Right-wing rally calling for a so-called “audit” of the 2020 election at the Michigan Capitol, Oct. 12, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins
Updated, 12:47 p.m., 10/14/22, 11/19/22 with additional information
In addition to the top three statewide posts and a number of congressional seats, there are 44 candidates running for the Michigan Legislature who still doubt — to varying degrees — that the 2020 election was anything but safe and secure.
Pro-democracy groups like Voters Not Politicians, Common Cause Michigan, the Republican Accountability Project and more have denounced these candidates as a danger to public trust in future elections. And while the positions of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and member of Congress all have much more power in the mechanisms of certifying an election process, individuals wielding power in the state Legislature still have influence over laws and public discourse that can potentially undermine democracy.
“While Common Cause Michigan remains staunchly nonpartisan, it is important that Michiganders denounce the lies about our elections that have been disproven over and over again. That includes those unwilling to uphold the will of the people,” said Quentin Turner, Common Cause Michigan’s program director.
There also is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Moore v. Harper, that could upend the election process. Republicans in the North Carolina case have put forth the Independent State Legislature Doctrine, an obscure and previously rejected theory that interprets the U.S. Constitution to mean that legislatures are the sole state entity that can regulate federal elections, and as such can overrule state courts, and even state constitutions, on such matters.
If the Supreme Court were to accept that theory, Michigan lawmakers could be the final arbiters of election results.
According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), there are more than 1,000 state legislators and candidates currently running for election or reelection who have been complicit in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to sow doubt in electoral integrity.
At least 21 of those candidates were in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked and infiltrated the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election results. That includes three in Michigan — more than any other state, according to the DLCC.
Given the landscape, Voters Not Politicians (VNP) — the nonpartisan group that spearheaded a 2018 initiative to reform redistricting and is part of the Proposal 3 of 2022 ballot initiative to expand voting access in Michigan — is endorsing in state races for the first time in an effort to prevent election deniers from taking office.
Their slate of 61 approved candidates for state House and Senate are “pro-voter” and “will make strengthening and protecting our democracy a priority,” VNP said. The identified candidates include nine who are currently running against 2020 election deniers for the November 8 general election.
Michigan is among the states with the most election deniers currently running for state Legislature seats. The Advance found that at least 44 candidates for state House and Senate have claimed fraud or irregularities in the 2020 election — and two others have a mixed record.
Those include 30 running for the state House and 14 running for the state Senate. According to the Republican Accountability Project, their actions range from publicly casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and spreading conspiracy theories to participating in related lawsuits and the insurrection itself.
Here is a roundup of candidates:
HD-9: Michele Lundgren was one member of a slate of fake GOP electors who attempted to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan and declare Trump the winner in December 2020. She was subpoenaed and questioned by the FBI over the summer.
Lundgren, a Republican, is running to oust incumbent Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) for the 9th House District. Aiyash is endorsed as a pro-democracy candidate by VNP.
HD-12: Diane Saber attended the Jan. 6, 2021, protest in D.C., has claimed Democrats and others set up the event to make Trump look bad, has made Facebook posts alluding to Trump winning the 2020 election and has shared a photo of herself wearing a “Trump won” tank top.
She is running as a Republican against Democrat Kimberly L. Edwards for the 12th House District.
HD-28: Jamie Thompson, who has connections with the far-right Michigan Leadership Group, does not accept the results of the 2020 presidential election and has voiced support for a so-called forensic audit of the election. She is running against Democrat Rob Kull for the 28th House District.
HD-34: State Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) signed onto a letter asking Congress to look into “credible allegations” of election misconduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, certification vote. Zorn faces Democrat John E. Dahlgren for the 34th House District seat.
HD-35: Incumbent state Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) attended a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He is running against Democrat Andrew Watkins to represent the 35th House District.
HD-36: Incumbent state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) signed onto legal efforts to block Michigan and other states from certifying their 2020 election results, signed a letter calling on former Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying the election, joined calls for a 50-state “audit” and possible decertification of the 2020 election results, introduced a bill for a so-called “forensic audit” in Michigan and has introduced conspiracy-laden legislation to designate Jan. 6, 2021, as “Remembrance Day.”
In June, Carra spearheaded a letter to Nessel urging her to investigate and bring charges against Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson for “crimes related to fraud committed in the 2020 election” and crimes “brought to light” by the pro-Trump, conspiratorial “2000 Mules” movie whose claims have been widely debunked. Carra also participated in and spoke at a Jan. 6, 2021, rally outside the Lansing Capitol. He faces a challenge from Democrat Roger M. Williams for the 36th House District.
