WASHINGTON (AP) — Campaigning for Congress in northwestern Ohio, Republican J.R. Majewski presents himself as an Air Force combat veteran who deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Military records tell a different story.
They indicate he never deployed to Afghanistan but instead completed a six-month stint helping to load planes at an air base in Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally and a safe distance from the fighting.
Majewski’s account of his time in the military is just one aspect of a biography that is suspect and includes a post-military life has been lived in a world of conspiracy theories, violent action against the U.S. government as well as financial duress.
Still, thanks to an unflinching allegiance to former President Donald Trump — Majewski once painted a massive Trump mural on his lawn — he also stands a chance of defeating longtime Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a district newly redrawn to favor Republicans.
Majewski is among a cluster of Republican candidates, most running for office for the first time, whose unvarnished life stories and hard-right politics could diminish the chances of a Republican “red wave” on Election Day in November.
“It bothers me when people trade on their military service to get elected to office when what they are doing is misleading the people they want to vote for them,” Don Christensen, a retired Air Force colonel, said of Majewski . “When you claim to have done what your brothers and sisters in arms actually did to build up your reputation, it is a disservice.”
Majewski’s campaign declined to make him available for an interview. In a statement about his service, a spokeswoman did not respond to a follow-up message seeking additional comment.
“I am proud to have served my country,” Majewski said in the statement.
Majewski was not expected to advance from the August primary to challenge Kaptur, who has represented the Toledo area since 1982. But two state legislators who were also on the ballot split the establishment vote. That cleared a path for Majewski, who previously worked in the nuclear power industry and dabbled in politics as a pro-Trump hip-hop performer and promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory. He was also at the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Throughout his campaign Majewski has offered his Air Force service as a valuable credential.
A campaign ad posted online Tuesday flashed the words “Afghanistan War Veteran” across the screen alongside a picture of a younger Majewski in his dress uniform. The tagline “veteran for Congress” appears on campaign merchandise. He ran a Facebook ad promoting himself as “combat veteran.” And in a campaign video this year, Majewski marauds through a vacant factory with a rifle while pledging to restore an America that is “independent and strong like the country I fought for.”
“I don’t like talking about my military experience,” he said in a 2021 interview on the One American Podcast after volunteering that he served one tour of duty in Afghanistan.
More recently, the House Republican campaign committee released a…