Creative Commons Photo/Gage Skidmore Rep. Paul Gosar
Creative Commons Photo/Gage Skidmore

Rep. Paul Gosar has been in the center of much of the controversy surrounding the Capitol insurrection.

One of the major figures involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is up for election soon, and Democratic candidates are quickly stepping forward in an attempt to oust Rep. Paul Gosar.

“While the pandemic was being mismanaged, businesses were closing, and millions of jobs were lost, Congressman Gosar was promoting conspiracy theories and staging a coup,” Democrat Delina DiSanto said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “Proud boy Paul Gosar is a national embarrassment. I am in this race because those who betray our country, promote white supremacy, and support the big lie, don’t belong in Congress.”

Gosar—a 2020 election conspiracy theorist whose own family members even endorsed his opponent in 2018—has been in the center of much of the controversy surrounding the Capitol riot. Multiple reports tied him to the planning of the attempted siege, and he’s faced repeated calls to be disciplined for his role.

With the election still a year away, Democratic candidates DiSanto and Judy Stahl are already vying for his seat.

Gosar’s Role in the Insurrection

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. He’s consistently managed to win each run for reelection by an average of 42%.

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 also 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.

He 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. 

READ MORE: The Antics of Arizona Republicans Gosar and Biggs Have Become Notorious, but They Aren’t New

In the months since, Gosar has defended the rioters, calling them “peaceful patriots” and claimed that the Department of Justice is “harassing“ them. He also described the killing of Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter who was shot by the Capitol Police while trying to break through the chamber as an “execut[ion].”

Who’s Running Against Him

Gosar’s term doesn’t end until 2022, but opposers have already stepped forward, citing their frustration with the right-wing congressman.

Delina DiSanto—a registered nurse and construction company owner residing near Cave Creek—announced her bid for the seat in early May. She unsuccessfully challenged Gosar in 2018 and 2020.

Democrat Judy Stahl also declared her candidacy earlier this year. Stahl, a licensed massage therapist and massage educator, said her campaign was motivated by a desire for the people of the district to no longer be ignored in Washington. 

More candidates will likely emerge in the coming months.

Currently, the fourth district is one of the most conservative strongholds in the state, consistently voting red in overwhelming numbers. 

However, that could change as all the congressional boundaries are set to be redrawn later this year by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The general election is set for Nov. 8, 2022.