Quinn Mitchell, Known for His Pointed Questions of Candidates, Ejected From GOP Event


It was the type of tough question a Republican presidential candidate might get on a Sunday morning talk show, only the person asking it was 15: Quinn Mitchell wanted to know if Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida believed that former President Donald J. Trump had violated the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021.

Video of the uncomfortable exchange at a June 27 town hall in Hollis, N.H., for Mr. DeSantis, who dodged the question, ricocheted online. So did the pair’s next encounter at a July 4 parade in Merrimack, N.H., where a video showed Quinn, an aspiring journalist, being shooed away by a handler for the Florida governor.

But the teenager said he was not prepared for what happened on Friday, when he was briefly ejected by police officers from the First in the Nation Leadership Summit, a candidate showcase organized by the New Hampshire Republican Party. The two-day event in Nashua, N.H., featured Mr. DeSantis and most of the G.O.P. field, but not Mr. Trump.

“They said, ‘We know who you are,’” Quinn, who has his own political blog and podcast, said in a phone interview on Saturday from his home in Walpole, N.H., referring to the organizers of the summit.

Quinn, who received a guest credential for the summit from the state’s G.O.P., said a person associated with the event had told him that he had a history of being disruptive and had accused him of being a tracker, a type of political operative who records rival candidates.

The next thing he knew, Quinn said, he was being led to a private room and was then ushered out of the Sheraton Nashua hotel by local police officers. His ejection was first reported by The Boston Globe.

Jimmy Thompson, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Republican Party, said in a text message on Saturday that the teen’s removal had been a mistake.

“During the course of the two-day event, an overzealous volunteer mistakenly made the decision to have Quinn removed from the event, thinking he was a Democrat tracker,” Mr. Thompson wrote. “Once the incident came to our staff’s attention, NHGOP let him back into the event, where he was free to enjoy the rest of the summit.”

In an email on Sunday morning, Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for the DeSantis campaign, wrote, “We were not involved in that decision.”

A public information officer for the Nashua Police Department also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

According to his website, Quinn has attended more than 80 presidential campaign events since he was 10, taking advantage of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status in the nominating process to pose questions to candidates.

He said he wanted to hear former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey speak on Friday, along with the businessman Perry Johnson, a long-shot candidate.

At a town hall featuring Mr. Christie in April, Quinn had asked another pointed question: Would Hillary Clinton have been better than Mr. Trump as president?

Mr. Christie, the former president’s loudest critic in the G.O.P. field, answered that he still would have chosen Mr. Trump in the 2016 election, describing the contest as “the biggest hold-your-nose-and-vote choice” the American people ever had.

About two months later, it was Mr. DeSantis’s turn to field a question from Quinn, this one about Mr. Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

“Are you in high school? said Mr. DeSantis, who has faced criticism as a candidate for not being fluid when interacting with voters and journalists, a dynamic that has made for some awkward exchanges on the campaign trail.

The Florida governor pivoted, arguing that if the 2024 election focused on “relitigating things that happened two, three years ago, we’re going to lose.”

Quinn said that it did not seem like a coincidence that he was kicked out of the event on Friday before Mr. DeSantis’s remarks, which he had planned to skip.

“They know the story between me and DeSantis,” he said.

By the time he was allowed to return to the event, Quinn said he was able to catch Mr. DeSantis’s remarks. But when the governor opened it up for a question, Quinn left.

“OK, one quick question, what do you got?” Mr. DeSantis asked an audience member.

Nicholas Nehamas contributed reporting.

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