The two representatives have quickly become the faces of Arizona’s Republican Party.
Rep. Paul Gosar was outlining his arguments for challenging Arizona’s electoral votes when rioters pushed their way into the US Capitol, sparking an hourslong insurrection that ultimately resulted in the deaths of five people.
It was the culmination of weeks of Gosar, Rep. Andy Biggs, and several other Arizona Republicans repeated stoking of outrage over an election they claimed was stolen—claims that were debunked again and again.
The Arizona lawmakers have been in the center of the Capitol fallout in recent weeks. Multiple reports have tied them to the planning of the attempted siege and both have faced repeated calls to be disciplined for their roles.
Both asked former President Donald Trump to preemptively pardon them for their roles in the insurrection, but he didn’t do so before leaving office.
For many, these attention-grabbing stunts were the first time they even heard of Biggs and Gosar and they’ve quickly become the faces of the state party. But Arizonans have grown familiar with their right-wing antics in recent years.
Here’s what you need to know:
Gosar, who grew up in Wyoming, has represented the 4th Congressional District since 2011. The Republican-dominant district spans a large swath of northwestern Arizona that stretches from the Nevada border to Prescott, rural portions of the East Valley, and down to Yuma.
Gosar ran a dentistry practice in Flagstaff from 1989 to 2010 and was once named the Arizona Dental Association’s “Dentist of the Year.”
Gosar was first elected to Arizona’s 1st Congressional District before moving to the heavily Republican 4th District after it was created through redistricting in 2012.
He’s managed to win his three elections by an average of 42%.
The first years of his tenure were relatively quiet, but Gosar quickly gained notoriety in 2017 when he pushed far-right conspiracies in a 2017 interview with “Vice News,” including that the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of one was planned by an “Obama sympathizer” and baseless allegations George Soros of having “turned in his own people to the Nazis”.
Following that, six of Gosar’s nine siblings appeared in campaign ads for his opponent where they called out their brother’s increasing extremism.
“It would be difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist,” sister Grace Gosar said in an ad for Gosar’s opponent, Democrat David Brill.
Gosar responded to the ad by tweeting that his siblings were all “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump.”
He added that “These disgruntled Hillary [Clinton] supporters [sic] are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. [Former Soviet Union dictator Joseph] Stalin would be proud.”
Despite this, Gosar won the 2017 race and maintained his seat.
He was sued in 2018 by the American Civil Liberties Union for blocking constituents on social media. The lawsuit claimed Gosar violated a Kingman woman’s constitutional right to free speech by blocking her. He subsequently ended the practice.
In 2020, Gosar called for the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants in attendance at Trump’s State of the Union address at the invitation of Democratic members of Congress. He’s repeatedly voiced his opposition to legal protections for young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
Gosar was among the protesters outside the Maricopa County elections center following the November General Election. Many carried guns and demanded to watch as the votes were being counted, even though poll workers were doing exactly that inside the building. Gosar spoke to the demonstrators over a megaphone and led the rowdy group in prayer.
He was also a fixture at a November daylong hearing at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix as Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis continuously made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in Arizona’s election.
Gosar encouraged his supporters to “hold the line” and “fight for Trump” ahead of the Jan. 6 attempted coup. He was the one who objected to Arizona’s votes during a joint session of Congress as lawmakers were certifying the electoral count when rioters stormed the building.
Gosar later denounced the insurrectionists’ actions on Twitter with an image of rioters climbing a perimeter wall. But the Phoenix New Times reported Gosar posted the same image on Parler, a right-wing social media platform, with a message that appeared to be sympathizing with the insurrection.
Gosar also later suggested with no evidence that certain Capitol intruders were affiliated with “Antifa.”
He voted to oppose Arizona’s Electoral College votes alongside Biggs, Rep. Debbie Lesko, and others after the attempted siege.
Biggs launched his political career after winning $10 million in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, making him financially independent. While the Gilbert Republican has a law degree from the University of Arizona, he doesn’t have to practice.
After eight years in the Arizona House, he was elected to the state Senate in 2010, and then was elected to represent Arizona’s 5th District in Congress back in 2016 which covers large swaths of the East Valley.
Biggs opposes abortion of any kind—including those involving rape, incest, or risk to the mother—in addition to supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He has also publicly questioned the scientific consensus on climate change and worked alongside anti-gay hate groups like United Families International.
He’s also appeared with far-right extremists like Laura Loomer and Christopher Farrell. He voted against compensation for 9/11 first responders and backpay for federal employees furloughed during the government shutdown in 2019 alongside Gosar.
READ MORE: Arizona’s Extreme Far-Right Has Been Brewing for Years and the Attempted Capitol Coup Shows It Can’t Be Ignored
On top of that, he was one of two Congress members who voted against the COVID-19 bill. His reasoning was because he objected to the fact that the bill’s definition of “couples” included same-sex partners.
Biggs has always been on the fringe, but he gained an increased level of notoriety in recent months for repeatedly stoking claims of election fraud.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biggs publicly questioned the effectiveness of masks as the number of deaths quickly grew in Arizona.
And, when Trump was hospitalized with the virus, Biggs posted on social media urging the president to take an unproven and potentially risky cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Z-pak.
In the weeks since the attack on the Capitol, Ali Alexander, a conservative activist who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” protest claimed that Biggs, Gosar, and Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks crafted the plan to “max pressure on Congress while they were voting” on whether to certify the results of the Electoral College.
Biggs was at Gosar’s side for much of the events following the general election. He’s also at the helm of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
While Biggs was inside the Capitol Alexander played a video the congressman had sent for the crowd.
“I wish I could be with you. I’m in the DC swamp fighting on behalf of Arizona’s residents and freedom fighters all over the country,” Biggs said on the video.
Footage shared to social media showed Biggs and other Republicans refuse to wear a mask while in a secure room with lawmakers during the riot. Several Democrats who were in the room said they tested positive for COVID in the days after.
Numerous Arizona Democratic lawmakers called for a federal probe into their role.
“They did all of this in public. What they did outside of plain view we do not yet know. But there is evidence to indicate that Arizona Representatives Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern, Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection on January 6,” the letter states. “We the undersigned members of the Arizona Legislature, urge you to fully investigate the extent of their involvement.”
Biggs denied giving reconnaissance tours in the days leading up to the Capitol siege after a Democratic lawmaker accused some members of Congress of doing so.
“I haven’t taken anyone on a tour of the Capitol in I don’t know how many months,” Biggs told KTAR.
“I know exactly where I was on Jan. 5, I had a series of meetings and then I was home with my family.”
Both Gosar and Biggs are up for re-election in 2023.
Contact Bree Burkitt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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