Over half of Republicans running for federal, statewide office have raised unfounded doubts about 2020 election
Over half of all Republican midterm candidates running for federal and statewide office have raised unfounded doubts about the validity or integrity of the 2020 election results, and according to CBS News’ analysis, all of the states but two — Rhode Island and North Dakota — have a candidate on the the ballot who is an “election denier,” that is, who denies the results of the 2020 election were valid.
Among the 597 GOP candidates running for state or federal office this November, 308 have raised unfounded doubts about the results of the 2020 election.
Here’s the candidate breakdown:
- 20 out of 37 Republicans running for governor (2 Republicans are running for Alaska’s gubernatorial seat under the state’s ranked choice voting)
- 9 out of 31 Republicans running for lieutenant governor
- 9 out of 30 Republicans running for attorney general
- 12 out of 27 Republicans running for secretary of state
- 20 out of 36 Republicans running for the U.S. Senate (2 Senate races in Oklahoma)
- 238 out of 436 Republicans running for U.S. House (2 Republicans are running for the Alaska at large seat under the state’s ranked choice voting)
Many GOP candidates have voiced support for continued “Stop the Steal” efforts, falsely claiming that President Biden is in the White House illegitimately and must be removed. Others acknowledge he’s the president but won’t say whether he was legitimately elected, and they incorrectly suggest there was wide-ranging fraud in the 2020 election. Some objected to the 2020 Electoral College certification or signed an amicus brief in a Texas lawsuit arguing electoral votes in battleground states Mr. Biden won should be tossed.
Other candidates backtracked after their primary races, hoping to appear less extreme to a wider electorate. CBS News still considers these candidates to have questioned the integrity of the election, even if they have since changed course.
Should GOP election deniers who are running for governor or secretary of state in the 2020 battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin win on Nov. 8, it’s possible that state-level certifications of the 2024 presidential election will be in the hands of officials who continue to propagate the idea that Joe Biden did not win in 2020.
In Arizona, where there are election deniers running for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem could have the final say in certifying the state’s 2024 election results. Lake has already said that she would not have accepted the state’s results in 2020 had she been Arizona’s governor, and Mark Finchem has suggested that he wouldn’t either.
The same is true in Michigan, where Tudor Dixon and Kristina Karamo, running for governor and secretary of state, have also said they wouldn’t have certified Mr. Biden’s 2020 victory.
Other races to watch include the governor’s races in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the far-right Republican nominees Doug Mastriano of Pennsylvania and Tim Michels of Wisconsin are on the ballot.
Below are profiles of some of the candidates who meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Said they believe the 2020 election was stolen;
- Repeated disproven claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020;
- Supported a type of post 2020-audit, sometimes following recounts or canvassing;
- Signed onto the Texas lawsuit looking to overturn the 2020 election results in several battleground states;
- Objected to certify the 2020 electoral college results in Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, 2021; or
- Have at least once, if not more, been unclear when asked if they believe President Joe Biden was legitimately elected.
U.S. Senate candidates: 20 of 36 GOP candidates
Adam Laxalt (Nevada): Former Nevada Attorney General and Trump Nevada campaign co-chair Adam Laxalt said in a radio interview in August 2021, “There’s no question that they rigged the election.” He also worked with the 2020 Trump campaign in filing a lawsuit in November 2020 with Ric Grenell, the Trump-appointed former director of national intelligence to try to convince a judge to “stop the counting of improper votes.” Laxalt also spread a false claim about thousands of illegal votes in an op-ed after Mr. Biden had been certified as the winner.
Laxalt has since acknowledged Mr. Biden is the president, but has not explicitly said he was legitimately elected. “I know you want to make this entire election about this. We have major issues going on in our country right now,” he said, avoiding the question in October 2021.
