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One man was a Capitol Police officer. The other rebelled on January 6. They are both running for Congress

2024 Elections Capitol Riot

FILE – Violent insurrectionists loyal to then-President Donald Trump attempt to breach a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

(AP) – For Derrick Evans, being part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol wasn’t enough. The former West Virginia lawmaker wants to make his path to the halls of Congress permanent.

On the other side of the metal barricades, police officer Harry Dunn couldn’t stand what he saw that day as he defended the Capitol and its residents from rioters on January 6, 2021. Ultimately, the Maryland resident watched as the lawmakers he protected voted. to exonerate former President Donald Trump and deny the violence and trauma that led to the deaths of some of his fellow officers.

On Tuesday, Evans and Dunn will make bids for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in their respective primaries. They enter the election with dramatically different interpretations of what happened that day, and their actions during Tuesday’s primaries in West Virginia and Maryland could indicate whether voters’ views on the attack and its significance will change over the course of time has changed.

As they terrorized the Capitol for an entire afternoon, the rioters wielded pipes, batons and bear spray. They used flagpoles as weapons, brutally beat police officers, chanted that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence, broke through glass and burst through doors as lawmakers were frantically evacuated. A Georgia man bragged about “feeding” a police officer to the crowd. More than a hundred police officers were injured, many beaten and bloodied. At least nine people who were there died during and after the riots, including a female rioter who was shot by police.

More than 1,350 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 850 of them have been convicted; roughly two-thirds received prison sentences ranging from a few days to 22 years.

The two candidacies “symbolize a shift on the part of the two major parties regarding their commitment to law and order,” said Timothy Naftali, a senior scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

It’s remarkable, Naftali said, that on the same day a former police officer could become a Democratic nominee, while Republicans could select “an unrepentant criminal” in Evans, who “proudly demonstrates that he broke the law on January 6.”

“That’s a split screen you might not have imagined 15 years ago,” he said.

While Evans is seen as a sure bet to dethrone an established incumbent and doesn’t have the fundraising advantage that Dunn enjoys in Maryland, their candidacies at least raise the possibility that they could serve together while holding starkly different views about the violence and destruction of Jan. 6. But even if Dunn wins and Evans loses, he would serve alongside dozens of Republicans who have come to view the defendants as “hostages.”

Dunn, a 40-year-old Democrat, resigned from the Capitol Police last December after more than 15 years on the job. He was four years short of qualifying for a pension.

“I am running for Congress because the forces that fueled the violent attack on January 6 are still at work in our country, and as a patriotic American I believe it is my duty to act and protect our democracy.” defense,” Dunn said. .

Dunn leads all candidates in fundraising in Maryland’s 3rd District race by a wide margin, with $4.6 million raised and $714,000 cash on hand, according to his latest campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission.

Evans, a 39-year-old Republican and staunch Trump supporter, calls himself the only elected official who “had the courage” to back efforts to temporarily halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. He livestreamed himself on Facebook, cheering what he described as a “revolution.”

Evans was arrested two days after the riot and resigned from his seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates a month before the 2021 legislative session. He pleaded guilty to a civil disorder charge and served three months in jail. During his sentencing hearing, Evans apologized for his actions, but made a U-turn when he left prison. He began to portray himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution.

Evans once called himself a Democrat and finished sixth out of seven candidates in a state House primary in 2016. He then switched to the Libertarian Party in the general election, finishing last out of five candidates.

Evans is running against West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District Representative Carol Miller, also a strong Trump supporter. In 2022, Miller received 66% of the vote in a five-candidate Republican Party primary on her way to winning her third term in Congress.

Miller is focused on her own achievements and endorsements, and not on any criticism of Evans or his status as a defendant on Jan. 6.

“I don’t think about him at all,” she said.

Dunn is one of nearly two dozen Democrats running in Maryland’s third congressional district, where incumbent Democrat John Sarbanes is not seeking reelection. The heavily Democratic jurisdiction extends between Baltimore and the nation’s capital.

Trump and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik have called the Jan. 6 defendants who went to prison “hostages,” reflecting a changing tone among some conservatives toward the violent effort to overturn the election results. Evans wrote a book in 2023 titled ‘Political Prisoner: The Untold Story of 6th January’.

“I think it fits into the general theme of what is considered accepted political behavior by some Republicans in the 1920s, which probably wouldn’t have been the case 10 to 20 years ago,” said Scott Crichlow, associate professor of political science. University of West Virginia. “Specifically, I think it fits into the general behavior of Derrick Evans. But that also seems, at least among some Republicans, to increasingly fit in with what you want to see candidates do and say today.”

Later this month, another convicted Jan. 6 defendant, building inspector Chuck Hand, is running in a U.S. Republican House primary in Southwest Georgia’s 2nd District. Hand faces three other Republicans on May 21 for the right to run against Democratic incumbent Bishop Sanford. Hand and his wife, Mandy Robinson-Hand, were convicted of parading and picketing at the Capitol. Both were sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Both Hand and Evans repeat the false claims Trump continues to make that the 2020 election was stolen.

Dunn is disgusted by such rhetoric.

“I will not sit on the sidelines while Donald Trump and his MAGA allies in Congress try to tear our country apart,” he said, referring to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

How much legitimacy rioters’ candidacies have remains to be seen. None of those seeking public office have gained much traction among voters yet.

In New Hampshire, riot suspect Jason Riddle plans to run in a crowded Republican Party primary for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in the state’s Second District. The filing period for candidates for the September 10 primary is early June. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster announced in March that she will not seek a seventh term. Riddle was sentenced to 90 days in jail for helping himself to some wine from a lawmaker’s liquor cabinet and stealing a Senate trial book that he later sold.

In Arizona, Jacob Chansley, the spear-wielding rioter whose horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint made him one of the more recognizable figures of the riot, served about 27 months of a 41-month prison sentence. He hoped to run as a Libertarian for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District seat, but failed to meet the deadline for submitting the required petition signatures to get his name on the ballot.

Tuesday’s primaries in Maryland and West Virginia will provide a more tangible test.

“On the one hand, Evans sees it as something to be proud of. Dunn sees it as something that should never happen again,” Crichlow said. “And in that way, these two campaigns really capture fundamentally different perspectives on the past few years in politics and what politics will look like in the future.”