HD-37: Incumbent state Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) signed onto a brief in a lawsuit attempting to overturn the 2020 election results in Michigan and other key states. He is running against Democrat Naomi Ludman for the 37th House District.
HD-39: Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) signed onto a November 2020 letter to Benson requesting a full “audit” amid baseless claims of voter fraud and machine tampering. She is running against Democrat Jared Polonowski for the 39th House District.
HD-42: State Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) signed onto a June letter to Nessel asking her to possibly bring charges against Benson for election “crimes” baselessly set forth in the conspiracy-laden “2000 Mules” movie. As the then-House Oversight Committee chair, he oversaw the seven-hour December 2020 hearing where he let Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani take over and air a number of election conspiracies.
Hall faces Democrat Justin Mendoza in the run for the 42nd House District.
HD-43: Trump-endorsed Rachelle Smit is a former township clerk who claims there were “countless irregularities” in the 2020 election. On her website, she states that “we must … fix the 2020 election” before having a successful 2022 election. She is a Republican running against Democrat Mark Ludwig for the 43rd House District.
HD-49: Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp.) signed onto the letter to Benson asking for a full “audit” of the 2020 election based on unfounded accusations of vote tampering. She is running against Democrat Christina M. Kafkakis for the 49th House District.
HD-50: State Rep. Bob Bezotte (R-Howell) was one of 17 state lawmakers who asked Nessel in June to investigate, and possibly bring charges against Benson based on baseless claims of election fraud in the pro-Trump “2000 Mules” movie. He runs against Democrat Glen Miller for the 50th House District.
HD-51: Trump-endorsed incumbent state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) and his wife, Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, were involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, rally outside the U.S. Capitol. Both gave speeches to a crowd the day before and Meshawn Maddock organized buses to transport Michiganders to Washington, D.C. Two months earlier, Matt Maddock also warned: “As soon as we lose our faith in elections…the next step was the Civil War.”
He and Meshawn Maddock were part of the group of GOP protesters at the Michigan Capitol on Dec. 14 when the Electoral College met. Meshawn Maddock was one of the fake GOP electors. Matt Maddock signed a letter calling on Pence to delay certifying the election and signed onto legal efforts to block election results from being certified in Michigan and other key states.
Maddock has also asked for a 50-state “audit” of the 2020 election and possible decertification of the results, as well as a baseless request for Nessel to possibly bring charges against Benson based on false claims in the pro-Trump “2000 Mules” movie. He faces a challenge in Michigan’s 51st House District from Democrat Sarah May-Seward, who is endorsed by VNP.
HD-58: Michelle Smith has made election conspiracies a cornerstone of her campaign’s platform. She also supported a Republican-led election audit to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
Smith, a Republican, is challenging incumbent state Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) for the 58th House District. Shannon is endorsed by VNP as a pro-voter, pro-democracy candidate.
HD-59: State Sen. Douglas Wozniak (R-Shelby Twp.) signed onto legal efforts attempting to overturn the 2020 election results and a letter to Pence asking him to delay certifying the election. He faces Democrat James Diez for the 59th House District.
HD-64: State Rep. Andrew Beeler (R-Port Huron) joined 16 other state lawmakers in urging Nessel in June to investigate and possibly charge Benson for alleged election crimes, falsely put forth in the conspiratorial “2000 Mules” movie. Beeler is running against Democrat Charles Howell for the 64th House District.
HD-72: Mike Mueller (R-Linden) signed onto a November 2020 letter to Benson urging a full “audit” of the election based on unproven allegations of voter fraud. He is running against Democrat Stacy Taylor for the 72nd House District.
HD-73: Norm Shinkle has cast doubt on the 2020 election results based on conspiracy theories and is known in Michigan politics for being the sole member of the State Board of Canvassers to abstain from certifying the results of that election. The Republican resigned from the panel in June to seek a seat in the state House.
Shinkle is challenging incumbent state Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) for the 73rd House District, who is endorsed by VNP.
HD-79: Trump-endorsed Angela Rigas has openly admitted to participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol and claims she was tear-gassed within the Capitol grounds. She has also said that she considers being called an “insurrectionist” and “terrorist” a “compliment,” and does not believe participants of the insurrection should “apologize” because they were “exercising their God-given Constitutional rights.” She has still been endorsed by the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM).
Rigas is running against Democrat Kimberly Kennedy-Barrington to represent the 79th House District.
