PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona lawmaker endorsed by former President Donald Trump who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol and one other lawmaker who also believes the 2020 presidential election results ought to be overturned are amongst 4 Republicans vying for the highest elections post within the presidential battleground.
It’s a trend seen in several Republican primaries this 12 months that has led to mixed results for many who peddle conspiracy theories and promote the falsehood that widespread fraud led to Trump’s defeat. Tuesday’s primary elections feature similar candidates in Kansas and Washington state.
In Kansas, voters will choose from a challenger who questions the 2020 presidential results and the incumbent Republican who believes the election was secure in his state. Washington state’s open primary also has a candidate who backs Trump’s unsupported claims, although that’s not the hardest challenge the Democratic incumbent faces.
To date this 12 months, Republican primary voters have split on whether to place election skeptics on the November ballot.
In June, Nevada voters chosen former state lawmaker Jim Marchant, who has been repeating the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, to face the Democrat in an open race for secretary of state. But in Colorado, GOP voters rejected an area election clerk who has been appearing with Trump allies promoting conspiracies about voting machines and as an alternative selected a Republican who vowed to maintain politics out of elections.
And Georgia 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 in that state’s May primary.
Mark Finchem, a Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State, waves to the gang as he arrives to talk at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona’s secretary of state race is probably the most eye-catching and consequential of Tuesday’s primary battles, partially due to Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem.
The retired Michigan police officer and current Arizona House member was on the Capitol on Jan. 6 and contends Trump lost Arizona due to rampant fraud. He backed a controversial and much-criticized state Senate “audit” of the 2020 election results within the state’s most populous county and this 12 months tried to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to notify Congress that Arizona desired to decertify Joe Biden’s election win.
Finchem is also suing in federal court with a number one GOP contender for Arizona governor to dam using vote-counting machines in Arizona. The lawsuit contends they’re potentially vulnerable to hacking that may change votes. A judge is considering whether to throw out the case.
Finchem’s claims come despite the shortage of valid evidence of any widespread fraud that may have modified the lead to Arizona, where Biden beat Trump by just over 10,000 votes. He maintains that “fictitious ballots” marred the outcomes.
“So so that you can say that there’s no evidence, I feel the media is willfully disregarding the evidence that’s on the market,” Finchem said.
His primary competitors include one other state House member, Shawnna Bolick, a Trump supporter who contends the 2020 election was deeply flawed. She said in a televised debate that she wouldn’t have certified the election had she been secretary of state, despite it being a requirement to accomplish that absent a court order.
“And I might have been breaking the law at that time and that may have been superb,” she said on the controversy carried on Arizona PBS.
On this Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 file photograph, Shawnna Bolick, a Republican running for Secretary of State for Arizona, speaks on the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
The opposite two Republican candidates are state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who acknowledges Biden’s victory and has made election reform a key focus during her 12 years within the Legislature, and Beau Lane, a businessman and political newcomer who has earned the endorsement of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Ugenti-Rita said not one of the other candidates has her understanding of election law and that she believes she has broad support across the state.
“They immediately recognize my record and experience, and so they feel assured that I can get the job done and that’s the message,” Ugenti-Rita said about voters. “That’s what people want. They’re done with platitudes — it gets policy nowhere.”
Lane said his executive experience makes him the very best alternative for the job. He noted his long engagement in Republican politics, back to when as a young man he was a page on the 1980 Republican convention during which Ronald Reagan was nominated for president.
“Above all, we’d like any individual who could be a fair dealer and help restore faith in elections,” he said.
Lane said apart from just a few hiccups and isolated cases of voter fraud, the 2020 election was well run, although he joined the opposite Republicans in criticizing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who’s searching for her party’s nomination for governor.
“Was there organized, rigged fraud that that modified the consequence of the election?” he asked. “I even have seen no evidence of that.”
Two Democrats are searching for their party’s nomination — former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who lost his seat within the 2020 election, and Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding. Each criticize Finchem and other Republicans who query the 2020 election results and say a Finchem victory could be dangerous for democracy.
In Kansas, Secretary of State Scott Schwab is also facing a challenge from his right within the state’s GOP primary.
Schwab is a former Kansas House member who has defended using ballot drop boxes, which Trump and other Republicans say are vulnerable to misuse, although there isn’t any widespread evidence of that. He has dismissed baseless theories about fraud, at the very least as a possibility in Kansas elections.
“There have been concerns that folks had in other states, and a few folks need to have that concern in Kansas, but they’re just rumors — ‘I heard this in Georgia. I heard this in Arizona, I heard this in Nevada, subsequently Kansas,’” Schwab said during a recent interview. “And you may’t copy and paste situations from one state to the following just because our statutes are so different.”
Schwab’s primary opponent is Mike Brown, a construction contractor and former county commissioner in Johnson County, the state’s most populous and residential to Kansas City-area suburbs.
Brown has made doubts in regards to the security of Kansas elections central to his campaign. He’s promised to ban ballot drop boxes and said he’ll use the secretary of state’s office to pursue election fraud cases, slightly than taking Schwab’s approach of working through prosecutors.
Brown said that when Schwab says Kansas elections ran easily with no significant problems, the query is, “Because he said so, or because he can prove it?”
“His answer is, ‘There’s nothing to see here, keep moving,’” he added. “You need to start looking and you must stop moving.”
Washington state’s “top two” primary features Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to retain his seat for the remaining two years of former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s four-year term. He’s the primary Democrat to carry the office since 1965, taking Wyman’s seat after she left for an election security job within the Biden administration.
Hobbs faces several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an “America First” candidate who was fined by the state Supreme Court last month for making legally meritless claims alleging widespread voter fraud.
Hobbs has raised probably the most among the many candidates for the race up to now, followed by Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who’s running as a nonpartisan and said she is probably the most experienced in running elections.
Among the many Republicans within the race, former Sen. Mark Miloscia — he’s now head of the conservative Family Policy Institute — has raised probably the most money. Republican Sen. Keith Wagoner trails Miloscia in money but has been endorsed by former Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Hobbs has pointed to his experience as a Washington National Guard lieutenant and his months running the office to say why he’s best positioned to handle issues starting from cybersecurity concerns to election misinformation.
Anderson said she’s running as a nonpartisan due to hyperpolarization across the country, saying that “we don’t need political parties within the secretary of state’s office calling balls and strikes at home plate.”
Under Washington’s primary system, the highest two vote-getters advance to the final election in November, no matter party. Results will likely take days to tally since it’s an all-mail election.
Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.