(Reuters) -Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who has surged into contention ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in Pennsylvania, was photographed marching toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, alongside members of the far-right Proud Boys group, according to news reports.
Supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked police and stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to prevent Congress from certifying his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden.
The photos of Barnette were posted online by Chad Loder, a left-wing activist who researches and writes about online extremism, and confirmed as authentic by NBC News. The photos show Barnette, wearing a winter coat and gray hat, walking behind two Proud Boys members who were later indicted for participating in the Capitol riot.
NBC News said there was no evidence that Barnette breached the Capitol or engaged in any violence. The attack on the Capitol came shortly after Trump made incendiary remarks at a rally repeating his false claims that the election was stolen through widespread voting fraud.
Barnette’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement reported by NBC, the campaign said, “Kathy was in D.C. to support President Trump and demand election accountability. Any assertion that she participated in or supported the destruction of property is intentionally false. She has no connection whatsoever to the Proud Boys.”
Opinion polls show Barnette gaining ground against her better-financed primary rivals, TV wellness celebrity Mehmet Oz – who is endorsed by Trump – and former hedge fund executive David McCormick. Barnette is hoping to become the first Black woman Republican to serve in the Senate.
Her rise has worried some Republican leaders who are concerned that her views are too extreme to win Pennsylvania’s general election. On Sunday, Barnette appeared on Fox News to defend herself over several Islamophobic messages she posted years ago.
The Senate race has been roiled by a series of late-breaking twists. On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who has led in polls, suffered a stroke on Friday and will remain in a hospital to recover through Election Day.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)