Controversial Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on Friday faces a challenge to her reelection by voters and a supporting legal group, who are seeking to knock her off the ballot for her role prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Greene is set to answer questions Friday in an Atlanta court as part of the candidacy challenge. That would make her the first Republican member of Congress to testify publicly under oath about the Capitol riot, even as a Democratic-led committee back in Washington, D.C., has spent months investigating the attack.
Greene is in front of a judge because a handful of voters in her district, represented by a nonprofit called Free Speech For People, say Greene should be disqualified because they allege she encouraged and supported the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Lawyers with Free Speech For People are leaning on a provision in the U.S. Constitution that forbids any member of Congress involved in an insurrection from serving in office. It’s a section of the 14th Amendment, passed in the years after the Civil War to prevent former Confederates from returning to their seats in Congress.
The legal theory is mostly untested in modern history because there hasn’t really been a serious insurrection since the Civil War.
Greene has long deployed violent rhetoric against her political opponents and has routinely spread false claims about the 2020 election, including in the leadup to Jan. 6, 2021.
Specifically, lawyers for Free Speech For People point to a tweet sent on Jan. 5, calling the next day a “1776 moment,” which is code for political violence in some far-right circles.
“Marjorie Taylor Greene fomented an insurrection on Jan. 6,” says Ron Fein, legal director for Free Speech For People. “She’s a danger in office to the entire republic.”
Greene says she has never encouraged political violence and this challenge to her candidacy is a lie and a scam designed to take away her constituents’ rights to vote for the candidate of their choice.
A similar challenge to Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy was tossed out by a judge in North Carolina. An appeal has been filed. Greene asked a federal court to dismiss her challenge, but the judge let the case proceed.
Now, a Georgia administrative law judge will lay out the facts of the case and make a recommendation to the Georgia secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, about whether Greene should remain on the ballot. Raffensperger is up for reelection himself and faces a high-profile GOP primary challenge, so he may be hesitant to make political waves by pulling Greene from the ballot before the May 24 primary.
Whatever the decision, it will almost certainly be appealed to a higher court.
Page Pate, a trial attorney in Georgia, says disqualifying Greene from the ballot might not be the challengers’ only goal.
“They want to hear her questioned under oath, to find out what involvement, if any, she had in this insurrection, and if she makes any false statement, she could be charged with perjury or perhaps some other crime,” Pate says.
Greene is popular in her north Georgia district, which stretches from the exurbs of Atlanta to the foothills of the Appalachians and the border with Tennessee. It’s one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country.
Nancy Hollandchad, a longtime volunteer with Paulding County Republican Women, says efforts to take on Greene only embolden her supporters.
“She’s my congresswoman, so I do support her,” she says. “I don’t like them trying to keep Marjorie off the ballot. They just don’t understand, they’re galvanizing the district more towards her.”
WABE politics editor Susanna Capelouto contributed reporting.