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Trump’s most divisive candidates eye midterm victory

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Former US president Donald Trump has endorsed candidates that senior Republican worry are too extreme./AFP
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Nov 01, 2022 - 09:14 AM

WASHINGTON — Former US president Donald Trump has inserted himself energetically into the midterm election campaign, endorsing more than 200 candidates in congressional and state-level level races.

Senior Republicans have voiced fears that many of his picks may be too extreme to have broad appeal in races that should be winnable for the opposition party.

Yet most of Trump’s most consequential endorsees — particularly in closely-run Senate races — have the wind at their backs and remain competitive going into the campaign home stretch.

Here is a look at some of them:

Herschel Walker of Georgia 

By almost any measure, Walker has run a disastrous campaign, beset by a steady drip of allegations of dishonesty, domestic violence, undeclared children and paying former girlfriends to terminate pregnancies.

The publicly anti-abortion former football star has blamed many of his problems on mental illness that he says he has overcome and he denies paying for any terminations.

His son, a conservative social media influencer, has blasted his father in videos as a terrible father and serial liar.

But the Republican has clawed his way back from trailing incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock for months in the race for a US Senate seat to take a small lead in the polling averages.

Mehmet Oz of Pennsylvania 

The controversial TV doctor, accused of hawking bogus medical cures, won a bitterly fought primary campaign against a candidate much more highly favored by the Republican mainstream.

Oz’s Democratic opponent John Fetterman cast the longtime New Jersey resident as a fabulously wealthy out-of-towner with little understanding of the lives of ordinary Pennsylvanians.

The celebrity medic has been forced to defend his ownership of 10 homes and was mocked for a commercial in which he referred to a supermarket vegetable tray as “crudites,” undermining his blue-collar everyman posture.

He has also been accused by his opponents of animal abuse that occurred under his watch in lab experiments that killed more than 300 dogs.

Oz has hit paydirt late in the campaign however by questioning Fetterman’s fitness to run following a stroke in May and accusing him as being soft on crime in his role as the state’s lieutenant governor.

Oz trailed throughout summer but the race is now a statistical tie.

Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania 

Mastriano’s controversies are too numerous to list exhaustively, but he is one of the most divisive candidates to get the Trump stamp of approval as he bids to become the Republican governor of Pennsylvania.

His eyebrow-raising campaign messaging has been a melange of 2020 election denialism and the kind of religiously-influenced far right platform espoused by Christian nationalists.

He has spoken dismissively of the “myth of the separation of church and state” at a conference hosted by the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, which posits that Trump is fighting satanists and child sex traffickers in the Democratic Party, government and Hollywood.

Mastriano brought dozens of supporters with him to Washington for the protest against Biden’s victory that turned into an insurrection — and was accused of crossing police lines during the violence.

He has endorsed the idea that state legislatures have the legal authority to override the popular vote, has been pictured with white supremacist groups, and celebrates Confederate monuments and uniform.

Struggling to raise funds, Mastriano is trailing by almost seven points in the polls.

Kari Lake of Arizona 

The former local news anchor is considered a Republican rising star, winning plaudits for her hard line on immigration and catching Trump’s eye as perhaps the most ardent amplifier of his election disinformation.

She has already suggested that her own election for the governor’s mansion in Arizona is being stolen, and has refused to commit to accepting the result if she loses.

Simultaneously polished and abrasive, combative and magnetic, Lake is being enlisted to help other Republicans across the country, even though she is still just a candidate herself.

The prolific media-basher and strident opponent of vaccine and mask mandates came out on top in six of the last nine major polls in her race and is leading Democrat Katie Hobbs by an average of just under four points.

Trump’s House all-stars 

Trump’s most controversial endorsements for the House of Representatives are a rogues’ gallery of “post-fact” election deniers and far right conspiracy theorists.

They include freshman Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a proud Christian nationalist who suggested that the 2018 California wildfires may have been lit by a “space laser” linked to the Rothschilds, the wealthy business family often targeted by anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Greene, who spoke at a white nationalist conference this year, was stripped her of her committee assignments for liking social media posts about killing Democrats and embracing QAnon and racist conspiracy theories.

Fellow first-termer Lauren Boebert of Colorado has called for the institution of a theocratic government in the United States.

“The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church,” she said ahead of her primary election, adding that she was “tired of this separation of church and state junk.”

Then there’s Trump-backed Ohio House candidate J.R. Majewski, whose claims to fame include a giant Trump mural on his lawn and a fledgling YouTube hip hop career.

Majewski has been accused by US media of misleading the public about his military service by turning a deployment in Japan and stint loading planes in Qatar to a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan.

A promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, he was also present at the US Capitol during the 2021 insurrection.

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