Republicans who denied or questioned 2020 election results on ballots in key states

Republicans who denied or questioned 2020 election results on ballots in key states

Voters on Tuesday will encounter Republican candidates up and down the ballot who’ve denied or questioned the results of the presidential race Donald Trump lost.

The so-called election deniers are running in Senate and House races, as well for statewide offices that have major influence over elections, such as governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

Many of the candidates, who earned Trump’s endorsement in their primaries by repeating his stolen election lies, are seeking offices in which they’d wield power that could greatly affect elections; many are running in pivotal battleground states where presidential election results have an outsize impact on the Electoral College outcome — and thus who wins the White House.

Elections experts have said that even if one election denier wins one of those races in a battleground state, it could affect elections for years. Democrats running against them have argued their opponents are dangers to the country and have sought in the final days to make the election a referendum on democracy — which they acknowledge has been complicated by some of the GOP candidates’ no longer appearing eager to discuss 2020. Over the course of the general election campaign, many backed off or waffled on direct claims of a stolen election.


Senate candidates

Senate candidates on the ballot Tuesday who have denied or questioned the 2020 outcome include Republicans Blake Masters in Arizona, who has said, “I think Trump won in 2020”; Adam Laxalt in Nevada, who played a prominent role in the campaign’s legal efforts to overturn the election results in the state; and Herschel Walker in Georgia, who has said Trump must “get to the bottom of who stole this election.”

Meanwhile, J.D. Vance in Ohio has said, “I think the election was stolen from Trump,” and the office of Republican incumbent Ron Johnson in Wisconsin was involved in an attempt to deliver to fake elector materials to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021. Johnson has acknowledged texting with one of Trump’s attorneys before and after his staff tried to deliver a package to Pence, but he has also said he knew nothing of the fake elector scheme. Johnson had initially said he’d object to certifying the Electoral College vote in key states on Jan. 6 but changed his mind after the riot and voted to certify.

In Pennsylvania, Republican nominee Mehmet Oz has walked a finer line. “We cannot move on from the 2020 election,” he said at a debate in April during the GOP primary. More recently, he said he would have affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in the Senate if he’d held office on Jan. 6.

Senators are responsible for affirming the certification of election results in their states — a tradition that was routine until Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of Trump broke into the Capitol to try to prevent Biden’s win from being finalized.

Statewide candidates

The offices of governor, secretary of state and attorney general, however, hold the power to fundamentally transform elections — including how they are administered and overseen, as well as a multitude of ways the results are defended and certified. Changes to those processes could affect the 2024 election, in which Trump might run.

For example, secretaries of state generally oversee the state offices that administer elections. State attorneys general can launch or defend against election lawsuits that could affect how and which votes are counted or not. And unless Congress reforms the Electoral Count Act, governors will continue to have the ability to exploit ambiguities in the law — for example, if a governor were to recognize what critics call “fake” electors as legitimate, Congress would be obliged to count them under several conceivable scenarios — to ensure favored candidates succeed.

Election-denying and -questioning candidates running for at least one of the three positions are on the ballot in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and other battlegrounds.

Many running in those states and others have falsely claimed that Trump won the 2020 election — or cast doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s win. And some have promised or hinted at taking actions that could contribute to an even more robust effort to overturn the next presidential election.

Arizona is one of three states where election deniers are the GOP nominees for governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

They include Kari Lake, the nominee for governor, who is in a tight race against Democrat Katie Hobbs, and Mark Finchem, who is running against Democrat Adrian Fontes for secretary of state. For attorney general, Abraham Hamadeh is up against Democrat Kris Mayes.

All three have questioned Biden’s presidential victory or falsely said the election was stolen from Trump. Finchem has ties to QAnon and the Oath Keepers, and he attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

In Nevada, Jim Marchant — a Trump-endorsed election denier — is running against Democrat Cisco Aguilar for secretary of state. At a rally for Trump last month, Marchant vowed that he and candidates like him would “fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.”

Marchant has promised to get rid of all electronic voting machines, voting by mail and early voting. Instead, he vows to institute a “traceable paper-ballot-only” system that relies only on hand counts. Marchant has said he would not have certified the 2020 results in the state, which Biden won.

In an interview this year, he also said that if he is secretary of state in 2024, he won’t rule out advocating for an alternate slate of Trump electors if Trump is on the ballot and loses because of what he determined to be massive voter irregularities.

Marchant pushed for an alternate slate of electors in 2020 — a scheme, now under investigation by the Justice Department, that the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has said was part of a larger effort by Trump and his allies to subvert the 2020 election results and deny Biden’s victory. 

In Wisconsin, Republican Tim Michels is running neck and neck against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers in the race for governor. Michels has at times signaled he would consider decertifying Biden’s win in the state, and he has repeated the false claim made by Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election in the state was rife with fraud. Although Michels has waffled at times, he said during the primary that he was open to efforts to decertify Biden’s win in the state, even though there is no legal path to rescind a state’s electoral votes.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Republican Kim Crockett, also an election denier, is up against Democratic incumbent Steve Simon in the race for secretary of state.

In Michigan, election-denying candidates are also the Republican nominees for governor, secretary of state and attorney general. Republican Tudor Dixon — who has said the 2020 election was stolen — is running for governor against Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican Kristina Karamo, who is running for secretary of state against Democratic incumbent Joceyln Benson in Michigan, has repeatedly cast doubt on the result of the 2020 race, even dabbling in discredited conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Matthew DePerno, who is running for attorney general against Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel, has also repeatedly espoused debunked conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election results in Michigan. In addition, DePerno filed a suit alleging sweeping voter fraud in the state, citing a 2020 election night error in Antrim County that showed Biden winning the reliably red county. The problem was quickly fixed. A state trial court judge and a state appeals court judge both dismissed the suit. DePerno has also argued that any Michigan resident should have the right to demand a vote audit of the state’s election results.

In Pennsylvania’s race for governor, Republican Doug Mastriano, who has repeatedly doubled down on his false claims about the 2020 election, is running against Democrat Josh Shapiro. Pennsylvania’s governor gets to appoint the secretary of state, so the race packs an especially strong punch when it comes to the future of honoring election results.

Those candidates are among at least 43 election deniers running for governor, secretary of state or attorney general across 27 states, according to States United Action, a nonpartisan group that has closely tracked the progress of such candidates throughout the 2022 election season.

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