2022 Race

Bolsonaro attracts new faces to his Liberal Party

pl bolsonaro Bolsonaro attracts new faces to his Liberal Party
PL Chair Valdemar Costa Neto, President Bolsonaro, and Secretary of Government Flávia Arruda. Photo: Twitter/@ plnacional_

By joining the Liberal Party (PL), President Jair Bolsonaro instantly made it one of the most sought-after destinations for right-wing politicians aiming at running for office later this year. Until the end of the month, elected members of Congress are able to switch parties without losing their office, known as the “partisan window.” Throughout the rest of a given legislature, changing parties is heavily restricted.

On Tuesday, the PL welcomed 15 new names — including high-profile members of the House such as Carla Zambelli, but also second-tier politicians and C-list celebrities. The list includes Daniela Reinehr, the lieutenant governor of Santa Catarina, and volleyball player Maurício Souza.

Ms. Reinehr had a moment of nationwide infamy when she took office as interim governor of her state. Questioned about her father’s explicit defense of the Nazi regime in Germany, she was at no point clear in declaring she was anti-Nazi or refuting that she shares her father’s views of Holocaust denial. Instead, she simply affirmed she cannot be judged for the “acts of third parties.”

Mr. Souza, a 33-year-old middle blocker and Olympic champion, recently lost his place on the national team after making homophobic comments in public. He is expected to run for a House seat representing Minas Gerais state.

Many parties invest their hopes of winning more House seats on high-profile names. Congressional races tend to attract little media attention and voters seldom know who they are voting for until the last moments of the campaign. Making a splash with celebrities — even C- or D-listers — is often a winning strategy.

In 2010, the PL (then called the Republic’s Party, or PR) ran Tiririca, a well-known clown, for a House seat representing São Paulo. Despite declaring that he had no idea what a lawmaker’s job entailed, he won 1.3 million votes and helped double the party’s bench.