HD-61: Mike Aiello is an avid Trump supporter who has perpetuated election conspiracy theories on social media. He also mentions the baseless claim of “ballot harvesting” on his campaign website. Aiello, a Republican, is running against VNP-endorsed Democrat Denise Mentzer for the 61st House District.
HD-81: Former state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids) signed onto the November 2020 letter to Benson propping up baseless voter fraud allegations and asking for a full “audit.” She is challenging state Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) for the 81st House District.
HD-89: Incumbent state Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) signed an open letter urging Pence to delay certification of the 2020 election. He faces Democrat Sharon McConnon for the 89th House District.
HD-90: State Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Twp.) joined Carra and other lawmakers in June in writing the letter to Nessel alleging that Benson committed election crimes, based on false claims put forward by the pro-Trump “2000 Mules” movie. Posthumus is up against Democrat Meagan Hintz for the 90th House District.
HD-91: State Rep. Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes), like Posthumus, joined more than a dozen of his colleagues in baselessly asking Nessel to investigate and possibly charge Benson with alleged election crimes related to the 2020 election. Outman is running against Democrat Tammy DeVries for the 91st House District.
HD-99: Trump-endorsed Mike Hoadley has made several overtures on social media indicating that he does not trust the results of the 2020 election, including a call to “restore election integrity to include a full forensic audit.” His campaign platform also demands that “ballots are counted only by methods or machines that are resistant to tampering,” which echoes baseless right-wing conspiracies that Democrats tampered with voting machines to change votes in favor of Biden.
Hoadley, a Republican, faces Democrat Kenneth Kish in a run for the 99th House District.
HD-102: State Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington) signed onto a letter asking Congress to investigate election misconduct during the certification vote in January 2021. He is running against Democrat Brian Hosticka for the 102nd Michigan House seat.
HD-103: Incumbent state Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) signed onto legal efforts to block election certification in Michigan and other states in an attempt to overturn Biden’s win. He faces Democratic Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia in the 103rd House District race, who is endorsed by VNP.
HD-104: State Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City) signed onto the June letter urging Nessel to possibly charge Benson for alleged election crimes. He is running against Democrat Cathy Albro for the 104th House District.
HD-105: Incumbent state Rep. Ken Borton (R-Gaylord) signed a Jan. 5, 2021, letter calling on Pence to delay certifying the election. He is running against Democrat Adam Wojdan for the 105th House District.
HD-110: Incumbent state Rep. Gregory Markkanen (R-Hancock) signed onto legal efforts to block Michigan and other key states from certifying Biden’s win in 2020 and joined other lawmakers in asking Nessel to investigate Benson based on baseless election fraud claims. He faces Democrat Casey VerBerkmoes for the 110th House District.
SD-11: Incumbent state Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Twp.) signed onto a letter to Benson in 2020 urging a full “audit” of the election results and detailing baseless accusations about voting fraud and Dominion Voting Systems. He faces Democrat Veronica Klinefelt for the 11th Senate District seat.
SD-16: State Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) signed onto the Benson letter in November 2020. He is running against Democrat Katybeth Davis for the 16th Senate District.
SD-12: State Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) also signed onto the November 2020 audit letter to Benson. She is facing fellow House member state Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) for the 12th Senate District seat.
SD-17: On his campaign website, Trump-endorsed candidate Jonathan Lindsey claims the 2020 election “was not conducted legally, was “open to manipulation and fraud” and “resulted in many reports of irregularities.” He also slams Michigan GOP legislators for “refus[ing] to fulfill their constitutional duty when faced with election results tainted by illegality,” while in fact Michigan’s state Legislature did not have the legal ability to overturn the state’s election results.
Lindsey is running against Democrat Scott Starr for the 17th Senate District.
SD-19: Tamara Mitchell attended events promoting election conspiracies, including a local premier of the “2000 Mules” pro-Trump “documentary” that claims to show widespread voter fraud in 2020. She is in support of a “full forensic audit” of election results and posted a campaign advertisement accusing Democrats of election fraud.
Mitchell, a Republican, will face the VNP-endorsed incumbent state Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) for the 19th Senate District.
SD-20: Incumbent state Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) was the primary signee of a November 2020 letter to Benson, in which he and 40 other GOP lawmakers urged the Secretary of State to conduct a “full audit” based on unproven allegations of misconduct and fraud. He is running against Democrat Kim Jorgensen Gane for the 20th Senate District.
SD-23: Incumbent state Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) signed onto the letter to Congress claiming election misconduct during the certification vote on Jan. 6, 2021. He faces Democrat Una Hepburn for the 23rd Senate District.
