Far-Right On The Ballot: What To Look Out For In Tuesday’s GOP Primaries

(TPM illustration/Getty Images)

Some of the far-right’s most notorious figures in the GOP will be on the ballot Tuesday, when North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Idaho hold their primaries alongside Oregon and Kentucky.

Here’s some of the key figures we’re watching, whose fates will be decided ahead of the November midterms:

North Carolina

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), running for reelection:

Republicans have been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the wall to take down this guy.

Cawthorn has essentially built his congressional career on trolling (“Cry more, lib” he tweeted on the night he was elected last fall) and helping ex-President Donald Trump spread lies about the 2020 election. This all suited his fellow Republicans just fine – until the North Carolina Republican spilled the beans on alleged congressional orgies and coke use in March.

Cue a veritable flood of opposition research (reportedly from the Republican sources) aimed at embarrassing, if not full-on disgracing, Cawthorn with everything from leaking images of him wearing lingerie and being touched on the crotch by a male staffer, to raising scrutiny about his involvement in a shady cryptocurrency venture.

Cawthorn will be facing off against seven challengers on Tuesday, one of whom has been endorsed by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) – the North Carolina senator who has also called on the House to open an ethics investigation into Cawthorn over the cryptocurrency scheme.


State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), running for governor:

A full-throated election denier, Mastriano spearheaded an effort to hold a version of Arizona’s sham 2020 election audit in Pennsylvania on Trump’s behalf after Joe Biden won the state.

And not only did Mastriano attend the pro-Trump rally in D.C. on Jan. 6 that preceded the Capitol attack, his campaign funneled thousands of dollars into chartering buses to take supporters to the rally. The state senator has since been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee.

Unsurprisingly, Trump has given Mastriano’s campaign his blessing.

Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, running for U.S. Senate:

Barnette, a fairly low-profile candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race up until now, has been making headlines recently over her past bigoted attacks against Muslims and LGBTQ+ people, which included tweets claiming that “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam,” comparisons of queerness to incest and conspiracy theories falsely claiming ex-President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

During a Fox news appearance Sunday, Barnette tried to downplay her comments by insisting that they were “not even full thoughts” and that she therefore “can’t provide a lot of context” for them.

Even Trump, who has endorsed reality TV star Dr. Mehmet Oz in the race, seems to recognize Barnette’s toxicity in the swing state and is actively discouraging GOP voters from supporting her, declaring last week that she “will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats.”

(For what it’s worth, Pennsylvania Republicans are pretty worried about both Mastriano and Barnette’s chances in the general election.)


Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R), running for governor:

Oh man, where to begin with this one?

One thing McGeachin became famous for last year was pretending to be the governor while the real Idaho governor, Brad Little, was out of town multiple times. But McGeachin’s notoriety goes beyond the bizarre Veep-esque cosplay: The lieutenant governor, who’s been endorsed by Trump, has repeatedly rubbed shoulders with white nationalists.

In fact, McGeachin was one of several elected Republicans who spoke at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), a conference organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes, in February.

Several days after the conference, the GOP lieutenant governor insisted she did not know who Fuentes was or what his beliefs were, and similarly didn’t know about Holocaust denier Vincent James Foxx’s beliefs either. That’s, of course, all despite her posing for a picture with Foxx, who claims to have “deep connections” to her, on the campaign trail.

Less than three weeks later, McGeachin did a full 180 on that denial about AFPAC during an interview and flatly admitted that “yes, I did know who I was talking to, who had invited me to speak at that conference.”

Ammon Bundy, running for governor:

Yep, that Ammon Bundy launched his gubernatorial bid as a Republican before ditching the GOP primary in February to run as an independent, meaning we’ll be seeing him in November regardless of what happens tomorrow.

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