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Courtney's challenger makes a cuckoo national list

In 2018, Republicans nominated a candidate to oppose U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney who stopped running and disappeared from public view in the middle of the campaign. This year they nominated a guy with an affinity for far-right conspiracy theories.

Concerning the latest nominee, Thomas Gilmer, former Republican state legislator Kevin Rennie wrote on his political blog that it is another indication “that the state’s Republican Party is in an advance state of disintegration.”

Indeed.

Granted, Courtney, 67, is a formidable Democratic candidate, seeking an eighth term in the district that sprawls across roughly the eastern half of the state. His moderate political demeanor fits the area well. And unlike some veteran lawmakers, he keeps a visible presence in the district.

And then there are the submarines.

Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives and will almost certainly keep their majority in the coming election. Courtney sits on the Armed Services Committee and chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. He sits in a great position from which to fight to ensure submarine construction continues unabated. That means good-paying jobs, lots of them, at Electric Boat in Groton and at the many contractors that feed its supply chain.

Just last week the Navy announced it had awarded EB a $9.5 billion contract to build the first two of 12 planned ballistic missile submarines.

So, yes, convincing eastern Connecticut voters that they should dump that kind of political pull and risk budget priorities shifting elsewhere would be a daunting prospect for any Republican, even in a district once considered a tossup. It explains why no strong opponents are stepping up. Plus, the Republican bench is thin.

Still, the candidates put forward by Republicans the last two elections have been downright embarrassing.

In 2018, the Republican challenger, Dan Postemski, disappeared from the race. He stopped campaigning, did not update his Facebook campaign page and couldn’t be reached by phone.

This year the party has nominated a 29-year-old, conspiracy-following candidate who would seem a far better fit for a deep red state than the purplish Second District.

The candidate, Gilmer, finds himself on a list of 54 current or former congressional candidates who, based on tracking by Media Matters, have in some fashion supported the QAnon conspiracy theory website.

You might be asking, “What the heck is that?” It is hard to explain, so bizarre it would be rejected as a "Twilight Zone" script. It started as an anonymous account, known as “Q,” on the far-right message board 4chan, moved to 8chan, which relaunched as 8kun.

Isn’t the internet wonderful?

Its original premise was that President Donald Trump was secretly working with then-special counsel Robert Mueller to actually take down the president’s perceived enemies in the “deep state.” Some who were, of course, pedophiles. When that didn’t pan out, it expanded to tie any criticisms or investigations of Trump to deep-state plotters.

Media Matters points to Gilmer’s use of #QAnon on his Twitter account, including on a March 17 posting calling stay-at-home pandemic orders “a deep state attempt to destroy america and our economy.”

He also uses #StormIsUponUs, a reference to the QAnon claim that Trump’s deep-state political enemies will be arrested and tried in military tribunals.

Gilmer moved to the state a few years ago from Ohio, starting a commercial and industrial construction management company. He is a graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., a Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell of Moral Majority fame. In March, current President Jerry Falwell Jr. gained attention when, at a time when all universities were closed to protect students from the virus, he reopened Liberty.

Makes sense, I suppose, when you realize this whole global pandemic thing was just a conspiracy.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

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