Greene’s popularity faces test in first reelection primary
Firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) heads to her first reelection primary on Tuesday in a good position to win the GOP nomination for her seat despite becoming perhaps the most controversial, bombastic and criticized Republican in the House.
Greene faces five GOP challengers in her primary, the best-funded of which is political newcomer Jennifer Strahan, owner of a health care consulting business.
Strahan has raised around $400,000 for her campaign, but also has the backing of outside PACS. The Republican Jewish Coalition PAC supports Strahan, and the Value In Electing Women PAC has spent nearly $200,000 in support of her candidacy.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk, and our district has nothing to show for it,” Strahan said in a debate earlier this month. “We need a representative who works effectively with colleagues, and navigates the legislative process to push Georgia priorities forward while protecting our Constitutional freedoms.”
Strahan’s website highlights Russian state media using Greene’s arguments against funding Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s invasion, echoing Russian arguments when she worried that U.S.-funded equipment might be obtained by neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
Greene has been the subject of a constant stream of criticism and outrage since her election in 2020.
She was stripped of her committee assignments soon after being sworn in to office over social media posts about conspiracy theories and liking a Facebook comment that called for the assassination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her personal Twitter account was permanently banned after she repeatedly violated the platform’s policy on misinformation about COVID-19, though her official congressional account remains active.
In a 2018 Facebook post, which has since been deleted, Greene suggested that the wealthy Jewish Rothschild family profited from California’s wildfires and mentioned claims of “lasers or blue beams of light causing the fires,” prompting accusations of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories. In the halls of Congress, Greene has gotten into confrontations with Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), and earlier this year spoke at a white nationalist conference (Greene said she did not know about the group’s views and was hoping to reach young conservatives).
But Greene, who has the backing of former President Trump, has also cultivated a loyal national following among the GOP base.
“Wherever she goes, there are people who cheer her on,” Audrey Haynes, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said of Greene’s loyal following. “Yet there are also those who believe she has made the district, and particularly Republicans in the district, into a joke and has little influence in the House.”
But unlike fellow firebrand Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), who was defeated in a May 17 primary after a series of scandals that centered more on his personal actions than his policy positions, Greene has not been politically punished or abandoned by top Republicans and is in a much better financial position than Cawthorn was in his primary.
Greene moved to run in Georgia’s northwestern 14th Congressional District after former GOP Rep. Tom Graves announced that he would retire from Congress after more than a decade, leaving the seat open. She defeated neurosurgeon John Cowan 57 percent to 43 percent in a 2020 GOP primary runoff and sailed to election with nearly 75 percent of the vote after her Democratic opponent dropped out of the race.
The 2020 GOP primary field for the district was larger than this year, but with five candidates potentially splitting the vote, there is a chance that Greene gets under 50 percent support and heads to a June 21 primary runoff.
A January poll commissioned by “a group of Georgia Republicans who want to show that there is a viable, conservative alternative to” Greene, Jewish Insider reported, found that potential GOP primary voters in the district were swayed against Greene after being exposed to her controversial statements. The poll showed 60 percent support for Greene and 30 percent support for Strahan initially, and then tied at 41 percent after being read the statements.
Additional polling in the district is sparse, though, and Greene remains a political force and a fundraising powerhouse.
Greene has raised more than $9.2 million, has spent more than $6.6 million and had $3 million in the bank as of May 4. In 2021, she raised the eighth highest amount among House candidates, according to FEC data. The four other GOP candidates running against Greene have not cracked six figures in campaign fundraising.
“As one campaign operative has suggested, some days it is really hard to know which way the wind is blowing. But if money is generating the breeze, then Greene is likely to take the primary win. She has so much money to spend compared to all the other candidates combined. And she relishes the fight,” Haynes said.
A number of PACs have lined up to oppose Greene, including the Lincoln Project, Really American PAC and VoteVets, which endorsed one of Greene’s Democratic opponents. But all of their spending combined, much of which was on digital ads and ad production, is just a fraction of what Greene has spent.
Tuesday’s primary will also determine her Democratic challenger. Three candidates are aiming to go up against Greene in the general election despite the ruby-red nature of the district. Several election analysts rate Georgia’s 14th District as solidly Republican.
The most prominent of Greene’s challengers is Army veteran Marcus Flowers, whose fundraising prowess rivals Greene’s. He has raised more than $8.1 million and spent more than $7.4 million in his campaign against Greene so far.
Small-business owner Holly McCormack, while behind Flowers in fundraising, is also vastly exceeding the typical fundraising haul for a challenger with little chance of unseating an incumbent. She has raised more than $1.8 million and spent more than $1.7 million.
Former Rome, Ga., City Commissioner Wendy Davis is also vying to be the Democratic nominee against Greene and brought in a respectable $490,233 for her campaign as of May 4.