GOP election deniers spark alarm about 2024
Democrats are sounding the alarm about the possibility of Republican election deniers winning statewide office in key swing states.
Some Republican gubernatorial candidates, like Kari Lake in Arizona and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, and secretary of state candidates like Jim Marchant in Nevada and Kristina Karamo in Michigan, have gained notoriety for casting doubt on the last presidential election, with some even suggesting they would not have certified the 2020 results.
Now Democrats and even some Republicans are worrying about the effect these candidates could have in further undermining confidence in future U.S. elections should they win office, especially as the country stares down the likelihood of another polarized presidential race in 2024.
“In terms of its impact on ‘24, I mean, again, I think it’s not hyperbole to say that they could trigger a constitutional crisis, and that may simply be the … intent, is that if [Donald] Trump runs and loses, throw as much shit against the wall and see what can happen,” said one GOP strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly when asked how these candidates could impact the certification of 2024 or other elections if they were elected in November.
“And it certainly sounds like in Michigan … and in Arizona and some other places, there will be willing participants in trying to force that issue.”
Arizona has emerged as a particular concern, with Lake and Mark Finchem (R), running for secretary of state, either tied or ahead of their Democratic opponents in several recent polls.
“I think Arizona is a good example. It’s an important state. It’s a state that Democrats broke through in 2020 and could win in 2024. But they could be in a situation if Lake is governor and Finchem is [the] secretary of state, that Joe Biden could get the most votes and still not get the certification he needs for the electoral vote,” Democratic strategist and The Hill opinion contributor Brad Bannon said, describing a hypothetical situation where Biden ran in 2024.
Both secretary of state candidates Finchem in Arizona and Marchant in Nevada have said they would not have certified Biden’s 2020 win in their states had they been in office last cycle. Karamo, who worked as a poll watcher in Michigan during the last election, has also made dubious claims about 2020.
Data from the pro-Democracy nonprofit States United Action have shown several key findings: that a candidate that the nonprofit has categorized as an election denier will appear on the ballot for nearly half of the country’s secretary of state races. For attorney general races, that percentage stands at one-third. More than half of the gubernatorial races will also see an election denier on the ballot.
“What we call election deniers are going to win this fall because there’s just so many running,” said Simon Rosenberg, a former adviser for the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “I think what we’re talking about is so ridiculous, and borderline crazy, that it’s not really sustainable, in my view, for a Republican Party to continue down this path.”
That appears to be true for some candidates who have been trailing their competitors since they won their primary. A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month showed that 54 percent of respondents in Pennsylvania said they would definitely or probably vote for Shapiro, compared to 38 percent who said the same for Mastriano.
But in other cases, surveys show that some of these Republican candidates are polling competitively — or even leading — their Democratic counterparts. A Fox 10-InsiderAdvantage poll released on Thursday found Lake leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hobbs, 49.3 percent to 45.6 percent. An OH Predictive Insights poll released last month found Finchem leading Democrat Adrian Fontes 40 percent to 35 percent in the Arizona secretary of state race.
Those candidates have also set off alarms among some Republicans, who have voiced their support for the Democrats in those races. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a widely known Trump critic, endorsed Fontes, Hobbs and other Democrats in contested statewide races through his leadership PAC Country First.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who lost her primary earlier this year to Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman and has been another fierce opponent of the former president, said that if she lived in Arizona, she would be voting Democratic in the gubernatorial and secretary of state races.
Marchant’s campaign brushed off any criticism, saying in a statement, “Still waiting for the story on how candidates like Cisco Aguilar don’t support the most basic of election integrity measures like voter ID, which the overwhelming majority of Americans support.”
Some Democrats, Republicans and other political observers suggested they thought it was unlikely the candidates, even if they win, could seriously impact the certification of the 2024 election.
Some argued there was a difference between campaigning and governing. Others suggested that there were checks and balances to stop bad actors from seriously compromising election results.
“We have checks and balances in place no matter what the outcome of this year’s midterms is. We saw that in 2020, when responsible state officials from both sides of the aisle and the courts stood up and defended the results,” Thania Sanchez, senior vice president for research and policy development at States United Action, said in a statement.
“But Americans need to vote this November like our democracy is on the line—because it is. We need officials in these positions who believe in free and fair elections.”
Still, Sanchez and strategists — on both sides of the aisle — say the sentiments offered by the Republicans who have sowed doubt in the American election system and 2020 race are troubling.
“The more you call into question an election without ever providing proof, or backing up your findings, the more you make people less inclined to participate in the process,” said a second GOP strategist. “And by the way, that’s an issue, make no mistake, that damaged Republicans in the runoff in Georgia last cycle, and potentially cost us the ability to control the U.S. Senate.”
That strategist argued that the baseless allegations and questioning of an election that found no major fraud — despite numerous audits and investigations in battleground states — could undermine people’s faith in elected officials, too.
“They’re kind of aftershocks of the earthquake,” the GOP strategist said of the candidates. “The question is, do they portend a future major earthquake again or [are] they just the remnants of the last one? Be interesting to see. I pray for the former.”