The inspiring news from this month’s midterm elections — at least for those of us who are fans of democracy — is that voters in key battleground states rejected Trump-endorsed election deniers running for secretary of state. It’s not hyperbole to predict that if those candidates had won, they could’ve morphed from election deniers into democracy destroyers.
For example, Jim Marchant, Nevada’s Republican secretary of state candidate, not only claimed that “Trump and I lost an election in 2020 because of a rigged election,” he created the America First Secretary of State Coalition that brought together other election-denying candidates from across the country looking to oversee elections in their states. Marchant had boasted that the coalition would “fix the whole country and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.”
Trump announced last week that he’s running in 2024, but, thankfully, neither Marchant nor most of the candidates who formed the America First Secretary of State Coalition will be in a position to help him.
Another dangerous Republican secretary of state candidate who went down to defeat this month was Arizona’s Mark Finchem, a self-described member of the Oath Keepers who was also a part of Trump’s merry band of election deniers.
But here’s the alarming part. As detailed by States United Action, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections,” while eight Republican election deniers lost their races for secretary of state, such candidates won in Alabama, Wyoming and Indiana.
And it gets worse. The Washington Post has confirmed that more than 170 of the 291 election deniers who ran for Congress or other statewide elections this year were elected. In the House alone, at least 150 GOP election deniers have won. That’s more than the 139 House Republicans who, on Jan. 6, 2021, voted not to certify the results of President Biden’s win. Their wrongheaded votes came hours after a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
Election deniers, as States United Action reports, have won five gubernatorial races and six attorney general races. While these wins were in Republican-controlled states such as Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas and South Carolina, where the Republican presidential nominee almost always wins, the question is if these election deniers will use their positions to ensure that their states don't follow the path of Arizona and Georgia, once solidly red states that are now trending blue.
For example, Indiana’s Secretary of State-elect Diego Morales, an “America First” candidate, claimed during the campaign that the 2020 election was a “scam” and pointed to Trump’s election lies to support the need for election “reforms.” Indiana is a state that was recently winnable for Democrats. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly served through 2018 and Barack Obama won that state in his 2008 run for president. Morales vowed during his campaign to reduce early voting, a move that, if implemented, would likely hurt Democrats’ chances.
The most worrisome statewide race still outstanding that could impact future elections is in Arizona. While Kari Lake, the Republican queen of election denialism, lost her gubernatorial bid, Republican Abraham Hamadeh could still be declared the winner of that state’s attorney general’s race. As of Tuesday afternoon, with an estimated 97% of the vote counted, Democrat Kristin Mayes led by only 510 votes.
During his campaign, Hamadeh said that if he’d been Arizona’s attorney general in 2020, he would have not “signed off” on Joe Biden’s Arizona win because of what he claims was massive fraud. What’s Hamadeh’s evidence of this so-called “fraud?" The movie “2,000 Mules,” which was directed by Trump sycophant Dinesh D’Souza. While the claims D’Souza makes in the movie have been universally debunked by fact-checkers, Hamadeh, who's just a few hundred votes away from becoming Arizona’s next attorney general, says he believes the movie provides sufficient evidence to disregard the will of Arizona’s voters. That’s frightening.
It was heartening to see that on Nov. 14, a bipartisan group of secretaries of state and some who are soon to be sworn in as secretary of state gathered together for a news conference to express its commitment to democracy. The group included Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who famously resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in his state, and Adrian Fontes, the Democrat who’s now Arizona’s secretary of state-elect. As Fontes said then, the voters in the midterms have “led us to a place where I think we can see the light of day at the end of the tunnel and get past all of this.”
We may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t gaslight yourself into believing the threat posed to our democracy by the MAGA wing of the GOP is over. Days before the election, President Biden raised alarm bells about the MAGA election deniers on the ballot. He said, “What we’re doing now is going to determine whether democracy will long endure.” Well, Americans answered by overwhelmingly defeating Trump’s allies who embraced his election lies in key statewide races. But as Biden warned, “We can’t take democracy for granted any longer.”
That message must stay with us into 2024 and beyond because, as Trump’s 2024 announcement reminds us, the threats posed by MAGA to our democracy are still very much alive.