The Influence of Right-Wing Extremists on Ohio Politics

Extremists on Ohio Politics
Credits: The Nation

On January 6, 2024, the Proud Boys assembled at the Ohio Statehouse to commemorate Ashli Babbitt, three years after the failed Capitol Building insurrection, chanting, “Never forget Ashli Babbitt” and urging people to “say her name.”

The right-wing group We the People Freedom Ohio (WTPFO), catering to self-identified “TRUE patriotic Americans,” played a role in promoting the event.

Dawn Moody, the founder of WTPFO, also owns United Freedom Festival & Assembly, an LLC connecting far-right groups in Ohio. WTPFO is indicative of a shift in the conservative movement, gaining influence since the Trump era.

 Extremists on Ohio Politics
Extremists on Ohio Politics (Credits: ADL)

These groups, once considered fringe, are now actively shaping policy, rhetoric, and strategy as the Republican Party leans further to the right. In recent years, they’ve redirected their focus toward seemingly inconspicuous elections like school boards, state central committees, and local offices.

The precinct strategy, endorsed by figures like former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, is central to this shift. Advocates, like Jonathan Broadbent, a member of WTPFO and the Central Committee of the Geauga County Republican Party, aim to exert influence by taking control of local offices, challenging what they perceive as insufficiently conservative establishments.

Broadbent promotes this strategy on WTPFO’s platform, urging members to vie for local offices and create competition within the Republican party.

Other prominent figures within the Ohio conservative movement, including Stephanie Stock, President of Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom (OAMF), and members of state central committees, are affiliated with WTPFO.

Stock, also a candidate for the Ohio Republican Party’s State Central Committee, collaborates with extremist groups and endorses right-wing militias.

Her involvement in anti-vax legislation aligns with her political connections, receiving endorsements from state Representative Scott Wiggam, state Senator Andrew Brenner, and state Representative Jennifer Gross.

Dawn Moody, the founder of WTPFO, has been linked to domestic extremist organizations, as seen in photos where she sports patches from the Three Percenters, a far-right anti-government militia involved in the January 6 insurrection. Moody promotes events by the Oathkeepers and Ohio Militiamen, fostering ties with extremist elements.

The evolution of domestic extremist strategies is described as a shift “from the cartridge box to the ballot box,” where these groups, once on the fringes, now actively engage in mainstream politics.

The candidacy of Barack Obama in 2009 and the rise of the Tea Party provided an opening for militias to enter mainstream politics. The election of Donald Trump further solidified these connections, with extremist groups cultivating relationships with national political leaders.

A USA Today investigation in July 2022 revealed numerous candidates with extremist ties running for local offices across the country. In Ohio, the GOP endorsed candidates with antisemitic ties, and school board candidates secured the endorsement of groups like Moms for Liberty.

The aftermath of these connections is evident, with the impact of extremist elements persisting in various states nationwide. The complex interplay between these factions within the larger movement signifies an enduring shift in American politics that cannot be easily reversed.

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