It was not a great election for Republican candidates who went to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.
Several Republican candidates running in state and federal elections had protested Biden’s win over former President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., that day, and some marched to the U.S. Capitol, where a violent riot ensued. Most lost on Tuesday.
There were, however, a few exceptions.
Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL endorsed by Trump, won his race in Wisconsin to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the campaign trail, Van Orden had admitted to attending Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, but denied setting foot on Capitol grounds or taking part in the violent attack that followed.
Van Orden raised vastly more than his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Brad Pfaff, a Democrat who unsuccessfully tried to persuade voters that Van Orden’s attendance at the Jan. 6 rally should disqualify him from serving in Congress.
Max Miller, a former Trump White House adviser who, according to the House Jan. 6 committee, helped plan the rally that preceded the violent attack on the Capitol, is also headed to Congress, after defeating his Democratic opponent, Matthew Diemer, to win a House seat in Ohio’s Seventh District.
Many other Jan. 6 candidates, however, were not as successful.
One of the most high-profile Republican defeats was that of Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, an outspoken election denier and Jan. 6 attendee, who lost by more than 14 points to Josh Shapiro, the state’s Democratic attorney general. As a state senator, Mastriano had been intimately involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Pennsylvania, and chartered buses to bring Trump supporters to Washington for the former president’s Jan. 6 rally. The House select committee investigating the events of that day subpoenaed Mastriano for documents and testimony, but he sued the committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an effort to avoid testifying on camera.
Even before Mastriano won the GOP primary in May, Shapiro was airing an ad linking him to Trump and the effort to audit the 2020 election. After the match-up was set, Shapiro regularly referred in his stump speech to the possibility that Mastriano might change election results he didn’t like. As he told CNN in an interview, “Sen. Mastriano has made it clear that he will appoint electors based on his belief system. He is essentially saying, ‘Sure you can go vote, but I will pick the winner.’ That is incredibly dangerous.”
J.R. Majewski, a political novice who had previously embraced the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory, also attended the pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6 before going on to defeat multiple sitting state legislators for the Republican nomination for Ohio's Ninth Congressional District.
But the self-described “ultra-MAGA candidate” ultimately failed to flip the key Congressional seat, which has been held since 1982 by Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur. After securing a 21st term, she is now positioned to become the longest-serving woman in Congressional history.
In the end, though, it may not have been Majewski’s activities on Jan. 6 that cost Republicans this competitive House seat. Revelations late in the campaign that Majewski misrepresented his military service helped turn the race in Kaptur’s favor.
Maryland state legislator Dan Cox, who organized buses to bring people to Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 and tweeted during the violence that Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor,” was soundly defeated by Democrat Wes Moore in the governor’s race in Maryland. Moore attacked Cox for attending the Jan. 6 rally during their only debate, calling the Republican “an extremist election-denier whose rhetoric and his policies are not only dangerous and divisive, but will take our state backwards.”
Cox also received mixed reviews from leaders of his own party. Although he got Trump’s endorsement, Maryland’s current Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited, refused to back him, calling him “a QAnon whack job” and mentally unstable.
Jo Rae Perkins, a follower of QAnon conspiracy theories who said she was in attendance at the Capitol during the riot but did not enter the building, lost her U.S. Senate race in Oregon to the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden. Perkins has unsuccessfully run for Congress in each of the last five cycles, and lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2020 to Oregon’s other Democratic Senator, Jeff Merkley.
Tina Forte, a Republican, was easily defeated by Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in their House race in New York. During the campaign, Forte said she had no regrets about attending Trump’s speech on Jan. 6.
Leon Benjamin, a pastor and military veteran who posted photos from outside the Capitol as the riot unfolded, failed in his U.S. House bid in Virginia, losing for a second time to the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Donald McEachin, by about 28 points as of Thursday evening.
McEachin also beat Benjamin by 24 points back in 2020, but Benjamin refused to concede. McEachin refused to debate his Republican opponent this time around unless he agreed to acknowledge both his and President Biden’s victories in the last election.
In North Carolina, businesswoman Sandy Smith lost a bid for the U.S. House to Democratic state Sen. Don Davis. Smith had tweeted photos of herself in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, writing, "In DC fighting for Trump! Just marched from the Monument to the Capitol!” along with the hashtags #StopTheSteaI and #FightForTrump.
For the most part, the Jan. 6 rally-goers who ran for office in this year’s midterms have not been charged in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The sole exception is Florida’s Jeremy Michael Brown, who ran his unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Florida legislature from the Pinellas County Jail.
Brown, a retired special forces soldier and alleged member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was first arrested last September for trespassing and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, though he is not accused of entering the building. He was later indicted in a separate but related case filed in Florida federal court on a laundry list of federal felony charges for possession of unregistered firearms, explosive grenades and 8,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as of classified documents from his time in the military that federal agents say they found while executing a search warrant at his Tampa home.
Federal prosecutors have accused Brown of coordinating transportation to Washington ahead of Jan. 6 with other Florida Oath Keepers, including some who are currently on trial for seditious conspiracy charges for allegedly plotting to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power to President Biden on Jan. 6. So far, Brown has not been indicted in the Oath Keepers’ seditious conspiracy case, but he has been named in court documents as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Campaigning from jail, where he is being held as he awaits trial, Brown ran unopposed in the Republican primaries for Florida’s deep-blue District 62, but faced an uphill battle against Democratic State Rep. Michele Rayner, who won by a landslide, earning more than 69% of the vote.
Notably, many of these candidates quickly accepted defeat, though some have been slightly more evasive. As of Thursday, Mastriano had not yet conceded to Shapiro, although he hadn’t explicitly contested his loss either. And on Twitter Wednesday, Perkins implied that there may have been “voting irregularities in Oregon,” without mentioning her specific race.