The former leader of the Chicago chapter of the Proud Boys says he plans to run for the Illinois Senate after being present for the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol that’s prompted federal criminal charges against roughly 20 other members of the far-right group.
Edgar “Remy Del Toro” Gonzalez told the Sun-Times that he’s collecting signatures to challenge state Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago, in next year’s election. Munoz’s 1st District covers portions of the city’s South and West sides.
“I will be the voice and the muscle for many in our state,” said Gonzalez, who plans to run as an independent, in a series of Twitter messages.
One hitch, however, state election rules prevent independent candidates running in next year’s election from circulating petitions until March 29, 2022, meaning any signatures Gonzalez has already collected are worthless.
Though Gonzalez no longer serves as president of the Proud Boys’ Chicago faction, he is still a member of the all-male neo-fascist group’s overarching Northern Illinois chapter. In recent months, he has been photographed alongside some of the group’s most prominent leaders.
On Jan. 6, Gonzalez was caught on tape congregating outside the Capitol as scores of people stormed the building in an apparent attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
The riot followed a weekslong disinformation campaign fueled by former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him. Trump notably appeared to embrace the Proud Boys last September, when he told the group to “stand back and stand by” after he failed to condemn them during a debate with Biden.
During the insurrection, Gonzalez was seen standing near Joseph Biggs, a Proud Boys leader who is now facing federal charges, including conspiracy, for his alleged role in the assault on the Capitol. Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a Capitol Police officer who suffered injuries “while physically engaging with protesters,” federal prosecutors have said.
Gonzalez was previously seen marching alongside the Proud Boys’ chairman, Enrique Tarrio, during the Million MAGA March last November in Washington, D.C. He also attended a downtown rally on Thanksgiving that was led by Ali Alexander, a right-wing activist who organized the nationwide “Stop the Steal” movement and encouraged Trump supporters to rally outside the Capitol.
Members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia have become key targets in the sprawling investigation of the Capitol attack. But Gonzalez hasn't been charged, and he doesn’t think his presence at the Capitol or his embrace of the baseless election conspiracy will hurt his campaign.
“Standing up for what you believe shouldn’t be something to be afraid of if used against me while I run for office,” he said. “I stood up for the silent majority, the people who’s [sic] voices aren’t being heard. I think my opponent will be the one fearing my past.”
Munoz could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gonzalez said he plans to hold a campaign event this weekend and ultimately launch a political action committee called PB PAC, an apparent nod to the Proud Boys. Asked to detail his platform, Gonzalez only sent a link to a website for the group’s contingent in Northern Illinois.
“I am a proud Western chauvinist and I REFUSE to apologize for creating the modern world,” the site says.
To be sure, Gonzalez faces an uphill battle as an independent in a solidly Democratic district that Munoz has represented for more than two decades.
David Goldenberg, the midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Gonzalez potentially seeking a state Senate seat isn’t surprising given that “extremist groups have a long history of running for public office” that dates back to the Ku Klux Klan.
Goldenberg specifically pointed to Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi from Illinois who has been a perennial candidate. He also singled out downstate state Rep. Chris Miller, an Oakland Republican who was condemned last week by the Illinois House and accused of standing “with the insurrectionists” and helping to incite the Capitol riot.
Miller, the husband of Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, came under scrutiny after his pick-up truck was spotted that day in Washington, D.C., bearing the symbol of the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group accused of participating in the insurrection.
A day after the riot, that group posted a now-deleted statement on its website signaling plans to start a political party: “Trump’s base was, and still is, the pulse of the Republican Party. ... Our plan is to start on a local level with grassroots and elect our own die-hard patriots to fill crucial seats and work our way up.”
While Goldenberg acknowledged that it’s not uncommon for extremists like the Three Percenters and Gonzalez to seek office, he noted “it’s more uncommon for them to win.”