The Democratic candidate who was set to face Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican House candidate with a history of incendiary and conspiracy-spreading comments, dropped out of the race on Friday.
“I am heartbroken to announce that for family and personal reasons, I cannot continue this race for Congress,” Kevin Van Ausdal said in a statement.
Citing how “rhetoric has turned into dangerous extremism, like the candidacy of Marjorie Greene,” he continued, “I will put every resource, every bit of knowledge into the campaign that comes behind me to defeat Marjorie and restore hope to the people of Northwest Georgia.”
Greene’s GOP primary runoff victory last month put her in a strong position to win in the fall in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District – a solid Republican seat, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. While she is now running unopposed, the Democratic Party is able to pick a new candidate to run against Greene.
Since the primary, she has raised controversy stemming from several incendiary statements.
Greene asserted in a tweet on Tuesday that “children should not wear masks,” comments in sharp contrast with the recommendation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health professionals. Last week, she posted on her candidate Facebook page an image of herself holding a gun alongside images of Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, and encouraged going on “offense against these socialists.” Facebook removed the photo by the following day, saying it violated the social network’s policies.
A major flashpoint in the district’s Republican primary and general election has also been Greene’s past promotion of the wild and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory known as QAnon. Although the theory is nebulous enough to invite all kinds of interpretations from its adherents, at its core QAnon claims that President Donald Trump has been secretly fighting to bring down a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles that has infiltrated all levels of the US government and other elite institutions.
Greene has repeated and promoted QAnon theories and phrases, praising the mythical Q as a “patriot” in a video filmed in 2017 and describing the conspiracy theory as “something worth listening to and paying attention to.” She added, “(Q) is someone that very much loves his country, and he’s on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump.”
Trump congratulated Greene on Twitter after her primary win, saying she is “strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!”
CNN’s KFILE reported in August that in the years before she ran for office, Greene wrote two conspiracy-laden blog posts speculating that the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to one counter-protester’s death, was an “inside job” and promoting a debunked conspiracy alleging some Democratic Party leaders were running a human-trafficking and pedophilia ring known as “Pizzagate.”
CNN’s Michael Warren, Konstantin Toropin, Clare Foran, Alex Rogers, Veronica Stracqualursi, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck contributed to this report.