State Senate candidate Wendy Rogers makes no apologies about being a “charter member” of Oath Keepers, a militia-like organization that claims 25,000 members and remains at the forefront of a growing militia movement in the U.S.
Attorney Stewart Rhodes launched Oath Keepers in 2009 and embraces assorted conspiracy theories, most involving resistance to the federal government.
The group first came to attention in staging a counterprotest in the Ferguson riots. They also joined an armed standoff against the federal government in Nevada to support rancher Clive Bundy, who refused to pay his federal grazing fees.
Rhodes at one point said Senator John McCain should be hung for treason.
Rogers has often echoed the strident claims of the Oath Keepers, decrying protests, protesters and a socialist effort to destroy the country in those fundraising appeals.
In one appeal, she compared herself to Kyle Rittenhouse, a right-wing demonstrator who got into a confrontation at a Black Lives Matter protest and shot and killed two protesters.
“It happened to Kyle Rittenhouse, it happened to Senator Rand Paul, and now the extreme left is doing it to me! You have seen what the far left has done to Portland, Seattle, Kenosha, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and other cities. Now they are trying to bring that same course of destruction and murder to Arizona, to Flagstaff. I will be the greatest enemy Soros has in Arizona! ... If we lose, Soros and antifa will cancel us all! There is no turning back. I must win! Don’t let antifa do to Arizona what they did to Portland. They hate us just like the socialist rioters do!”
Rogers has so far skipped two broadcast debates, and her mailings and campaign website mostly avoided taking positions on local issues.
Rogers first publicly claimed membership in Oath Keepers during her unsuccessful 2018 bid for Congress and repeated that claim in campaign mailings in her current run for the District 6 state Senate seat. Rogers, a retired Air Force pilot and colonel, defeated longtime Sen. Sylvia Allen in the Republican primary.
Rogers has raised record-breaking sums for a state Senate seat. So far she has raised more than $900,000 and spent $713,000. The race has also drawn an avalanche of outside money — with $300,000 in independent expenditures on her behalf and $890,000 in independent expenditures against her, according to the latest secretary of state’s filings. Her expenditures include almost $500,000 spent on winning the primary.
Rogers now faces Democrat Felicia French, a retired Army colonel, helicopter pilot and nurse. District 6 stretches from Flagstaff to the New Mexico border and includes all of Rim Country and the White Mountains.
French has raised $512,000 and spent $313,000, according to the most recent filings. Outside groups have spent $500,000 to support her and $463,000 to oppose her.
The role of militias in violent confrontations has gained attention in the current election, with armed counterprotesters turning out to counter Black Lives Matter and anti-racist protests nationwide. The demonstrations have led to street fights and killings, some involving pro-Trump militia members and some involving people supporting the Black Lives Matter protests. President Trump spurred national headlines in the first debate when he told the Proud Boys — another militia-like group — to “stand down and stand by” when asked to disavow white supremacists.
Oath Keepers was formed in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a Libertarian blogger and since-disbarred Yale-educated lawyer. He sought to recruit police officers and military veterans who would “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” by disobeying tyrannical government orders, including restrictions on guns, blockades of American cities and others. “The greatest threats to our liberty do not come from without, but from within,” he wrote online.
More recently, the group has sent armed members to protests, defended Rittenhouse and urged followers to arm themselves and investigate a conspiracy theory that claims President Trump is working to break up a worldwide group of elite pedophiles. The group fears America will be taken over by a New World Order that will impose a socialist, tyrannical government — starting with a movement to confiscate guns.
Oath Keepers showed up for the armed standoff with federal authorities in 2014 at the ranch of Cliven Bundy in Nevada. However, the Oath Keepers lost status with militia groups when they left the ranch after hearing rumors the federal government was planning a drone attack.
The Oath Keepers then sent teams to Ferguson, Mo. to protect businesses after protests of the killing of Michael Brown by police spurred riots. Brown’s killing ultimately led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The group responded to President Trump’s warnings of vote fraud in 2016 by sending poll watchers to the polls to protect Trump voters, according to a profile of the group that ran in the Atlantic Monthly. When President Trump warned of the potential for Civil War at the onset of the impeachment proceedings, Rhodes Tweeted “This is the truth. This is where we are.”
Rhodes insists the Black Lives Matter protesters are “Marxists” representing a foreign enemy.
The group defines itself as “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first-responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to “defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” This means they “will not obey unconstitutional orders, such as orders to disarm the American people, to conduct warrantless searches, or to detain Americans as “enemy combatants” in violation of their ancient right to jury trial.’”
Recently Rhodes tweeted, “Civil War is here, right now. We’ll give Trump one last chance to declare this a Marxist insurrection and suppress it as his duty demands. If he fails to do HIS duty, we will do OURS.”
In another tweet he said, “we ARE on the verge of a HOT civil war. Like in 1859. That’s where we are.”