Texas Among States with Most ‘Extremist-Tied’ Candidates Running for Office This Year

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of "extremist-tied" political candidates.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of "extremist-tied" political candidates. Mike Brooks
Everything is extremer in Texas, and that’s also true when it comes to those running for office this year, according to a new report.

Released on Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based hate monitor, the report says Texas has five extremist-linked candidates running in upcoming elections, leaving the state tied with Arizona for the third most such candidates. (Florida leads the pack with seven, while California and North Carolina are tied with six each.)

Around the country, the SPLC tallied “66 extremist-tied candidates on ballots,” although the watchdog said the list was not “exhaustive” and would be updated throughout the rest of the electoral season.

“Nothing appears to be off limits with these hard-right extremist candidates. We’ve documented everything from Klan affiliations, to antisemitic and QAnon conspiracies propagandists, to militia leaders,” Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, said in a press release.

“This snapshot into the problem indicates a threat at all levels of our democracy, from local sheriff races to candidates for federal office,” Corke added.

The Texans are incumbent U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne, incumbent Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and incumbent U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, as well as U.S. Congressional candidates Mayra Flores and Johnny Teague.

"Nothing appears to be off limits with these hard-right extremist candidates." - Susan Corke, Southern Poverty Law Center

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Flores, who’s running for District 34 in South Texas, earned a spot on the list for railing against COVID-19 vaccines and sharing QAnon-related posts on social media outlets, the SPLC notes in a dataset.

She's denied backing the conspiracy theory, which purports that a supposed satanic cabal of prominent Democrats and famous liberals sit atop a child sex-trafficking empire. (“I’ve always been against any of that," she told the San Antonio Express-News earlier this month. "I’ve never been supportive of it.")

Teague, a pastor vying for District 7 slot in the Houston area, landed on the list after similarly retweeting QAnon-related posts. Teague will compete in a runoff on May 24 against Tim Stroud. (On his website, Teague cites Biblical verses as the basis for stricter border controls.)

Dan Patrick, of course, is no shocker, and the SPLC flagged several comments he’s made in the past as evidence of his links to extremist groups and fringe conspiracy theories.

Among those were remarks Patrick made about Haitian immigrants last September, including his claim that migration was part of a supposed “silent revolution” to “take over our country without firing a shot.” (The comments ring eerily similar to “The Great Replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory that has inspired anti-migrant mass shootings such as the one at an El Paso Walmart in August 2019 that left 23 people dead.)

Gov. Greg Abbott and several other Texas Republicans have amplified the same anti-migrant rhetoric, much of which overlaps with the El Paso shooter's manifesto, but Abbott didn't make the SPLC's list.

Patrick also endorsed so-called anti-Sharia law legislation in the Texas Legislature in 2014, backing a bill that was widely blasted as Islamophobic.

Van Duyne, who served as the mayor of Irving from 2011 to 2017, became the District 24 representative in January 2021. She previously served in former President Donald Trump’s administration. She’s cozied up to the anti-Muslim groups like ACT for America and the Center for Security Policy in the past, and since joining Congress, she’s promoted anti-migrant claims such as the assertion that the migrants are “invading” the U.S.

In a September 2021 tweet, she claimed that Del Rio was "in crisis Joe Biden has purposefully destroyed our border, allowed this invasion to occur, and is endangering our national security."

Babin, who represents Texas' District 36 in Congress, has appeared at events featuring white nationalists and anti-immigrant advocates, has supported “English-only” legislation and has proposed a moratorium on refugee resettlement in the U.S, the SPLC added.

In a tweet posted in September, Babin seemed to suggest the U.S. was at perilous risk by bringing Afghan refugees for resettlement: “Take a look at the raging #BidenBorderCrisis – is it really a wonder why we don't trust the vetting process for the thousands coming to the US from a Taliban-controlled nation?”

In the past, Babin has gone to bat for QAnon enthusiast U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and in March 2021, he took to Twitter to sound the alarm over the U.S.-Mexico border, sharing a link to an article published by the SPLC-designated hate group the Center for Immigration Studies. "Even the cartels are overwhelmed by the border crisis," he wrote. "Let that sink in." 
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.