SD-24: Incumbent state Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Twp.), Michigan’s former secretary of state, has made a litany of false and misleading statements about election integrity in Michigan. She is also a leader on Trump’s so-called “Election Integrity Commission” that has also perpetuated election lies.
Johnson is squaring off against Democrat Theresa Fougnie for the 24th House District. Fougnie is endorsed by VNP.
SD-25: Incumbent state Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) signed onto a letter asking Congress to investigate “credible allegations” of election misconduct during their certification vote on Jan. 6, 2021. Lauwers faces Democrat Bert Van Dyke for the 25th Senate District seat.
SD-26: Incumbent state Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) signed onto a letter calling on members of Congress to investigate “credible allegations” of election misconduct. Daley is running against Democrat Charles Stadler for the 26th Senate District.
SD-31: Incumbent state Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Twp.) also signed onto the letter to Congress regarding claims of election misconduct. He faces VNP-endorsed Democrat Kim Nagy for the 31st Senate District seat.
SD-32: Incumbent state Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) signed onto a November 2020 letter urging a full “audit” of the Michigan election, citing baseless allegations of errors and wrongdoing. He is running against state Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) for the 32nd Senate District.
SD-33: Incumbent state Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) signed onto a letter calling on Congress to investigate election misconduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, certification vote. He faces Democrat Mark Bignell for the 33rd Senate District.
SD-36: Incumbent state Sen. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) signed onto legal efforts to block Michigan and other key states from certifying their election results after Biden’s victory over Trump. Hoitenga is running against Democratic former state Rep. Joel Sheltrown for the 36th House District.
Other lawmakers’ actions
Two lawmakers, state Sens. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) and Lana Theis (R-Brighton), previously questioned the results of the 2020 election but have since accepted them after completing an investigation.
McBroom, who originally expressed doubt in the security of the election process, chairs a Senate panel that released a lengthy 2021 report debunking claims of widespread voter fraud in Michigan. The report has since been the ire of Trump himself and others who continue to sow distrust in the process.
McBroom did, however, reject a request to publicly appear before the U.S. House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
For her part, Theis signed onto a letter urging Congress to investigate “credible allegations” of election misconduct during the Jan. 6, 2021, certification vote. But after the Senate Oversight Committee — which she co-chairs — found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Michigan, Theis accepted the results.
This led to Trump publicly bashing Theis for “forg[etting] she’s a Republican,” and endorsing her challenger, real estate Mike Detmer. Theis beat Detmer in the August primary.
Election deniers who didn’t go the distance
Several election denier candidates for the Legislature lost in the Aug. 2 primary or were disqualified.
They include: House candidates Gene Haymaker, Sandy Kiesel, Andrew Sebolt, Larry Hull, Trump-endorsed Mick Bricker, Jason Howland, Nevin Cooper-Keel, Jacky Eubanks, Michael Shallal and Jon Rocha; Senate candidates James Chapman and Charles Ritchard; and Mellissa Carone, who ran for both the Michigan House and Senate but was disqualified from both.
Carone, Cooper-Keel, Howland, Hull, Rocha, Sebolt and Shallal were all in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.
Carone was portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” after her testimony to a December 2020 Michigan House hearing run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani where she made baseless claims of election fraud.
Carone will appear on the ballot as the lieutenant governor nominee for the far-right U.S. Taxpayers Party alongside gubernatorial nominee Donna Brandenburg, who was kicked off the Aug. 2 GOP primary ballot amid a broad signature-gathering fraud scandal. However, Carone has now endorsed GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon in her race against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — although Carone’s name will still be on the ballot.
Incumbent lawmakers who ran for reelection, but lost in the August primary include: state Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Niles) and state Reps. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.), Terence Mekoski (R-Shelby Twp.) and Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw Twp.). All took part in spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) also ran for the secretary of state nomination but lost in the Aug. 2 GOP primary to Kristina Karamo. Former state Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) is running for Lt. Gov. alongside GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon.
Lawmakers who denied the 2020 election, but aren’t on the 2022 ballot
Lawmakers who helped perpetuate the “Big Lie” but are term-limited or otherwise not currently running for office include: State Sens. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) and Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth); State Reps. Julie Alexander (R-Hanover), Sue Allor (R-Wolverine), Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan), Steven Johnson (R-Wayland), Gary Howell (R-North Branch), Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.), John Reilly (R-Oakland), Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.) and Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond); and former state Reps. Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale), Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance), Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville) and Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills).
Rendon is being investigated, along with GOP Attorney General nominee Matt DePerno, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf and others, for allegedly tampering with voter equipment following the 2020 election.
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