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'We're Gonna Get Hammered': Laura Loomer's GOP Competitors Unwilling To Support Her Campaign

Laura Loomer won the Republican primary election for Florida's 21st Congressional District on Tuesday
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Laura Loomer won the Republican primary election for Florida's 21st Congressional District on Tuesday

Fellow candidates say the campaign left a bad taste in their mouth with the Republican nominee.

When racist, far-right provocateur Laura Loomer won the Republican primary for Florida’s 21st Congressional District, the news made international headlines. Loomer, who has been banned from virtually all large social media platforms because of her hateful speech and antics, launched the campaign in an effort to get back at the people she perceives as haters.

But for the other Republican candidates in the race, the ones who lost Tuesday, Loomer’s victory has left them confused, angry, and unwilling to support her campaign.

“There were six people in this race. Five of us had no issues competing together, we had a very friendly primary,” said Mike Vilardi, a former Secret Service agent and IRS criminal investigator who finished third in the race. “Laura was the only one who took another tact. She would ignore us, she wouldn’t compete against us, and she kind of played it like a Democrat.”

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Loomer did not respond to requests for comment on this story. WLRN spoke with four of the remaining five candidates. The only other candidate that did not respond to interview requests for this story was Aaron Scanlan.

Vilardi’s experience facing off against Loomer left such a bad taste in his mouth that he said he will be unable to support her candidacy moving forward. Instead, he plans to write his own name on the November ballot.

The way he tells it, Loomer raised tons of money nationwide and used it to pay for advertisements to boost her name recognition. But along the way she refused to meet with or debate any of the other candidates, sidestepping the unspoken rules of the political game.

“I mean it’s sad, but she hasn’t shown me anything where I can say ‘My god, she’d be a great congresswoman, I could support that,’” he said. “I’m perplexed about the whole thing.”

Florida’s 21st Congressional District includes a slice of South Florida that encompasses Mar-A-Lago, President Trump’s home residence since last year. Running for a seat that could give Republican representation to President Trump in Washington electrified the campaign in what is a heavily Democratic district.

The president voted by mail in the election, Palm Beach County officials confirmed to NPR. On Wednesday morning he sent Loomer tweets congratulating her for the win.

“But I doubt that he voted for her,” said Vilardi.

Kelly LeFaivre, a friend and volunteer who helped with Vilardi’s campaign, said Loomer’s entire platform and public persona are an embarrassment to the Republican Party and a potential red flag for independent voters who might still be undecided. Loomer has called Muslims across the world “savages,” and has taken other racist, offensive positions under the purported guise of freedom of speech.

“It’s very concerning. I couldn’t vote for her, she doesn’t seem serious,” said LeFaivre. “Even though she’d be the Republican on the ticket.”

“Her behavior is just not in line with what I think should represent the party,” she added.

Candidate Elizabeth Felton said the biggest problem she has with Loomer’s candidacy is that she doesn’t know anything about Loomer’s actual platform on issues like school choice, gun control and government regulations.

Felton said that’s because Loomer never showed up to any debates, including one in which Democratic incumbent Lois Frankel participated. Felton said she ran into Loomer at a public library and asked if she was going to participate in that event.

“She told me that she hadn’t been invited,” said Felton. “I handed her my phone and literally let her send the invitation to herself, and she still didn’t show up.”

If any other candidate had won the nomination, Felton would support their candidacy. But when it comes to Loomer she will not offer support moving forward.

“She’s got a hardcore extremist base, but that’s all she’s got and they’re not the majority. We had candidates who could have pulled from the middle or pulled from the left but she ain’t it,” said Felton. “It’s not the party, it's human nature. When you have a person and you put a little bit of celebrity on it, people want to get next to it and support it.”

“We’re gonna get hammered,” she said of the November election.

Loomer’s campaign capitalized on her celebrity status among what was once a fringe section of the right. She has regularly appeared on InfoWars, an internet show hosted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Since launching her campaign she has received endorsements from Republican Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz and Republican Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, along with other prominent figures of the right.

Campaign finance records show that the majority of Loomer’s campaign cash, well over $1 million, has come from out of state as a result of her national appeal. By contrast, her opponents largely raised money locally.

The nominee is originally from Arizona, but went to college at Barry University in Miami Shores.

Christian Acosta came second in the race, picking up just over 25 percent of the votes. He said for the most part he doesn’t understand “what her candidacy is,” and suggested that moving forward, Loomer’s campaign should focus on issues in the district and stop painting all Muslims as terrorists.

“I’m a Republican because I value the constitution and limited government. Religious freedom is number one. So that’s the only thing I would want to see. Moderate the language on that. Don’t paint people with a broad brush,” he said.

Acosta plans to volunteer with the Trump campaign moving into November, and said for the moment he doesn’t plan to support Loomer with campaign activities, unless they’re incidental to the presidential campaign.

“I would lean towards supporting her with my vote. The main thing I have a problem with is: I can’t support Lois Frankel because she’s trying to impeach the president. And whether you like the president or not, I support him,” said Acosta. “I’m gonna support the person who is gonna work best with our president, period. But I do hope Laura takes down a couple of notches [on] the discussion about people’s religious choice.”

One of the candidates in the race vowed that the fight against Loomer is not over, placing her hopes in the highly unlikely prospect that a jumbled, confusing federal lawsuit she filed in federal court will hasten a new primary election for the seat.

“She’s not for the people, she’s for herself,” said candidate Reba Sherrill. “She behaves like a Democrat, claiming to be a Republican.”

In the lawsuit filed last Friday in the Southern District of Florida, Sherrill presents a dizzying array of allegations against Loomer, along with a request to the Florida Elections Commission that a new election be held.

The allegations in the suit range from claiming Loomer has not paid campaign staffers to alleging she does not have a legal address in Florida to suggestions that she is an Israeli foreign agent, to claiming Loomer — through President Trump ally Roger Stone — is somehow in cahoots with people close to deceased Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo in order to help a Dominican-Chinese company sway a U.S. election.

None of those claims have been warranted by the federal court or independently fact checked.

One possible explanation for the jumbled nature of the claims in the lawsuit is the fact that Sherrill is an admitted follower of QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that — in broad terms — believes President Trump and an anonymous ally in the federal government will soon save humanity from a Democratic child sex trafficking ring. Her platform also calls on banning vaccines.

“Loomer is very limited in what she speaks about. She’s for the First Amendment, yeah I am too. But I’m also for the Second Amendment, and we need to start tackling child sex trafficking with all the strength of the federal government,” said Sherrill.

Sherrill hopes that a federal court will soon mandate another primary election, an seemingly highly unlikely scenario. But if that doesn’t work, and Loomer ends up on the ticket, she will not support her as a candidate.

“I will be campaigning against her,” she said. “There’s write-in candidates, there’s other people running in this race.”

Daniel Rivero is part of WLRN's new investigative reporting team. Before joining WLRN, he was an investigative reporter and producer on the television series "The Naked Truth," and a digital reporter for Fusion. He can be reached at drivero@wlrnnews.org
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