Far-Right Candidate in Missouri Draws Backlash for Homophobic Video

It was a fringe Republican campaign ad that could be ripe for parody on late-night television, ideal material for a skit on “Saturday Night Live” or the target of a monologue from a bewildered Jon Stewart. Except it was real, and it is hard to imagine how it could be further satirized.

“In America, you can be anything you want,” Valentina Gomez, a 25-year-old Latino immigrant and real estate investor running in the G.O.P. primary for secretary of state in Missouri, says in the video as she jogs through a historic district of St. Louis to the uplifting beats of “The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco.

“So don’t be weak and gay. Stay hard,” she continues, emphasizing her statement with an expletive. The neighborhood where the video was filmed, Soulard, has a significant L.G.B.T. community.

The campaign ad, which Ms. Gomez shared on her social media accounts, then transitions from the video of Ms. Gomez — wearing running shorts and a vest resembling body armor — to a still photo of the candidate in front of a truck and wearing a National Rifle Association hat, with an American flag at her side and a gun in each hand.

The campaign ad, first posted on Sunday, has drawn condemnation and scrutiny online. Mr. Fiasco, who has condemned homophobia in the hip-hop scene, distanced himself from the video that featured one of his hit singles, saying in a statement that he was “currently taking action.” Jason Kander, a former Democratic secretary of state in Missouri and a former Army intelligence officer, mocked Ms. Gomez in a social media post on Tuesday.

“So refreshing to see a female GOP candidate who never served in the military doing the whole veteran cosplay, stolen valor, bigotry as a substitute for strength routine as well as any man,” wrote Mr. Kander, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and has since struggled with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But Ms. Gomez’s online trolling campaign, rife with homophobia and attacks against transgender people, has also earned her the admiration of far-right lawmakers, including Representative Matt Gaetz, online conservative influencers and the expelled former Representative George Santos — who is himself gay.

The jogging video is also not the first such homophobic stunt from Ms. Gomez, who appears eager to stand out as a political newcomer in a crowded Republican primary to be Missouri’s top elections official. In February, she posted a video of herself burning L.G.B.T.Q. books with a homemade flamethrower. A month later, she said that countries that ban flamethrowers were also “weak and gay,” and has since repeatedly used the homophobic phrase as an insult, wielding it as a campaign slogan.

Ms. Gomez has spent little on the race so far in comparison with some of her better-known opponents, including Dean Plocher, the speaker of the Missouri House. But her social media posts — which come at a frantic pace on X — have lifted her profile as she rails against the state party as corrupt and compromised.

“I speak the truth, and I am waking up the lions to save America,” Ms. Gomez wrote on social media on Wednesday, in defense of her ad. “Weakness will get us nowhere. The gloves are off, and I am here to protect and fight for Missouri.”

Ms. Gomez did not respond to a request for comment on social media.

Ms. Gomez’s remarks stand out not just for their provocative nature, but also because they are something of a non sequitur in the race she is running. A secretary of state is essentially a state’s chief bureaucrat, in charge of record-keeping and overseeing the state’s elections. Ms. Gomez is a 2020 election denier, and has said she would abolish voting machines and deploy the National Guard — an authority a secretary of state does not have — to secure elections.

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