New GOP headache as candidate condemned for racist videos wins Republican primary

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Marjorie Taylor Greene has won the GOP nomination for a deep red congressional seat in Georgia despite widespread condemnation from party leaders over her videos where she expressed racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.

Greene, who is also a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory, defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan in a primary runoff election on Tuesday for the deep-red Northwest Georgia district, where the GOP nomination is tantamount to a seat in the House.

A businesswoman who self-funded much of her campaign, Greene won the first round of the primary by a 19-point margin. But a week after, GOP leaders including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who chairs the House Republican campaign arm, took the rare step of disavowing her candidacy after POLITICO uncovered hours of videos where she demeans blacks, Muslims and Jews.

Among her more incendiary comments: She called the 2018 election of Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the first two Muslim congresswoman, “an Islamic invasion” of the U.S. government; suggested that Jewish megadonor George Soros turned Jews over to the Nazis; and described Black people as “slaves to the Democratic party” who should feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War.

Her victory saddles House Republicans with a new member who has espoused a slew of opinions many view as deeply offensive at a time when the country is facing a nationwide reckoning over racial justice, and and the GOP is struggling to appeal to once-loyal voters in affluent suburbs across the country.

This outcome is a nightmare scenario for some Republican lawmakers and operatives in Washington, D.C. and Georgia, who dreaded the idea of such a controversial addition to their party just months after they finally excised Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). And it will likely set off hand-wringing over whether the establishment should have done more to thwart Greene in the two-month stretch between her 19-point victory in the first round of the June primary and Tuesday’s runoff.

To the consternation of some House Republicans, neither McCarthy nor the National Republican Congressional Committee took sides in the runoff. Among leadership, only House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) actively worked on Cowan’s behalf.

In June, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Greene’s comments “appalling” and said McCarthy had “no tolerance for them.” But by August, McCarthy declared himself publicly neutral and said he had a good relationship with both Greene and Cowan. His public indifference shocked some members of his conference.

Greene took the public criticism in stride, portraying herself as an outsider candidate who was victimized by liberals.

“The GOP establishment, the media, & the radical left, spent months & millions of dollars attacking me,” she said in a tweet after her win on Tuesday. “Tonight the people of Georgia stood up & said that we will not be intimidated or believe those lies.”

The outcome of this one race will not impact the House majority, but Democrats have already signaled that they will invoke Greene in their campaign messaging. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement that “Republican candidates running across the country, will have to answer for her hateful views in their own campaigns.”

“Marjorie Taylor Greene is a next-generation Steve King who is now the Republican nominee for Congress because Minority Leader McCarthy refused to meaningfully oppose her racist candidacy,” Bustos said.

In his runoff campaign, Cowan cast Greene as an unstable flamethrower who would imperil other Republicans, especially those running to represent the state in the Senate and in two House battlegrounds in suburban Atlanta. “She is not conservative — she’s crazy,” he said in a recent interview.

Greene hit Cowan over a donation to then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the 2016 campaign, calling him insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump. She also accused him of misrepresenting his role in a county sheriff’s office.

Despite Greene’s forceful showing in the June primary, the runoff appeared to be up for grabs. Cowan saw a fundraising windfall and received a cascade of endorsements from Republican members eager to block Greene. Among his more prominent supporters was Scalise, who fundraised and campaigned for Cowan. That backing gave Cowan’s campaign legitimacy and helped him outraise Greene in the final weeks and air more TV ads.

But no major outside group waded into the race to tip the race in his favor, a shocking development given the willingness of super PACs to drop serious money in primaries for safe GOP seats. The Club for Growth, for example, spent big to boost state Rep. Matt Gurtler in a neighboring north Georgia open seat. Gurtler ultimately lost to gun-store owner Andrew Clyde on Tuesday.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, House Republicans’ flagship super PAC, rarely plays in primaries and typically only does so in battleground districts where the nominee could impact which parties wins the seat in the fall. But it made an exception this spring , when it spent to help Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) beat back a primary challenge in her safe Republican district — a race with arguably lower stakes than the Georgia runoff.

Greene did have some congressional backers, even after her comments came to light. Some members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are supporting Greene and encouraged her to abandon her initial bid in the 6th District against Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath and to run in the more conservative 14th District after incumbent Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) announced his retirement.

Greene has said she will join the Freedom Caucus.

Her win does give House Republicans a boost in their quest to grow the number of women in their conference, which is at a record low of just 13. Greene is the fourth woman to win a nomination for safe, Republican seat, after victories by female candidates in Illinois, Tennessee and Michigan.

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