Legislative survey shows deep GOP divide on election
Republican state legislators are torn between moving past an election that President Trump lost and fighting tooth and nail to get him a second term, even if that means calling for Congress to overturn the certified results of an election.
The Hill asked every Republican legislator in the country for their thoughts on the election, including whether they recognized President-elect Joe Biden as the winner.
About half of the 200 or so Republican legislators who responded to The Hill acknowledged Biden as the winner, while about a quarter said they did not believe Trump had lost his election, or that Biden’s win was legitimate.
Many Republicans said the election was over and settled, and that their party would do best to move on.
“It is time for my party to regroup and get a plan for moving forward. Trying to overturn the election is not a plan,” said Utah state Rep. Lowry Snow (R).
“Frankly, I’ve found people calling for secession or having Congress disavow the votes of millions of Americans to be yet another embarrassment to my party,” Vermont state Sen. Joe Benning (R) said.
But other Republican legislators who responded to The Hill’s survey offered wavering responses about whether Biden had won the election.
“I don’t think there is any doubt of systematic fraud and deception in some States, but whether that was enough to change the numbers, I do not know,” Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey (R) said in an email.
“I want to be confident in the election results one way or the other and I am not there right now,” said Jim Struzzi (R), a Pennsylvania state representative. “I want to know every vote that was counted was legal before I accept final results.”
Some Republican legislators said they had seen no evidence of the type of widespread fraud that Trump, his lawyers and conservative pundits have alleged.
“I have a hard time believing there was enough fraud to change the election,” said Bill Landen (R), a Wyoming state senator who chairs the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee in his state. “Biden is the president, and I hope the current president will stop soon and move toward healing the country.”
“Citizens must accept the outcome of elections, with proper procedures available for questioning irregularities, whether we are pleased with the outcome or not,” added Judy Lee (R), a North Dakota state senator. “Half of the U.S. would be unhappy, no matter how the election turned out.”
Polls show a large number of Republican voters do not believe Biden’s victory was legitimate, even though there has been no widespread evidence of fraud that would lead to serious questions.
Courts across the nation have rejected arguments from Trump and his allies that widespread fraud led to his defeat, often in biting terms. The long losing streak culminated in two decisions last week by a Supreme Court that has a conservative majority and includes three justices nominated by Trump.
Statements by Trump and others raising questions about the election’s integrity are seen as contributing to distrust, and Colorado Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R) said he worried that efforts to undermine confidence would lead to broader problems for elected officials at all levels.
“It clouds all elected officials and their ability to represent their constituents if people don’t have confidence that the election process was fair,” Sonnenberg said in an email.
In emails to The Hill, several legislators left open the possibility of congressional action to overturn election results. Congress has the power to reject electoral votes sent from the states, though doing so would require a bipartisan vote that is not realistic.
“If the clearly fraudulent votes are counted and allowed to stand, I believe congressional action is justified,” said Beryl Amedee (R), a Louisiana state representative.
When asked, some legislators left open the prospect of seceding from the union over the election results, an argument that echoed remarks by conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh earlier this month.
“Secession is as American as apple pie. Without secession, there would not have been America in the first place. It’s when the federal government stops a state or the free people thereof from leaving the union that we should be worried,” South Carolina state Rep. Stewart Jones (R) said in an email.
Others dismissed it outright. James Allard (R), a New Hampshire state representative, called secession “ridiculous and unworthy of discussion.”
“Our country is clearly divided with two strong ideological positions,” said Gary Leif (R), a member of Oregon’s House of Representatives. “But, we are bound, guided, and led by a strong Constitution. This is not the first time in history that we have debated the political direction of the country and it will not be the last.”