QAnon supporter wins GOP’s U.S. House runoff in N.W. Georgia

Signs promoting Dr. John Cowan’s campaign in the 14th Congressional District’s GOP primary plaster the window of a business on Broad Street in historic downtown Rome. Cowan appeared to fall short Tuesday in his GOP runoff race with Marjorie Taylor Greene. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Signs promoting Dr. John Cowan’s campaign in the 14th Congressional District’s GOP primary plaster the window of a business on Broad Street in historic downtown Rome. Cowan appeared to fall short Tuesday in his GOP runoff race with Marjorie Taylor Greene. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

ROME, Ga. — Marjorie Taylor Greene won Georgia’s 14th Congressional District GOP runoff, and she is likely to become the first QAnon supporter to earn a seat in Congress.

Addressing supporters shortly after 9 p.m., she credited her willingness to buck party leadership in her win over neurosurgeon John Cowan.

“The Republican establishment was against me,” she said. “The D.C. swamp is against me. And the lying fake news media hates my guts. It’s a badge of honor. It’s not about me winning. This is a referendum on every single one of us, on our beliefs.”

ExploreComplete Georgia runoff election results

Many Georgia Republicans endorsed Cowan over Greene after the media reported on racist and anti-Muslim videos she posted on social media. She also spread QAnon conspiracy theories, such as the lie that George Soros sent Jewish people to die in the Holocaust. Soros, who is Jewish himself, was a teenager at the time.

Greene in her victory speech took aim at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying her victory was part of a conservative tide that will result in a change of control in the U.S. House. “She’s a hypocrite. She’s anti-American,” Greene said. “And we’re going to kick that bitch out of Congress.”

Cowan spent the past several weeks attempting to convince voters that he was just as conservative as Greene but not as problematic. In interviews with more than a dozen Cowan supporters, two themes stuck out: They appreciated his local roots and they worried that Greene’s hateful rhetoric would embarrass the district.

“I just like Dr. Cowan better. He’s the candidate who is local,” Cindy Strom said shortly after casting a ballot in Rome. “I just really think Marjorie Greene is out there to me, and I was more comfortable with Dr. Cowan.”

ExplorePHOTOS: Georgia voters head to polls for runoff elections

Still, it did not resonate with a majority of Republican voters who cast ballots in the runoff for the seat representing northwest Georgia. Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal will face Greene in November. Voters in the 14th District are overwhelmingly conservative, meaning she is likely to gain the seat.

Greene moved from north Fulton County to Rome to run in the 14th District race after U.S. Rep. Tom Graves announced he would be retiring at the end of his term. Prior to that, she was a candidate in the 6th District in metro Atlanta.

She converted a strong social media presence into votes and spent nearly $1 million of her own money on the race. Cowan conceded the race Tuesday night but did not speak publicly or release a statement.

“The best person won because we are the real conservatives in this race,” Paulding County activist Pamela Reardon said of Greene. “She’s never going to waver from her values.”

The other Georgia runoff receiving national attention was the competition between state Rep. Matt Gurtler and gun shop owner Andrew Clyde in the 9th District. Like Greene, Gurtler enjoyed front-runner status despite opposition from party leaders.

The Associated Press called the race for Clyde shortly before 10 p.m. Both Greene and Gurtler were criticized for accepting endorsements from Chester Doles, a northeast Georgian with ties to white supremacy.

J.G. Hill, a 51-year-old voter from Gainesville, voted for Clyde. He said he was concerned Gurtler is too young to represent the district in Congress.

“I just think with Clyde, he’s got a little more age, which can give a little more wisdom and experience,” he said.

Gurtler lost the support of many establishment Republicans during his tenure in the General Assembly, when he regularly voted against legislation supported by party leaders. Clyde earned notoriety after successfully working to pass a law that now bears his name and limits the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to seize business owners’ assets.

In the 9th District Democratic runoff, military veteran Devin Pandy beat Brooke Siskin. During a virtual victory party, first-time candidate Pandy thanked his supporters and said the campaign was among the most challenging tasks he had ever undertaken.

Joyce Marie Griggs, a disbarred attorney in Savannah, won the 1st District runoff over Lisa Ring. She will face incumbent U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, in November.

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