Missouri GOP Candidate Torches Books in Bizarre Stunt for Office With No Book-Banning Power

I'm not sure Valentina Gomez, the 24-year-old running for Missouri secretary of state, knows what being secretary of state even entails...?

Missouri GOP Candidate Torches Books in Bizarre Stunt for Office With No Book-Banning Power

Each state in the U.S. has a secretary of state whose work is largely administrative—that is, record keeping, registering businesses, and, of course, come election season, administering state elections and overseeing results. It’s hardly glamorous stuff, but it’s important—in 2020, faithful secretaries of state were a key line of defense against former President Trump’s attempts to steal the presidency. That’s why I’m baffled by this 24-year-old Republican candidate for secretary of state in Missouri, who seems to be campaigning almost entirely on anti-LGBTQ bigotry and the promise of eradicating any books that mention LGBTQ identity from schools and libraries.

On Tuesday afternoon, Valentina Gomez shared a video of herself taking a flame-thrower and burning the books Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens and Naked: Not Your Average Sex Encyclopedia. “This is what I will do to the grooming books when I become secretary of state,” Gomez says in the video, set to upbeat hip-hop music. “These books come from a Missouri public library. When I’m in office, they will burn.” The clip ends with a glamour shot of Gomez posing with a large gun.

As of Thursday afternoon, the video, which some Twitter users have compared to Nazi-era book-burning campaigns, has reached 2.3 million viewers. NBC reported on Wednesday that Twitter has since “restricted the post’s visibility, adding a note that it ‘may violate [Twitter’s] rules against Hateful Conduct.’”

Gomez, who’s one of four Republican candidates for Missouri secretary of state per Ballotpedia, seems to think the role would give her the power to ban (torch…?) books and push an extremist anti-LGBTQ agenda in schools and libraries. Her website lists “protecting children against the transgender agenda” and “protecting sports—there’s only 2 genders” as top priorities. But other than actively trying to rig elections in favor of anti-LGBTQ lawmakers, it’s not really clear what authority she’d have as secretary of state to mandate trans-exclusionary team sports policies at Missouri schools or make a statewide book bonfire. Her website spews a range of anti-LGBTQ and particularly anti-trans nonsense, even referring to health care services available to trans youth as “the transgender industry.” But again: What does that have to do with being secretary of state?

Pieces of Gomez’s platform that are actually relevant to the secretary of state’s chief election official role include removing all electronic voting machines—a dog whistle appealing to pro-Trump election deniers who believe electronic voting machines were weaponized against Trump in 2020. Gomez also promises to “revamp and modernize the Secretary of State website: championing capitalism, modernization, and innovation.” If that’s her platform as secretary of state, it’s an awful one, but fine, run on that. Torching books and pretending you’d wield the office of the secretary of state to do that on a large scale is just downright deceitful, ma’am.

Kathy Belge, one of the authors of Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens, said in a statement shared with NBC that Americans “should be concerned that a candidate for public office not only thinks book burning is acceptable, but that it is something that will help her get elected.” Belge says her book “was written to give teens accurate and helpful information about what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community,” and said Gomez should “leave queer kids alone and focus instead on the real issues that will make lives of people in Missouri better.”

Gomez’s flamethrower ad comes as Republicans are escalating attacks on books across the country. In the 2021 school year alone the state of Texas banned over 800 books from schools. In 2023, Florida Gov. and failed Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis signed into law what’s known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law to prohibit classroom discussion of queer identity from kindergarten to third grade. Gomez is clearly trying to capitalize on her party’s ongoing, heightened embrace of censorship and fascism in the name of anti-LGBTQ bigotry. And the sad thing is, whether or not she’s actually able to deliver on her campaign promise to incinerate all books that reference queer identity, her utterly insane stunts might just appeal to enough voters anyway.

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