Candidates at the Capitol on Jan. 6 raised big donations with mixed results

By Jimmy Cloutier and Jorja Siemons | Open Secrets

While dozens of state and federal candidates who traveled to Washington, D.C. for demonstrations on the day of the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have achieved fundraising success, they face mixed outcomes in their states’ primaries.

OpenSecrets has linked at least 32 candidates for federal and state office in 2022 to demonstrations in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 by examining social media posts, public statements and outside reporting as well as lists from POLITICO and Axios.

Two of the candidates face charges related to the violence on Jan. 6 — Mark Middleton, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Texas state legislature, and Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley, Both Middleton and Kelley were arrested on multiple charges including physical violence and entering a restrictive area.

Many of the candidates linked to Jan. 6 claim they left before the crowd grew violent. 

It remains to be seen whether voters turn away from candidates associated with Jan. 6, especially as the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol reveals what it has learned. The hodgepodge group of political newcomers and incumbents attracted millions in political contributions and outside spending but has seen mixed results in primary elections. 

Rancher Charles Herbstera VIP rallygoer endorsed by former President Donald Trump, spent more than $11 million on his campaign in hopes of becoming Nebraska’s next Republican governor only to lose the nomination to Jim Pillen, a University of Nebraska regent backed by state party leaders. 

In Pennsylvania, however, state Sen. Doug Mastriano became the Republican nominee for governor after raising less than $2 million. Mastriano handed over documents to the House select committee after campaign finance records revealed he chartered buses to ferry Trump supporters to the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

Former state Rep. Rick Saccone and veteran Teddy Daniels — two more Pennsylvania candidates who were in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021 — lost in their bids for lieutenant governor in a crowded race that named state Rep. Carrie DelRosso as the Republican candidate in May. 

In Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose fiery speech at the rally led House Democrats to call for his censure, lost the GOP Senate primary runoff to Republican leaders’ preferred candidate, Katie Britt. 

Sandy Smith, who posted images of herself marching toward the Capitol, likewise faced strong opposition from Republican Party leadership in the race for North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) focused on electing moderate conservatives, spent nearly $590,000 on political ads attacking Smith. But she won her primary contest by more than 4 points. 

Scandal-plagued Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), another speaker at the rally, lost his bid for reelection in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District Republican primary. State party leaders fed up with the freshman congressman’s gaffes, indiscretions and disregard for the law spent nearly $1.6 million taking him down. 

By contrast, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appears largely immune to legal and personal controversies, including charges of felony securities fraud. He trounced his primary challenger, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, in the May Republican runoff. Paxton appeared on stage with his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton (R), at the Jan. 6 rally to boast about his ill-fated efforts to overturn 2020 election results in four battleground states. Bush campaigned on bringing integrity back to the attorney general’s office by avoiding such frivolous lawsuits. He lost by 36 points. Angela Paxton defeated her own primary challenger by a similar margin.

Another five candidates won primary contests in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and West Virginia. Five others lost. 

Several other candidates with ties to Jan. 6 dropped out or were disqualified ahead of their primaries, including Jason Riddle, who ran to represent New Hampshire for the U.S. House. Riddle was sentenced in April to 90 days in jail and three years of probation after pleading guilty to entering the Capitol building. 

Some research suggests candidates who tried to legitimize or downplay the violence of Jan. 6 — or leaned into Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election — paid the price in primary elections. A Brookings Institute report published in June found that about a quarter of Republican candidates who made statements describing Jan. 6 as a legitimate protest won primaries, while 82% of Republican candidates who recognized the attack on the Capitol as a “violent insurrection” secured their party’s nomination. 

The Brookings Institute surveyed a small number of races, however. Republican voters will decide a dozen primary contests in the coming weeks, which could see several Jan. 6-linked candidates inch closer to elected office.

Detroit Free Press Poll conducted in the days following Kelley’s arrest shows 17% of respondents naming him as their preferred candidate and 39% saying they view him favorably. With over $98,000 in political donations, Kelly’s campaign is also directing supporters to the Michigan real estate agent’s “personal legal defense fund.” 

In Arizona, state Rep. Mark Finchem (R), who was spotted at the Capitol at the time of the riot and was subpoenaed by Congress, is ahead of his opponent in the polls for the secretary of state race — although 72% of likely Republican primary voters remain undecided. 

In Maryland, state delegate Daniel Cox (R), is statistically tied with former state secretary of commerce Kelly Schultz (R) in the race for governor ahead of the state’s July 19 primary.

Several deep-pocketed super PACs have also propped up unlikely candidates. Drain the DC Swamp has spent more than $392,000 in Ohio’s 9th Congressional District race to help elect GOP nominee and first-time candidate J.R. Majewski. Majewski, who has repeatedly posted QAnon material and confirmed he attended the Jan. 6 rally, faces off in November against Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the longest-serving woman in Congress. 

Though Kaptur has raised about $1.3 million more than Majewski, her recently redrawn congressional map includes a rural corner of the state that’s been represented by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) since 2007. The Cook Political Report considers the district a toss-up. 

On June 10, the National Republican Congressional Committee added Majewski to its “Young Guns Program.” The program, spearheaded by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, entitles candidates to Republican party support after meeting certain benchmarks. 

The nonpartisan Honoring American Law Enforcement super PAC has spent more than $163,000 supporting Derrick Van Orden, who is running to fill a House seat vacated by retiring Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District. After a photo surfaced showing Orden outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, he  acknowledged traveling to Washington, D.C., to “stand for the integrity of our electoral system” but said he left the Capitol “when it became clear that a protest had become a mob.” 

Democratic candidates in multiple states have also paid for ads supporting more conservative  candidates in their primaries, assuming they’ll be easier to beat than moderate Republicans in November’s general election. 

State attorney general Josh Shapiro (D), the Democratic nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, spent over $840,000 on ads attacking Mastriano as “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters,” POLITICO reported. To many Republicans this is a plus — and it helped Mastriano secure the Republican nomination despite spending less than $370,000 on TV ads. 

The Democratic Governors Association adopted a similar tactic in Maryland, buying at least $734,000 worth of Baltimore TV airtime for the first weeks of July to boost Cox. Earlier this year, the group released a poll touting that Maryland Republicans were more likely to vote for Cox when they knew he was endorsed by Trump.  

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