NEW YORK (AP) — Incumbent Florida Republican Rep. Dan Webster on Tuesday narrowly defeated Laura Loomer, a far-right provocateur in Florida who’s been banned on some social media networks because of anti-Muslim and other remarks.
Webster had been in an unexpectedly tight race against Loomer, a nationally known activist who sought to align herself with former President Donald Trump.
Webster, who has served central Florida districts since 2011, won the primary for a race in Florida’s 11th District, which is home to The Villages, the nation’s largest retirement community and a GOP stronghold.
Loomer unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2020, winning a Republican primary but losing the general election that year to incumbent Democrat Lois Frankel for a Palm Beach-area seat that includes Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort.
On social media, Loomer regularly posted conspiracy theories and misinformation around Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American elected to Congress. Among them was the false claim that Omar and other Democrats were plotting to institute Sharia in Minnesota.
In other races, redrawn maps shuffling U.S. House districts in New York were threatening the political career of a first-term progressive and ensured the ouster of one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress.
The scramble led to contentious races between Democrats in the second-largest blue state in the country, with both challengers and incumbents sensing a rare window to win or lose power in Tuesday’s primary elections.
There was an added degree of uncertainty to how New York’s congressional primary contests will shake out as voter turnout was expected to be low. It was the second primary election day in New York this summer after statewide and state assembly primaries were held two months ago. New York voters are not accustomed to casting primary ballots this late in the summer — and certainly not used to casting them twice — and many were finding their longtime district lines had shifted, adding to confusion.
Primary elections for U.S. House seats in Florida featured a test for a conservative firebrand with the specter of a federal investigation looming over him.
Florida GOP primary loser Laura Loomer cries fraud: “I’m not conceding because I’m a winner”
Far-right extremist Laura Loomer refused to concede her Florida Republican primary defeat to Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., on Tuesday after coming surprisingly close to an upset.
Webster, a six-term incumbent who served for three decades in the Florida legislature, narrowly edged out Loomer, a far-right activist and self-described “proud Islamophobe” banned from most social media and payment platforms for spreading election lies and attacks on Muslims.
Loomer broke down in tears during a speech to supporters Tuesday night and refused to concede after losing by six points.
“I’m not conceding, because I’m a winner!” Loomer declared, pushing baseless allegations of election fraud.
“We are losing our country to big-tech election interference,” she claimed. “And I am pleading with the Republican Party to please start taking this issue seriously, because the American people deserve representation.”
Despite citing zero evidence to back up her claims, Loomer’s supporters pushed similar allegations of fraud based only on the rate at which ballots were counted.
Loomer, who was previously backed by former President Donald Trump in a 2020 race for a different congressional district that she lost by 20 points, is the latest Trump ally to refuse to accept defeat in her own party’s primary. Mesa County, Colo.
Clerk Tina Peters, who was indicted for election tampering, refused to concede her secretary of state primary defeat despite finishing third and bilked supporters out of hundreds of thousands to pay for a recount that confirmed her loss. Fellow Trump ally Joey Gilbert similarly made baseless fraud allegations after his defeat and filed a lawsuit that was immediately dismissed by a judge over a total lack of evidence.
Loomer has been one of the more high-profile far-right provocateurs of the Trump era, rubbing shoulders with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and attending a Trump fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago. But her racist rhetoric and attacks on Muslims have gotten her booted from most online platforms, not unlike the former president. Loomer has been banned by social networks Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Medium, payment platforms Paypal, Venmo, GoFundMe and Chase, and ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft. She was even banned by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which regularly welcomes extremists.
Loomer in 2017 expressed her support for “ethnonationalism,” declaring herself “pro-white nationalism” while bashing “left-wing globalist Marxist Jews.”
She repeatedly attacked Muslims on social media before getting banned.
“I never want another Muslim entering this country EVER AGAIN,” she tweeted in 2017.
After being banned by the social platform, Loomer handcuffed herself to the Twitter headquarters in New York City.
“Fondly remembering the time Laura Loomer handcuffed herself to the door of Twitter’s NYC office—but only to one of the two double doors, allowing employees to continue entering and exiting as they pleased,” Axios reporter Lachlan Markay recalled after her defeat on Tuesday.
The narrow margin in Loomer’s loss sparked alarm about how close the fringe extremist came to winning a Republican congressional primary.
Former Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., called Loomer an “awful, radical scumbag” who nevertheless “received lots of support.”
“Sitting members are or have supported these folks. Unhinged candidates are a disease,” he tweeted.
“Nothing sums up the extremism of the modern GOP right now than this race in Florida,” wrote MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan. “Laura Loomer, a far-right anti-Muslim candidate who was once banned from CPAC as well as multiple online platforms, should be nowhere close to winning this GOP primary race.”
Mother Jones’ Ali Breland suggested Loomer might be the first person to “ever run a congressional campaign that was about trying to be racist on Twitter.”
“You can’t formally measure racism,” he wrote. “But if you could, Laura Loomer would have had a solid chance of becoming the most publicly racist Congressman in the last decade if she had won last night.”