Far-right activist Laura Loomer built her name, and her notoriety, on her willingness to launch political attacks that hardly anyone else would. She crashed a performance of Shakespeare in the Park Julius Caesar which featured a Donald Trump stand-in being stabbed. She cheated undocumented immigrants to invade Nancy Pelosi’s lawn.
Perhaps most infamously, he responded to Twitter’s ban by handcuffing himself to a door outside the tech giant’s New York office while wearing a Star of David. (Since Loomer only chained himself to one door, Twitter employees could still get in and out of the building.)
Now in his second run for Congress, this time in a primary fight against Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), Loomer has found a strange new line of attack. His opponent, he claims, is so weak that he wears a Life Alert collar with a button to alert emergency services if she falls.
“We don’t need members of Congress walking around with Life Alert collars, too sick to vote,” Loomer told The Daily Beast, citing an image she says shows Webster wearing the collar.
However, despite Loomer’s insistence, there is substantial evidence that Webster is not wearing a Life Lock necklace. Instead, he appears to be using a personal air ionizer, a device meant to purify the air around him. Webster is so enthusiastic about the device that even praised at a 2021 House hearing.
Still, at a time when Republicans scour Joe Biden’s speeches for evidence that he is senile, Loomer’s attacks on Webster, 73, could get some traction. But Loomer, 29, is running in Florida’s 11th District, home to the sprawling retirement community known as The Villages, perhaps the worst place to mount an attack on an opponent’s age and health issues.
“If there’s any district in America that’s sympathetic to that, it’s that district,” said Dr. James C. Clark, an expert on Florida politics and a senior lecturer at the University of Central Florida. “Florida 11 has more residents age 65 and older than any district in the country. One in three people in the district is over 65 years old.”
Loomer’s attempts to win over older voters by attacking Webster’s age reflect his struggle to attack him from the right. After being defeated in her first campaign for Congress and losing by 20 points to a Democratic representative in another Florida district, Loomer now finds herself struggling to paint a well-established congressman with a near-perfect conservative record as a “republican only from Name”.
Even Loomer’s trademark public outbursts, a tactic his supporters have dubbed “Looming,” have been unsuccessful. In April, Loomer and Webster, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, attended a meeting of the local Republican club. After Webster left after giving a short speech, Loomer stood up and tried to win over the crowd by complaining that Webster had not answered questions.
Instead of winning over new voters, however, Loomer seemed to antagonize them. The white-haired crowd grew restless as Loomer spoke, and one woman yelled that her speech was upsetting her. An old man gently motioned for Loomer to sit down.
“This is not the place!” a woman who identified herself as a member of the state Republican caucus blasted Loomer.
Loomer gave up and sat down, grumbling to herself.
No public poll on the race has been released, and Loomer said his campaign would rather spend money campaigning than polling. There is some anecdotal evidence of enthusiasm for Loomer. Last month, a fleet of seniors drive golf carts held his campaign in The Villages. Loomer has raised about $100,000 more than Webster, but has also spent much more, leaving Webster with about $200,000 in cash on hand at the end of June.
But Loomer has failed to secure perhaps the only thing that could help her compete with Webster: the endorsement of Donald Trump. Loomer has made Webster’s decision to skip the post-Capitol riot impeachment vote against Trump a centerpiece of her campaign, implying that Webster abandoned Trump in his time of need. (Webster has said that he had a family medical emergency.) Yet even as she tries to cast herself as Trump’s most devoted supporter, the former president has remained silent.
Loomer insisted that Trump still has time to endorse her before the Aug. 23 primary in Florida.
“I can’t speak for the president, but I’m a supporter, he knows I’m a supporter,” Loomer said.
In Trump’s absence, Loomer has the backing of Roger Stone and Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. But his allies aren’t always consistent.
On Sunday, Loomer will campaign with Stew Peters, a former bounty hunter turned far-right internet talk show host known for promoting the idea that snake venom has been injected into the water supply to give satanic DNA to humans.
This week, Peters released a “documentary” aimed at reviving the satanic panic, including the claim that a whopping 0.5 percent of American households feature ghastly ceremonies designed to worship the devil. She also recently claimed that Loomer, who is Jewish, had converted to Christianity.
“Laura Loomer is covered in the blood of Jesus Christ,” the radio host declared Wednesday on the Telegram messaging app.
Loomer told The Daily Beast that she is a “proud Jewish woman,” saying she is not sure why Peters said she had converted. Still, she described herself as a supporter of “Christian nationalism,” the far-right theocratic movement espoused by Rep. Marjorie TaylorGreene (R-GA).
“I am for the Christian nationalist movement,” Loomer said.
It’s unclear why Loomer, who moved to the district last September, chose to run against Webster. Next door, Florida’s 7th District has a wide open Republican field, with incumbent Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) resigning to spend more time with her family. But Loomer had already declared her bid against Webster before Murphy announced her withdrawal.
“I don’t know for the life of me why she didn’t go next door,” said Clark, the longtime Florida political observer.
The Webster district poses other challenges for a newcomer. It’s a sprawling district with no unique media market, making it costly for Loomer to build his campaign through advertising.
To make matters worse, Loomer has made a series of decisions that seem designed to alienate voters. In 2018, she posed for mocking photos in front of a fatal bridge collapse. This November, after the elections, she speak at a white nationalist conference.
Loomer also appears willing to burn bridges with Republican leaders. He has called the Conservative Political Action Conference, which he was banned from after harassing journalists, “CringePAC.” Loomer has also attacked freshman Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX), who has been embraced by Republican bigwigs as a symbol of a more diverse GOP. In Telegram posts, Loomer has said Republican leaders paraded Flores like a “neon piñata” and accused Flores, who is Mexican-American, of harboring secret loyalties to Mexico.
“She has to be one of the dumbest new congresswomen,” Loomer wrote in a Telegram post. “She went bad faster than a gallon of milk.”
Asked about the big odds his campaign appears to face, Loomer insisted he could win.
“I’m going to win,” Loomer said. “I know there are a lot of haters out there.”