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Another MAGA lawmaker faces accusations of election fraud

Arizona state Rep. Austin Smith is a far-right conspiracy theorist who's pushed false claims about voter fraud. But a new lawsuit accuses him of forging signatures to qualify for his re-election race.


“To protect my family today, I’ll withdraw as a candidate.”  That’s the main takeaway from a rather long statement released on Thursday by Arizona state Rep. Austin Smith, who’s no longer running for re-election in his district after being accused of forging signatures to get on the ballot this fall.

As AZ Central reports:

A Democratic attorney on Monday filed a lawsuit challenging Smith’s petitions, claiming he forged 100 of the 826 signatures and that they “bear a striking resemblance to Smith’s.” The lawsuit included sworn statements from two voters whose signatures appear on Smith’s petitions, saying they did not sign his petitions. It also included images of petition pages that Smith circulated, with every signature appearing to have been signed by one person.

The signatures on his petitions have also been sent to the state attorney general for review.

Smith’s lengthy statement (which you can read below) says this is "silly" and part of a plot by Democrats who are “unhappy with my politics.” He says he’s choosing not to run to avoid a legal fight that could prove costly for him and his wife, and he says he’ll make changes in future campaigns to avoid similar legal challenges so “no one can make up any stories.” But he doesn’t actually deny any of the specific claims made in the lawsuit.

What makes this particularly rich is that Smith, who’s aligned with Arizona’s ultraconservative Arizona Freedom Caucus, has been a vocal spreader of Donald Trump’s election-related conspiracy theories. Smith even homed in on false claims that fraudulent signatures swung Arizona’s presidential race in Joe Biden’s favor in 2020.  For these views, Smith’s gotten backing from fellow Arizona conspiracy theorists like Senate candidate Kari Lake and Rep. Paul Gosar, not to mention TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk.

So the claims against Smith have made things pretty awkward for Arizona Republicans, some of whom appear to be having a hard time grappling with his announcement.

Smith is a member of the far-right activist group Turning Point USA, and he's resigned from his role as senior director of the organization’s campaign arm, Turning Point Action, the group confirmed on Friday. In that role, Smith was officially leading the organization’s “ballot chasing” operation for the fall. Essentially, Kirk and friends have been trying to raise $108 million from right-wing donors to mobilize Trump voters in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. So one can see why it might've been unworkable for Smith to remain in that role. If you’re going to push baseless allegations of liberal election fraud as Turning Point and its affiliates have, it’s best that your own operation isn’t being led by someone facing a lawsuit for election fraud. 

And yet this fiasco shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. Smith is just the latest in a growing list of Republicans who have been accused of election chicanery, despite the conservative movement’s purported anger over illegal election schemes.