GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon speaks at a Macomb County Trump rally, Oct. 1, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins
Some states are comparatively isolated from the most damaging influence of democracy haters.
California, Washington, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado — they are likely to avoid the misfortune of election deniers in high office in the near future, or they operate with voting laws meant to expand, rather than restrict, voter access.
But while such states act as a bulwark for precious democratic traditions, they exist as part of a federal system in which a cancer in some states can infect every state and be fatal to the whole republic.
Election-denying candidates for high office are not only on the ballot in many states but are expected to win, thereby conferring state authority on conspiracy theorists and fascists who care nothing about election security and everything about power. Their poisonous presence won’t be confined by state borders.
That’s why constituents in Constitution-respecting states are mistaken if they feel relieved about November ballots that lack the sort of far-right conspiracists up for election in states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Their election deniers are your election deniers.
The breadth of election denial among Republican candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats and top statewide offices is astonishing. The Washington Post counts 291 of them in 48 states — the majority of them are expected to win and many more are strong contenders.
In the most alarming cases, they would have direct control over their state’s elections and could exert undemocratic, conspiratorial or outright deceitful influence over future elections, like the 2024 presidential contest, in which the GOP will almost certainly put up an authoritarian candidate, such as insurrection leader Donald Trump or, perhaps worse, cunning human rights abuser Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.
Jim Marchant, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, who is polling ahead of his Democratic opponent, exemplifies why even non-Nevadans should be scandalized by the strength of his campaign. He embraces the lie the 2020 election was stolen by a global cabal, and during a recent rally with Trump, Marchant told the crowd that “when my coalition of Secretary of State candidates around the country get elected we’re going to fix the whole country and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.”
When Nevada has a secretary of state fixing presidential elections, that concerns Californians, New Yorkers and Coloradans as much as it does Nevadans.
Mark Finchem, a Republican state representative in Arizona who could become secretary of state, has said he would not have certified the 2020 election. The election denier also uses antisemitic tropes, was part of the Jan. 6 mob that marched on the U.S. Capitol, and is tied to the Oath Keepers, the militia that helped plan the insurrection. He wants to ban voting machines and count ballots by hand, which election experts say is not only less accurate but also “impossible.”
Arizona is like a conspiracy theory clinic. The Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, is so delirious with stolen-election fever that she claimed the recent Arizona primary election was rigged against her, even though she won.
Lake is one of four election-denying GOP governor candidates in four swing states — the others are state Sen. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Tudor Dixon in Michigan and Tim Michels in Wisconsin. From a governor’s seat, these enemies of democracy could substantially restrict voter access or otherwise compromise elections. Each of the four is a competitive candidate. Each poses a threat to all states, not just their own.
Even in a state like Colorado, with its national reputation for conducting gold-standard elections, five of the Republican candidates for the 12 congressional and top statewide offices qualify as election deniers. These include the GOP candidate for governor, Heidi Ganahl, who’s not going to win, and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, who, despite her seditionist behavior on Jan. 6 and unabated far-right toxicity, is probably going to win.
In Congress, Boebert shames not just Colorado but the nation, just as election deniers in any state shame all states.
Trump’s attempted coup relied in part on the willingness of state-level officials to help subvert legitimate election results. Dozens of Republicans across the country, including in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, plotted to send pro-Trump fake-elector slates to Washington to supplant the true electors.
The plot failed, but election denial didn’t die. On the contrary it’s become normalized for a large portion of the Republican Party — about 70% of Republicans believe Trump’s “big lie” that the election was stolen. It’s more potent now, more subversive, more determined. Democracy’s foes had two months to undermine the 2020 election. They will have had four years to prepare for the 2024 election, and they’re scheming out in the open to claim power no matter what dishonesty they must perpetrate.
That spells doom for democracy in Colorado and Arizona equally, and Americans everywhere have an interest in resisting it.
This column first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, Colorado Newsline.
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