Far-right Republicans edge closer to power for future elections
The potential for far-right Republicans to reshape the electoral systems of key battleground states is getting closer to reality.
As the halfway mark nears a much more Republican-friendly midterm year, party voters have nominated dozens of candidates for positions with power over election administration and certification who have spread lies on the 2020 presidential contest and sowed distrust of American democracy.
The only way to restore trust, say these candidates, is to elect them.
In Michigan, Pennsylvania and now Nevada, Republican voters have elevated candidates who owe their political rise to their amplifying doubts over Joe Biden’s victory, and who are now vying for gubernatorial, secretary of… state and attorney general — positions that will hold significant sway over the administration of the 2024 presidential election in key swing states.
The rise of Holocaust deniers is far from over. Upcoming primary contests later this month in Colorado and early August in Arizona and Wisconsin will provide more clarity on the depth of Republican voters’ desire to rally behind candidates devoted to the misconception that elections of 2020 were stolen from former President Donald Trump.
With Republicans widely expected to make gains in November, it’s possible that 2023 will bring newly installed far-right officials ready to use their influence to influence election results and a possible Supreme Court decision that could give legislatures states unchecked power over federal elections. Even some Republican candidates and officials who for a time defended the 2020 results as legitimate have begun to question whether Biden’s victory was on the level.
“We are in a dangerous situation right now,” said Ben Berwick, the lawyer for Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan group dedicated to resisting authoritarianism. “There is a significant faction in this country that has gotten to the point where they have rejected the premise that when we have elections, the losers of elections recognize the winner’s right to rule.”
On Tuesday, Nevada Republicans chose Jim Marchant, an organizer for a coalition of far-right Trump-inspired candidates united by their insistence that the 2020 election was rigged, as their nominee for secretary of state. Marchant, a former Las Vegas state lawmaker, told voters during a debate in February that “your vote hasn’t counted in decades.”
In the November ballot, Marchant joins Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, who won his primary last month after promoting efforts to uncertify the 2020 results, and Attorney General Ken Paxton of the Texas, which in December 2020 filed a lawsuit to overturn Biden’s victory. , as well as like-minded figures in other states, including New Mexico.
The number of Holocaust deniers who have won Republican nominations is growing rapidly in congressional and state legislative races across the country. At least 72 members of Congress who voted to void the 2020 election have qualified for the general election, according to a New York Times analysis.
And in Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas — four competitive states that have already held primaries — 157 state lawmakers who took concrete steps to void or undermine the 2020 election will be on the ballot. in November.
These key findings come as House Select Committee hearings into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol revealed how nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit, with the exception of the president, believed that Biden had won the election despite Trump’s claims.
Yet the former president’s lies, embraced and advanced by his supporters, continue to threaten to upend the country’s democratic order nearly 18 months later.
For many candidates who deny the elections, victory is far from assured. Some of the big ones, like Mastriano, face tough general election campaigns, and their success may hinge on factors like their personal fundraising networks, the health of the economy, and political debates that have nothing to do with it. do with the electoral administration.
Voters have sometimes been hesitant to embrace candidates whose focus is elections. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia swept aside former Sen. David Perdue’s 2020-centric challenge, and Brad Raffensperger, the state’s secretary of state, also easily beat a Trump-backed rival.
Yet in primary after primary, election deniers have been on the rise, signaling that Trump’s lies about the 2020 election run deep in the Republican base.
The prospect of 2024 hangs over several marquee races in 2022, when a Democratic presidential candidate – Biden, if he runs again as promised – may face the open question of whether the victories in some states would be certified.
In several battleground states, Republicans who have said they would not have certified Biden winning in 2020 are running for governor or secretary of state, positions that oversee elections and the appointment of the delegates of the Electoral College.
In particular, the races for secretary of state — once little-noticed contests to choose the top electoral official in most states — have become highly publicized and politicized.
“I don’t know a single competent, proven election official who says, ‘God, I can’t wait to be on the front page,'” said Pam Anderson, a Republican candidate for secretary of state in Colorado. . “Because that’s generally a really bad thing.”
Anderson is running in a Republican primary against Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who is facing impeachment related to allegations that she tampered with election materials after the 2020 election. Peters became a far-right grassroots hero of sorts, walking the red carpet at a documentary screening at Mar-a-Lago and speaking at Republican events across the country.
The 2020 Lies promotion has also bolstered the prospects of candidates for Secretary of State who have no experience handling elections, like Kristina Karamo, who is likely Michigan’s Republican nominee after winning the most votes. delegates to the state party convention.
In a podcast interview Monday with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Karamo made a series of false claims about a “stolen” 2020 election in Michigan. Mark Finchem, a leading Republican contender for secretary of state in Arizona who also appeared on the podcast, said the contest was “robbed in many ways”.
“If we don’t succeed in November,” Karamo told Bannon, “we’re going to lose our country.”
Karamo did not respond to messages. Reached on his cellphone, Finchem said he was driving and “probably shouldn’t be talking on the phone” and hung up. He did not respond to further requests for comment.
Concerns about candidates who have taken anti-Democratic positions have also motivated Democratic voters in some places, but polls show many voters from both parties are more focused on economic issues such as inflation and fuel prices. gasoline.
Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Democratic Secretary of State, said she was running for re-election to help keep the post under Democratic control – her GOP opponent Audrey Trujillo called the 2020 election of a “coup” – and that she feared the threat was not materializing domestically.
“We’re going to see at least one, if not more, Holocaust deniers accessing these offices in 2022,” she said in an interview. “And I think we have to be afraid and concerned about every single one of them.”