Families are complicated, their private tensions and political disagreements often kept under wraps.
That’s not the case with Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose opponent in the midterm election just got a boost from Gosar’s siblings.
Six of them.
The brothers and sisters — Tim, Jennifer, Gaston, Joan, Grace and David — appeared in campaign advertisements for David Brill, the Democrat hoping to unseat Gosar in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District in the midterm election.
The Gosar siblings framed their endorsement of Brill as a matter of values, saying their brother, who has long drawn headlines for his far-right views, and his politics were simply too much for them to stomach.
“We gotta stand up for our good name,” David Gosar said in the advertisement. “This is not who we are.”
“I couldn’t be quiet any longer, nor should any of us be,” Grace Gosar said.
“I think my brother has traded a lot of the values we had at our kitchen table,” said another sister, Joan.
In an interview with The Washington Post, David Gosar, 57, a lawyer in Jackson, Wyo., said he felt obligated to speak out against his brother because of his views, though he wished it weren’t the case.
“There isn’t a kooky, crazy, nutty thing that he isn’t a part of,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”
David Gosar said he doesn’t talk to his brother much anymore. The split came around the time of his congressional run, when he said his brother told him he believed the “birther” theory that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. (A 2010 clip from Politico quotes Paul Gosar as declining to say whether he believed Obama was born in the United States, saying it was “for the courts and for other people to decide.”)
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, you have to be kidding me,’ and then he went and got elected,” David Gosar said. “I’m not going to break bread with a racist.”
Paul Gosar did not respond to a request for comment sent to his spokeswoman, but on Saturday, he tweeted that the six family members are “liberal Democrats who hate President Trump.” He added that they do not live in Arizona and claimed Brill’s policies are “out of sync with what Arizona wants and the country needs.”
“These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag #MAGA2018 for the Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Paul Gosar, who became a congressman in 2011, has drawn coverage for his extreme rhetoric in recent years.
In January, he drew bipartisan rebukes after he said he asked the Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to check IDs at the State of the Union to arrest and deport any undocumented immigrants in attendance.
At least one senator, Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), planned to bring an undocumented “dreamer” to the speech as a guest.
The next month, Gosar said FBI and Department of Justice officials such as Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, former acting attorney general Sally Yates and former FBI director James B. Comey should face “treason” charges because of developments in the Russia investigation.
But perhaps his most notorious moment came in 2017 in an interview with Vice News, when he spread a baseless conspiracy theory that the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that summer had been “created by the left.”
He also brought up the common right-wing falsehood that the liberal philanthropist and financier George Soros, who survived the Holocaust, had collaborated with Nazis.
Seven siblings — there are 10 in total, including the congressman — responded at the time by writing a letter to the Kingman Daily Miner, a newspaper in Gosar’s district, decrying his comments in blunt terms.
“We are aghast that Paul has sunk so low that he now spews the most despicable slander against an 87-year-old man without a shred of proof,” the letter said. “Those aren’t our family values or the values of the small Wyoming town we grew up in. … It is extremely upsetting to have to call you out on this, Paul, but you’ve forced our hand with your deceit and anti-semitic dog whistle.”
Pete Gosar, who was the seventh signee of the letter, ran for governor of Wyoming as a Democrat in 2014.
Brill’s ads, of which there are at least three, were filmed in Jackson and Laramie, Wyo. Brill’s team reached out to the Gosar siblings after seeing some of their criticism on social media, according to the Phoenix New Times.
A physician and a businessman before he decided to run for office, Brill has campaigned on a public health option like Medicare available to all and a platform of lowering the national debt, according to the Arizona Republic.
He faces an uphill battle for the seat; Gosar trounced his Democratic opponent in the deep-red district in 2016, receiving 71.5 percent of the votes. The counties that make up Gosar’s district voted heavily for Donald Trump.
Family members who split with their political kin tend to draw attention and media coverage and are often sought by opposing campaigns.
In the recent election cycle, the son of retiring Republican representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia made waves when he endorsed the Democrat running to replace him in August. In the Wisconsin race to replace Paul D. Ryan, the brother of Democrat Randy Bryce endorsed his Republican opponent in an advertisement by a conservative group.
David Gosar said Paul Gosar’s politics have caused a strain in the family, which hails from the small town of Pinedale, Wyo.
In one of the ads, Grace Gosar, a physician, says, “It would be difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist.” David Gosar said their parents, who are in their 80s, are Republicans and support his brother. And he says he’s disappointed in the three siblings who didn’t stand with them for the advertisement.
He said he’s also upset by people who tell him that there’s something wrong with breaking with his family or who make the situation into a joke.
“This is serious stuff, and I’m tired of people making light of it. This is causing serious damage to the country,” he said. “If you can’t speak out against your family, then don’t be a hypocrite and speak out against someone else’s family member.”
His brother Paul, however, found some humor in the familial feud, tweeting, “You can’t pick your family."
“To the six angry Democrat Gosars—see you at Mom and Dad’s house!”