- A coalition of Trump-supporting candidates are running for secretary of state in battleground states.
- Candidates have made Holocaust denial a key part of their campaigns. Some have links to QAnon.
- Experts fear they could use their positions to overturn the electoral process.
Awakened by the myth of stolen elections, Republicans allied with former President Donald Trump are seeking to regain power from below.
“We’re going to take this village by village…neighbourhood by neighborhood,” Steve Bannon, a former White House strategist and Trump ally, said on his podcast last year, according to ProPublica.
Republicans loyal to Trump and his bogus voter fraud allegations have formed a national alliance to target the secretary of state’s shadowy former offices in battleground states, hoping to exert greater partisan influence on the conduct of the elections.
“The Coalition of America First Secretary of State Candidates” is working behind the scenes to “fix” the electoral system, which they believe is corrupt, Nevada candidate Jim Marchant told Insider.
A secretary of state is usually the highest election official in the state, with duties such as maintaining voter lists, assigning voting machines, and overseeing election administration.
While races for secretary of state have typically been low-key affairs featuring low-key bureaucrats, those positions have taken on new prominence as Trump-supporting Republicans double down on their claims that the last election was stolen.
The coalition includes at least six candidates, including Jim Marchant in Nevada, Mark Finchem in Arizona and Jody Hice in Georgia, all of whom have denied the election. key elements of their campaign.
It also includes Kristina Karamo in Michigan, David Winney in Colorado and Rachel Hamm in California. Marchant said he is currently recruiting candidates in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is also working with the coalition, as he would be responsible for nominating the secretary of state, Marchant said.
All of these states, except the Democratic stronghold of California, were narrowly won by Joe Biden in the 2020 election and are set to become battleground states in 2024.
This is in addition to at least one other nine republican candidates refusing the elections run for secretary of state, which is not part of the Coalition of America First.
Trump has endorsed some of these candidates, including Hice, Finchem and Karamo.
Jim Marchant, a former Nevada State Assemblyman, ran for Congress in 2020 but lost and believes he and Trump were victims of voter fraud. Like Trump, marching unsuccessfully contested his electoral defeat in the courts.
Asked who might have committed fraud in this election and why Marchant said he didn’t know but must have been “very powerful people” with “lots of money”.
Marchant told Insider he decided to run for secretary of state at the request of “people very close to Trump.”
“I said ‘of course’ because I realized how important the state racing secretary was to the electoral process,” Marchant said.
When pressed, Marchant did not name specifically who in Trump’s circle had asked him to come forward, as he said they would “probably be mad at me if I did that.”
Although some reports suggest that Trump allies Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne helped fund the coalition, Marchant told Insider Byrne only made a small donation and Lindell gave nothing. Byrne said he gave the band $15,000, according to The New York Times.
But despite being at the start of the 2022 election cycle, these races are already attracting more funding than usual, according to a nonpartisan law and policy institute. The Brennan Center for Justice.
In three states with data, the center found that fundraising in Secretary of State races is two and a half times higher than it was at the same point in either of the last two cycles. electoral.
Marchant told Insider that if elected, he would introduce a series of electoral reforms, including removing Dominion voting machines, “cleaning up” voter rolls and stopping mail-in ballots, factors that Trump supporters blamed his defeat in the 2020 election.
From national action to local action
The new focus on the Secretary of State’s races is just part of a larger picture of Trump-allied Republicans seeking to take control from below.
Jared Holt, a resident scholar who studies extremism at the think tank The Atlantic Council, told Insider that after the Jan. 6 uprising, right-wing extremists changed tactics to focus on local action instead. than national.
“These national movements are sort of breaking away from the big DC national scene and bringing it back to states, sometimes even regions or localities,” Holt said.
“By doing so, they are sometimes able to successfully avoid national scrutiny, whether by law enforcement, journalists or the general public, and furthermore, they can often be more effective at these smaller scales. .”
The move to local politics was in part popularized by former White House strategist and Trump ally Steve Bannon, who used his “War Room” podcast last year to encourage subscribers to get involved.
Bannon’s call to action led to an influx of Trump supporters who signed up for low-level positions in the local party, such as precinct workers, the outlet reported.
ProPublica reached out to GOP leaders in 65 key counties, and 41 reported an unusual surge in registrations since Bannon’s campaign began.
The candidates have links to the QAnon conspiracy theory
In addition to promoting conspiracy theories about voter fraud, several of Trump’s loyalist candidates for Secretary of State have been linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
In October, Jim Marchant first publicly discussed the coalition at the Patriot Double Down conference in Las Vegas, hosted by a QAnon influencer and used QAnon Imaging and phrases in its promotional materials.
Alongside Marchant, coalition members Mark Finchem and Kristina Karamo also spoke.
Asked about his conspiracy theory ties, Marchant told Insider: “Well, what is the QAnon movement? Can anyone even explain this? I don’t even know what it is. I know what the media tells me it is. But do they really know?”
Marchant said that while he’s not a “QAnon-type person,” he thinks people have the right to do and believe whatever they want.
Feared that these candidates will overturn the electoral process
Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law professor at Ohio State University who directs the university’s election law program, told Insider it was a “disturbing development” to see the ubiquity of election denial in the state racing secretariat.
“There’s no more fundamental function in a democracy than voting and counting votes. So if you can’t base that on reality, it’s really problematic,” he said. declared.
Foley noted that Trump tried to dismiss the 2020 election result when his defeat was “undeniable” and said that could be especially dangerous if the results of the next election are not so clear cut.
“When things are in this gray zone, and you have somebody who thinks their job is to be a Trump loyalist, and I think we could include some of those candidates in there, that’s much more worrying.”
Foley pointed to the race for secretary of state in Georgia, where Trump endorsed election denier Jody Hice against incumbent Republican Brad Raffensperger. The latter refused Trump’s request to “find” 11,780 votes to tip the election in his favor.
In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies went to great lengths to try to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
In 2024, the Coalition of America’s first secretary of state candidates could use their positions to overturn or nullify the results of a future presidential election.
In an interview with The Guardian released last month, Marchant said if he was secretary of state in 2024, he would be willing to eventually send an alternate list of Nevada voters to vote against the results if Biden won.
Asked by Insider, Marchant backtracked on that claim, but said he “probably wouldn’t have certified” Biden’s victory in Nevada in 2020 without an audit.
Despite those fears, Foley explained that states must state their rules for nominating voters in advance and cannot change the rules after Election Day if they are unhappy with the results.
Foley said the best way to prevent any attempts to subvert the electoral process is to update the Voter Count Act, which would “significantly reduce the capacity for malicious behavior.”