An unusual primary election north of Boston could place a conservative provocateur one step closer to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Samson Racioppi is running as a write-in candidate for the 1st Essex seat. Racioppi, 40, is an Army veteran and Salisbury resident who serves on that town’s housing authority. He is also one of the leaders of Super Happy Fun America, a conservative activist group that has organized several high-profile sociopolitical rallies and arranged buses to take protesters to the Jan. 6, 2021, protest in Washington, which devolved into an attack on the United States Capitol.

Now, Racioppi could become the Republican nominee for the 1st Essex seat.

The seat was previously held by Republican James Kelcourse, whose name remains on the primary ballot even though he was recently appointed to the state Parole Board. Under Massachusetts law, Kelcourse will be the nominee if he wins, but he would have the option to withdraw from the November ballot until Friday. Jim Lyons, the chair of the Massachusetts GOP, said Kelcourse will withdraw if he wins.

In that scenario, the executive committee of the Massachusetts GOP will be able to choose a new nominee. It could select Racioppi, fellow Republican write-in candidate C.J. Fitzwater or anyone else eligible to hold the seat.

"The general feeling is that winner of the write-in race will be put forth as the nominee, and the [Mass. GOP] executive committee will take a vote on it," Lyons said. "That's the process we're going to use."

Two Democratic candidates are also running write-in campaigns for the seat.

Super Happy Fun America is best known for organizing the so-called "straight pride" parade in Boston in 2019, an event predicated on the idea that heterosexuals have become a culturally beleagured group. Then, in 2020, Super Happy Fun America organized a pro-police State House rally that attracted white supremacists, and demonstrated against COVID-19 mitigation measures implemented by Gov. Charlie Baker at the State House and Baker’s home in Swampscott. Earlier this year, the group protested at FBI headquarters in Chelsea after federal agents removed classified documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.

Two other leaders of Super Happy Fun America, Mark Sahady and former Natick Town Meeting member Sue Ianni, are currently facing federal charges in connection with the attack on the Capitol. Racioppi insists that he did not enter the building.

In an interview with global news agency Agence France Presse on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack,Racioppi described that day as “incredible” and “something that I will tell my grandchildren.”

In a recent interview with GBH News, Racioppi expanded on those remarks.

“How often are you part of something that is going to be written about in the history books?” he said.

“We were giving a voice to people who truly, and in good faith, believed the election was stolen,” he added, referencing the bus trips to Washington that Super Happy Fun America organized.

Racioppi — who capured himself in a video providing medical aid to a man on the Capitol steps who'd been sprayed while confronting police — said he's been wrongly characterized as a domestic terrorist or insurrectionist. Asked if he thought those terms apply to anyone who participated in the Capitol attack, he demurred.

“My personal beliefs are no, but I can’t really speak to that, because I am working in that space,” said Racioppi, who is currently employed as an associate at a law firm.

When he describes his political priorities, he sounds strikingly similar to former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who was an early supporter of then–presidential candidate Donald Trump and is favored to win the Republican nomination for governor.

Among other things, Racioppi, who describes himself as a Diehl supporter, decries the existence of a state budget surplus at a time when many residents are struggling with inflation.

“It seems like … state legislatures, they’re all about extracting as much wealth as they can from the people, and they’re not really very good about fixing our roads, fixing our infrastructure, all these things,” Racioppi said. “And I’m sick of it.”

Racioppi also said the state’s public schools should offer less educational content involving sexuality and racism — or remove that content altogether — and that the lockdowns and vaccine mandates implemented to contain COVID-19 should be avoided in the future.

“I think we need to strengthen religious exemptions [to vaccine mandates],” Racioppi said. ”We need to add philosophical exemptions as well. … If you have a moral, religious, or philosophical objection, you shouldn’t be forced to take these things.”

Racioppi, who ran for Congress as a libertarian in 1998, describes himself as a free-speech absolutist, and says the presence of white-supremacist groups like Patriot Front and NSC-131 at Super Happy Fun America events doesn’t mean he and Super Happy Fun America share their views.

At the pro-law enforcement rally at the State House in 2020, Racioppi said, he and other organizers told members of NSC-131 they were unwelcome and reiterated that to the police and the media.

“We would have had to use physical force against them to make them leave, and we don’t believe in that,” he added.

Racioppi also said members of Patriot Front crashed an immigration-focused event he helped organize at the Berklee School of Music and claimed, erroneously, that they were providing security.

“We didn’t invite them to be there,” he said.

Shannon Jenkins, a political scientist at UMass Dartmouth and the associate dean of that school’s College of Arts and Sciences, says Racioppi’s legislative bid reflects a broader long-term shift inside the Massachusetts Republican Party.

“This is the direction that the Mass. GOP has generally been heading,” Jenkins said. “There have been, over the past decade or two, battles for the soul of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and the Trump wing — the more right [leaning] wing — has always won.”

But Jenkins also said the party’s rightward drift puts it increasingly out of step with most Massachusetts voters, including the unenrolled voters who comprise nearly half of the state's registered voters.

“Baker won statewide basically by appealing to those unenrolled voters, and even into the Democratic Party,” she said. “I don’t think it’s ultimately a winning strategy.”

Racioppi’s forgiving stance on Jan. 6 is also indicative of broader national trends.

In December 2021, a UMass Amherst poll found that, nationwide, the percentage of respondents describing that day’s events as an insurrection, riot, coup, rebellion or uprising had dropped since that April. In contrast, the percentage of respondents describing it as a protest had risen, from 43% to 48%.

Jenkins, of UMass Dartmouth, said the belief that political violence can be legitimate has become “very, very, very mainstream” among Republicans.

While Racioppi said using violence to suppress speech is wrong, he also said that using violence for other political purposes is sometimes necessary.

“If our elections are not valid … then it seems like our entire system of laws and government are also illegitimate,” Racioppi said. “And there are a lot of parallels between that type of situation and the situation in which our founding fathers fought a revolutionary war to separate from the British.

“I don’t think we’re there,” he added. “But if we are at a point where our government is completely illegitimate, and it’s clear that the government is illegitimate, then at some point, I think the government is going to come after us with force.

"They’re going to use force to silence people like me, and to silence people who want legit governments, who want good people in office," Racioppi said. "At some point, we may have to accept the fact that the government’s coming after us and respond appropriately.”