Minnesota GOP endorses former NBA player to take on Klobuchar

Minnesota GOP endorses former NBA player to take on Klobuchar

The Minnesota Republican Party unexpectedly endorsed Royce White to take on Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Saturday, backing the former NBA player-turned-activist who has embraced right-wing conspiracy theories.

White, who was viewed as an underdog going into the party’s convention, capitalized on a grassroots, populist campaign to secure about two-thirds of the party’s delegates for endorsement.

White entered the political sphere in 2021 as a prominent activist in protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He quickly embraced right-wing politics and became a frequent guest on Alex Jones’s controversial Infowars show.

He previously made a run at Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) seat in 2022 but lost the GOP primary despite backing from former senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon. He was introduced at the GOP conference Saturday by a video message from Bannon and framed himself as the ultimate anti-establishment candidate.

“The reality is we need people now more than ever that can’t be bought,” White said after receiving the endorsement. “They don’t have a price, and I can’t stress that to you enough.”

The Minnesota GOP granted its endorsement with “reservations,” referring to concerns over his campaign funding and personal debt. White’s campaign only has about $10,000, according to federal filings. He directly addressed his debt during a speech at the conference.

“The debt that I have is because I wouldn’t take the money,” he said, claiming his basketball career ended prematurely due to a conflict over mental health care.

White appeared in only three NBA games — averaging just three minutes of play — after being drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft, unable to reach an agreement with the Houston Rockets on mental health care due to his severe fear of flying.

He has garnered criticism for his embrace of some conspiracy theories, including comments saying the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) deserved to be attacked in 2022, conspiracies about the origins of coronavirus and questions about the integrity of the 2020 election.

Using populist rhetoric, White has fostered a cult of personality among his most ardent supporters. One delegate told the Star Tribune that he has a “Kennedy-esque charisma.”

White faces an uphill battle challenging Klobuchar, an experience, well-liked and well-funded incumbent. Her campaign has over $5.7 million cash on hand, according to federal filings. The Cook Political Report considers her seat “solid D,” its strongest rating toward Democrats.

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