Patriot Prayer counter-protest in Portland last year.
Patriot Prayer counter-protest in Portland last year. Doug Brown

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Joey Gibson is running for office.

Based out of Vancouver, Washington, Gibson is the founder of Patriot Prayer, a conservative "free speech" group that has made headlines in the past couple of years for showing up places where they are clearly not wanted—say, college campuses. His rallies frequently attract counter-protests from progressive and anti-fascist groups.

Gibson, who hopes to unseat Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, announced his candidacy Sunday night at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver. Gibson is running as a Republican.

Patriot Prayer rallies are frequently characterized as white nationalist/alt-right/pro-Trump theatre, but Gibson, who is Japanese American, disputes this characterization and says he disavows the white nationalists and other extremists who frequently show up to join him. At his announcement Sunday, you can clearly see audience members in Fred Perry polos, the official uniform of the Proud Boys, a group of far-right white dudes who enjoy punching each other in the balls and harassing peaceful protestors because freedom.

"If you want to stand for freedom, if you want to stand for God, if you want to stand for conservative ideology, you can't do it out on the open in the streets because you'll get beat up," Gibson said at his announcement. "That's where we stand in this country right now."

Right-wing extremists, according to a recent report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, were responsible for 71 percent of extremist-related homicides between 2008 and 2017, while left-wing extremists accounted for 3 percent. One of Gibson's followers, Jeremy Joseph Christian, attended a Patriot Prayer rally in April 2017, and then a month later, killed two people on the Portland light rail while ranting about free speech and Muslims.

As for his platform, Gibson, who did not respond to a request for comment, says he stands for a national sales tax, abolishing the IRS, establishing term limits, balancing the budget, health care reform, rebuilding the middle class, and exposing both Big Pharma and Monsanto. So he's basically Alex Jones meets Bernie Sanders.

So far Gibson is the only Republican candidate to announce a run against Cantwell, who won her seat in 2012 with 60 percent of the vote. He is not, however, the only performance artist running for Congress.