Election ‘deniers’ — like Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano — quiet on fraud claims after primary wins.

June 16, 2022 | 5:19 a.m

Jim Marchant of Nevada has insisted his state has not had a legitimate election in years, but after winning the nomination for secretary of state he immediately hailed the win as legitimate.

  • The Associated Press

    The Associated Press

    The Associated Press (AP) is a US-based, non-profit news agency headquartered in New York City.

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold signs as they stand in front of the Clark County Elections Department in North Las Vegas, Nevada on November 7, 2020.

Wong Maye-E/AP photo

Supporters of President Donald Trump hold signs as they stand in front of the Clark County Elections Department in North Las Vegas, Nevada on November 7, 2020.

Nevada Republican Jim Marchant insisted his state had not had a legitimate election in more than a decade. All of Nevada’s election winners since 2006, he said on a recent podcast, have been “installed by the deep state cabal.”

But when Marchant won the Republican nomination for Nevada Secretary of State this week, he immediately hailed the win as legitimate.

“I am overwhelmed by the overwhelming support for our campaign. Nevadans have made themselves heard,” Marchant explained on social media.

This inconsistency has become a hallmark of “election deniers” in this year’s US midterm Republican primary. Dozens of GOP candidates seeking the support of former President Donald Trump in Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere have spent months parroting his baseless allegations of 2020 voter fraud, but then declared victory without such concerns on their part to express their own choices.

Amid this seeming hypocrisy, many Republican candidates still vow to enact a variety of electoral reforms that, in the name of electoral integrity, could make it harder to vote — especially for those who traditionally support Democrats.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jamie Harrison warned that “MAGA Republicans would do anything in their desperate quest for power.”

“From undermining our democracy by spreading Trump’s big lie to laying the groundwork for trying to annul votes when they disagree with the outcome but remain silent when they win, this is the Republican Party today ‘ Harrison told The Associated Press.

In Nevada on Tuesday, Marchant was among a number of voter deniers who secured their seats in November’s election without questioning the legitimacy of the results. The group included candidates for Senate, State Treasurer and a Congressional seat in the Las Vegas area. This was despite the fact that the majority of counties relied on Dominion voting machines, which continue to be the target of conspiracy theories by Trump and his allies.

The phenomenon extends well beyond Nevada.

In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano chaired a Senate hearing where witnesses — including former Trump campaign attorneys Jenna Ellis and Rudy Giuliani — made false claims of mass voter fraud. Mastriano was also outside the US Capitol when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building during the deadly 2021 riot. And he later attempted to bring a partisan election scrutiny to Pennsylvania before being stripped of the committee chair by his own party.

Steven M. Falk / Philadelphia Inquirer

Doug Mastriano defeated a crowded field of Republicans to win the party’s primary for Governor of Pennsylvania. The big question now is whether he can form a coalition to beat Democrat Josh Shapiro.

Mastriano made no mention of voter fraud when declaring victory in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for governor last month.

“God is good,” a smiling Mastriano said to cheering supporters.

The Mastriano campaign declined to respond to a question about the apparent double standards.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also ignored questions about his conflicting positions on voter fraud.

Paxton won his hard-fought primary last month after spending much of the past year championing Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Following Joe Biden’s presidential victory, Paxton filed a legal challenge to election results in four battleground states. He asked the US Supreme Court to overturn it and allow the Republican-controlled state legislatures to choose the winner.

Seventeen other Republican attorneys general supported the effort.

The Supreme Court denied the challenge three days after filing the lawsuit, noting that Texas had no authority to sue other states for the way they conduct their elections. And prosecutors moved to discipline Paxton just days after his first victory, claiming his leading role in petitioning the Supreme Court to block Biden’s victory was “dishonest.”

State and federal election officials across the country and Trump’s own attorney general said there was no credible evidence the election was rigged. The former president’s allegations of fraud have also been firmly dismissed by courts, including judges he appointed.

But after nearly two years of constant claims by Trump that the election was “stolen,” echoed by hundreds of Republican candidates across the US seeking his support, an extraordinary number of Americans have lost faith in the US electoral system.

According to a February poll by AP-NORC, only 45% of American adults said they are very confident the votes in the 2022 midterm election will be counted accurately, and 30% have some confidence. Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to be very confident, 66% versus 24%.

Polls continue to show most Republicans have doubts about the 2020 presidential election. In July 2021, 68% of adults — but only 33% of Republicans — said Biden was legitimately elected president, according to an AP-NORC poll. 66 percent of Republicans said he wasn’t legitimately elected.

Along with key state officials, several Trump-backed Senate candidates have consistently raised the specter of voter fraud — except when delivering their key victory speeches in recent weeks.

Republican Senate candidate from Georgia Herschel Walker has repeatedly claimed Biden’s victory was tainted by fraud last year, even claiming that Trump lost in seven swing states to re-elect. Ohio GOP Senate nominee JD Vance claimed the 2020 election was “rigged” or “stolen.” North Carolina Senate nominee Ted Budd, a Republican congressman, refused to say on the day of his primary victory in May that Biden won the 2020 presidential election. And Pennsylvania Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz said there is “definitely” widespread fraud in his state, even if the evidence says otherwise.

A stop-the-steal sign is put up in the US Capitol after a pro-Trump mob broke into the building on January 6, 2021.

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

A stop-the-steal sign is put up in the US Capitol after a pro-Trump mob broke into the building on January 6, 2021.

None made similar claims of their own major victories.

In Nevada, state GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said that Marchant’s recognition of his major win was not hypocritical as he continued to have questions about vote counting in the Las Vegas area.

“He questioned the results last night even though he won, which I thought was admirable,” McDonald said, recounting a 1:30 a.m. phone call with Marchant.

Marchant did not respond to requests for comment, but his campaign aide Rory McShane said he continued to have questions about voting in Clark County, which is Democratic and home to the vast majority of the state’s population, even though the race was declared for him.

There is perhaps no more vocal supporter of Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud than Marchant, a 66-year-old former failed congressional candidate.

Marchant was present in Carson City when the party sent a dueling list of electoral votes to Congress in December 2020. Throughout the primary, he was a fixture at rural county commission meetings, discussing Dominion voting machines and the possible move to hand-taught ballots. And he has traveled the country with other 2020 election deniers, using phrases and terminology associated with QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Cisco Aguilar, the Democrat running against Marchant, called the Republican’s comments about the 2020 election, voting machines and mail-in ballots far from reality.

In an interview, Aguilar said he feels immense responsibility after Marchant’s win and is now weighing issues he didn’t anticipate when he entered the race, such as whether agreeing to a debate would give a conspiracy theorist a platform.

“He created massive fear among a subset of people here in Nevada,” Aguilar said. “I don’t even know if you can argue with someone who isn’t willing to listen.”

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Peoples reported from New York and Metz reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut in Washington, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.


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