'It's not over,' Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, other conservatives tell America First Rally in Indian River County
Controversial conservatives excite hundreds over election fraud, cancel culture.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The local Republican Party rolled out a litany of speakers Saturday pushing conspiracy theories and election denial, headlined by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, before at least 300 people at an America First Rally.
The controversial event at the Indian River County Fairgrounds & Expo Center was condemned by the Indian River County Democratic Party.
It drew an excited crowd of conservatives wearing Trump paraphernalia. They often stood to applaud charges that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
“No matter how upset you are about the presidential election and no matter what you’re seeing in the news,” Greene said, “it’s not over. You want to know why? I’m there. And guess what else? This is bigger. All of you are here.”
Greene described herself as the “most canceled” person in Congress. She embraced censure by the U.S. House. And she hit major conservative talking points often heard on Fox News and far-right media outlets.
In a county, and a state, where the environment often is a bipartisan issue, she decried the Green New Deal as anti-business and claimed that electric-powered vehicles would make the country dependent on China for batteries.
The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Greene’s speech, about 40 minutes long, came against the backdrop of her latest Washington blow-up. She was linked to plans for an “America First Caucus,” which reportedly would promote the country’s Anglo-Saxon foundation. After a weekend of controversy, she distanced herself from what she called a draft proposal, on which she had not been consulted.
Despite that controversy in the days leading up to the rally, the Republican Women of Indian River, a club of the local party, carried on with the event. It initially was to be held at a local restaurant before the establishment backed down in the face of the fierce debate.
The rally was intended as an “educational, informative meeting so people can hear from the mouth of the candidates their views,” Pat Stelz, Republican Women of Indian River president, told TCPalm Saturday.
“Unfortunately sometimes the press changes thing, so people want to hear what they say,” she said.
The event was supported by Jay Kramer, chair of Indian River County Republican Executive Committee, who has maintained the presidential election was stolen.
Supporters say Rep. Green is being 'cancel-cultured'
The Indian River Freedom Coalition made its presence known as well.
“I support the speakers today primarily because they supported President Trump and shoring up the vote,” said Ruthie Kulvesky, coalition founder and director.
She said she thought Greene is being “cancel-cultured” and that the media takes her comments out of context, such as Greene's conspiracy on the cause of the Parkland shooting.
Kulvesky said she was a Republican until the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol. She changed her to no party affiliation, she said, because she felt GOP leadership, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, “did not stand up what we believe what the base wanted them to do.”
A similar refrain followed Greene on the program, with elected officials talking of being political outsiders all of their lives, feeling empowered by Trump and seeking to fulfill Trump’s promise to make America great again.
Among the most high-profile was state Sen. Amanda Chase, candidate for governor of Virginia.
She was introduced by Ivan Raiklin, who markets himself as a constitutional lawyer and was among the leading voices falsely arguing that had it within his power to stop certification of the election.
To the delight of the crowd, Raiklin described Chase as a hybrid of Trump, Greene and controversial U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, adding that she was endorsed by Gen. Michael Flynn, “America’s general.”
Chase excited the crowd, talking of her censure for arguing the election was stolen and that she attended Trump's rally that preceded the Capitol riot.
She asked who else attended the Jan. 6 rally, and several applauded, raised their hands and stood up.
“Why are you in Florida? Because I want Virginia to look like Florida!” Chase told the crowd, joining others who praised Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican Party.
State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a candidate for Congress against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, delivered similar conservative talking points about election fraud and the rise of the “ordinary guy who got sick and tired of what’s going on.”
“You have to be proud of the Republican Party down here for putting on an event like this,” Bouchard said.
Drew Montez Clark, who rally organizers call a “Florida Patriot,” celebrated being labeled as a Republican gone “rogue” for his endorsement of the Jan. 6 rally. He decried the media for not focusing on the “99.9% of people who went up there to exercise their constitutional right.”
Former Trump strategist spoke most on alleged voter fraud
The speaker who most shifted the focus on alleged voter fraud was Matt Braynard, a data strategist for the 2016 Trump campaign, who has testified before state legislatures about unfounded, widespread voter fraud.
While saying he was still investigating fraud, he promoted his organization that aims to increase voter registration among disenchanted Republicans.
“I didn’t come here to talk to you,” Braynard said. “I came to recruit you.”
Self-described “Islamaphobe” Laura Loomer, who ran for Congress in Palm Beach County last year, was an unannounced speaker. She described herself as the most-canceled person in the world.
“It’s an exaggerated flu, at best,” Loomer said about COVID-19, which has taken the lives of at least 292 Indian River County residents, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Few in attendance wore face masks, though they were required. Exceptions were EMS workers and a handful of people protesting the event. Speakers who railed against mandated vaccinations — which are being proposed in some parts of the county — got standing ovations.
No local elected officials were seen at Saturday's rally, although U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who represents the county, said he would have attended if not for a prior engagement.
Joshua Solomon is a politics reporter covering the Treasure Coast. You can reach him at 772-692-8935 or email@example.com.