On January 6, 2021, among those who attended the rallies leading up to the attack on the Capitol or were among the mobs in the restricted area of the Capitol were at least 31 state and federal candidates seeking office in 2022, according to an analysis by CBS News. The candidates are running in 19 states, and 11 of them have been
The Justice Department has so farfor a range of crimes related to January 6, including the assault of police officers and attempted obstruction of congressional proceedings. Five people died, including one police officer.
A handful of candidates face charges stemming from their actions that day. Most of the others say that while they condemn the violence, they don't regret attending Trump's rally on January 6, and still believe Trump's unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him.
Michigan, a crucial battleground state that swung from Trump in 2016 to Joe Biden in 2020, has six candidates running in 2022 who made the trip to Washington on January 6.
Among them was Matt Maddock, a Michigan state representative who stood alongside the defeated president at his “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6 and also addressed the crowd. He won Trump's endorsement as a candidate “who will investigate and document the 2020 voter fraud, the Crime of the Century.”
Most of the 10 Republican congressional candidates who attended Trump's rally on January 6 are long shots for the seats they're seeking. Three are running in safe Democratic areas. The rest are running for competitive or safe Republican seats but have posted low fundraising numbers or none at all.
Derrick Van Orden, a candidate in Wisconsin's 3rd District, may have the brightest prospects. He lost toby just 2 points in 2020, and has the backing of not only Trump, but also House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the House-backed Congressional Leadership Fund. He has already raised close to $1.8 million for his 2022 run.
Van Orden was in Washington, D.C., for Trump's rally and joined his supporters on the march to the Capitol. But he says he stopped at the perimeter of the Capitol grounds and watched “an expression of free speech devolve into one of the most tragic incidents in the history of our nation.”
However, photos from that day show Van Orden within the restricted area of the Capitol grounds, according to The Daily Beast. Neither he nor his campaign responded to requests from CBS News for clarification on where he was, but they've said the report was “inaccurate.”
He wrote in an op-ed after January 6 that he was in Washington D.C. “for meetings and to stand for the integrity of our electoral system.” The Federal Election Commission received a complaint from the Wisconsin Democratic Party about Van Orden misusing campaign funds for his January 6 trip. It has not announced any action against Van Orden.
“House Republicans are recruiting insurrectionists to carry their party's banner of lies, division, and violence into the halls of Congress,” said Helen Kalla, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The GOP's brand is toxic with battleground voters and their blessing of these anti-democracy extremists will keep them firmly in the minority.”
On Sunday, McCarthy wrote that Democrats were using the January 6 attacks “as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country.”
Anthony Chergosky, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, doubts Van Orden's attendance will make a difference in November.
“In terms of firing up the Democratic base and generating campaign donations and generating signups for their email lists, the Democrats are certainly making heavy use of [his attendance],” he said. “But I would say it doesn't hurt him at all with the Republican base because it shows he is walking the walk in terms of his loyalty for Donald Trump.”
And, he added, “I don't think that there are many swing voters” in western Wisconsin.
Teddy Daniels, the Republican who's had the best fundraising of those challenging Democrat Matt Cartwright in Pennsylvania's 8th District, posted a video in front of the Capitol on January 6 but denies he entered the building itself.
Daniels has ties to Pennsylvania state Senate candidate Frank Scavo, who organized buses to Washington and was sentenced to 60 days in prison for entering the Capitol.
“I am 6'4 and 300 pounds. I don't blend. If I was inside, you would have known,” he wrote in an email to CBS News.
Daniels and other candidates contacted by CBS News contend they were in Washington to exercise their “constitutional right to assembly and free speech,” and repeated baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Of the over 700 people facing charges stemming from January 6, most have been charged with entering the restricted Capitol grounds, while others are facing more serious charges of assaulting police officers, destruction of property or conspiracy against the United States.
Congressional candidate Jason Riddle, who is running in New Hampshire's 2nd District, has been charged with entering the Capitol, stealing a copy of a “Senate Procedure” manual, and “disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds.”
Riddle, who admitted in an FBI interview to drinking from a bottle of wine he found in the Capitol, pleaded guilty and has a sentencing hearing in February. He told the Washington Post, “I'll run from jail. It will give me something to do.”
Congressional candidate Gary Leffler of Iowa says he arrived at Trump's rally in the early morning, and got as far up as a terrace outside the Capitol that afternoon. After seeing an unattended door of the building swing open from the inside, and protesters flood in, he claims he left.
He said he was interviewed once by the FBI, but has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Leffler is running in a crowded primary in Iowa's 3rd District, a competitive seat held by Democrat Cindy Axne. He's filed no campaign finance reports and admits he's not likely to raise much money for the race. But he believes he's already well-known in the area – for the branded tractor he brings to local GOP events.