JD Vance (Ohio): “I believe the election was stolen too, but why are we talking about the past,” JD Vance said during a campaign event in January. When asked by Spectrum News Ohio that same month if he felt the election had been stolen, Vance affirmed that he does. “The fundamental problem is we had a massive effort to shift the election by very powerful people in this country. I don’t care whether you say it’s rigged, whether you say it’s stolen, like I’ll say what I’m going to say about it,” he said.
Herschel Walker (Georgia): While he was aggressive in saying the election was stolen in 2020, Herschel Walker has since softened his tone. Days after the election, on Nov. 6, 2020, Walker was suggesting several battleground states should vote again. On Dec. 27, 2020 he said on Fox News that he was certain “Biden didn’t get 50 million people voting for him, yet people think he won this election.”
Walker expressed doubt that the Jan. 6 rioters were Trump supporters, calling them “Trojan horses” and tweeting that Trump has the power “right now to see who they really are and to get the bottom of who stole this election!” In May, Walker claimed he’d never heard Trump say the election was stolen.
Don Bolduc (New Hampshire): In August, Don Bolduc said, “I signed a letter … saying that Trump won the election, and, damn it, I stand by my letter.” He added: “I’m not switching horses, baby. This is it.” After winning his primary, Bolduc reversed course “I’ve come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: The election was not stolen,” he said, adding that while he still believes there was fraud, “elections have consequences and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.”
Rep. Ted Budd (North Carolina): As a congressman, Budd voted to object to the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, 2021. He also voiced support for the Texas lawsuit that tried to contest Mr. Biden’s victories in several battleground states in the Supreme Court. “Millions of Americans do not have faith in the November election. One of the best ways to air out the legitimate concerns over voter fraud, machine irregularities, and mail-in ballots is at the Supreme Court,” he tweeted in December 2020.
But more recently, Budd has said that he does believe Biden is “the legitimate president.” He told Fox 46 in April, “He is the president, but I have tremendous constitutional concerns about how the election of 2020 happened.”
Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania): While he said during a debate in April that “we cannot move on” from the 2020 election, he also said on conservative network “Real America’s Voice” that he wants “to be careful” about how he talks about the 2020 election. “I know for sure we’ve got to deal with 2020, but this is about knowing what exactly the diagnosis is so we can give it the right treatment,” he said. During the general election campaign, however, Oz said that he would have voted to certify Mr. Biden’s election. In September, Oz said that he would have certified the 2020 election for Joe Biden. “I would not have objected to it,” Oz said. “By the time the delegates and those reports are sent to the U.S. Senate, our job was to approve it. That’s what I would have done.”
Blake Masters (Arizona): Before his primary, Blake Masters said in a campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020,” and he called the 2020 election “really messed up.” He also claimed, “If we had had a free and fair election, President Trump would be sitting in the Oval Office today.” But after winning the GOP primary, he shifted his stance to say that Joe Biden had won — with help from and interference by the FBI and the media.
Gubernatorial candidates: 20 of 36 GOP candidates
Doug Mastriano (Pennsylvania): In addition to being near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and spending thousands of dollars from his campaign account to arrange buses from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., that day, Doug Mastriano, a state senator, held a hearing weeks after the 2020 election and called Trump campaign lawyer Rudy Giuliani to testify “on election issues.” Mastriano and other Pennsylvania Republicans challenged the state’s new mail ballot law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — which upheld the legality of the rules. On Nov. 27, 2020, he introduced a bill asking Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar “to withdraw and vacate the certification of the presidential election.”
In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state and in April, Mastriano said he already has someone in mind, though he hasn’t released a name. He’s also contemplating forcing all voters to re-register in Pennsylvania. He said on “The John Fredericks Show” that he has the power to decertify or certify “any machines or anything else involved with elections… with the stroke of a pen, I can decertify every single machine in the state.”
Kari Lake (Arizona): Kari Lake has never backed away from remarks she’s made denying the 2020 election’s legitimacy. She has said, “If you think that election was fair, put down Hunter’s crack pipe.” She has also said she would not have certified Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona if she had been governor. She called late-night ballot counting that favored Mr. Biden over Trump “magic.” On “Face the Nation” in October, Lake refused to say whether Mr. Biden is the legitimate president, and she has also appeared on QAnon-affiliated talk shows.
