DALLAS, Ga. (AP) — Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia enthusiastically accepted an endorsement Thursday from Marjorie Taylor Greene, a congressional candidate who has embraced baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and espoused racist views in a series of online videos.
Loeffler and Greene made the announcement together at a rented open-air pavilion in a public park on the outskirts of metro Atlanta, where suburbs begin to give way to farms and woodland.
The endorsement highlights Loeffler's embrace of far-right politics as she tries to fend off a challenge from Republican Rep. Doug Collins, a four-term congressman who is one of President Donald Trump's most visible defenders in Congress.
Collins is among 20 challengers seeking to knock Loeffler from the U.S. Senate seat she was appointed to less than a year ago by Georgia's governor. The top Democrat in the race is Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
Greene said she’s backing Loeffler because she’s proven to be “the most conservative Republican in the race.”
“What impressed me with Kelly is I found out that she believes a lot of the same things that I believe,” Greene said.
Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman from Atlanta who was appointed in part to help Republicans in Georgia appeal to moderate suburban voters, has been battling it out with Collins in a race to the right as both seek a spot in a Jan. 5 runoff that is seen as likely. A runoff between the top two candidates is required in Georgia if no one gets more than 50% of votes on Nov. 3.
Warnock responded to the endorsement on Twitter.
“Instead of trafficking in division and proudly standing alongside those that spout dangerous rhetoric like Marjorie Taylor Greene, we’re focused on being a voice for all Georgians,” he said. “It’s time to fire our unelected Senator.”
Collins spokesman Dan McLagan called it “a good endorsement for Kelly.”
Greene is a businesswoman and political newcomer who has shown support for QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory centered on the baseless belief that Trump is secretly fighting enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.
QAnon has been linked to killings, attempted kidnappings and other crimes. In May 2019, an FBI bulletin mentioning QAnon warned that conspiracy theory-driven extremists have become a domestic terrorism threat.
In a series of videos Greene has also alleged an “Islamic invasion” of government offices, claimed Black and Hispanic men are held back by “gangs and dealing drugs,” and accused billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, of collaborating with the Nazis.
More recently, she has attacked the Black Lives Matter movement and the use of masks to protect against the coronavirus.
When asked about Greene’s support for QAnon and her incendiary remarks, Loeffler brushed them aside while attacking the news media.
“Look I don’t know anything about QAnon, and I know how the media twists people’s words,” she said.
“What we agree on is that we are fighting socialism. We are promoting conservative values. And I’m not going to stand for attacks on her character because she has stood for American values,” Loeffler said.
Greene is running essentially unopposed in northwest Georgia's heavily conservative 14th Congressional District after Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal dropped out of the race, saying he was leaving the state entirely.
Greene and Loeffler rolled up to Thursday's news conference together in a large Humvee with an American flag flapping behind it and a Trump campaign sign affixed to the front.
The event was attended by reporters and campaign staff as well as about a dozen supporters.
It was not the first time that Loeffler and Greene have attended an event together. Both attended a pro-Second Amendment rally in the northwest Georgia town of Ringgold in September, flanked by men wearing body armor and carrying rifles.
Voting is already underway in Georgia. In-person early voting began Monday, and absentee ballots started going out to voters in late September.