If you spend much time on Arkansas political Twitter, you have probably stumbled across a tweet from Republican candidate for Lt. Governor Chris Bequette some time in the last six months.1 If you’ve been unfortunate enough to come across more than one of Bequette’s tweets, you might have noticed he is running the campaign that artificial intelligence would create after listening to Ted Nugent sing Eric Trump’s tweets about Tucker Carlson’s interview of Steve Bannon.
For instance, you might have picked up on how he thinks anyone to the left of Benito Mussolini is a Marxist. (Relatedly, he has no idea idea what Marxism is, but he really, really wants you to read an idiotic book about it.)2 On the other hand, maybe you noticed how he thinks actual right-wing lunatics such as Kristi Noem, Joni Ernst, Jason Rapert, Trent Garner, Bob Ballinger, and Leslie Rutledge are RINOs.
Or, perhaps, it was Bequette’s incessant dogwhistle racism that caught your eye.
Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or…well, you get the point.
Now, this is gross behavior by a candidate, regardless of context. But it becomes downright bizarre when you account for the fact that Chris Bequette’s ex-wife (and mother of his son) is Debi Thomas, aka “the best African American figure skater in the history of the sport.”
Thomas, who grew up in California, won the figure skating World Championship and U.S. National Championship in 1986 at only 18 years old, while also attending Stanford University full time as a pre-med student. She was the first African American woman to hold these titles. She took second place in the World Championships in both 1987 and 1988, and again won the U.S. National title in 1988. At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Thomas won the bronze medal, becoming the first black athlete to win any medal in any sport in the Winter Olympics.
Thomas graduated from Stanford with an engineering degree in 1991, and she graduated from Northwestern University medical school in 1997. She then had a surgical residency at UAMS and, ultimately, became an orthopedic surgeon. In the fall of 1996, Thomas “married sports attorney Chris Bequette.” The couple had a son, Luc, in July 1997, and lived in various locations related to Thomas’s career as a surgeon over the next decade or so. In 2007, they moved to Champaign, IL, where Thomas took a job with a surgical clinic. Then, as this article explains, “Thomas moved practices from Illinois to Indiana and finally to Richlands, Virginia in 2010…after her divorce from her husband, Chris Bequette.”
Chris and Luc lived in Champaign from 2007 through 2013, where the latter made a name for himself as a baseball and (especially) football player. In 2014, the Bequettes moved to Little Rock just in time for spring football, and Luc played the 2014 football season at Little Rock Catholic before heading off to play college football at the University of California.3
All of which is to say, Chris Bequette was married to a black woman for roughly 13 years, has a son with her, and remained the primary (sole?) custodian of their son after the divorce. That is not the resume that you would typically expect from someone who routinely fires off racist drivel into the Twitter ether. So, while Arkansas Republicans using racist messaging in general is not remotely surprising or noteworthy in 2022, Chris Bequette’s brand of opportunistic racism still comes across as particularly gross.
Thankfully, Bequette has struggled to attract donors or supporters. His most recent financial disclosure shows him raising $450 in the entire quarter from sources that are not him or his son. Throw in that every one of the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor–Leslie Rutledge, Doyle Webb, Jason Rapert, Greg Bledsoe, and even Joseph Wood–enjoys far more name recognition and pre-existing support, and Bequette (thankfully) has zero chance of winning. As it currently stands, he is probably looking at a ceiling of 2-3% of the vote, tops, with an entirely possible scenario where he does not crack 1%.
So…why do it? I mean, despite not understanding Marxism or the role of the Lt. Governor in Arkansas, Chris Bequette does seem like an intelligent guy, especially when you compare him with the Raperts and Rutledges of the world. So why would Bequette pump $27,000 (so far) of his own money into a campaign for a race that he cannot possibly win? And, if he is going to do that, why campaign in a way that is only going to appeal to the worst people and does not even have the faux populist absurdity of a Donal Trump campaign? What is the upside here?
My initial guess was money. After all, he wouldn’t be the first person to run for office just to profit from the huge blindspots in the reporting.4 Except, he has only raised a little over $4,000 from outside money, including barely any outside money in the entire fourth quarter of 2021. He also doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to raise money.
The only alternative answer that I can come up with–at least, without diving off into a conspiracy theory–is old-fashioned hubris. He believes that, win or lose,5 his “message” is so strong and impactful that just having it in the race benefits the voters. That fits Bequette’s sense of self-importance, inasmuch as it is utterly delusional.
It is almost as delusional as his thinking no one would notice how hypocritical his pandering racism is.
This encounter was likely in the form of a quote tweet by someone else, or perhaps someone tweeting with a screenshot of a Bequette tweet, as it is statistically highly unlikely that you are one of Bequette’s 222 followers.↩
He also has some pro-fascist ideas about journalism, not that he understands fascism any more than he understands Marxism.↩
Unrelated to this post, but Luc’s college journey is kind of unique. He just finished his seventh (and final) season this past year due to two redshirts and the COVID season.↩
Spoiler: Lose, in hysterical fashion.↩