Jan. 6 connections now seem to be GOP calling card, not career-ender: The Note

Democrats are emphasizing candidates' ties to extremist groups.

October 13, 2022, 6:04 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

There was a time when one might have assumed that, when the final House Jan. 6 committee hearing took place, involvement with the calamitous events of that day would prove to be a career-ender -- or at least make fundraising more onerous.

Something different has emerged out of primary season. Less than a month out from Election Day, attendance at the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the riot or involvement with efforts to overturn 2020 election results have become something of a calling card -- among both incumbents and challengers and across congressional races and campaigns for statewide office.

At least three GOP nominees in House races -- one in each North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin -- are seeking to come back to Capitol Hill as members of Congress after massing outside the building.

Others attending the Jan. 6 rally before the Capitol attack include Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem. Both are state lawmakers who came to Washington for the so-called "Save America" protest outside the White House, were in the vicinity of the Capitol later that day and both of have been questioned by authorities over their actions but maintain they did nothing improper.

There's also the broader group of candidates who were involved or alleged to have been involved in legal efforts to overturn the election, up to and even beyond Jan. 6. To cite just one awkward example, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Georgia -- a job that would make him the No. 2 to none other than Gov. Brian Kemp -- has drawn the attention of investigators and lawmakers for reported involvement with a fake electors scheme.

Meanwhile, as The New York Times reported last week, incumbents who voted against the 2020 election certification after electoral-vote counting was disrupted haven't seen their fundraising suffer, with corporate vows to boycott such candidates largely fading away.

Democrats are putting more emphasis on highlighting candidates' ties to extremist groups connected to Jan. 6. It's become a bigger issue in the Ohio and Wisconsin and Senate races and has been central to campaign messaging in battlegrounds including Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Thursday's committee hearing -- expected to be the last -- will focus heavily on former President Donald Trump's "state of mind and his involvement in these events as they unfolded," according to a committee aide who briefed reporters.

It's not yet clear that such a focus will extend up and down the ballot next month.

PHOTO: Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

As incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto aims to stave off a challenge from Republican nominee Adam Laxalt, she's received an unusual endorsement from members of Laxalt's family.

Fourteen relatives of his are listed on a three-page letter released Wednesday in support of Cortez Masto.

"Catherine has consistently demonstrated a fierce loyalty to her home state of Nevada," the letter reads. "She has always put Nevada first – even when it meant working against her own party's policies."

This isn't the first time that many of these same family members have spoken out against Laxalt. In 2018, when the former attorney general was then running for governor, members of his family wrote a column in The Reno Gazette-Journal. Unlike this most recent letter, which doesn't mention Laxalt by name, that column ripped the candidate for his "phoniness" and "willingness to ignore the law for self-serving political purposes."

Cortez Masto's campaign issued a statement on the endorsement this week. "The Laxalt family joins a growing list of Cortez Masto endorsers that includes Democrats, Republican leaders from across the state, and Nevada law enforcement, and she appreciates their support in this race," said Sigalle Reshef, a spokeswoman for the campaign. (Laxalt fired back on Twitter, saying most of the relatives "are Democrats ... They think that Nevada & our country are heading in the right direction. I believe Nevadans don't agree.")

His family's support for his rival comes with less than four weeks until Election Day and after strained domestic dynamics separately came to the fore in Herschel Walker's campaign in another high-profile Senate race.

PHOTO: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto participates in an  event discussing the DACA program in Las Vegas, Oct. 12, 2022.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto participates in an event discussing the DACA program in Las Vegas, Oct. 12, 2022.
John Locher/AP

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Candidates for Wisconsin's Senate seat as well as candidates in Michigan's gubernatorial contest are preparing to face off in a pair of debates Thursday evening. The events -- which will happen on the heels of what is likely to be the final Jan. 6 hearing -- could revive sentiments surrounding election denial given that each matchup features a Trump-endorsed, election skeptic.

Wisconsin's incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has been the subject of part of the committee's findings earlier this year which revealed, according to text messages from a senior Johnson aide, that he apparently wanted to deliver fake electoral votes for Donald Trump from Wisconsin and Michigan to Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021.

At the time of the development in June, ABC News' Benjamin Siegel reported that Alexa Henning, a spokeswoman for Johnson, insisted after the hearing that the senator "had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office."

Johnson himself blamed "some staff intern" but later appeared to acknowledge being briefly involved while saying nothing came of it and he had "no idea" what he'd be asked to deliver. Of the 2020 results, he has said both that there "were many irregularities" and that he found "nothing obviously wrong" in Wisconsin.

Johnson's Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, has gone on to blast Johnson's more recent comments claiming that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was "not an armed insurrection."

"Contrary to my opponent, I do believe that Jan. 6 was actually an insurrection. I do believe that people have tried to overthrow the government. I won't make excuses for them," Barnes said during a campaign event on Wednesday.

Recent polling conducted by Marquette University Law School indicates a widened margin among the two candidates -- after being separated by just 1% in September among likely voters in Wisconsin, Johnson is now supported by 52% of voters, versus Barnes' 46%.

In an apparent general election pivot this summer, Michigan's Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon had sidestepped saying whether she thought the 2020 election was stolen during a July appearance on Fox News and instead laid blame on Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Previously, Dixon indicated agreement with the false notion that Trump was the rightful winner of Michigan's presidential election.

As previously reported by FiveThirtyEight, out of 552 total Republican nominees running for office, 200 fully denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to a reporter during a campaign stop in Muskego, Wisc., Oct. 08, 2022.
Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to a reporter during a campaign stop in Muskego, Wisc., Oct. 08, 2022.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Power Trip

"Power Trip" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with a preview of the House Jan. 6 committee's latest hearing. ABC's Jonathan Karl leads us off. Then ABC's Aaron Katersky discusses Alex Jones and a jury's decision for him to pay nearly $1 billion to families in the Sandy Hook school shooting. And, ABC's Sony Salzman reports on the impact of a nationwide Adderall shortage. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • President Biden will deliver remarks touting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act in Los Angeles at 2:15 pm ET.
  • Michigan gubernatorial candidates Tudor Dixon, the Republican, and Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer meet for a debate at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Wisconsin's Senate candidates Mandela Barnes, the Democratic lieutenant governor, and Republican incumbent Ron Johnson meet for a debate at 7 p.m. ET.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Friday for the latest.

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