Nearly two-thirds of Republicans in key midterm races won’t commit to accepting their election results if they lose, an ominous sign that attacks on the democratic process will grow even more severe this fall.
The Washington Post surveyed both Democratic and Republican candidates in 19 Senate and gubernatorial races, and 12 of those candidates wouldn’t answer or refused to commit to respecting their state’s results.
Republican candidates for governor or Senate in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas refused to say they’d accept this year’s result. That includes key gubernatorial races in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as key Senate contests in Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
In contrast, all 18 of the Democrats who responded to the Post said they’d accept this year’s results. Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s campaign was the only one who didn’t respond.
This isn’t a total shock. Most of these candidates have already said they think the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump.
They’re far from alone: As VICE News previously reported, nearly three-quarters of the GOP candidates running for governor, Senate, attorney general, and secretary of state in six key swing states have refused to accept their states’ election results. That includes eight out of the 10 candidates for secretary of state and attorney general in those states.
Some of these candidates have already pulled this anti-democratic stunt. During the primary, both Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem said they wouldn’t accept the results if they lost their elections.
This could prove deeply damaging for democracy, particularly because many of them will have ample time to undercut voters’ faith in the results. Many states have moved toward more lenient mail voting laws in recent years, and mail ballots often take longer to count. Some states’ voting processes will look much like they did pre-pandemic rather than 2020, but states like Nevada and Pennsylvania permanently changed their laws in recent years to make it easier to vote, at the expense of a rapid vote count.
This can slow down the results and give bad-faith actors a chance to claim, without any real evidence, that the election is being stolen from them.
If candidates do this, it will further undermine voters’ trust in the democratic election system. And while candidates who refuse to accept a loss can be safely ignored if they don’t have a huge political following—like when Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin refused to concede in 2019—if Trump backs them up, it could create havoc.
Trump has encouraged candidates to do this before: He encouraged Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz to just declare victory in order to make it “much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” and insisted that Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally had the election stolen from her when her opponent won fair and square in 2018.
The only Republicans who did say they’d definitely accept an election loss were Oz, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Nevada gubernatorial nominee Joe Lombardo, and Senate nominees Joe O’Dea of Colorado, Herschel Walker of Georgia, Adam Laxalt of Nevada, and JD Vance of Ohio.
Interestingly, Laxalt, Vance, and Walker all previously said they think the 2020 election was rigged against Trump.