State Watch

Watchdog finds fundraising spikes for Ga., Mich., Minn. secretary of state candidates

A watchdog group has found fundraising spikes for Georgia, Michigan and Minnesota candidates for secretary of state, a position that carries a significant amount of authority over the elections in the states.

Across the three states, fundraising is 2 1/2 times higher than it was at the same point in either of the past two election cycles, the Brennan Center for Justice found

“These are traditionally very sleepy elections. These are bureaucrats no one cares about,” said Ian Vandewalker, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program who tracks election spending and denialism. Now, Vandewalker added: “Controlling who’s running the elections is potentially a route to winning the elections.”

In Georgia, all the Republican and Democratic candidates have raised more during this cycle than Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had made at this point in the 2018 race. 

Raffensperger had raised $100,000 by this point in the past election. In this election, he has already raised four times that number. Democratic challenger Bee Nguyen has also raised $400,000, while other Democrat David Belle Isle is lagging behind.

Republican Jody Hice, who has embraced former President Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia were fraudulent, leads in the Georgia fundraising race with more than $575,000 after saying if 2020 was a “fair election, it would be a different outcome.”

Twenty-two percent of the fundraising in the race is from out-of-state donors, up from 13 percent in 2018.

Michigan Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson has already raised $1.2 million in her race, five times more than this point in her 2018 campaign. Kristina Karamo is the only Republican who has raised a notable amount, the group found, at $164,000. 

Minnesota has also seen an increase, although less significant, with $157,000 total in the race. That number is triple the 2014 number at $42,000.

The increase in interest in the position that oversees state elections comes after a contentious 2020 presidential election where many claimed, without evidence, that the results of the election were fraudulent. 

Trump still contends there was enough fraud in several swing states that led to his defeat, although he has no evidence to prove his claim.

“The people who run our elections are mostly elected officials themselves. That has always worked pretty well, but what we’re seeing that’s different now is that the critical messages in campaigns for these offices is about the legitimacy of the last election,” he said. “Influencing who’s controlling the elections is potentially going to influence the legitimacy of the election itself.”

“We don’t want election administration to become controversial in that way,” Vandewalker added. “We want election administrators to get the votes and count the votes and say who won, and it shouldn’t matter who’s in control.”

Tags 2020 election 2022 elections Brennan Center for Justice Donald Trump Fundraising Georgia Jody Hice Michigan Minnesota

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