Republicans nominated a cadre of far-right conspiracy theorists to try to take over the offices that run elections in a number of swing states, posing a huge risk to democracy and the 2024 election if they won.
But as of Friday morning, it appears that every single one of these candidates will lose.
The latest vote counts in Arizona and Nevada make it highly likely that the QAnon-affiliated candidates running for secretary of state in the two states will go down to defeat. If those results hold, that means that every secretary of state candidate in a swing state that backs former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election has lost their race.
In Nevada, late-breaking Democratic-friendly votes have pushed Democratic Secretary of State nominee Cisco Aguilar into a 5,000-vote lead over election denier Jim Marchant, the GOP nominee and the head of the QAnon-linked America First Coalition, which Marchant launched a year ago with the explicit goal to “control the election system” in key swing states. The remaining ballots in Nevada are likely to skew heavily Democratic, meaning this race is all but over.
In Arizona, QAnon-touting, Oath Keepers militia-affiliated ‘Stop the Steal’ leader and GOP Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem, perhaps the most extreme candidate in Marchant’s coalition, now trails Democratic nominee Adrian Fontes by more than 109,000 votes and 53 percent to 47 percent. There still may be almost a half-million votes left to be counted in the state and those votes are likely to skew Republican, but the current margin looks very difficult for Finchem to overcome.
Other America First Coalition-backed candidates already went down in flames in other swing states.
Michigan Democrats crushed a full slate of election-denying conspiracy theorists, winning the governorship and secretary of state races by double-digit margins and the attorney general race by eight percentage points.
That’s led to furious finger-pointing from Republicans: Michigan Republican Party Chief of Staff Paul Cordes put out a memo blaming the party’s slate of far-right conspiracists who focused on election lies and fringe culture-war issues for costing them the state. “At the end of the day, high quality, substantive candidates and well-funded campaigns are still critical to winning elections. We struggled in both regards,” the memo concludes.
Tudor Dixon, who just got trounced in her gubernatorial run in Michigan, fired back that the memo was “a perfect example of what was wrong” with the state party, accusing them of “incompetent leadership.
In Pennsylvania, where the governor appoints the secretary of state, Democrat Josh Shapiro thumped extremist Republican Doug Mastriano by a 14-point margin.
And Democrats prevailed over election conspiracy theorists backed by Marchant’s coalition in Minnesota and New Mexico as well.
In Georgia, incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who stood up to Trump in 2020, defeated Trump-backed Rep. Jody Hice in the primary. And fringe Republican election-denier Tina Peters lost her primary back in August.
Even in deep-red states, most of the coalition’s candidates lost in their primaries, including in Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wisconsin. The only candidate backed by the coalition who won election was Indiana Secretary of State-elect Diego Morales, who’s less extreme than many of the others on the list.
Election-deniers may not be completely routed in swing states: It still appears more likely than not that Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake will win her close race. If she wins that could have profound impacts going forward as Arizona Republicans may pass laws dramatically changing voting rules in the state with her in power.
But overall, it appears that the dire threat of these candidates winning powerful statewide offices has been quashed.