A string of election-denying conspiracy theorists, some with close ties to QAnon, won their elections Tuesday night, pushing the Republican Party further into the arms of former President Donald Trump—and putting the 2024 elections at even greater risk of sabotage.
Former Nevada state Rep. Jim Marchant, leader of a QAnon-tied political coalition, nabbed the GOP’s endorsement for secretary of state, while former Nevada Secretary of State Adam Laxalt, Trump’s 2020 state co-chair, won the nomination for one of the country’s most closely watched Senate races. And in South Carolina, a Trump-backed election denier defeated one of the 10 House Republicans who dared to vote to impeach Trump last year.
Marchant announced at a QAnon conference last October that he formed the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of more than a dozen GOP candidates across the country who back the Big Lie about the 2020 election and want to make major changes to their states’ voting systems before the 2024 presidential election.
Marchant declared at that conference that the group’s goal was to “control the election system” and “take back our country”—and said he was working closely with QAnon influencer “Juan O Savin” (real name: Wayne Willott) to expand the group’s efforts (he’s since been quieter about Willott’s role).
In March, Marchant claimed that “We haven’t, in Nevada, elected anybody since 2006. They have been installed by the Deep State Cabal.”
Marchant’s victory makes him the third QAnon-tied candidate involved in his coalition to win the Republican Party nomination to control their swing state’s election system.
Kristina Karamo, another member of Marchant’s coalition, already secured the GOP nomination for Michigan secretary of state, while fellow Marchant ally and group member Doug Mastriano handily won the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary last month (in Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state). Close Marchant allies are also running for secretary of state in swing-state Arizona and Colorado.
The only win for the GOP establishment in a secretary of state race so far came in Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger fended off a Trump-backed challenge from Rep. Jody Hice last month.
But Marchant’s win wasn’t the only significant victory for an election-denying Trump ally on Tuesday night. Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt won the GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in what’s expected to be one of the most competitive races in the battle for Senate control, putting another close Trump ally on the ticket in a marquee race.
Laxalt has played a key role in pushing lies about the 2020 election as well.
As Trump’s 2020 Nevada campaign co-chair, Laxalt called the 2020 elections “rigged” and filed numerous failed lawsuits to try to prove it, including an injunction that tried to block Nevada’s largest county from counting mail ballots. He spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally, claimed he had evidence of “dead voters that have been counted,” and said “illegals” had cast thousands of ballots, and unsuccessfully sued to get Joe Biden’s win overturned. Even after Nevada had certified its results, he filed a Dec. 31 lawsuit that alleged Nevada’s Republican secretary of state hadn’t kept non-citizens from voting.
Laxalt has already cast aspersions on his upcoming election too, pledging back in September to “file lawsuits early” before the midterms to “try to tighten up the election.”
Another QAnon-embracing conspiracy theorist is heading to Congress too—though she might not be there for long. Republican Mayra Flores won a special election in a heavily Hispanic open seat in South Texas on Tuesday night, meaning she’ll be in the House through November.
Flores has repeatedly used the #Q and #QAnon hashtags in social media posts, and in one 2020 paid Facebook ad she used three different QAnon-linked hashtags, including #WWG1WGA (the QAnon slogan, “where we go one, we go all”). She has more recently attempted to distance herself from the conspiracy movement.
Flores will have a tougher race this fall because of redistricting—the new district she’s running for would have gone to President Biden by a 16-point margin, up from the 4-point margin.
As Laxalt and Marchant cruised to victory in Nevada and Flores flipped a Texas seat, Trump got his revenge over another anti-Trump congressman. South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, one of the handful House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, lost by a wide margin to a Trump-backed challenger in his Tuesday primary.
Rice’s loss means that at least five of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump won’t be back next year—four others have already announced their retirements. Four others are also facing tough upcoming primaries. California Rep. David Valadao, who won his primary last week, is the only House Republican who’s so far managed to survive an election after voting to impeach Trump.
“He’s purging. He’s purging. He’s trying to set the Republican Party up as a bunch of yes-men loyalists,” Rice told Politico last weekend. “Think about that. That’s scary.”
The one exception to this purge pattern was Rice’s home-state colleague, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who managed to hang on in a close and hard-fought primary against a Trump-backed challenger.
Mace didn’t vote for impeachment but was harshly critical of Trump after the Jan. 6 riots. But she succeeded where Rice failed partly because she flip-flopped hard on her previous Trump criticism, going so far as to head to Trump Tower in New York City to record a video praising the former president in February.
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