Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Home POLITICS Democrats pour millions into key secretary of state races

Democrats pour millions into key secretary of state races

In a normal election year, races for secretary of state are sleepy affairs, and their campaigns battle for media coverage amid the hubbub of the more prominent Senate, gubernatorial and House races.

This year, however, is anything but normal.

Democrats are pouring millions of dollars into the races for secretary of state, buoyed by the nature of their Republican opponents and the stakes for American democracy.

According to an analysis by my colleague Alyce McFadden, Democrats in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada have outperformed their Republican opponents based on the most recent campaign finance reports. And overall, Democratic-aligned groups working on secretary of state races in those four states have outspent Republicans by nearly $18 million this election cycle, according to ad analytics firm AdImpact, with more expenses on the way.

The role of a secretary of state varies, but in those four states, as well as in Arizona and Pennsylvania (where the governor appoints the secretary), they play a critical role in overseeing the mechanics of elections. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, for example, they often had to make decisions about how to ensure voters had access to the polls when vaccines were not yet available, leaving older and immunocompromised Americans concerned about showing up at person.

Many of the Republicans running in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada have gained national notoriety.

Take Mark Finchem, an Arizona lawmaker in a cowboy hat and bolo tie who is running for secretary of state. He crushed his Republican primary rivals by stoking fears of a stolen 2020 election.

in a recent interview with Time magazineFinchem said it was a “fantasy” that President Biden would win in 2020, even though he was elected by more than seven million votes nationwide.

“It tests credibility,” Finchem said. “Isn’t it interesting that you can’t find anyone who admits they voted for Joe Biden?”

Others, like Kristina Karamo in Michigan, have taken fringe views on a variety of social issues. On her personal podcast, she called yoga a “satanic ritual” that was originally intended by its creators to “summon a demon.”

Democrats are frustrated with the praise that Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent in Georgia, has received from political commentators. His refusal to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election despite strong pressure from Donald Trump, they say, was simply the minimum requirement for the job.

“It’s nice when Republicans don’t openly betray,” Jena Griswold, Colorado’s secretary of state, said in an interview.

But he accused Raffensperger of supporting what he characterized as the “worst voter suppression package in the country”: the Republican-led law Georgia passed in 2021 to overhaul voter access.

The Democratic candidate in Georgia is Bee Nguyen, a state legislator and policy adviser for New American Leaders, a nonprofit organization that encourages immigrants and refugees to run for public office. Nguyen, who filled the seat vacated by Stacey Abrams during her first gubernatorial run in 2017, is a Vietnamese American and the first Democratic woman of Asian descent to hold statewide office in Georgia.

Outside groups focused on bolstering the Republicans who took on Trump in 2020 spent heavily on Raffensperger’s behalf in his primary against Rep. Jody Hice, another Stop-the-Stealer. Aided by several million dollars in last-minute donations, along with the full backing of Brian Kemp, the popular governor of Georgia, Raffensperger defeated Hice by nearly 20 percentage points, avoiding a runoff.

A New York Times analysis of that law, Senate Bill 202, found that the Republican Legislature and the state governor “have made an impressive assertion of partisan power in elections, making absentee voting difficult and creating restrictions and complications from narrow losses to Democrats. .”

The law alone could change turnout in Georgia, which hit record levels during two Senate races in January 2021. Democrats say Republicans changed the law to suppress votes from people of color; in a speech in Atlanta on January 11, 2022, President Biden called it “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Privately, Democrats also worry about complacency within their own ranks, particularly among centrists who may like the fact that Raffensperger defied Trump’s will in 2020 but are less buoyed by the new voting law. Republicans have defended it as a common-sense effort to roll back what they characterized as emergency measures to accommodate voters during the pandemic. But they have struggled to explain why some measures, such as restricting water to voters waiting in long lines, are necessary.

Griswold, a lawyer who worked on voter access for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, also heads the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State. He has used his national platform to reposition the organization as a bulwark of democracy against Trump and his Stop the Steal movement.

Deciding how to gauge their message to voters about the safety and fairness of the upcoming midterm elections has been tricky for Democrats.

That’s especially true in Georgia, where newly registered voters of color fueled Biden’s win, as well as those of Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Democrats are afraid to inadvertently point out that the new voting rules could mean votes from those communities will be wasted this year.

Kim Rogers, executive director of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, stressed in an interview that despite Republican attacks on the integrity of US elections, “our system works.”

He noted that American elections are subject to “bipartisan checks and balances at all levels,” with Democrats and Republicans alike enlisted to certify disputed votes and official results, while arguing that preserving these checks and balances is exactly what that’s on the ballot this year.

As for new laws in states like Georgia, he said, “voters of color have faced these suppression tactics for generations” and expressed confidence that voters will overcome those barriers just as they did in 2020.

But that system is under severe pressure. Republican county officials in New Mexico, upstate New York and rural Pennsylvania have said they will refuse to certify votes from digital machines, and election officials across the country have faced death threats.

Many Democrats were highly critical of the Biden administration’s strategy of pushing a review of voting rights in Congress. He failed in January while facing unified Republican opposition and skepticism from centrist Democrats, led by Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the administration’s point person for voting rights, has faced repeated questions about what she has done to find workarounds instead of federal legislation, beyond making the occasional speech.

Democrats pushed for federal funding to protect poll workers in legislation to overhaul the Voter Count Act, but Republicans have resisted. On Wednesday, the House passed its version of a reform bill, but the Senate will need to pass its own different version, as my colleague Carl Hulse reported.

His article contained a quote from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is the lead Republican author on the Senate side, but has raised concerns among fellow Democrats, including Tim Kaine, with whom I spoke in March. They say she is simply maneuvering to run out time at the behest of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader.

“We can work together to try to bridge the sizable differences,” Collins told Hulse. “But it would have been better if we had been consulted before the House sponsors decided to withdraw their bill.”

Thank you for reading On Politics and for being a subscriber to The New York Times. —Blake

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