Gov. Greg Abbott (Texas): In December 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott supported the Texas lawsuit led by Attorney General Ken Paxton that sought to toss the election results of four battleground states that Mr. Biden won (Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin). Abbott said of the case, which was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, that Paxton was trying to “accelerate the process, providing certainty and clarity about the entire election process.”
In Sept. 2021, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced an audit of the 2020 election. Abbott defended the audit in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” saying, “Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections?” Abbott approved $4 million in funding for the audit in Nov. 2021, which found very few issues with the 2020 election, according to the Texas Tribune.
Tudor Dixon (Michigan): In a primary debate, Tudor Dixon raised her hand along with the rest of the Republican gubernatorial field when they were asked if there was enough fraud to impact the 2020 election results. In another debate, she was asked if she believed Trump had legitimately won Michigan. She replied, “Yes,” even though Mr. Biden had won the state by about 154,000 votes. After his victory, Dixon, in a since-deleted tweet, wrote the election had been stolen and claimed Democrats had committed “sloppy and obvious” voter fraud, according to MLive, but she offered no evidence to support her accusation.
Dan Cox (Maryland): In December 2020, Dan Cox suggested on Facebook that Trump should seize voting machines as a way to prove fraud had occurred. Cox also sponsored buses to take people to the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6. That afternoon, Cox tweeted: “Mike Pence is a traitor.” Cox later deleted the tweet. In a July 2021 Facebook post, Cox wrote: “I was in Philadelphia with President Trump’s team for three weeks during the 2020 election and witnessed PA election fraud.” Cox also posted tweets containing QAnon rhetoric ahead of the 2020 election.
Secretary of state: 12 of 27 GOP candidates
Kristina Karamo (Michigan): In December, Kristina Karamo tweeted that “corrupt politicians with the help of the lying media were trying to steal the election, ain’t going to happen.” Karamo gained a following after the 2020 election, when she claimed to have witnessed fraudulent activity where Detroit was counting absentee ballots. She made several cable news appearances to spread unfounded claims of widespread fraud and filed to intervene in Texas’ lawsuit to overturn the election. One of Karamo’s central fraud claims was about a ballot that had straight-ticket voting bubbles filled out for both Democrats and Republicans. She claimed a worker had wanted to count the ballot for Democrats and a supervisor told the worker to “push it through.” Chris Thomas, the longtime elections director in Michigan who was at the absentee counting facility in Detroit, told CBS News that “push it through” meant that the ballot would be registered as an overvote and would not count for either party.
During New Jersey’s gubernatorial election last November, Karamo claimed that ballots for Democrat incumbent Governor Phil Murphy were “magically” appearing. “Can’t make this stuff up, but again you’re ‘insurrectionist’ and a ‘big lie proponent’ for pointing out the obvious,” she tweeted. Ahead of her election this November, Karamo has claimed that election machines in Detroit are illegal.
Mark Finchem (Arizona): “The 2020 General Election is irredeemably compromised, and it is impossible to name a clear winner of the contest,” Mark Finchem, a state House member, wrote in a resolution he introduced in the Arizona Legislature to decertify the 2020 election results in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties. Finchem attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally and was in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. He also supported the Maricopa County GOP-led state Senate-mandated audit that ultimately found President Biden had won the county by about 45,000 votes, a handful more than the original count. He has also attended conferences and fundraisers hosted by QAnon influencers.
