September 25, 2023

Far-right activist Laura Loomer built her name—and her reputation—on her willingness to launch political attacks almost no one else would. He crashed a Shakespeare play in his park Julius Caesar which featured Donald Trump being stabbed. He tricked undocumented immigrants into trespassing on Nancy Pelosi’s lawn.

Perhaps most infamously, he responded to a ban from Twitter by handcuffing himself to a door outside the tech giant’s New York office while wearing a Star of David. (Since Loomer was only chained to one door, Twitter employees could still enter and exit the building.)

Now in her second run for Congress, this time in a primary race against Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), Loomer has found a strange new line of attack. Her opponent, she claims, is so weak that she wears a Life Alert necklace with a button to alert emergency responders if she falls.

“We don’t need members of Congress walking around wearing Life Alert necklaces, too sick to vote,” Loomer told the Daily Beast, citing a photo she claims shows Webster wearing the necklace.

Despite Loomer’s insistence, however, there is substantial evidence that Webster is not wearing a Life Lock necklace. Instead, he appears to be wearing a personal air ionizer, a device meant to purify the air around him. Webster is such a fan of the device that he even excelled in a 2021 House hearing.

However, in an era where Republicans are sweeping Joe Biden’s speeches to prove he’s senile, Loomer’s attacks on Webster, 73, might get some traction. But Loomer, 29, is running in Florida’s 11th District, home to the sprawling retirement community known as The Villages — perhaps the worst place to push an attack on an opponent’s age and health problems.

“If there’s any region in America that likes it, it’s this region,” said Dr. James Clark, an expert on Florida politics and a senior lecturer at the University of Central Florida. “Florida 11 has more residents 65 and older than any district in the country. One in three people in the area is over 65 years old.”

Loomer’s efforts to win over older voters by attacking Webster’s age mirror her struggle to attack him from the right. After being shut out in her first congressional campaign and losing by 20 points to a Democratic representative in another Florida district, Loomer is now struggling to paint an established congressman with a near-perfect conservative record as a “Republican in name only.”

Even Loomer’s public outbursts—a tactic her supporters have dubbed “Looming”—didn’t work. In April, Loomer and Webster, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, both attended a local Republican caucus meeting. After Webster left after a short speech, Loomer stood up and tried to win over the crowd by complaining that Webster hadn’t answered questions.

But instead of winning over new voters, Loomer seemed to be competing with them. The white-haired crowd grew restless as Loomer spoke, and one woman shouted that her speech upset her. An old man gently motioned Loomer to sit down.

“This is not the place!” A woman who identified herself as a Republican state lawmaker thundered into Loomer.

Loomer gave up and sat down, grumbling to herself.

No public vote has been released for the race, and Loomer said her campaign would rather spend money on the campaign trail than at the polls. There is some anecdotal evidence of enthusiasm for Loomer. Last month, a fleet of seniors driving golf carts celebrated her campaign at The Villages. Loomer has raised about $100,000 more than Webster, but has spent significantly more, leaving Webster with about a $200,000 cash advantage at the end of June.

But Loomer failed to secure perhaps the one thing that could have helped her compete with Webster: an endorsement from Donald Trump. Loomer made Webster’s decision to bypass Trump’s impeachment vote after Capitol Hill a centerpiece of her campaign, implying that Webster abandoned Trump in his time of need. (Webster said he had a family medical emergency). Even as she tries to portray herself as Trump’s most dedicated supporter, the former president has remained silent.

Loomer insisted Trump still has time to endorse her before Florida’s Aug. 23 primary.

“I can’t speak for the president, but I’m a supporter, he knows I’m a supporter,” Loomer said.

In Trump’s absence, Loomer has endorsements from Roger Stone and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But her allies are not always consistent.

On Sunday, Loomer is set to campaign with Stew Peters, a former bounty hunter turned far-right web talk show host known for promoting the idea that snake venom has been injected into the water supply to give people satanic DNA.

This week, Peters released a “documentary” intended to revive the Satanic Panic, which includes the claim that a whopping 0.5 percent of American homes have gruesome rituals dedicated to devil worship. He also recently claimed that Loomer, who is Jewish, had become a Christian.

“Laura Loomer is covered in the blood of Jesus Christ,” the radio host said Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.

Loomer told the Daily Beast that she is a “proud Jew,” saying she’s not sure why Peters said she had converted. However, she described herself as a supporter of “Christian nationalism,” the far-right theocratic movement embraced by Rep. Marjorie TaylorGreene (R-GA).

“I support the Christian nationalist movement,” Loomer said.

It’s unclear why Loomer, who moved to the district last September, chose to run against Webster. Next door, Florida’s 7th District has a wide open Republican field, with incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) stepping down to spend more time with her family. But Loomer had already declared her bid against Webster before Murphy announced her departure.

“It’s beyond me why it didn’t go next door,” said Clark, the longtime Florida political watcher.

Webster’s area poses other challenges for a newcomer. It’s a sprawling region without a single media market, making it expensive for Loomer to build its campaign through ads.

Making matters worse, Loomer has made a series of decisions that look set to alienate voters. In 2018, he posed for mock photos in front of a fatal bridge collapse. This November, after the elections, he will do it I speak at a white nationalist convention.

Loomer also seems poised to build bridges with GOP leaders. They called her the Conservative Political Action Conference, which she was banned from after harassing journalists, ‘CringePAC’. Loomer has also attacked freshman Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX), who has been embraced by Republican bigwigs as a symbol of a more diverse GOP. In Telegram posts, Loomer said Republican leaders paraded Flores like a “neon piñata” and accused Flores, who is Mexican-American, of harboring secret allegiances to Mexico.

“Has to be one of the dumbest new members of Congress,” Loomer wrote in a Telegram post. “It went bad faster than a gallon of milk.”

Asked about the long odds her campaign appears to be facing, Loomer insisted she could win.

“I will win,” Loomer said. “I know there are a lot of haters out there.”

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