Secretary of State; has promoted the “Big Lie,” saying that when he’s SoS of Nevada, “we are going to fix it, and […] we’re going to fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.”
- Michele Fiore (Nevada State Treasurer) Has made violent extremist comments including: “I’m about to fly to Paris and shoot ‘em in the head myself. I am not OK with Syrian refugees. I’m not OK with terrorists,” has blamed “transgender medicine” for the Uvalde shooter’s actions and openly supported the Bundy family in their armed standoffs with the federal government.
- Ben Edtl (Oregon State Senate) Joined fellow anti-democracy candidate Marc Thielman for a class action lawsuit claiming unfounded widespread voter fraud in Oregon funded by his group Free Oregon.
- Sheriff Jim Raymond (Washington County Sheriff) Has identified with the “constitutional sheriff” movement, and has twice issued statements that he would not enforce laws which passed in his county or state, once in regards to guns and later to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Adam Laxalt (U.S. Senate– Nevada) Led efforts to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, filing a batch of groundless lawsuits, pushing false claims of voter fraud and sowing unwarranted doubts about the integrity of balloting.
- Rob Chase (Washington State House) Has openly promoted the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theories, including that 9/11 was an “inside job.” After getting elected in 2020, Chase hired a former Spokane County GOP chairwoman who resigned after defending white nationalist James Allsup.
- Robert Sutherland (Washington State House) A strong ally of paramilitary groups in Washington, in particular Washington 3%, a group with a history of violent rhetoric and actions including seeking to perform a citizen’s arrest on WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson; was connected with a group that “patrolled” the town of Snohomish, WA during Black Lives Matter demonstrations, writing on social media that he and other armed men were “defending” the town from “rioting and looting by Antifa thugs.”
The report also identified Cliff Bentz and Jim Walsh.
“The alarm bells are blaring. Anti-democracy movements often seek to build power through elections and this cycle offers several troubling examples of candidates who are either openly espousing conspiracy theories or are connected to bigoted and authoritarian social movements,” said Stephen Piggott, Program Analyst at Western States Strategies. “Dangerous rhetoric and political violence have no place in civil society, and communities across our region have demonstrated the resilience to push back.”