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House GOP's new midterm headache: Candidates tied to the Capitol riot

Published on August 4, 2021 9:29 PM

by OLIVIA BEAVERS, SARAH FERRIS and ALLY MUTNICK

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Several Republican candidates were in the vicinity of the Jan. 6 attack, raising uncomfortable questions for the party's House campaign arm.

The GOP's political turmoil over the Jan. 6 insurrection is seeping into the midterm elections.

House Republican leaders have forcefully condemned the violent Capitol riot by Donald Trump's supporters. But the GOP campaign arm is now in the uncomfortable position of watching several of its own candidates face sharp questions about their role in the deadly siege that injured scores of police officers.

One of those GOP candidates, Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin, has distanced himself from the violence, saying he left the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rally after rioters began breaking into the Capitol and that he never went inside. But another Republican congressional hopeful, Teddy Daniels in Pennsylvania, posted a video from near the Capitol steps with the caption: "I Am Here. God Bless Our Patriots."

Then there's Tina Forte, a long-shot GOP candidate seeking to unseat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who posed for a picture the day of the attack wearing what appears to be black body armor. In another photo from that day, the right-wing influencer displayed a white power hand gesture.

Those candidates' ties to the Jan. 6 attack are the latest headache — and in some cases, potential political liability — for House Republicans as they deal with fallout from the Trump-led rally that metastasized into a coup attempt. It's impossible to know how many of the GOP's still-growing crop of candidates this cycle took part in the riot. But Democrats are already preparing to lean into the issue of Trump-linked extremism within the Republican ranks, which they're betting will hurt the GOP in key battleground districts next fall.

And a panel assembled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including two Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, is seeking to investigate the circumstances of the attack, an effort that could keep Jan. 6 in the public eye for months.

Speaking at a town hall last week, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota — who leads the NRCC, the House GOP campaign arm — declined to say whether or not he would support "patriots" who attended the Jan. 6 rally.

"The beauty of this country is that anybody who wants to run for office can," Emmer said in response to the question. "I want as many people as possible who share our values to step up and be the voice and run for office," the National Republican Congressional Committee chair said in a recording obtained by POLITICO and first reported by HuffPost.

NRCC spokesperson Michael McAdams later added: "Chairman Emmer has made it clear — and still believes — anyone who broke the law needs to be held accountable ... Unlike Democrats, we believe the voters will ultimately make these decisions, not dictators in Washington."

Many Republicans on Capitol Hill are eager to move on from Jan. 6, particularly when it comes to the involvement of the former president. Many have accused Democrats of relitigating the riot for political gain, particularly after a recent survey from the House Democrats' campaign arm, the DCCC, found that nearly six in 10 battleground voters had serious doubts about House GOP candidates. That result came...