In a go-to MAGA move, pugilistic District 11 congressional candidate Laura Loomer says she's not conceding. And her followers love her for it.
Campaign volunteers and supporters cheer Laura Loomer during her non-concession concession speech Aug. 23 after she loses her primary to incumbent Rep. Daniel Webster. Lisa Strano (in pink) posted signs, handed out literature and spent primary day as an "unofficial" poll watcher. "She's fighting for us. We need her in Congress," she says.
It was standing room only Tuesday night at The Oaks on 44 clubhouse in Wildwood, in The Villages, where an ebullient crowd of Laura Loomer campaign volunteers and supporters packed the bar to eat, drink and watch the primary election returns on the multiple TVs that ringed the room.
Confidence was high that their girl was going to Washington.
That’s what Mike Levine tells me when I bump into him moments after walking in the door. He’s wearing a “Loomer for Congress” T-shirt over his white button-down and under a striped blazer. Levine is one of Loomer’s most prominent volunteers. He introduced her when she did her Windermere Town Hall and was with her at the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob in Ocoee. Later tonight, he’ll introduce her again before she makes her ”I’m not conceding” speech. But hours before that happens, I ask him how he’s feeling since the polls have closed. “Laura Loomer is going to win the Congressional District 11 tonight and is going to be a game-changer for America.” He gives a deep belly laugh. “I believe that’s true.”
Levine has a bit of the showman about him, and it’s his job to be relentlessly upbeat. Still, he says that talking with voters exiting the polls throughout the day has made him optimistic. I bid him good night and elbow my way through the crowd. It is a geriatric mosh pit of white folks decked out in “Women for Loomer” and “Loomer for Congress” T-shirts and hats.
At a table In the back of the bar, I find Jan Morison, Kathy Slattery and Beverly Toulson. Volunteers all, they say they were drawn to Loomer, as many tell me this evening, because she’s young, she’s brutally blunt, and most of all, a fighter.
“Washington needs to be scrubbed,” says Morison. “She can do it. She’s not afraid. She’s a fighter, and she and Marjorie Taylor Greene can start building their own wall up there.”
A little later on, I spot Wade from Winter Garden hanging out in front of a bank of TVs. Wearing a "Loomer for Congress" ball cap, he's with a tight group from Windermere and Winter Garden that I recognize from other Loomer events. He and I met at Loomer's Windermere Town Hall in July. Wade is open and friendly and happy to talk, but he doesn’t want his picture taken or his last name used. He just started a new job, he explains. “Don’t make me look bad,” he says. “Don’t get me fired.”
I ask him the same question I’m asking everyone who’ll talk with me tonight: What drew you to Laura Loomer?
“We don’t believe we’re being very well represented with Daniel Webster,” he says. “We don’t hear from him. We don’t know anything that he’s done. He’s literally an invisible candidate and an invisible congressman. We want people to go to Washington and do something.”
Wade is upset about the Jan. 6 Committee and legislation for climate change, which he calls a “hoax.” Most of all, he says he’s “tired of being lied to.”
“As Republicans, we believe it’s a mess up in Washington. So we want someone to go up there, an advocate for our position,” he says. “Republicans believe we need more fighters, not people who just sit idly by and let things happen.”
I tell him that that's not a sentiment unique to Republicans.
Wade tries to introduce me to another regular volunteer, also from Winter Garden. She is not eager to chat. I get it. The last time she saw me, I was challenging Loomer about whether she’d actually been valedictorian at Barry University (we still haven’t gotten the requested documents Loomer promised), and why another Loomer campaign volunteer — Robert Rivernider, Jr., convicted of defrauding investors in wire fraud and real estate fraud schemes of more than $22 million — was allowed to moderate Loomer’s debate against candidate Gavriel Soriano, in what seemed like a clear conflict of interest.
I tell her I appreciate that this is a big moment — one of her own could be going to Washington. She warms slightly and shares that, in 2011, she helped get Webster elected “back when district 10 was decent. It’s not now; it’s communist.”
I let the remark pass, though it’s clear the people of District 10 have not commandeered the means of production, abolished private property and redistributed the wealth. Surely we would have seen something about that trending on Twitter.
A veteran whose “oath of office never expires,” the volunteer declines to give her name but says I can call her “Freedom.”
Freedom tells me that Webster has disappointed her the last five years. “He has been a good congressman. It’s time for him to go play grandpa and play husband and be with his kids. He needs to spend what time he has left on the earth being a grandpa. That’s what I would do.”
Like so many others I talked to during the watch party, Freedom says she was attracted to Loomer’s brash style. “She doesn’t sugar-coat it. She speaks from the heart. She speaks what I want to hear, which is we got to clean up our country. We got to get all these … I mean this is not … all of these people … this is not what we grew up in … this is not what we signed up for. She’s the one who’s going to change it.”
By 8:30 p.m., however, it's apparent that Loomer won’t be the one to change it. At least not this election cycle. Shortly after the race is called for Webster, Loomer’s campaign staff directs partygoers into a larger room that’s set up with a podium and a “Loomer for Congress” backdrop for her end-of-campaign speech.
In black leggings and top and a bright yellow jacket — her “canary in the coal mine” blazer, worn, she says, to warn about the dangers facing America — a sometimes teary Loomer thanks her staff then says, “I’m not conceding.”
[Refusing to concede has become the go-to move among MAGA candidates who lose their primaries this year.]
“I’m not conceding because I’m a winner, and the reality is our Republican party is broken to its core," she says. "We are winners, and we are smart enough in this room, and we patriots together are wise enough and patriotic enough to recognize that this isn’t about Republican versus Democrat anymore. This is war. It’s us, the American people, against the crooked establishment ‘mono- party.’ This is a victory in my eyes because what this campaign has done, here in Florida’s 11th District, and what we have done tonight, has really honestly shocked the nation. We have further exposed the corruption within our own feckless, cowardly Republican Party.”
Loomer riffs for a while on themes from her stump speech: election fraud, social media bans. She mentions she's filed a $10 billion RICO suit against Facebook and Twitter. She promises her supporters she isn't done and that she will keep fighting “because we have inspired so many people.”
The crowd shouts, “LAURA! LAURA! LAURA! LAURA!”
She stands a moment to let the final waves of adulation wash over her. Then she walks offstage and into a back room, surrounded by staff.