It’s not unheard-of for members of Congress to resign their seats because of serious legal trouble. Now Republican House candidate Danielle Stella is trying to achieve the inverse: getting elected to Congress while being wanted by the law.
Stella, one of the five Republicans competing for the right to take on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in November, has been wanted for months on an arrest warrant for felony shoplifting. Even while facing arrest, though, she’s managed to achieve a respectable fundraising haul—nearly $84,000 as of the end of 2019—and built up a following on social media, where, well, she’s made some waves.
Stella first stirred the pot in July over tweets suggesting she supports the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that Trump is engaged in a ceaseless secret war against high-ranking pedophile-cannibals in the halls of power. At the same time, The Guardian reported that she had been arrested twice in the Minneapolis area’s Hennepin County on shoplifting charges, including an allegation that she stole $2,300 from Target.
Stella insisted she didn’t break the law. According to records, though, Stella failed to show up for multiple October court hearings about her alleged felony. After Stella missed another hearing, a judge issued a still-outstanding warrant for her arrest.
“We can confirm that she does have an active felony theft warrant in Hennepin County,” a spokesman for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office told The Daily Beast.
Stella didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Stella’s primary rivals have watched her mounting legal woes with surprise. Lacy Johnson, an entrepreneur who has raised nearly $500,000 in his own bid for the Republican nomination, said that negative headlines about Stella could undermine whoever eventually faces Omar in the general election. The eventual Republican nominee already faces a steep challenge in the district, which heavily favors Democrats.
“Candidates are reflections of the party in a way, and it’s not a good reflection of the party in a sense,” Johnson said. “But now, being in politics, you do learn that people do have all kinds of ways of looking at things.”
Sheriff’s deputies aren’t the only ones interested in Stella’s whereabouts. Questions about her location flared anew over the weekend, when a conspiracy theorist with 50,000 YouTube subscribers claimed with no evidence during a livestream that Stella was in some unspecified danger at a hotel in Osceola, Wisconsin. Callers from across the country deluged the Osceola hotel with calls, and police were called to the scene.
A spokeswoman for the Osceola Police Department declined to share an incident report about the event, citing an open investigation.
Stella is facing obstacles beyond the courtroom, too. In November, Twitter suspended her campaign account after she repeated a fringe allegation that Omar is an Iranian government asset and claimed that Omar “should be tried for #treason and hanged” if the allegation was true.
Despite all the legal attention, Stella continues to operate her campaign—at least online. In addition to raising money for her campaign, Stella has posted messages to her supporters on Facebook and Instagram, including promotional memes about QAnon.
As a candidate himself, Johnson said that anyone facing an arrest warrant would no doubt face complications while running for office. How, for example, could they show up for debates in the face of police pressure?
“I wouldn’t even run if I was on the run from the police,” Johnson said.