These are the 2020 election deniers who won the House and Senate races
Among the more than 150 election deniers predicted to have won by midnight: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rep. Greg Pence (Ind.), brother of former Vice President Mike Pence.
But some of the election’s most outspoken deniers suffered losses in races that Republicans considered winnable when the year began, including Doug Mastrian, who lost his bid for Pennsylvania governor.
Candidates who questioned or refused to accept President Biden’s victory — 51 percent of the 569 GOP candidates analyzed by the Washington Post, 291 in all — ran in every region of the country and in nearly every state.
Most election deniers campaigned on a range of issues, particularly inflation, abortion and crime. Voters who supported them didn’t necessarily do so because of their views on 2020. But the candidates’ views on election integrity could have lasting consequences for American democracy.
The winning candidates for governor, secretary of state and attorney general will assume positions with significant powers to oversee US elections. Unofficial projections on Tuesday showed election deniers would make up a significant majority in the House Republican caucus, with a huge influence on the nation’s next president if Republicans take control of the chamber. The Speaker will in turn preside over the House in 2024, when the presidential election could be contested again.
Tuesday’s result reflects the tricky political calculus of electoral denial within the GOP. That was a virtual requirement for many Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination, given the importance of Trump’s endorsement. Prominent Republicans who defied the former president, notably Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), have been defeated by intra-party challenges.
But it was not clear that the claim that the 2020 election was rigged benefited the candidates in the close general election.
Among the winning deniers in Tuesday’s election was Jen A. Kiggans, a Republican from Virginia who defeated Representative Elaine Luria – a member, like Cheney, of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. One of Luria’s central arguments to voters this fall was the need to crack down on the anti-democratic forces that fueled the violence of the day.
Luria stuck to that theme in his concessions speech on Tuesday. When she mentioned the booing of her opponent and supporters, she said: “No, please, don’t boo. The success of this district depends on her success.”
Election deniers are also predicted to lose some competitive races. JR Majewski, an Ohio House candidate who attended the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, was among those who went down in defeat.
New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc lost to incumbent U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan after tossing and turning between declaring the 2020 election rigged and legitimate.
Mastriano lost by a wide margin to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, despite the fact that the state is one of the most politically contested in the nation. Among roughly 6 in 10 Pennsylvania voters who saw the 2020 election as legitimate, more than 8 in 10 voted for Shapiro, exit polls showed. Among about a third of voters who thought it was fake, about 9 in 10 supported Mastrian.
The Post identified candidates as election deniers if they directly questioned Biden’s victory, opposed the counting of Biden’s Electoral College votes, expressed support for a party’s review of ballots after the election, signed petitions to overturn the 2020 results, or attended or expressed support for the Stop the rally. Steal in Washington that preceded the riots at the Capitol.
Tuesday’s election came as Americans are increasingly concerned about American democracy, with roughly 7 in 10 voters saying American democracy is “very” or “somewhat” threatened, according to early exit polls by Edison Research. At the same time, voters expressed greater confidence that the elections in their country will be conducted fairly and accurately. About 8 out of 10 voters said they were very or somewhat confident that the elections in their state would be fair and accurate.
Jacque Rose, a registered Republican and “predominantly Republican” voter in Boise, Idaho, said in an interview Tuesday that he sometimes splits his ticket. The retiree joined a steady line of voters in a short line at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Boise, explaining that her vote was against extremism.
“I’m scared to death of what some of these right-wing people are doing to us,” she said. “I’m in a red state too and I’m scared.”
Edward B. Foley, an election law expert at Ohio State University, said the success of so many election deniers is troubling, but much uncertainty remains about how those officials will use their power. He noted that some ballot deniers wavered this year, leaving it unclear how they would act if in office.
Foley also suggested that denialists’ acceptance of their own victories could, in some ways, bolster public confidence in their states’ elections.
“The whole goal is for valid victories to be validated as valid and for none of this perversion to prevail,” he said. “I don’t want to soften this too much. We are in treacherous waters. It will be more difficult the more deniers are in power. But it is not inevitable that the ship will sink.”
Hundreds of election officials across the country sought to dispel doubts about the security of the election as Tuesday approached — and some of them, including several on the ballot, continued that work while voting was underway.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) was in a competitive race Tuesday against election denier Kristina Karamo, who claimed without evidence that she witnessed fraud as a poll watcher in Detroit in 2020. Benson spent much of Tuesday fighting false claims of impropriety — including Trump’s claims.
“There are always things that could potentially be exploited that really have no impact on the election process itself and in any other situation would be minor,” Benson said. “I think voters just need to see that it’s — a political strategy that some have chosen to pursue at the expense of who we are as Americans and our democracy.”
Some of the most prominent election deniers on the ballot this year included those seeking state-level office that would have broad power to influence the administration and possible outcomes of future elections: Kari Lake for governor of Arizona, Jim Marchant for secretary of state of Nevada and Matthew DePerno for state Attorney General of Michigan.
All offered unqualified support for Trump’s bogus claims of fraud in 2020. DePerno helped Trump try to overturn the result by leading baseless claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan had switched votes from Trump to Biden. Lake said her opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs, should be in jail for endorsing Biden’s victory in Arizona. Marchant has vowed to decertify Biden’s 2020 win in Nevada and wants to impose a statewide hand count.
No winners were predicted in those races as of 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Among the winners predicted as of that hour was Eric Schmitt, the Republican US Senate candidate from Missouri who will replace retiring incumbent Roy Blunt (R). Blunt voted to confirm Biden’s victory, citing court rulings that rejected Trump’s claims of fraud.
Another is Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), who shared debunked claims about the 2020 results on talk radio.
“How is it possible that there are 200,000 more votes in Pennsylvania on election day than there were [voters] in the electoral rolls?” she asked.
Some voters said concerns about election integrity were a primary motivation for their choices this year.
Chip Johnson, 65, who voted Tuesday in Madison, Miss., said he believes there is voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. He stopped short of saying he believed Trump had won, but said: “I just think there’s a lot of unscrupulous voting,” before referring to several issues that have been exposed, including voting by deceased people.
“Even if it’s true or not, it raises suspicions that things are not right,” he said. “It’s as if the truth is no longer relevant. As if what I say is true.”
Some of the most prominent election deniers of the year cruised to victory on Tuesday. Among them: rap. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) – two close Trump allies who have repeatedly made false claims about the 2020 outcome.
Those candidates also attacked the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack — and vowed to drop the committee’s subpoena seeking Trump’s testimony if Republicans regain the majority in the chamber.
Other investigations into Trump’s actions around Jan. 6 will continue, however, including a criminal investigation in Fulton County, Ga., stemming from his Jan. 2, 2021 phone call in which he asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. The Justice Department is also investigating whether Trump improperly interfered in the 2020 election results.
Sarah Fowler in Madison, Miss.; Tom Hamburger in Detroit; and Carissa Wolf in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.
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