He’s already the leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right street fighting club, and now Enrique Tarrio is setting his sights on Congress.
Local Florida news outlets reported over the weekend that Tarrio — who has zero political experience — has filed election paperwork for the Sunshine State’s 27th Congressional District, in a bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala in the purple district next November.
His credentials are, shall we say, unusual. The Proud Boys, who describe themselves as “Western chauvinists,” are considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center on account of their Islamophobia, white nationalism, and misogyny. Tarrio, 35, was named chairman of “Proud Boys International” in November of last year, taking over from the organization’s founder, Gavin McInnes. McInnes’ resignation came after nine of his members were arrested for violently brawling with protesters in New York City, following his speaking appearance at the Metropolitan Republican Club. The violence was caught on camera, and showed Proud Boys hurling racist and homophobic slurs at passersby, as well as repeatedly kicking protesters. The arrestees’ sentences ranged from community service to four years in prison. Tarrio insisted that the Proud Boys were acting “in self-defense.”
Tarrio has done some time himself: He spent 16 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme to sell stolen medical equipment. Currently, he runs an online store selling Proud Boys and patriotic swag, like T-shirts and caps.
He’ll first have to use his credentials to secure the GOP nomination, going up against another Republican challenger, former Spanish-language broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar. In the swing district, created in 2012, constituents voted for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the last two national elections. Shalala, who took office in January, replaced a moderate, pro-LGBTQ Republican congresswoman.