Republican candidates tied on January 6 win the primaries for competitive House seats. Will voters care in November?

In Ohio, JR Majewski, a candidate who shared elements of the false QAnon conspiracy theory and participated in the Jan. 6 rally, unexpectedly won a primary to face vulnerable Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a district newly drawn Republican-leaning. Majewski denied being a QAnon follower.
In North Carolina, Sandy Smithwho tweeted on Jan. 6 that she had just “walked from the Monument to the Capitol,” won a primary for an open seat that leans for Democrats but is winnable for Republicans in a good year – which 2022 looks like .

Not every candidate who was in DC on January 6 to protest the 2020 election won, but the results from Ohio and North Carolina make it clear that the association with January 6 is not a disqualifying factor for many Republican primary voters.

Whether voters in the November general election will care about those ties 18 months after Jan. 6, 2021, is an open question as the House Select Committee holds public hearings into the Jan. 6 attack.

Tough year for Democrats

Democrats are excited for these Republicans to win the primaries, saying the ability to use the events of Jan. 6 in ads and messaging will help in what could be a tough midterm year for their party in amid President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and concerns about the economy, inflation and soaring gas prices.

“On January 6, Congresswoman (Marcy) Kaptur arrived on Capitol Hill to perform the duties she was sworn to perform,” Kaptur campaign spokesman Kyle Buda said. “JR Majewski not only participated that day, he raised $20,000 for others to join.

Majewski said on camera he raised between $20,000 and $25,000 to bring people to Washington around the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally, but says they ‘went there to peacefully support the president’ .
CNN contacted Majewski for this story. The candidate said he was “heartbroken” by what happened on Capitol Hill on January 6, noting that “when the violence started, we all left.”

“I wish that hadn’t happened,” Majewski said of the Jan. 6 violence.

Black, a Republican congresswoman from Nevada who is running for the state’s 4th district, was in Washington on Jan. 6 and told local media afterwards that she was on the east side of the Capitol because she had ” heard that (Trump) was also going to make a second speech on Capitol Hill.” She said that once people got through the barricades, she would “walk away and go back to the Supreme Court” and watch from a distance.
Riddle, a Navy veteran running for New Hampshire’s 2nd District, pleaded guilty to stealing government property and unlawfully protesting inside the Capitol. He was sentenced in April to 90 days in prison. Riddle tied his Jan. 6 actions to his candidacy, telling NBC10 Boston that his time on Capitol Hill tells people that “I’m showing up. I’m actually going to keep my promises and make some changes.”

CNN contacted the Black, Riddle and Smith campaigns for this story.

And while some Republicans acknowledge that these candidates could make winning races a little more difficult, they are skeptical that voters will put Jan. 6 at the heart of their decision-making process.

“Democrats have desperately wanted to talk about something other than all the stuff that constantly drives Biden’s numbers down and this gives them the opportunity to do that,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “When people are going through sticker shock every day of their lives… it’s going to be hard to convince voters that anything else tops that, no matter what they think about January 6.”

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Polls show the way Republicans view Jan. 6 has changed over time.

A CNN poll conducted by SSRS in January and February found that a majority of American adults thought the Jan. 6 attack represented either a crisis (28%) or a major problem (37%) for American democracy.

But the poll also found that Republican views on Jan. 6 had changed dramatically since the immediate aftermath. According to the poll, while 15% of Republicans said in January 2021 that the attack on the Capitol was not a problem, the figure had risen to 27% at the beginning of 2022. penalize the rioters, 71% felt that a year more late.

This is consistent with other polls, such as a CBS News/YouGov poll from May, which found that 69% of Democrats called the Jan. 6 issue “very important,” compared to just 21% of Republicans.

Republican strategists — some with ties to the Republican National Committee of Congress, the campaign arm of House Republicans — told CNN they fear these candidates will not only make the committee’s job harder, but put also jeopardized what should be clear as GOP victories.

Some have compared it to the problem Senate Republicans faced in 2010 and 2012, when candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana won. the Republican primaries solely thanks to the fervor of tea. lose in the general election and hurt their party’s chances of winning the Senate.

But none of the strategists wanted to discuss internal deliberations for fear of clashing with the NRCC.

A spokesperson for the NRCC did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on this story, but the committee backed some of the candidates who were in DC on Jan. 6, including Majewski after winning his primary.

“We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to rid the people of Ohio of career politician Marcy Kaptur,” said NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams.

A reason to run

For some Democrats, the prospect of candidates who were in DC on Jan. 6 heading to Congress next year isn’t just worrisome, it’s one of the main reasons they decided to run.

“It was crucial. It was the #1 reason I’m running,” Deb McGrath told CNN. McGrath is a former Army captain and retired CIA officer who is running for the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin’s 3rd Open District. The only Republican in the race is Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL who, according to a Daily Beast report from last year, was inside the Capitol’s restricted area on Jan. 6.
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Van Orden disputed the idea that he witnessed the insurrection, telling a La Crosse Tribune reporter that the Daily Beast report was “inaccurate” but offering no further details. Van Orden also posted on Facebook last year that he “didn’t set foot on Capitol grounds let alone the Capitol building because I’m not breaking the law.”

“So let’s stop pretending you’re trying to do anything other than use the injuries and deaths of American citizens to influence a federal election,” Van Orden added. A spokesperson for the candidate did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

“Derrick Van Orden was a retired Navy SEAL who took the same oath as I did to protect and defend the Constitution. For me, it’s a lifelong moral obligation,” McGrath said, calling his presence a “point of inflection” in the race. .

Brad Pfaff, a Wisconsin state senator who is also running to succeed retired Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd District, said “the least patriotic thing anyone can do is step on the our nation’s capitol and to participate in something that took place on January 6” and that the people of rural Wisconsin “recognize that this individual is not one of us.”

Still, for Democrats facing political headwinds this year, the Jan. 6 ties represent an opening to keep districts competitive.

“Kevin McCarthy and the NRCC have rolled out the red carpet for real insurgents to come to Congress embracing conspiracy theories and MAGA extremism,” said Helen Kalla, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “By supporting these candidates, House Republicans are saying insurgency is a dominant position in their caucus.”

CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed to this report.


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