Trump endorses proponents of unfounded ‘stolen election’ claim for state posts

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NEW YORK — Before winning Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement in his race to become Arizona’s top election official, Mark Finchem received several calls from people close to the former president, making it clear that he was trying to challenge the results of the 2020 election. The work being done for the same has been approved. .

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“He said I was seen,” said Finchem, a state representative who was outside the US Capitol during the January 6 uprising and has been a major proponent of the widely banned partisan ballot review in Arizona. In subsequent talks, he said, Trump praised his work and expressed hope that he would continue.

As Trump looks to run for another presidency in 2024, he has taken a similar interest in the important but relatively obscure race in other battleground states, throwing his support behind candidates who have not only perpetuated the lie that The 2020 election was stolen, but in some cases even actively tried to reverse the results. The move reflects Trump’s desire to exert influence at all levels of the Republican Party and to establish allies in key roles in states that may be more responsive to helping him shape future election results.

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“President Trump’s failed attempts to reverse the results and the will of the people were really just the beginning,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold, who serves as president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, which is running for elections. There is a dedicated group. Democrats for positions.

While the races for secretary of state and attorney general have historically been influenced by high-profile contests, the offices hold significant power. Attorney generals are the top law enforcement officers of their states, while the secretary of state serves as the chief electoral officer, overseeing efforts such as voter registration and mail-in ballot distribution, depending on the state.

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Rick Pilds, a professor of constitutional law at the New York University School of Law, said Trump’s focus on the positions had changed the type of candidates he was attracting, with “a lot of partisan activists” taking interest.

“It’s an extraordinary thing for a former president who is looking to run again to weigh in on secretary of state offices so well. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen something like this before,” Pilds said.

Despite a lack of credible evidence to support Trump’s allegations of massive voter fraud, the former president continues to push the “big lie,” turning it into a litmus test for GOP candidates. With dozens of state and local election officials, several judges, and Trump’s own attorney general saying President Joe Biden won fair, Trump is deeply popular with Republican voters, most of whom believe The election was stolen.

Underscoring that power, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol rebellion announced last week that he would be holding a serious primary against a Trump-backed challenger. Instead of hoping to retire.

“1 down, 9 to go!” Trump took the crown.

Trump is now leading his way from the ballot and has so far endorsed three candidates running for secretary of state, all in states that could play a major role in determining the outcome of the 2024 presidential election and where officials rejected their attempts to reverse the results. Year.

His colleagues are open about the strategy.

“Our top priority is to support strong fighters who care about electoral integrity,” Trump spokeswoman Liz Harrington said. “He notices when people are fighting for the truth about the November election results.”

In Arizona, which became a major front in Republicans’ propaganda war, Trump last week backed Finchem, a vocal proponent of the state’s partisan review of the 2020 vote count in Maricopa County. Election experts have cited a number of flaws with the review, from biased and inexperienced contractors to conspiracy-chasing funds and bizarre, unreliable methods.

FinChem believes the results should be substantiated in the state, and has been instrumental in efforts to undermine confidence in the vote, with Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers in Phoenix airing bogus allegations of fraud. is included to give.

Democrats unsuccessfully pushed to remove Finchem from the Arizona House after he was photographed outside the US Capitol on January 6, when Trump supporters stormed the building, trying to prevent authentication of Biden’s victory. FinChem has said that he was in the area to speak at a permitted rally and did not know that the Capitol was disbanded until hours later.

In the race for Michigan secretary of state, Trump endorsed Christina Karamo, who backed a failed lawsuit from Texas that tried to block Michigan and three other states from casting their electoral votes for Biden. For Georgia’s secretary of state, Trump endorsed a loyalist U.S. Representative Jody Hiss, who voted against certifying the election results, and who is running to oust Republican incumbent Brad Riffensperger, who is in charge of Georgia’s election results. stood along and rejected Trump’s requests to “find”. Angry the former president.

Trump sent a letter to Raffensperger on Friday requesting that he “start the process of annulling the election, or whatever the correct measure is, and announcing the true winner.”

In addition to the secretary of state’s race, Trump last week endorsed Michigan attorney Matt DePerno, who is running for state attorney general and who has made false claims about vote-counting machines in Michigan’s 2020 election. . A report from the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate found no evidence of fraud, which DePerno alleged and recommended the current attorney general investigate those taking advantage of election misinformation.

DePerno has since claimed to have raised more than US$400,000 to help fund his lawsuit, and to set aside $280,000 for election review in Arizona.

In Colorado, Democratic Secretary of State Griswold said the stakes were high in 2022, with elections being held in five swing states — Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan and Georgia — as well as countless county-level races.

“Democracy will be on the ballot in 2022,” said Griswold, who is seeking re-election. “We need to see people who believe in democracy and the will of the people in these roles.”

Trey Grayson, a Republican who served as Kentucky Secretary of State from 2004 to 2011, said Trump’s support would likely be a potent force in the race, but selected candidates based on loyalty and adherence to “big lies”. Doing “probably wasn’t” is the best way to win the general election and bring good people to office.”

And he lamented the message it could send, for example, as Raffensperger lost in Georgia.

“It sends the message that if you do the right thing, you will be punished,” he said. “And it bothers me — it really bothers me — as someone who cares a lot about democracy and someone who cares a lot about the Republican Party.”

Pildes said that, when it comes to election administration, the notion of partisan interference can also be harmful.

“The concern is heightened when those elected officials feel that they attribute their political success to a particular candidate,” Pildes said.

Finchem, for its part, said Trump had made no mention of 2024 in his call.

“As far as the president’s plans and his strategy, he’s well above my pay grade … and, frankly, I don’t want to know. Once secretary of state is elected, that option once becomes,” he said, “you really have a responsibility to be as non-partisan as possible.”

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Associated Press writer Nicolas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.

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