Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the history of the U.S. House, has represented Ohio’s 9th Congressional District since 1983. It was generally assumed that the Democratic incumbent would continue to fare well — right up until Ohio’s Republican-led state legislature dramatically altered her district to make it far more friendly to the GOP.
All the party needed was a strong candidate.
As we discussed in May, the top contenders appeared to be two Republican state legislators, both of whom had won multiple elections in the area, but local voters had a different idea: They rallied behind J.R. Majewski, who was known for painting a 19,000-square-foot pro-Trump banner on his front lawn.
But that’s not all he did. Majewski also attended then-President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, “expressed sympathy” for adherents of the QAnon delusion, and ran an ad showing him carrying an assault-style rifle and telling voters, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to return this country back to its former glory. ... If I’ve got to kick down doors, well, that’s just what patriots do.”
Majewski won the primary — either despite or because of this record — by roughly 5 points.
By all appearances, this was poised to be one of the year’s most competitive and closely watched U.S. House races. That is, until The Associated Press published this report Wednesday.
Campaigning for a northwestern Ohio congressional seat, Republican J.R. Majewski presents himself as an Air Force combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, once describing “tough” conditions including a lack of running water that forced him to go more than 40 days without a shower. Military documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request tell a different story.
Though the GOP candidate repeatedly claimed he served in Afghanistan, the evidence shows otherwise. The AP’s report added, "Majewski’s account of his time in the military is just one aspect of his biography that is suspect. His post-military career has been defined by exaggerations, conspiracy theories, talk of violent action against the U.S. government and occasional financial duress."
Republican campaign committees and their leaders will tolerate a staggering amount of lying, but lying about military service is a much tougher sell. With this in mind, the National Republican Congressional Committee, which planned to spend roughly $1 million in support of Majewski in the coming weeks, canceled their plans yesterday.
As Axios put it, the party is now “all but surrendering the seat to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.”
In theory, Trump — who endorsed Majewski and gave him a speaking slot at a campaign rally in Ohio this past weekend — could intervene and offer the candidate financial support, but there’s little to suggest such a rescue is likely.
As for the bigger picture, let’s not forget that throughout 2022, this Ohio district was seen as a key opportunity for Republicans to flip a U.S. House seat from blue to red. Had the party cared about vetting, qualifications, and steering clear of ideological extremists, Kaptur might very well be an underdog ahead of Election Day.
And yet, GOP voters went in a more radical direction — and it’s hard not to wonder how many more examples like these we’ll see over the next 6½ weeks.