An Arizona lawmaker, backed by former President Donald Trump, who attended the January 6, 2021 meeting that preceded the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, and another lawmaker who also believes the results of the 2020 presidential election should be destroyed , are among four Republicans vying for the top election post on the presidential battlefield.
It’s a trend seen in several Republican primaries this year that has led to mixed results for those who spread conspiracy theories and promote the lie that widespread fraud led to Trump’s defeat. Similar candidates will be seen in the state of Kansas and Washington in Tuesday’s primaries.
In Kansas, voters will choose between a challenger who questions the 2020 presidential results and the incumbent Republican who believes the election was safe in his state. Washington state’s open primaries also have a candidate who backs Trump’s unsupported claims, though that’s not the toughest challenge the Democratic incumbent faces.
This year, Republican primary voters are divided on whether to put election skeptics on November’s ballot.
In June, voters in Nevada selected former state legislator Jim Marchant, who repeated false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen from Trump, to face the Democrat in an open race for secretary of state. But in Colorado, GOP voters rejected a local election secretary who, along with Trump allies, promoted conspiracies about voting machines, and instead chose a Republican who vowed to keep politics out of the election.
And Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rejected Trump’s plea to find enough votes for him to win the state, easily survived a primary challenge to advance to that state’s May primary.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s race is the most glaring and consistent of Tuesday’s primary battles, due in part to Republican State Representative Mark Finchem.
The retired Michigan police officer and current member of the Arizona House was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, alleging that Trump lost Arizona due to rampant fraud. He supported a controversial and much-criticized state senate “audit” of the 2020 election results in the state’s most populous county, and this year he tried to get the Republican-controlled legislature to inform Congress that Arizona won Joe’s election. Biden wanted to decertify.
Finchem is also suing in federal court with a leading GOP contender for the governor of Arizona to block the use of vote counting machines in Arizona. The lawsuit alleges that they may be susceptible to hacking that can alter votes. A judge is considering dropping the case.
Finchem’s claims come despite the lack of valid evidence of any widespread fraud that would have changed the outcome in Arizona, where Biden defeated Trump by just over 10,000 votes. He claims that “fictional ballots” marred the results.
“So to say there is no evidence, I think the media is deliberately ignoring the evidence that there is,” Finchem said.
His main competitors are another member of the state house, Shawnna Bolick, a Trump supporter who claims the 2020 election was deeply flawed. She said in a televised debate that she would not have certified the election if she had been secretary of state, despite being required to do so without a court order.
“And I would have broken the law at the time and that would have been fine,” she said of the Arizona PBS debate.
The other two Republican candidates are Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who recognizes Biden’s victory and made electoral reform a major focus during her 12 years in the legislature, and Beau Lane, a businessman and political newcomer who has supported from the Republican. Gov. Doug Ducey.
Ugenti-Rita said none of the other candidates have her knowledge of electoral law and she believes she has widespread support across the state.
“They recognize my track record and experience immediately and they are confident I can get the job done and that’s the message,” Ugenti-Rita said of voters. “That’s what people want. They’re done with platitudes — it’s going nowhere.”
Lane said his leadership experience makes him the best choice for the job. He noted his long involvement in Republican politics when, as a young man, he was a page at the 1980 Republican convention in which Ronald Reagan was nominated for president.
“We especially need someone who can be an honest dealer and help restore confidence in elections,” he said.
Lane said that, barring a few hiccups and isolated cases of voter fraud, the 2020 election had gone well, although he joined other Republicans in criticizing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is seeking the her party’s nomination for governor.
“Was there organized, rigged fraud that changed the outcome of the election?” he asked. “I haven’t seen any evidence of that.”
Two Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination — former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who lost his seat in the 2020 election, and Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding. Both criticize Finchem and other Republicans who are questioning the 2020 election results, saying that a Finchem victory would be dangerous for democracy.
In Kansas, Secretary of State Scott Schwab also faces a challenge from the right in the state’s GOP primary.
Schwab is a former Kansas House member who has championed the use of ballot boxes, which Trump and other Republicans say are prone to abuse, although there is no widespread evidence of that. He has dismissed baseless theories of fraud, at least as a possibility in the Kansas election.
“There were concerns that people in other states had, and some people want to have those concerns in Kansas, but it’s just rumors – ‘I heard this in Georgia. I heard this in Arizona, I heard this in Nevada, so Kansas’ Schwab said in a recent interview. “And you can’t copy and paste situations from one state to another simply because our statutes are so different.”
Schwab’s main opponent is Mike Brown, a construction contractor and former county commissioner in Johnson County, the state’s most populous state and home to the suburbs of Kansas City.
Brown has put doubts about the security of the Kansas election at the heart of his campaign. He has pledged to ban ballot boxes and said he will use the Secretary of State’s office to prosecute electoral fraud cases, rather than Schwab’s approach to working through prosecutors.
Brown said that when Schwab says the Kansas election went smoothly without significant issues, the question is, “Because he said it, or because he can prove it?”
“His answer is, ‘There’s nothing to see here, keep moving,'” he added. “You have to start looking and you have to stop moving.”
In the “top two” of Washington state is Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who was appointed last November by Governor Jay Inslee and hopes to hold his seat for the remaining two years of the four-year term of the former Republican Secretary of State. Foreign Affairs Kim Wyman. He is the first Democrat to hold office since 1965, taking Wyman’s seat after she left for an election security job in the Biden administration.
Hobbs faces several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an “America First” candidate who was fined last month by the state Supreme Court for making legally unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.
Hobbs has picked up the most candidates for the race so far, followed by Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who acts as a nonpartisan and said she is the most experienced at leading elections.
Among the Republicans in the race, former Senator Mark Miloscia—he now heads the conservative Family Policy Institute—raised the most money. Republican Senator Keith Wagoner follows Miloscia in money, but is endorsed by former Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Hobbs has pointed to his experience as a National Guard lieutenant in Washington and his months running the office to say why he is best placed to address issues ranging from cybersecurity concerns to election misinformation.
Anderson said she is running like an impartial because of hyperpolarization across the country, saying that “we don’t need political parties in the Secretary of State’s office shouting balls and strikes at home plate.”
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two voters advance to the November general election, regardless of party. It will probably take days for the results to add up as it is a postal election.
The Bharat Express News writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.
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