Wealthy businesswoman Marjorie Greene, a defender of the notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon who has her own litany of racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic rantings, decisively beat neurosurgeon John Cowan 57-43 in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. This seat, which is located in the northwestern part of the state, backed Donald Trump 75-22, and Greene will have no trouble winning the general election to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Tom Graves.
National and state Republican leaders wasted no time welcoming Greene to the fold following her victory. Donald Trump tweeted that Greene was “strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose office said back in June that he found Greene’s words “appalling,” also made it clear that she’d be welcomed to the GOP caucus when she takes her seat in January and given committee assignments. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, who are running against each other in the November all-party primary for Senate, each congratulated Greene on her win as well.
Greene began running for office last year in a very different seat than the one she prevailed in this week. Greene, who was based in Alpharetta in Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, entered the race to challenge freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath in the 6th District. Greene self-funded $500,000 for that campaign, and she threatened to force former Rep. Karen Handel, who was the national GOP’s choice to take on McBath, to spend valuable time and money in the primary.
It soon became clear, though, that Greene would be an awful GOP nominee in a competitive seat like the 6th District. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last summer that in early October 2017, four days after a lone terrorist named Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people at a concert in the deadliest mass shooting in American history, Greene put out a video where she wondered if the attack was part of a government plot to try to pass anti-gun laws.
Greene kept this up five months later when she shared a post on her Facebook page that accused the FBI of taking part in a cover-up and added, "Every American knows we have been lied to." Greene told the AJC in July of 2019 that she now accepted the official version of events and was satisfied that Paddock acted alone, and she insisted she just "had questions and demanded answers." However, Greene's old Facebook post still remained up by the time the paper's article was published on what is now her own campaign's fan page, though it was removed some time during the following months.
Around that same time, the paper reported that Greene was quite the fan of QAnon. She had used her social media account to issue several tweets defending the conspiracy theory, and Greene even implored her followers to send her any questions about it so she could “walk you through the whole thing.” And in a video that would surface later, Greene said that it offered “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”
We’ll never got to find out how much trouble the well-funded Greene could have given Handel because in December, Graves unexpectedly announced that he would retire from the 14th District. Greene soon started expressing interest in running there instead, saying that she’d been encouraged to make the switch by prominent members of the nihilist House Freedom Caucus, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. Greene announced a short time later that she would indeed run to succeed Graves even though her Alpharetta community was located about 20 miles from the nearest community in the sprawling 14th District.
Greene’s district-hopping was soon overshadowed by her own words and associates. In May, the AJC reported that Greene had posed for a photo earlier that year with longtime white supremacist Chester Doles. Greene’s campaign didn’t show the slightest bit of contrition, and it instead dismissed the paper’s questions as “silly and the same type of sleazy attacks the Fake News Media levels against President Trump.” Doles, for his part, called Greene “part of the Q movement” and a “[g]ood friend to have.”
Just before the first round of the primary in June, Greene ran a commercial where she held an assault rifle and told the audience that "antifa terrorists have declared war on America." She then casually threw out some anti-Semitic talking points by declaring, "George Soros, Hollywood elites, and Joe Biden's staff are funding antifa." Facebook later removed the ad from its platform, saying it “advocates the use of deadly weapons against a clearly defined group of people.”
Voters didn’t seem remotely bothered by any of this, though. Greene took first place in the nine-way primary with 40% of the vote, while Cowan was a distant second with 21%. Days later, Politico unearthed hours of self-narrated videos Greene posted to Facebook. In those videos, Greene compared Black Lives Matter activists to the Nazis who marched on Charlottesville in 2017; dubbed "white males" the "most mistreated group of people in the United States today"; called Holocaust survivor George Soros a "piece of crap," repeating the lie that Soros was a Nazi collaborator; and declared that "[t]here is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.”
In response to a request for comment from Politico, Greene's campaign manager did not dispute the authenticity of the videos but instead said, "Thank[s] for the reminder about Soros. We forgot to put him in our newest ad. We're fixing that now."
McCarthy’s office soon put out a statement saying that he had "no tolerance" for Greene's rhetoric, but neither he nor NRCC chair Tom Emmer backed Cowan or took any real action to stop her. Indeed, as Politico would later report, there was never any serious outside spending against Greene or for Cowan over the following two months. Greene also maintained the support of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who is a former Freedom Caucus leader.
Greene herself only doubled down on the strategy that had gotten her this far. She issued more racist and anti-Semitic tweets labeling Cowan “a "globalist Never Trumper who wants even more money for the Chinese-controlled WHO,” and claimed that the same GOP establishment that had opposed Trump was trying to sink her. Greene also ran a commercial where she praised Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who faces murder charges for killing Rayshard Brooks.
Cowan, for his part, tried to position himself as an alternative to Greene with the slogan, “All of the conservative, none of the embarrassment.” But, perhaps sensing that this wasn’t an effective argument among Republican primary voters, Cowan focused his ads instead on allegations that Greene’s construction company didn’t take part in a federal program meant to screen out undocumented immigrants.
Cowan released a few polls showing a close race, but national Republican leaders seemed to sense where things were going. Just before Election Day, McCarthy’s team said that he remained neutral and that he now had “a good and productive relationship with both” candidates.
Greene ultimately pulled off a convincing win against Cowan, and she didn’t waste any time demonstrating that she wouldn’t change now that that primary was over. On election night, Greene said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “She’s a hypocrite. She’s anti-American. And we’re going to kick that bitch out of Congress.” Republican leaders, including Trump, continued to congratulate Greene for her victory.
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