A large number of candidates with ties to the Far Right ran for office in the 2018 midterm elections, mostly as Republicans. They ranged from neonazis to mainstream Republicans who courted the Far Right for support.
This analysis looks at thirty-five candidates with documented Far Right ties. It found that eleven of them lost primaries, and twenty-four ran in the general election.* While a number of candidates won their primaries, no non-incumbents with clear Far Right ties won office on the state or national level. Of the incumbents, only three were re-elected. At the same time, the Democrats reclaimed the U.S. House, breaking the Republican’s two-year domination of the Executive branch and both national legislative bodies. Clearly, 2018 showed that the electoral arena was not an avenue the Alt Right—or others on the Far Right—could use to advance political power. While Donald Trump gives their movement leverage, his surprise 2016 presidential victory has not translated into electoral successes for other candidates.
All primary candidates listed ran in either the Republican or non-partisan primaries. Those that won their races, or ran in the general election as independents, are covered in the section below on the general election.
Spring 2018 Primary Election
Many Far Right candidates ran in the spring primary. Two of those that lost received national attention. One was Patrick Little, an antisemite who has been described as a White nationalist, and has the dubious distinction of being one of the few people banned from Nazi-friendly social media platform Gab for making violent threats. He received 1.3 percent (just under 90,000 votes) in the California Senate primary. After the election, he travelled around the country doing antisemitic publicity stunts.
The other focus of attention was Paul Nehlen, who was initially supported by Breitbart in his bid to be the GOP’s candidate for U.S. representative in Wisconsin’s District 1. Originally he was running against Paul Ryan, until the congressional speaker announced his retirement. During the primary, Nehlen veered further to the Right and took on open White nationalist and antisemitic positions. He received 11.1 percent (over 6,600 votes).
Keith Alexander, a member of the White nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens and host of The Political Cesspool radio show, lost the primary for GOP assessor of property in Shelby County, Tennessee. He was denounced by the party but still received over 10,000 votes.
Bryan Feste, who sought an “all white nation,” was expelled from the Hawaiian GOP. He nonetheless appeared on the ballot and received 24.9 percent (99 votes) in the primary for the Hawaii District 2 state representative.
Michael Peroutka, a Christian Reconstructionist and former member of the neoconfederate League of the South, lost the primary race for County Council chair in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. An incumbent, he received 47 percent of the vote.
James “Jamie” Kelso, the director of the White nationalist American Freedom Party, ran for a school board position in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He came in eighth of nine candidates in a non-partisan race, garnering less than 4.4 percent (over 1,000 votes).
In addition to candidates with openly White nationalist views, many others on the Far Right ran, including those tied to the Patriot movement and Alt Lite. Joey Gibson, the leader of violent Far Right group Patriot Prayer, ran for senator to represent Washington state. He received 2.3 percent (over 38,600 votes). Joey Nations, who had attended Patriot Prayer events, ran for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District seat and took 20.6 percent (almost 8,900 votes).
In addition, a number of Republicans courted Alt Lite and Patriot movement groups, although they appeared not to be members of these movements themselves. They included Edwin Duterte, who appealed to the Alt Right by signing up for a premium account on Gab. He lost California’s U.S. House primary (43rd District) with 4.3 percent (over 2,700 votes).
Kelli Ward, who ran in the GOP primary to be a U.S. senator from Arizona, had said she wanted to go on a bus tour with Alt Lite figure Mike Cernovich. She came in second with 27.6 percent (over 180,900 votes). Disgraced former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been pardoned by Trump in 2017, came in third in the same race, with 17.8 percent (over 116,500 votes).
Michael Williams, a Georgia state senator who sought to be his party’s gubernatorial candidate, lost with 4.9 percent (over 29,600 votes). His campaign stunts included a “deportation bus” tour—which promoted Trump’s anti-immigration policies—and posing with armed members of the Georgia Security Force III% militia. In December, he was jailed for filing a false police report.
Egregious behavior was not limited to candidates with concrete Far Right political ties tho.
Despite withdrawing before the election, Jazmina Saavedra received 10.1 percent (over 4,300 votes) to be a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from California. She had previously filmed herself harassing a transgender woman. Jeanne Ives, the GOP’s candidate for Illinois governor, received 48.6 percent (over 341,800 votes). She had received a $1,000 campaign contribution from a neonazi sympathizer after she aired a new campaign ad targeting the transgender and immigrant communities; she said she would return the money.
Fall 2018 General Election
This analysis examined twenty-four candidates that participated in the 2018 general election who had documented ties to the Far Right. It found that three won re-election—two to the U.S. house and one to a state senate, all of which were incumbents. But all other Far Right candidates failed to win their seats, including all of the non-incumbents.
The most high profile winner was incumbent Republican Steve King, who squeaked by with 50.4 percent (almost 157,700 votes) in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. King had received widespread media coverage for appearing on and promoting White nationalist and antisemitic websites and podcasts, as well as retweeting various White nationalists.
