Republican voters in Arizona and Kansas on Tuesday decide whether to elevate loyalists of former President Donald Trump who support false claims that he lost the 2020 election and send them to the general election.
The GOP primary for secretary of state is the latest this year with candidates doubting the security of their state’s elections despite a lack of evidence of any problems widespread enough to swing the results. Republican voters elsewhere were split on sending those candidates to the November polls.
Washington state’s secretary of state primary features several Republican and unaffiliated candidates, including one who has made unsubstantiated voter fraud claims. Washington state has a primary system in which the top two vote getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.
Democratic candidates in all three states are rejecting the case of a stolen 2020 presidential election and warning that victories in November by any of those promoting conspiracies would jeopardize free and fair elections. In all three states, the secretary of state is the top electoral official.
In Arizona, a key battleground for the president and US Senate, two of the four GOP candidates claim the election was stolen by Trump and plan to push for major changes if they win the November primary and general election.
They include state representative Mark Finchem, who attended Trump’s January 6, 2021 rally that led to the attack on the US Capitol. He tried this year to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to tell Congress that Arizona wanted to ratify Biden’s election victory.
The other Republican who supports Trump’s claims is also a member of the Arizona House. Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced a bill last year that would have allowed a simple majority of the Legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election. Republicans control the Arizona legislature.
Two other Republican candidates are on Arizona’s ballot: Sen. Michelle Ujedi-Rita, who recognizes President Joe Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to strengthen election laws, and businessman Bo Lane, who is backed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Finchem is backed by Trump and said in a recent interview that concerns about the effect of his potential victory on free and fair elections are unfounded. He said he would simply apply the laws as written.
“I think it’s interesting that there are people, particularly Democrats out there, who claim, ‘Oh, it’s going to destroy the system. He will do that, he is a threat to democracy,” Finchem said. However, he maintains that tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots led to Biden’s victory, a claim for which there is no reliable evidence.
Two Democrats, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, are seeking their party’s nomination.
In Kansas, voters will choose between a GOP challenger who questions the 2020 presidential results and the Republican incumbent who believes the election was safe in his state.
Secretary of State Scott Schwab defended the use of ballots, which Trump and other Republicans say are prone to abuse, even though both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state across the country have reported no significant problems with them. He has dismissed baseless theories of fraud, at least in the Kansas election.
Schwab faces Mike Brown, a former county commissioner in suburban Kansas City who has made doubts about the state’s election security a focus of his campaign. He promised to ban the polls and said he would use the secretary of state’s office to pursue voter fraud cases, rather than take Schwab’s approach of working through prosecutors.
Democrat Jenna Repas of Kansas is unopposed in her party’s primary.
The first two Washington state primaries feature the incumbent, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs. He was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to keep his post for the remaining two years of former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s four-year term.
Hobbs faces several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an America First candidate who was fined by the state Supreme Court earlier this summer over unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.
Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who is running as a nonpartisan and said she is the most experienced in running elections, have raised the most money. Republicans in the race include former state Sen. Mark Miloscia and current Sen. Keith Wagoner.
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the November general election, regardless of party. Results will likely take days to come in because this is a mail-in election only.
Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.