It was a question not for Marjorie Taylor Greene, but for the person trying to defeat her. And it was pretty much on the nail.
If the people of northwest Georgia were genuinely wishing for a change, Democrat Marcus Flowers was asked, then why did so many people vote for the incumbent in the primary.
It was not that just a few people had turned out for Greene, questioner Josh Roe of WTVC TV, pointed out. If you added all of the votes cast in the primary for three Democrats and five other Republicans, then the 72,098 bagged by Greene was more than all of them put together.
Flowers managed to get off a decent enough answer – “primaries are not general elections” – but the incident underscored a harsh reality for critics of Greene.
For all the gnashing of teeth by Democrats over her abrasive, right-wing policies, her promotion of conspiracy theories, defence of those involved in the January 6 riots and support for Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, the 48-year-old has an awful lot of support both nationally, and in her district.
She looks set to win an easy re-election, despite Democrats from outside of her district pouring money into it.
In that debate, Greene, a self-described Christian nationalist who assumed outsize influence on the Republican Party in little more than two years in the era of Donald Trump, responded to Flowers by calling him a liar, who had done nothing but send emails across the country asking for donations.
“If you’re a California Democrat sending money to Marcus Flowers, he’s paying himself to run for Congress and pretend that he can beat me in a blood red Republican district,” the mother-of-three she said with no small disdain.
“None of his Democratic defund-the police, America-last policies represent our district and I do.”
It was not always this way.
Greene, who was born in Milledgeville, 40 miles northwest of Wrightsville, the hometown of Herschel Walker, spent much of her adult life in the suburbs of Atlanta, in places such as Alpharetta, where she and her then husband owned a gym.
In 2019 she famously vented angrily about a” Drag Queen Story Hour” taking place at public library, and argued with staff.
Initially, she had talked about contesting in the more purple seventh or sixth districts, which have since been redrawn and as result lean more Republican, but which currently are held by Democrats.
Few think Greene would have won either of those seats as they were, but in late 2019 Republican Tom Graves, who had represented the 14th district, announced he was not seeking another term.
Greene, who opposes abortion and gun control and who says she would table articles of impeachment for Joe Biden in her first days as new member of Congress, rapidly shifted her focus.
In the the summer of 2020, she easily bettered the large field of male Republicans seeking the nomination and dispatched the Democrat with even greater ease in the general election. That task was made easier after the Democrat, Kevin Van Ausdal, pulled out of the race. Greene won 75-25, as the Democrat’s name remained on the ballot.
At the time many claimed that by electing Greene – who had in 2019 done stunts such as live-streaming from outside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional office and shouting through the door – the people of the 14th “did not know what they have done”.
But two years on they certainly do, and lots of people in places such as Rome, the biggest city in the district, have put out yard signs and banners for Greene and say they will be voting for her. One comment, voiced repeatedly to The Independent over the course of several sunshine-filled days in the district, is that they like the way she speaks her mind.
A 55-year-old cook who asked to be identified as JJ, said he was a strong supporter of Donald Trump, and would be supporting Republican Brian Kemp as governor.
He was also planning to vote for Greene. “She is the same as Trump,” he says. “She does not kiss anyone’s butt.”
Another Greene supporter is Melville Samms, a 62-year-old African American man, who says he will also be voting for Kemp, rather than the governor’s Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.
“I think Majorie Greene Taylor has done a good job,” he says.
Asked if he is concerned about the QAnon conspiracy theories she once used to share on social media, something for which she was condemned by minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and stripped of her committee assignments by Democrats, he says she is intentionally bringing such issues into the open. “She is being anti-QAnon.”
Some in the town make comments that sound nothing less than racist.
One woman who manages a store on Broad St denounces the “poor choice” in having to pick from Abrams, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock or his GOP challenger Herschel Walker – all of whom are Black – but has time for Kemp, who is white.
A 76-year-old white woman leaving a cycle shop with her husband, who asks to be identified as Sandra B, says she is a conservative.
Asked about the recent scrapping of Roe, she says abortion ought to be available in cases of rape or incest. She alleges some women intentionally get pregnant to obtain benefits, calls such individuals “baby mommas” – long considered a derogatory term – and says such abortions should not be available a matter of routine.
A 62-year-old man who asked to be identified as Tony S, said he would be voting Republican up and down the ticket, and said he was a fan of Trump.
“Marjorie Greene Taylor ruffles a few feathers,” he concedes. “But if you don’t stand up for our country…..”
Angie Vick, 66, an educator, says the nation is struggling with high inflation and a weak economy. A long time Republican, she says she will also be voting for Greene.
“I’m not especially fond of her and I did not vote in the primary,” she says “She’s very abrasive but she’s a Republican so I will vote for her.”
Not everyone is a fan of Greene, however.
Sheila and Terrell Shaw are longtime Democrats and in the garden of their quiet home near the centre of Rome are placed three signs – one for Abrams, another for Warnock and one for Flowers, the former military officer trying to defeat Greene.
The couple, aged 73 and 75 respectively, are utterly concerned about the state of the country and the state, and say they have never felt the nation so divided.
Shaw, a former school teacher, quotes Georgia’s motto – “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation” – but says things are getting more extreme, and less moderate.
“I don’t know how they elected (her)” he says of Greene, alleging she had financial backing that helped her get elected. “But she is probably going to get reelected.”
The couple say they have never known a situation where they had to watch their words with such care, if they were not in the company of people whose political views they knew.
“The country is divided, the city is divided, the churches are divided,” says Sheila Shaw. “Part of the problem is that people do not speak to each other directly anymore, while there are so many platforms such as Facebook.”
Another Rome resident and avowed Democrat, Pam Cordle, was leaving a service at the church not far from Broad Street, which runs through the city centre.
“I am a Democrat and I feel very strongly that we should support people who need help” She said was planning to vote for Abrams, Warnock and Flowers.
What did she think of Marjorie Taylor Greene?
“I’m embarrassed by her.”
But such embarrassment will count for little on election day.
In 2017, the Cook Political Report said the 14th district, which was only created in 2011 after a census awarded the state an additional seat in the House of Representatives, was the 10th most solidly Republican in the country.
The website Five Thirty Eight currently ranks 14th as a “R plus 45”, meaning Republicans start with a 45 point lead.
If you search around you can find a handful of districts more Republican, including Georgia’s ninth which is R plus 46, and Kentucky’s fifth which is R plus 60 ,and Alabama’s fourth, which is R plus 65. But there are not many.
Such is the advantage assumed by Republicans going into the race, that even though the campaign of Marcus Flowers has raised more than $10m to take on Greene, if it has paid to commission a poll, it has not released one.
Greene did not respond to inquiries from The Independent. Neither did the Floyd County Republican Party.
In her closing comments during the debate with Flowers, Greene thanked voters for electing her two years ago to go to Washington DC to “fight for your conservative traditional values”.
The added: “And no matter how many people lie about me, like my Democrat opponent, people in the media or anybody on the internet, I want you to know that I will stand up to these attacks and never change how I vote and how I legislate.”
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