Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette marched with members of a right-wing extremist group prior to the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to footage recently unearthed on social media.
NEW: @NBCNews has verified these images of Barnette marching toward the Capitol on Jan 6 alongside member of the Proud Boys who were later arrested and indicted for breaking into the building and attacking officers. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/CzGgLOhQWn
— Dasha Burns (@DashaBurns) May 16, 2022
Responding to NBC News, Barnette’s campaign said, “Kathy was in DC to support President Trump and demand election accountability. Any assertion that she participated in or supported the destruction of property is intentionally false. She has no connection whatsoever to the proud boys.”
Over the last week, Barnette has surged into contention for the race to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. After months trailing two well-funded candidates, Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, Barnette has recently closed the gap and is seen as a top contender for the nomination.
Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington, D.C., is suing the Proud Boys for its involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. “Our intent is to hold these violent mobsters and these violent hate groups accountable and to get every penny of damage that we can,” Racine said in December.
The pro-Trump group’s leader, Enrique Tarro, was arrested in March on conspiracy charges related to the insurrection. Five other Proud Boys associates were also charged for their alleged connections to the Jan. 6 violence.
Barnette has been a prominent promoter of election conspiracy theories, including organizing buses to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the violence at the Capitol. She has contended that there were irregularities in her own 2020 House race for a safe Democratic district, which she lost by 19 points to Rep. Madeleine Dean.
Barnette is a close political ally of Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the frontrunner for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination. Mastriano was also in Washington on Jan. 6 and was subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the events of that day.
National Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have warned that Barnette would prove unelectable if she’s the GOP nominee this November. Her detractors note that she has a history of making Islamophobic and homophobic comments and has refused to clarify pieces of her biography, even to conservative outlets.
But Barnette, having run her campaign so far on a shoestring budget, recently received the backing of the Club for Growth, an anti-tax organization that is now running $2 million in TV ads for her. She also received the endorsement of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group.
In addition, Steve Bannon, the far-right media personality and sometime Trump adviser, embraced Barnette on his podcast on May 9.
“Barnette is a true-blue MAGA candidate and her victory would be a message from the grassroots that they want candidates who are dependably MAGA more than they want candidates who Trump endorsed,” Bannon’s website said.