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Arizona Democrat Delina DiSanto’s congressional campaign began with a ride across the desert. She announced her bid to unseat the incumbent in her district, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), with an ad that featured DiSanto riding her Harley and calling Gosar “a traitor and a cancer to democracy.”
DiSanto, who has run for Congress twice before, is betting that Gosar’s role promoting election conspiracy theories before, during, and after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will backfire and help her drum up new levels of attention and support for her underdog bid to unseat him.
In an interview with The Uprising last week, DiSanto described Gosar as “a danger” and characterized his defense of January 6 rioters as “insane.”
“He is a downright traitor to his country. I mean, he really did lead the insurrection on our capitol,” she said.
Gosar, whose office did not respond to requests for comment, has indeed been drawing national attention in recent months amid his ongoing efforts to promote the false claims President Trump won the election and his connections to the January 6 siege.
The congressman, a former dentist who was first elected as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010, was identified as the main organizer in Arizona on a website of the “Stop The Steal” movement, one of the major groups that helped spread conspiracy theories about Trump’s loss and plan the January 6 Capitol protest that turned violent. In December, Gosar spoke at a “Stop The Steal” event in Phoenix against a backdrop that included a confederate flag and urged the crowd to “conquer the hill” and return Trump to office.
Gosar was also one of the listed speakers at the “Wild Protest,” one of the main “Stop The Steal” events that drew crowds of Trump supporters to DC on January 6. The group’s founder, Ali Alexander, has claimed Gosar was one of three Republican lawmakers who helped plan that event. Since January 6, as over 400 people who broke into the Capitol have been arrested, Gosar has fought efforts to investigate the attack, by falsely suggesting that the crowds who stormed the building were unarmed and defending the rioters as “peaceful patriots.”
DiSanto described the last comment as “insane” and noted that multiple members of Gosar’s own family have campaigned against him in the past for his extremist views.
“I don't know where his reality is,” DiSanto said of Gosar. “He lives in a different world of his own. He's in his own mind. His family’s even said that.”
DiSanto also pointed out that Gosar’s ties to extremists go beyond his recent involvement with “Stop The Steal” and the Capitol protests. In late February, Gosar delivered the keynote speech at an event hosted by a well-known white nationalist. And DiSanto noted Gosar was a major supporter of the standoff rancher Cliven Bundy and armed militia groups had with federal officials in 2014.
“He actually started this back in 2014 with Cliven Bundy and all those insurrectionists and white supremacists there,” DiSanto said.
For DiSanto, these things show Gosar’s priorities are in the wrong place.
“His own agenda is not working for the people of Arizona. He's not working... to get jobs here or healthcare. I mean, he's been fighting, uh, the [Affordable Care Act] forever,” DiSanto said. “He's voted against the Sampson Act for women veterans to have healthcare. I mean, he doesn't work for us. He has his own agenda and it is treason. It is working with white supremacy.”
Gosar was one of only ten House members who voted against the Sampson Act, which passed the House in 2019.
For DiSanto, a registered nurse and mother who runs a construction business with her husband, healthcare is a major priority. She has previously worked as a finance director at hospitals and said the issue is “really, really important to me.”
“There's so many gaps that are going on in our system today and we've seen it with COVID and what it has done with our healthcare system,” DiSanto explained. “We desperately need to have an affordable healthcare plan and we need to revamp our healthcare system.”
On this front, DiSanto describes herself as a “moderate progressive” who invokes former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Need It” plan when asked about the new approach she’d like to see for healthcare.
Of course, before she can play a role in the healthcare debate, DiSanto will need to win. And that’s going to be a decidedly uphill battle, especially given that the congressional seat represents one of the most staunchly Republican pockets of the state. DiSanto has unsuccessfully run twice previously. In 2018, she was defeated in the Democratic primary. In 2020, Gosar beat DiSanto by nearly 40 points.
This time, DiSanto believes she has a new spotlight and more support for her campaign thanks to national awareness of Gosar’s ties to January 6. She pointed to her social media following, which includes nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, which is over six times as many as she had prior to the defeat last year, as evidence of newfound traction.
“I'm not naive. I know it's going to be a tough race, but we have the attention and we're collecting the resources right now. … That's really what I've needed,” DiSanto said. “It has to come onto a national level. ... I believe, with the attention and the resources, we're going to be able to put Paul Gosar totally out of office.”
She continued: “People are going to start realizing we don't want the chaos anymore. “We're tired of it. Their quality of life is more important than having to deal with the fear, and the anger, and the lies that are continuing.”