Joey Gibson, a Vancouver man who rose to prominence in the past year after his conservative group’s political rallies sparked counterprotests and violence, announced Sunday he intends to run for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell.
Gibson, who will run as a Republican, announced his campaign Sunday at a gathering at the Red Cross Building at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
At the event Sunday, Gibson described the decision as an outgrowth of his libertarian and conservative activism, saying he had been waiting for others to take up the mantle in the electoral realm – but eventually decided that was ultimately transferring responsibility.
“I was waiting for someone else to make this change,” he said.
Gibson’s profile grew in the months following the 2016 presidential election, as his Patriot Prayer group began organizing multiple rallies and what they billed as “free speech” events in Vancouver, Portland and, pointedly, other West Coast cities typically seen as bastions of political liberalism.
Gibson characterized the demonstrations as efforts to rally conservatives in traditionally Democrat-supporting regions and to put on display hypocrisy among liberals hostile to his group.
The rallies were frequently rowdy and sometimes violent, drawing counterprotesters and members of antifacist groups, or antifa.
Despite disavowing their ideologies and claiming such people aren’t welcome at his rallies, Gibson continues to draw fire for the white nationalists, white supremacists, fellow travelers and other members of the extreme right wing seen at the events.
That group includes Jeremy Christian, who is accused of fatally stabbing two men on a Portland MAX train who attempted to intervene as he launched racist invective at two young women in May.
At his announcement Sunday, Gibson kept to the populist, libertarian and conservative message of his other rallies, and advocated for term limits, curbing the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on health care and an audit of the FDA. He also called for a national sales tax, sometimes called a “fair tax,” and for abolishing the IRS, creating policy to reinvigorate American manufacturing and for ensuring the right of all Americans to own rifles, specifically, is protected.
“Everything that I do, everything is going to be freedom first,” he said. “You’re going to hear that a lot, OK? Because we have to put freedom before every policy question – you have to. That has to be a foundation, that has to be a principle.”
No establishment Republican candidate has announced a run against Cantwell, who won in 2012 with 60 percent of the vote and has a reported $4 million war chest for her campaign.
“This is going to be the biggest underdog story that you’ve ever heard,” Gibson said.