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QAnon supporter in Georgia heads into tight GOP runoff

Georgia House candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene is coming under renewed scrutiny for her past racist rhetoric and embrace of conspiracy theories as she heads into Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff.

Greene, who faces neurosurgeon John Cowan in the 14th Congressional District to replace retiring Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesGeorgia House to consider replacing Confederate statue with statue of John Lewis Biden calls for the nation to 'unite, heal and rebuild in 2021' Lawmakers share New Year's messages: 'Cheers to brighter days ahead' MORE (R), has made a number of bigoted remarks, such as calling African Americans “slaves to the Democratic Party.” She has also embraced QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that claims among other things the so-called deep state is plotting against President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE.

If Greene wins on Tuesday and in November, she would be the first open QAnon supporter elected to Congress.

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And while House GOP leaders have condemned videos showing Greene making racist and Islamophobic remarks, most of the party’s leadership have stayed neutral in a runoff whose victor is almost certain to win in November. Several nonpartisan political forecasters rate the seat as “solid or safe Republican.”

Greene has shored up significant support in the district, winning 40.3 percent of the vote in the June primary compared to Cowan’s 21 percent.

A recent poll from Cowan’s campaign showed a much tighter race heading into the runoff, with the two candidates tied at 38 percent in late July.

But strategists say Cowan should be way ahead given the controversy surrounding Greene.

“If she ends up winning, it’s more of a reflection of John Cowan’s bad campaign than it is of her being a much better candidate,” said a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “I don’t know how he could not have put her away already.”

“He’s a doctor,” the strategist said. “Don’t underestimate being a doctor in a pandemic — that’s a big deal. And the fact is, he was only able to generate 20 percent of the vote.”

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Greene came under intense scrutiny in June after Politico unearthed a trove of videos in which she compared Democratic mega-donor George Soros to a Nazi and said the 2018 midterms were like an “Islamic invasion of our government,” among other inflammatory statements.

Republican lawmakers were quick to condemn her comments, which surfaced after the primary. Among them was Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceGeorgia elections chief refutes election claims in letter to Congress READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Pence 'welcomes' efforts of lawmakers to 'raise objections' to Electoral College results MORE (R-Ga.), who played a role in getting Greene to run for the seat.

"I find Marjorie Taylor Greene's statements appalling and deeply troubling, and I can no longer support her candidacy in Georgia's 14th Congressional District,” Hice said in a June 18 statement on Facebook.

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise labels Capitol rioting 'domestic terrorism' Tensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE (R-La.) also condemned Greene’s remarks, calling them “disgusting.” He is backing Cowan’s bid.

Cowan also took aim at Greene’s comments, saying a runoff victory could threaten other GOP candidates in the state.

“I want to protect the Republican Party. She is the antithesis of the Republican Party. And she is not conservative, she’s crazy,” Cowan told Politico. “She deserves a YouTube channel, not a seat in Congress. She’s a circus act.”

However, some strategists argue the controversy surrounding Greene’s comments are more of a focus in Washington circles than they are on the ground in Georgia.

“I think the national media is going to play this up as there’s just a bunch of racism there,” said the GOP strategist. “I think it’s more, 'We’re not going to have these elite people tell us what to do.’ I don’t think it’s as much about Marjorie Greene as it is about the national environment.”

Greene did not walk back her remarks during an interview with ABC’s Chattanooga affiliate late last month. Instead, she took the opportunity to criticize “radical Islam” and Sharia law.

“This isn’t something that is a radical to say, this is how most Americans feel. So when I have these conversations with voters every day, they agree with me 100 percent and they are thankful that I am saying them because people are tired, really tired of political correctness and government,” Greene said.

She also addressed her past comments in support of QAnon, emphasizing her belief there is a “deep state” — career bureaucrats pursuing their own agendas — within the U.S. government.

“I’m just like millions of people here in our country and then millions of people around the world that are very much concerned about a deep state in our government, and it’s something you hear talked about every day,” Greene said. “I mean, people talk about it from Rush Limbaugh to Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityProsecutors say man who brought weapons to Capitol carried list of 'good guys' and 'bad guys' Trump has suggested he wants to pardon himself: NYT More Americans than ever distrust the news; here's why and what to do about it MORE. You hear even commentators from the left talking about corruption in our government.”

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Despite the negative national media attention, Greene has managed to stay competitive with Cowan on the fundraising front, thanks in part to a loan she made to herself.

Greene had brought in $1.59 million as of July 22, including a $900,000 loan. She had spent $1.44 million and had roughly $143,500 in the bank.

Cowan, meanwhile, brought in $1.2 million during the same period, including a $200,000 loan to himself. He spent $960,000, and has around $237,000 cash on hand.

Turnout is expected to play a key factor on Tuesday, testing Greene and Cowan’s operations.

“You have to remember, it’s a runoff, so it’s just turnout,” the GOP strategist said. “It’s not like it’s a general election where everybody’s voting, so it’s a very small number of people that are going to decide this thing.”