He wonders why more D.C. Police or National Guard weren't prepared for the crowd that day.
“1.2 million people went up there for the right reason, to do the right thing, they weren't insurrectionists. They were God-fearing, God-loving family people that wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Leffler said. “But we are being continually painted with the brush of what 600 people did.”
Four other congressional candidates also attended Trump's rally: Audra Johnson, who's challenging Republican Peter Meijer in Michigan's 3rd District, Annie Black in Nevada's 4th District, Jo Rae Perkins, a Republican Senate candidate in Oregon linked to the QAnon conspiracy group and Colorado State Representative Ron Hanks, who's running for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat.
They all say they did not enter the Capitol.
Hanks said he was outside of the east side of the Capitol, and claims the federal government put “commandos” and instigators in the crowd of protesters. He is suing Colorado Secretary of State Jen Griswold in order to establish a third-party audit of the state's elections.
“I'm not hiding from that – it was something I was drawn to do, as was going to the Arizona audit. I'll talk about those things to anybody,” he responded, when asked if he brings up his January 6 experience on the campaign trail. He also noted that he has encountered Colorado voters that were in Washington that day.
Tina Forte, a Republican challenging New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, went on Facebook Live in front of the Capitol lawn on January 6.
“Get your a***s to the Capitol, this isn't about listening to music and having f*****g rallies. We need to fight for our freedom, fight our country, fight for our president, fight for our Constitution,” she said in front of an illustrated flag of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with fangs.
In a statement afterward, she called the attacks on the Capitol “disgusting.”
But “as far as Stop The Steal, do I believe there was voter fraud? Absolutely. That's my opinion. There is fraud in every election,” she wrote.
Republican candidate for Michigan governor Ryan Kelley “climbed on a scaffolding, helped a man move a police barricade and repeatedly waved fellow protestors toward the Capitol riots,” according to Bridge Michigan.
He was joined by state Representative Jason Howland, who was pictured inside the Capitol and who organized a rally in April 2020 at Michigan's Capitol building, according to the Detroit Metro Times.
When asked about his actions by CBS News, Kelley's campaign says he was there to protest “the fraudulent stolen 2020 election” and that he was not violent and did not enter the Capitol building. He also claimed that “thousands of Americans” were escorted inside the building by police.
Three other state legislative candidates in Michigan reportedly attended Trump's rally on January 6: State House Candidates Angela Rigas and Jon Rocha, and Maddock.
“I absolutely do not believe me or any other individual exercising their God-given constitutional rights should apologize for assembling on January 6,” Rigas told CBS News.
Trump backed three Texas officials who were in Washington on January 6. Two of them, Attorney General Ken Paxton and state Senator Angela Paxton, were on stage at his “Stop the Steal” rally. The other, Texas state House candidate Mark Middleton, faces multiple federal charges including assaulting officers and violent entry and disorderly conduct inside the Capitol.
Arizona has two known 2022 candidates in Washington that day: state Senate candidate Anthony Kern and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem.
Several Republican gubernatorial candidates who attended Trump's rally include Georgia's Vernon Jones, Maryland State Representative Dan Cox and Nebraska's Charles Herbster. All three have “election integrity” as a key issue on their campaign websites. Trump has backed Cox and Herbster.
Cox is running in a crowded GOP primary in a deep blue state that has elected moderate Republican governors twice in the past 20 years. Maryland's current Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, called Cox “a Q-Anon whack job” and is backing Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz to replace him.
Nevada gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert was pictured on the Capitol steps, and said in his campaign launch that “if election integrity isn't the No. 1 issue of these guys running, then they're either lost, confused, or too stupid to be running.”
In a CBS News poll, 52% of Republicans say they want a candidate that says there was “a lot of fraud” in the 2020 election.
Pennsylvania state Senator Doug Mastriano, a potential candidate for governor, reportedly organized buses to Washington. He said he left after demonstrations turned violent and did not “condone the violence,” though pictures show him standing beyond the police barriers.
Other state legislators in Washington that day who are running for office in 2022 include North Carolina Representative Donnie Loftis, who was reportedly close enough to the Capitol to be tear gassed, Alaska Representative David Eastman and Illinois state Representative Chris Miller, whose wife, Congresswoman Mary Miller, spoke at a “Moms for America” rally on January 6.
“It is crazy that folks think they should be more involved in democracy and be promoted to higher levels of power after betraying and participating in an insurrection and truly being traitors to American democracy,” said Jessica Post, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
West Virginia state Senator Mike Azinger attended Trump's rally and said on local radio days after the attack that protesters were within their rights to stand on the Capitol steps, calling it “perfectly legal.” He added the rally “was something that our president called for.”
“I hope he calls us back [to Washington D.C.],” Azinger said of Trump.
CBS News has made attempts to contact every campaign of candidates in Washington on January 6. Not all responded in time for publication.
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