At a small TV station in July, two candidates vying for the open congressional seat for Northwest Georgia sat next to each other behind a table decorated with a stars-and-stripes pleated fan. One looked more comfortable than the other.
John Cowan, in a blue suit with a maroon power tie, sat to the right of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Leading up to the debate, several of Cowan's political ads showed the neurosurgeon in scrubs and others showed him in tactical gear boasting his involvement with the Floyd County Sheriff's Office as a reserve deputy.
Less than 15 minutes into the debate, Greene flipped a question about the COVID-19 pandemic into an attack on Cowan, alleging he purchased products from China for his company instead of buying American.
Cowan shuffled his legs underneath the table and looked down. He was visibly uncomfortable but prepared himself for his first rebuttal in a debate that went off the rails early and often.
Cowan admitted to buying goods from China and immediately tried to flip it back on Greene, alleging she also buys goods from China for her construction company. Greene told Cowan he didn't know anything about her business.
"It's terrifying to me that Marjorie Greene can be our next congresswoman," Cowan said, looking directly at the camera. "I'll be the best ally that Donald Trump has by getting elected and keeping you out of office because the Democrats will use you as their chief fundraiser for all the crazy and ludicrous things that you say."
Greene never directly responded to the accusations.
Seven months later, now-Congresswoman Greene is arguably one of the most recognizable names in the GOP, and her words have forced a reckoning within her party.
Greene easily defeated Cowan in the August runoff because of her close alignment with Trump and her far-right platform, which appealed to the voters in Georgia's 14th Congressional District. As she takes the national stage, Greene is facing a strong backlash over the same things that gained her popularity before running for Congress.
On Thursday, a divided House tossed Greene off the education and budget committees, an unprecedented punishment that Democrats and a handful of Republicans said she'd earned by spreading hateful and violent conspiracy theories on social media.
Despite that, Jennifer Wojcik of Trenton, Georgia, stood by her congresswoman, saying she has continued to support her since the general election in November.
"I supported her because she held the same values I hold concerning the Second Amendment and the stance she has concerning abortion," Wojcik said this week. "As far as what she has said in the past, I don't believe it has any bearing whatsoever to how she now works for the people who elected her."
Wojcik thinks it's hypocritical to punish Greene for her past and not hold certain Democrats accountable for similar actions in regards to harassing Trump and his supporters.
"The bottom line is this: I support Marjorie Taylor Greene because she puts America first, rejects abortion and wants to protect our Constitutional rights," Wojcik said. "I think many in Congress have been bought out by special interest groups, and Marjorie is there simply to represent the people of Georgia. Nothing more and nothing less."
Brian Hart, a Republican, is a newly elected commissioner in Walker County. He served over 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and worked for the city of Dalton for 30 years as a construction and operations manager. He retired in 2019 and operates a cattle farm in Villanow.
Hart doesn't think Greene will get much done if she keeps the same tone she had during the campaign and in the first month of her term.
"I do not support her radical comments," Hart said. "In this country, you have to work with everybody. You have to work with Democrats, Republicans, far-left, far-right and you have to kind of get in the middle to make progress. I'm not sure how much progress she can make saying the things that she has said and does currently say."
Hart said he doesn't think Greene will get what she wants to get done by alienating people.
"This country is made up of whites, Blacks, Jews, Christians, Muslims, you name it. That's how this country was founded," Hart said. "There's all kinds of people in this world," Hart said. "You can't downgrade them or threaten to shoot them or anything else. This is America."
Hart said he believes most people in his district of Walker County feel the same way about the congresswoman.
"Most would agree with me," he said.
But he added, "Some people she represents really don't care what she says, they're going to support her no matter what she says."
Ted Rumley, Dade County Commission chair, was one of more than 100 elected officials — from sheriffs and county commissioners to city council members and state representatives — to endorse Cowan in the August runoff.
Cowan visited Rumley and the other commissioners and made the effort to meet with them.
"I've never met Marjorie," Rumley said. "[Cowan] reached out and made the effort, and he seemed like a good guy and so I felt like that's the way I should go."
Rumley knew Cowan and Greene fell along the same line politically and endorsed Cowan simply because he agreed with his policies and met the man.
"There was nothing wrong with her that I had seen," Rumley said. "She's a worker. She didn't pull those votes out of the air."
As Greene became a center of attention in the nation's capital, Rumley said he wasn't going to criticize her this early in her stint as a congresswoman.
"She's our link to Washington, so I'm sure not going to bad mouth her at all," he said. "She's got her own beliefs. I think she needs to keep a little bit of it to herself. She's kind of like Trump. If he had kept some things to himself and went on about his job, things might have been different."
Rumley said Greene and the people against her now need to move on.
"They've got a lot more important things to worry about up there than her," he said. "They need to get over and she needs to get over it. She needs to go and get fired up and do her job. She's still our elected official there to represent us. It's just, it's a really important job, and I hope that she kind of, y'know, comes down to Earth."
State Rep. Dewayne Hill, R-Ringgold, had heard of Greene but didn't get to know her during the campaign. He was also one of the hundreds who endorsed Cowan. Since then, Hill's gotten to know Greene a little, he said, and as far as he can tell, she's "a lady of her word."
Hill said he stands on Greene's side when it comes to censorship. He feels like conservatives get censored in an unfair way compared to liberal voices. Hill added that people in Catoosa County are willing to look past some of the congresswoman's more controversial statements.
"They understand people make mistakes sometimes and maybe they shouldn't have said something they said, but they also are forgiving," Hill said. "But they're also concerned. I think most of the people, especially on the Republican side, feel a lot like Marjorie and that it's time to stand up and fight for America."
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.