QAnon Conspiracists and Trump-Backed Election Deniers Had a Huge Primary Night

In Arizona and Michigan, Trump-backed conspiracy theorists beat a bevy of establishment Republicans.
Cameron Joseph
Washington, US
Former President Donald Trump (L) stands with Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters at a ‘Save America’ rally in support of Arizona GOP candidates on July 22, 2022 in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Former President Donald Trump appears with Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters at a ‘Save America’ rally in support of Arizona GOP candidates on July 22, 2022 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. (Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)

A raft of conspiracy theory-pushing extremists and right-wing hardliners, many backed by former President Donald Trump, won their primaries in key swing states on Tuesday night.

The biggest results of the night came in Arizona, which has been an epicenter of Trump’s campaign to discredit his 2020 loss and sow doubt about America’s electoral system. 

State Sen. Mark Finchem, who played a key role in pushing Trump’s Stop the Steal efforts in the state and has close ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory community, won the GOP nomination for secretary of state—putting him one election away from running Arizona’s election system in the next presidential cycle. Finchem is part of a coalition of election-denying secretary of state candidates backed by QAnon power players.

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Trump’s election-denying pick for Senate, Blake Masters, also won his primary to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters is an acolyte of authoritarian tech bro Peter Thiel, and has said he thinks “Trump won” in 2020, claimed he’s worried about “anti-white racism,” pushed the racist great replacement conspiracy theory, and promulgated the false claim that the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was actually a false-flag operation by the FBI.

Arizona’s hard-fought gubernatorial primary race has yet to be called. But Trump-backed former local TV anchor Kari Lake, an election denier and conspiracy theorist, has jumped into the lead over her GOP establishment-backed primary rival, and appears to be the heavy favorite. Lake has continued to undermine voters’ faith in her state’s election system, saying the day before the primary that “If we don’t win, there’s some cheating going on.”

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And a number of Trump critics lost their GOP primaries. Arizona state House Speaker Rusty Bowers lost his bid for a state senate seat after delivering damning testimony about Trump to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee.

And Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, lost a close race to Trump-backed candidate John Gibbs, who has pushed QAnon-linked conspiracies including a claim that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman participated in Satanic rituals, while defending anti-Semites and bigots. House Democrats spent heavily to boost Gibbs, seeing him as the weaker general-election candidate in a Democratic-leaning district.

And former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and the original voting fraud conspiracy theorist, won the GOP nomination for Kansas attorney general. 

The silver lining for pro-democracy Republicans is that most of these pro-Trump hardliners won close races. And two other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump—Washington Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse—appear to have survived their own primaries, though many ballots remain to be counted.

But even some of the candidates preferred by the GOP establishment who managed to win are pretty hardline.

Tudor Dixon won the GOP nomination for Michigan governor over a few even more extreme candidates including one who is facing charges for his role in the Jan. 6 riot. But Dixon had Trump’s endorsement, and has said the 2020 election was stolen

And Missouri Republicans nominated state Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a crowded field that included scandal-tarred former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who Republicans had worried could put the seat in jeopardy. But Schmitt was one of 17 GOP state attorneys general who joined an unsuccessful lawsuit that tried to overturn the 2020 election results after Trump lost. And, like Masters, he has pushed great replacement theory rhetoric.

Tuesday marked the last big multi-state primary night of the 2022 midterms. The results mean that in a number of crucial races, hardline Trump cronies will be carrying the mantle for the GOP this election—and whether they win this November could influence how chaotic the 2024 elections become.