Matt Gaetz won re-election to the U.S. house in Florida’s District 1 with 67.1 percent (almost 216,200 votes). Gaetz had invited Charles Johnson, a Holocaust denier and White nationalist troll, to the 2018 State of the Union address.
Incumbent Washington state representative Matt Shea (District 4, Position 1), won re-election with 57.7 percent (almost 39,600 votes). Shea has close ties to the militia and Patriot groups; in October, it was revealed that he had written the manifesto “Biblical Basis for War,” which said of his enemies, “If they do not yield – kill all males.”
The losers were many, even if some had disturbingly high returns. The most infamous was Arthur Jones, a perennial candidate who has been active in neonazi and other White nationalist groups since the 1970s. He won the GOP primary for Illinois District 3 U.S. representative after the party failed to field a candidate against him. Despite national media coverage of his views, Jones still received 26.2 percent in the general election (almost 57,900 votes).
Michael Santomauro, a longtime antisemitic activist who had previously booked lectures by Holocaust denier David Irving, ran as mayor of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. He received less than 2 percent (over 300 votes).
Everett Corley received 32.3 percent (over 3,000 votes) in the race for Kentucky State House, District 43. He had appeared on a White nationalist radio show The Ethno State in 2014, during which he denounced interracial couples who have children.
White nationalist Rick Tyler ran as an independent for both Tennessee’s governor and U.S. House. For the latter, he received 1.8 percent (over 4,500 votes).
Another antisemitic conspiracy theorist, James “Jim” Condit, Jr., ran as a Green Party member for U.S. representatives in Ohio’s district 2. Denounced by the state Green Party, he received 1.2 percent (over 3,400 votes).
Islamophobe Seth Grossman ran as the Republican candidate for New Jersey’s U.S. House District 2. He received 46.2 percent (108,822 votes).
Corey Stewart, a Republican who had supported antisemites and White nationalists like Jason Kessler and Paul Nehlen, lost his Senate bid with 41 percent (over 1.3 million votes).
The most high profile loss was Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who sought to become governor. He was plagued by Far Right associations, including citing a White nationalist on his campaign website and his campaign hiring three members of Identity Evropa as political consultants. He received 43.3 percent (443,300 votes).
Incumbent Dave Brat lost his re-election race for U.S. House in Virginia’s District 7 with 48.4 percent (almost 169,300 votes). He had previously publicized how VDARE—a White nationalist anti-immigrant website—had supported an amendment of his.
Dana Rohrabacher also lost his re-election bid for U.S. representative from California’s 48th Congressional District with 46.4 percent (almost 136,900 votes). He was linked to Holocaust Denier Chuck Johnson.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) lost his attempt to become a Pennsylvania U.S. Senator after receiving 42.6 percent (over 2.1 million votes). Before the election, it was revealed that he was interviewed in 2006 by the American Free Press, an antisemitic, White nationalist publication which had emerged from Willis Carto’s Spotlight newspaper.
Antisemite and Islamophobe Steve West received 36.8 percent (almost 5,400 votes) in his run for Missouri state representative in District 15. A radio host, he had proclaimed that “Hitler was right.” His own children campaigned against him.
Ryan Bundy, a participant in the armed standoff at his family’s Nevada ranch in 2014 and a leader of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon in 2016, ran as an independent for Nevada governor. He received 1.4 percent (almost 13,900 votes).
Seth Grossman received 45.2 percent (almost 116,800 votes) in the race for U.S. House in the New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) withdrew its support for him after he promoted various White nationalist websites.
In addition to candidates who withdrew—such as Virginia U.S. House candidate Nathan Larson, who promoted White nationalism as well as pedophilia—there were a number of other Republican party and government officials in 2018 who were connected to these issues.
In January, Tom Kawczynski was fired as town manager in Jackman, Maine for promoting the idea that the northeast should be a White homeland. In May, Fred Fleitz was appointed as the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He was previously the senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy, which believes that Muslims are plotting to take over the United States. In late August, emails revealed that a former Homeland Security Official, Ian M. Smith, was deeply enmeshed in White nationalist social circles. In November, Ray Myers, a member of the committee that helped write the Texas GOP’s platform, wrote on Facebook, “Damn Right, I’m a WHITE NATIONALIST and very Proud of it.” And also in November, Raw Story reported that at least five Jewish candidates had been targeted by also Republicans with ads that portrayed them as clenching wads of cash—an antisemitic stereotype.
*NOTE: Undoubtedly, many other candidates with Far Right links ran who are not included in this documentation. This list largely focuses on candidates who received media attention for their politics and weighs heavily towards those with White nationalist, Alt Lite, and antisemitic views and ties. A closer look would no doubt find many more candidates who, for various reasons, received less attention for their Islamophobic, Christian theocratic, misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and/or Patriot movement views and political associations.