An oath keeper could end up in charge of the Arizona election

JTwo Donald Trump loyalists who floated baseless conspiracy theories about the last presidential election moved closer Tuesday night to overseeing the next one in a key battleground state.

Mark Finchem, who identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers, marched to the US Capitol on January 6, lobbied for an unsuccessful partisan review of presidential ballots in Arizona’s Maricopa County and pledged to radically reshape voting rights in the state, won the Arizona Republican primary for secretary of state, a position that serves as the state’s chief electoral officer.

Meanwhile, Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor who said she wouldn’t certify the 2020 election results and falsely called the election “stolen,” is leading the GOP governor’s primary on Karrin Taylor Robson, a more traditional conservative, with around 80% of the primary vote counted.

Finchem’s victory is the latest victory for the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group formed in the aftermath of the 2020 election to install Trump supporters who rejected the 2020 presidential results as senior officials state elections. More than half of the 2022 Secretary of State races have included a prominent Holocaust denier, according to a tally by States United Action. Coalition founder Jim Marchant won the nomination for Republican Secretary of State in Nevada, while Kristina Karamo, an election conspiracy theorist who suggested without evidence that the voting software overturned votes for Joe Biden, is on track to be the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Michigan. In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, who organized buses for the Stop the Steal rally on January 6, is the GOP candidate for governor.

The effort to install 2020 election deniers as top state election officials in 2022 has motivated both sides to pour money into generally sleepy secretary-of-state races nationwide. Candidates from both parties have raised more than $16 million in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin, with more than $7 million going to candidates who deny the results of the presidential election of 2020, according to a report by the nonpartisan Brennan Center. .

Finchem and Lake’s wins would be big wins for Make America Great Again conspiracy theorists who believe the election was stolen. “There’s a lot at stake in terms of what this means for the future of democracy in Arizona, and frankly what it means nationally,” says Tory Gavito, president of Way to Win, a national network of donors who plans to donate $9 million to Arizona. to help elect Democrats to secretary of state and other statewide positions. “On the Republican side, they’ve made it clear that they don’t believe in systems that count every vote.”

While that’s a bad omen for democracy, it could be a good outcome for Democrats hoping to retain control of the battleground state, according to Arizona strategists from both parties.

It’s the “worst-case scenario” for Republicans in Arizona, says Chuck Coughlin, an unaffiliated political strategist from Arizona who runs a firm that represents Republican candidates. “These types of election deniers are not capable of commanding the majority of the electorate.” The result, Coughlin adds, is proof that the GOP “lives in an electoral cul-de-sac that is no bigger than Donald Trump’s ego.”

Although far-right candidates may win a Republican primary, they are unlikely to achieve large margins with independent voters who tend to decide elections in Arizona. “Electoral denial shouldn’t be one of their main reasons for running in the general election if they hope to sway middle-of-the-road voters,” says Mike Noble, head of research at OH Predictive Insights, a firm non-partisan Arizona. . According to a poll by the Noble Society, 66% of Arizona voters agree with state and federal election officials that there was no credible voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 election. Only 25% of moderate Republicans say they lack confidence in the Arizona election.

“A lot of people outside the Trump base don’t believe the election was stolen in Arizona,” says Lorna Romero, a Republican consultant who worked with the late Sen. John McCain and former GOP Gov. Jan Brewer. “We’ve had audit after audit, and it’s been the evening news since the election, so a lot of people have been exposed to the information that there was no wrongdoing. People are tired of hearing about it.

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Write to Charlotte Alter at [email protected]

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