The three Republicans who announced bids for major statewide races on Monday have two things in common: They love to piss off the left—and they’re staking their campaigns on pushing the big lie that President Trump actually won the 2020 election.
Former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks both announced Senate bids Monday evening, while Georgia GOP Rep. Jody Hice launched his bid against Georgia’s Republican secretary of state.
All three have loudly championed Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him—and they’re using that as a springboard to higher office. Whether they’re successful will say a lot about Trump’s remaining grip on his party, and whether the only way to get ahead in the modern GOP is an all-out embrace of the ex-president and his anti-democratic lies. And if they win, they’ll push the GOP even further away from accepting the reality of Biden’s win and toward the authoritarian efforts to undermine democracy.
Alabama Senate: Rep. Mo Brooks
Brooks announced his campaign for retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby’s seat on Monday night by falsely declaring that the 2020 election was the “worst voter fraud and election theft in history.”
That’s not new: Brooks was the first member of Congress to say he’d try to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory, and he helped lead the “Stop the Steal” movement, which inspired pro-Trump protesters to attack the Capitol on January 6.
“In my judgment, if only lawful votes by eligible American citizens were cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College by a significant margin, and Congress’s certification should reflect that,” Brooks told Politico in early December. “This election was stolen by the socialists engaging in extraordinary voter fraud and election theft measures.”
Brooks and a handful of other hard-line conservatives met with Trump at the White House in late December to plot strategy to overturn the election in Congress. And he repeatedly used violent rhetoric to talk up the protests—including in some incendiary remarks to the pro-Trump crowd shortly before hundreds of them stormed the Capitol.
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” Brooks declared, telling the crowd that their ancestors “sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history.”
He then asked the crowd: “Are you willing to do the same?”
Brooks has stridently denied that he was encouraging violence and said he didn’t help plan the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, though he spoke at the nearby Save America rally where Trump himself spoke. The type of overheated rhetoric he deployed has become commonplace on the far-right in recent years.
Almost immediately after the Capitol riots, Brooks began pushing the lie that it wasn’t really a pro-Trump mob that had attacked Congress, tweeting that “fascist ANTIFA orchestrated [the] Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.”
Even before he became one of Trump’s top “Stop the Steal” cheerleaders, Brooks had a long record of controversy. He’s said he’d do “anything short of shooting them” to kick undocumented immigrants out of the U.S., and he has repeatedly accused Democrats of waging a “war on whites.”
Brooks wasn’t always a Trump fan. During the 2016 GOP primary, he called candidate Trump a “notorious flip-flopper” who’d committed “serial adultery.” That cost him in his 2017 Senate bid—establishment Republicans who wanted to stop Brooks from winning ran ads attacking him for the remarks. Since then, he’s bent over backward to get in Trump’s good graces.
Alabama Republican Secretary of State John Merrill, a Trump ally, is looking at running as well, and Lynda Blanchard, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia, is already in the race.
It’s unclear if Trump will get involved. But Brooks already has the backing of former Trump aide and anti-immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, who appeared alongside him as he launched his campaign Monday evening.
Missouri Senate: Former Gov. Eric Greitens
Greitens announced his Senate bid on Monday night, promising to defend Trump’s “America First policies”—while claiming that the scandal that forced him from office had been concocted by his enemies.
Greitens is, rightly, best remembered for having an affair, then allegedly taking photographs of the woman he was sleeping with while she was bound and blindfolded partly naked in his basement to use as blackmail to keep her from talking about said affair. That woman also said in court that he physically and verbally abused her. Greitens has denied that he tried to blackmail her, while refusing to answer whether he took the pictures. Prosecutors dropped two felony charges against him, but the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature launched an impeachment investigation shortly afterwards, forcing him to resign in June 2018.
Greitens now claims that he’s been exonerated because the investigations weren’t completed, and because a separate probe into whether he illegally used a fundraising list from his nonprofit from his campaign stopped short of saying he knew about the coordination, even as it fined his campaign $178,000 for the violations.
And in recent months he has gone all-in on the darkest parts of Trumpism, trumpeting the lie that the election was stolen from Trump as a way to stay relevant in the GOP and set himself up for another statewide run.
On January 6, less than an hour after police managed to secure the Capitol, Greitens took to the air to push Trump’s election lies.
“There exist strong and unanswered questions about statistically impossible election results, unanswered questions about video of boxes of votes being pulled out and counted in the middle of the night. There’s been no response to the hundreds of affidavits of American citizens who’ve sworn to voter fraud,”Greitens said on his radio show.
Republicans are worried about Greitens winning the primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt, not because of Greitens’ loud support of Trump’s lies about the election but because they worry his salacious scandal could put a seat at risk that they should have no trouble winning in a solidly Republican state. A handful of other Republicans are weighing bids, including Reps. Anne Wagner, Billy Long and Jason Smith, and national Republicans hope that they can coalesce around one non-Greitens candidate to make sure he doesn’t win the primary.
It’s unclear whether Trump will get involved in the race, but his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani has already endorsed Greitens and he’s been palling around with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Georgia Secretary of State: Jody Hice
President Trump has been gunning to take out Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ever since he refused to “find” enough votes for Trump to overturn his 2020 loss in Georgia.
Enter Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice. The congressman made it clear he was running explicitly to push Trump’s voting fraud lie, attacking Raffensperger for allowing “cracks in the integrity of our election, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals took advantage of in 2020,” as he announced his primary bid.
Hice, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, was one of 126 Republicans who supported a lawsuit to get the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s election win. Just hours before the assault on the Capitol began, Hice declared in a now-deleted instagram post “This is our 1776 moment.” Immediately after the riot, Hice led the efforts to block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory in Georgia, falsely declaring that there had been an “unprecedented amount of fraud and irregularities” in the state, in spite of zero evidence to support that claim.
Raffensperger has since tried to shore up his right flank, backing efforts in the state to make it harder to vote in the name of election security. But if Hice wins, he’ll pour gasoline on the dumpster fire of Georgia’s long-running voting suppression efforts.
Trump was quick to endorse him.
“Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity. I have 100% confidence in Jody to fight for Free, Fair, and Secure Elections in Georgia, in line with our beloved U.S. Constitution. Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!” Trump said in a Monday statement.
Hice, who was a Baptist minister and conservative talk radio host before he became a congressman, is no stranger to controversy. He’s previously said America’s abortion laws were “much worse than Hitler's six million Jews," compared gay marriage to bestiality and incest, and described Islam as “a totalitarian way of life” that wasn’t a real religion, saying it “does not deserve First Amendment protection.”