Not all candidates who were in DC on January 6 to protest the 2020 election have won, but the results from Ohio and North Carolina make clear that the association with January 6 isn’t a disqualifying factor with many Republican primary voters.
Difficult year for Democrats
“On January 6th, Congresswoman (Marcy) Kaptur arrived at the Capitol to fulfill the duties she had sworn an oath to uphold,” said Kaptur campaign spokesman Kyle Buda. “J.R. Majewski not only participated that day — he raised $20,000 for others to join.”
“I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” Majewski has said about the violence on January 6.
CNN reached out to the Black, Riddle and Smith campaigns for this story.
And while some Republicans acknowledge that these candidates could make winnable races slightly more difficult, they are skeptical that voters will make January 6 central to their decision-making process.
“Democrats have been desperate to talk about anything other than everything that has Biden’s numbers constantly falling and this gives them an opportunity to do that,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “When people are having sticker shock every day of their lives … it is going to be hard to convince voters that anything else rises above that, regardless of what they think about January 6.”
Polling shows that the way Republicans view January 6 has shifted over time.
But the polling also found that Republican views on January 6 have shifted dramatically since the immediate aftermath. According to the poll, while 15% of Republicans said in January 2021 that the attack on the Capitol was not a problem, the figure had risen to 27% in early 2022. And while 38% of Republicans in 2021 said enough had been done to penalize rioters, 71% felt that way a year later.
Republican strategists — some with ties to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans — told CNN there are worries that these candidates will not only make the committee’s job more difficult but also put what should be clear GOP wins at risk.
Some compared it to the problem Senate Republicans had in 2010 and 2012, when candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana won Republican primaries on the back of tea party fervor only to lose in the general election and hurt their party’s chances of winning the Senate.
But none of the strategists wanted to discuss the internal deliberations for fear of running afoul of the NRCC.
A spokesman for the NRCC did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on this story, but the committee has stood by some of the candidates who were in DC for on January 6, including Majewski after he won his primary.
“We’re committed to doing whatever is necessary to rid Ohioans of career politician Marcy Kaptur,” said Michael McAdams, spokesman for the NRCC.
A reason to run
For some Democrats, the prospect of candidates who were in DC on January 6 heading to Congress next year is not only worrying, it was a key reason they decided to run.
“So let’s stop pretending like you are trying to do anything other than using the injury and deaths of American citizens in an effort to influence a federal election,” added Van Orden. A spokesperson for the candidate did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
“Derrick Van Orden was a retired Navy SEAL who took the same oath to protect and defend the Constitution that I had. To me, that is a lifelong moral obligation,” McGrath said, calling his attendance a “an inflection point” in the race.
Brad Pfaff, a Wisconsin state senator who is also running to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd District, said that “the least patriotic thing someone can do is march on our nation’s Capitol and participate in something that took place on January 6th” and that people in rural Wisconsin “recognize that this individual is not one of us.”
Still, for Democrats facing political headwinds this year, the January 6 ties represent an opening to holding on to competitive districts.
“Kevin McCarthy and the NRCC have rolled out the red carpet for actual insurrectionists to run for Congress by embracing conspiracy theories and MAGA extremism,” said Helen Kalla, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “By supporting these candidates, House Republicans are saying insurrection is a mainstream position in their caucus.”
CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed to this report.