Jim Marchant (Nevada): Jim Marchant, who was the Republican nominee for Nevada’s 4th District in 2020, falsely claimed that the election had been “stolen” from him and from Trump and filed a lawsuit over his own 33,000 vote loss in 2020. The challenge was dismissed. He lost to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in 2020. Now, as the GOP nominee to be secretary of state, Marchant has told The Guardian that he would be open to sending an alternate slate of electors to Congress in 2024. Marchant and former Clark County District Court Judge Richard Scotti, another Nevada Secretary of State Republican candidate in the race, have said they would push to decertify Dominion voting machines, which are used by nearly all of Nevada’s counties. Like Mastriano, Marchant also said he supported a proposal to “re-register” voters, which was used by segregationists to restrict the votes of Black Americans during Reconstruction and through the 1960s. Marchant has also attended QAnon-affiliated conferences and spoke on panels about election fraud- and has falsely claimed that Nevada has not “elected anybody since 2006,” but politicians in the state have been “installed by the deep state cabal.”
Audrey Trujillo (New Mexico): In June, Trujillo called for county commissioners to remove all Dominion machines and all drop boxes, and said the state’s primary results couldn’t be certified until counties did a hand recount, forensic audit and a cast vote record has been provided. In a Facebook interview in March, she said the 2020 election “was a huge, huge, I would say coup to really unseat a president who had the best interests of Americans.”
House candidates: 238 of 436* GOP candidates
*2 Republicans are running for the Alaska at large seat under the state’s ranked choice voting
Sarah Palin (Alaska): When broadcaster Piers Morgan asked her if she accepted that Biden won the election “fair and square,” she said, “Evidently he did because he is sworn in as our president, but no one will convince me, nor anyone else with common sense and a sense of justice — no one will convince us that there was not shenanigans.”
Kevin McCarthy (California): The House minority leader and potential future House speaker voted to object to the Electoral College certification and said on Fox News right after the election that “President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.” At a press conference June, McCarthy said that Joe Biden was president, but did not say if he was legitimately elected.
Lauren Boebert (Colorado): Before the 2020 election, Boebert wrote in a tweet that “the only way Democrats can win [in 2020] is through election fraud.” Ahead of Jan. 6, she tweeted about “video footage, voice recordings, data analysis, statistical improbabilities,” and more disproven allegations of mass election fraud. She also objected to the Electoral College certification the morning of Jan. 6. Rep. Boebert, now the incumbent in 2024, was at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse and tweeted that morning, “Today is 1776.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia): Marjorie Taylor Greene was also one of the 10 Republican members of Congress who attended a Trump White House meeting that focused on efforts to overturn the 2020 election. She voted to object to the Electoral College Certification on Jan. 6 and continues to incorrectly insist that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
John Gibbs (Michigan): During a debate with his primary opponent, incumbent Rep. Peter Meijer, in late June, John Gibbs made the unfounded claim that there were “anomalies” in the 2020 election results “that are simply mathematically impossible.” On his campaign website, Gibbs calls for a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 election and writes that there should be an ID required to vote and an elimination of the early voting period. He also says the “mass mailing of ballots to every voter… would be considered corrupt if used in any developing country.”
JR Majewski (Ohio): JR Majewski was in Washington, D.C.,on Jan. 6 and in since-deleted tweets first reported by CNN, Majewski tweeted ahead of the Capitol Hill riot that “it’s going down” on Jan. 6. He also has shared QAnon memes and language on his Parler social media account that was later deleted.
Mayra Flores (Texas): Mayra Flores has suggested that the Capitol riot was caused by Antifa and “infiltrators.” A CNN review of – tweets leading up to January 2021 that have since been deleted, noted that Flores had shown admiration for Trump attorney Sidney Powell, calling her an “American hero.” Powell filed a number of baseless lawsuits that alleged massive fraud in the 2020 election. Powell is being sued for defamation over some of her claims and has been sanctioned by a federal judge for a failure to do her due diligence before submitting one of her lawsuits. Flores wrote that “this election is not over” in late November 2020.
Harriet Hageman (Wyoming): Harriet Hageman, who defeated incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney in the GOP primary, said the 2022 election was “rigged” and told a primary debate audience that “we have serious questions” about the 2020 election.
Contributions by Sierra Sanders, Grace Kazarian, Fritz Farrow, Scott MacFarlane and Major Garrett
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