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Another losing Republican candidate embraces election denialism

There's reason for concern about a new normal in Republican politics, in which the GOP sees election defeats as inherently illegitimate.


It didn't generate much in the way of national attention, but there was a congressional election this week. In Florida's 20th congressional district, voters elected Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick to succeed the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April 2021.

It was not expected to be a competitive contest — Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in this South Florida district — and it wasn't. President Joe Biden won Florida's 20th with 77 percent support, and Cherfilus-McCormick won the special election with 79 percent support.

But as the CBS affiliate in Miami reported, the unusual part of this story was the response to the outcome from the representative-elect's Republican rival, who hedged on conceding the race.

"Now they called the race, I did not win, so they say, but that does not mean that they lost either, it does not mean that we lost," said Republican Jason Mariner. Several hours before the polls even closed, Mariner filed a lawsuit alleging there is a problem with the ballots in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

The defeated GOP candidate, who didn't quite reach 20 percent of the vote, added, "[W]e'll also have some stuff coming out that we've recently discovered."

Time will tell what's included amidst the "stuff," and Cherfilus-McCormick will be sworn in whether Mariner concedes or not, but the larger concern is that such responses will become common in Republican politics.

Donald Trump, of course, stands out as the biggest sore loser in American history — he went to breathtaking lengths to overturn the will of his own country's voters — but as regular readers may recall, he wasn't alone.

In the state of Washington, for example, the Republican who badly lost the state's gubernatorial race refused to concede, pushed bogus voter fraud claims, and "attempted to sow doubts about the election results" — despite losing by more than 545,000 votes.

In Maryland, a GOP candidate who lost a congressional race by more than 40 points nevertheless alleged that the race had been "stolen" from her through political improprieties.

The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum asked soon after, "What if every losing Republican behaves the same way from now on? Once the 'respect the voters' norm is gone, then it's gone for good."

It was against this backdrop that former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate this year, talked up preemptive legal challenges to the 2022 results — more than a year before Nevadans start casting ballots.

What matters here is not just conspiracy theories, pointless litigation, and partisan whining about voters' verdicts. Rather, the far more unsettling concern is the establishment of a new normal in Republican politics — one in which the only election results many in the GOP consider legitimate are the ones in which Democratic candidates lose.