Like a stereotypical Mafia boss, Donald Trump doles out favors from the seat of his empire at Mar-a-Lago, and political aspirants from all over the country are making the pilgrimage to Florida to kiss the ring of the most powerful figure in the GOP.

Among those who have sought and received the approbation of the twice-impeached president are Loren Culp and Joe Kent. Both men are attempting to oust Republican incumbents here in Washington. Trump was eager to aid Culp and Kent since their targets, Rep. Dan Newhouse in Central Washington’s 4th Congressional District, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, are prominent on his list of those who have betrayed him.

Newhouse and Beutler are traditional conservatives whose political beliefs appear grounded in venerated principles, like the rule of law and the sanctity of constitutional government. Those principles led them to vote for Trump’s second impeachment after he encouraged the storming of the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

In contrast, Culp and Kent are part of the new breed of conservatives driven by ludicrous conspiracy fantasies, culture war fervor and slavish loyalty to Trump. After a humiliating defeat in his run for governor two years ago, Culp mimicked Trump by alleging that the vote had been rigged against him. Kent has said his Day 1 priorities if elected would include impeaching the Democratic president and vice president and installing Trump or one of his kids as Speaker of the House to open a path back to the White House for the Trump gang.

If either Culp or Kent succeeds, they will join the growing QAnon caucus with the likes of Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert. If they lose, it will save the state from major embarrassment and, perhaps, help reinvigorate sane conservatism in the Republican Party.

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