by Alex McCracken
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) wishes to go on the record today to condemn certain positions of his primary opponent. Specifically, for his involvement in the insurrection of January 6th, 2021, as well as his recent complicity with fascist iconography displayed at the July 4th celebration in Colchester.
During a recent interview with several news outlets, Mr. Thayer again defended his decision to participate in the Jan. 6th insurrection, going as far as stating that it was “just a lot of fun” for him personally. This attack on the US Capitol led to the deaths of nine individuals; four members of the crowd during the course of the insurrection, and five law enforcement officers in the ensuing days and weeks, four of whom tragically took their own lives.
More recently, VTDigger reported that Mark Coester (candidate for multiple seats) attended the Colchester 4th of July parade proudly sporting multiple symbols of fascism and white nationalism. Included in that same display were promotional materials for the Thayer campaign. Thayer, who also marched in the same parade, has refused to condemn this anti-democratic iconography used alongside his image.
Sen. Benning finds this pattern extremely troubling. There is no place for this kind of behavior in American democracy. This is not who we are; as Americans, as Vermonters, or as Republicans. Images and symbols that promote fascist ideology are entirely antithetical to what it means to be a part of a constitutional republic, and it is deeply concerning behavior from any candidate for office. On a day meant to celebrate our shared history as Americans, and our independence from an authoritarian regime, this serves only to divide and alienate huge swaths of the public. It is a disservice to the United States, and to the great State of Vermont.
Sen. Benning has prepared a statement in light of recent events. Please see his full comment below:
“My opponent claims he was fighting for the constitution when he went to Washington D.C. on January 6th in order to “stop the steal.” Even President Trump’s closest advisors, and daughter Ivanka, now concede there was nothing ever “stolen.” Furthermore, there is no constitutional provision that Mr. Thayer can cite justifying the ability of a sitting Vice President to pick and choose what electoral votes he or she can count. In fact, if he’d thought about it, I’m sure he’d agree that Kamala Harris would have no right to single handedly nullify the vote of the people in 2024.
Mr. Thayer’s continued insistence that January 6th was “just a lot of fun” is an abhorrent insult to those men and women in blue who suffered and died that day, performing their sworn duty to protect the very constitutional system that has made this the greatest country in the world. These comments have not occurred in a vacuum. In June, Mr. Thayer appeared at a press conference with several candidates who claimed, entirely without evidence, that the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York were “false flag” operations designed by the United States government. Additionally, as of this morning (July 18th), Mr. Thayer has still not corrected his illegally redacted IRS 1040 with the Vermont Secretary of State, flagrantly snubbing his nose at Vermont state election law.
Taken together, a disturbing pattern of behavior becomes apparent. I find it gravely troubling that Mr. Thayer has continued to defend the indefensible, courting those that promote conspiracy theories, fascist iconography, and white nationalism. As a Vermont Republican I do not believe these attitudes represent our party’s cherished history of respect and integrity.
Future generations of Americans will see January 6th as the low water mark of our constitutional republic – the first real threat to the peaceful transition of power in a nation built upon that principle. History will remember how we conducted ourselves in this critical time, as citizens and as candidates.”
The author is the campaign manager for Joe Benning for Lieutenant Governor of Vermont. Joe Benning is a Caledonia County lawyer and state senator seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor against Greg Thayer of Rutland. The Chronicle has invited by Thayer and Mark Coester to respond and has promised their responses will be published verbatim, as has McCracken’s statement.