Democratic candidates push back on Trump's 'big lie'

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Leading GOP candidates for secretary of state in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona have endorsed former President Donald Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was rigged.

Democrats running for secretary of state in four of the swing states that narrowly voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 are challenging claims made by their Republican opponents that the last presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

In Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada, leading Republican candidates for the office, which includes duties as their state's chief election official, have endorsed the so-called "big lie" that the 2020 election was rigged.

Republicans aligned with Trump in those states have surged to the head of their party's primary races, which have drawn record-breaking fundraising totals, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit think tank and legal advocacy group.

Kim Rogers, the executive director of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told the American Independent Foundation that Republicans running for secretary of state are focused on 2024.

"They are using 2020 as a way to undermine confidence, push for additional voter suppression and election subversion legislation so they can change the rules," Rogers said. "They're building the infrastructure to pick and choose the winner in 2024. At this point, it's less about 2020 and more about 2024." 

But Republican attacks on the integrity of state election administration, according to Rogers, is a boon to Democrats. "We can use their own words against them," she said. "When someone tells you what they're going to do, believe them."

In Michigan, incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also warned about Republican candidates' embrace of election lies.

"Putting people in charge of elections who have openly advocated for autocracy and tried to block the will of the people in 2020 — putting them in charge of elections is akin to putting an arsonist in charge of a fire department," she told the Washington Post on Feb. 11, 2021.

Her likely Republican opponent, Wayne County Community College District Professor Kristina Karamo, received Trump's endorsement in September. Karamo became a public figure after saying she saw voter fraud as a poll watcher during the 2020 election. 

Arizona Democrats Reginald Bolding, the state House minority leader, and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes have both criticized the leading Trump-endorsed Republican, Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem.

"We need to win. We need to keep this office away from Donald Trump," Fontes said. "Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia: These secretary of state races are going to be much more important in the national conversation than many governor races are going to be." 

Bolding described Finchem, who is basing his campaign for secretary of state on false claims of voter fraud, as "someone who wants to dismantle, disrupt and completely destroy democracy."

In Georgia, progressive Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen is leading the field for her party's nomination for secretary of state. Nguyen has cast her eye to the general election, saying at a campaign event in August, "We need a secretary of state who's willing to defend against the subversion of our democracy."

Incumbent Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who resisted pressure from Trump to declare a victory for the former president in the state in 2020, is facing a strong primary challenge from Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, whom Trump endorsed in March of last year. Hice has accused Raffensperger of "compromising" election integrity in Georgia for rejecting Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election. 

Cisco Aguilar, an attorney and former staffer for the late Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is running unopposed in Nevada's Democratic secretary of state primary. 

At a debate held in February before the other candidate in the race, former state Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, dropped out, Aguilar highlighted the stakes: "The next secretary of state has to be a Democrat. Because if they're not a Democrat, we're not going to see some of the legislation that the governor and the Legislature have passed to make voter access stronger."

Most Republicans running for secretary of state in Nevada have endorsed the big lie that Trump won the 2020 election. One of the most committed to Trump's claims, former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant, alleges that a "cabal" of Democrats have conspired for years to undermine American elections.

Democratic candidates for the office in Michigan and Nevada both lead Republicans in fundraising. Benson, the Michigan incumbent, has raised $1.4 million to Karamo's $133,054 since the beginning of the election cycle. Aguilar, in Arizona, has raised $486,000 in the same time frame. 

But in Georgia and Arizona, the leading Republican candidates in the race have outraised their likely Democratic opponents by hundreds of thousands of dollars — in Arizona, Finchem has raised about double what either leading Democrat has since the beginning of the election cycle. 

Nguyen, the leading Democratic candidate in Georgia, has raised over a million dollars since the start of the cycle. She still trails Republican rival Hice, who has raised $1.6 million so far.

"We've got the facts on our side, we've got history on our side," the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State's Rogers said. "I think that Democratic secretaries and folks running for secretary are the people who will save democracy in this country."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.