Denialists gotta deny. It’s what they do. Even when a national election result dumps cold water all over the idea that voters are even close to buying far-right claims of “election theft,” shutting out every election denialist who sought office in every battleground state where they might wreak havoc—they deny that this has happened to them.
So naturally, Kari Lake, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Arizona and one of the nation’s foremost election denialists, is warming up the rhetoric to deny that her imminent defeat in the vote count from last week’s midterms was legitimate. Mind you, she’s kind of stuck: She’s close enough that she still could potentially win in any event, so she can’t preemptively claim that fraud is in play. On the other hand, she’s also very much on track to lose her race to Democrat Katie Hobbs.
To no one’s surprise, the rabid election denialists who comprise her most perfervid supporters turned out this weekend and protested outside the Maricopa County elections center, demanding the intervention of the military and a new election. If nothing else, it reminded everyone that the threat of Trumpian insurrectionist violence is never far away from these movements.
Lake has been derisive in her public comments about the election to date, though she insists she’s “100 percent certain” she will eventually win. Even so, she’s repeatedly called state elections officials “incompetent” in her post-election speeches, and described Arizona as a “laughingstock.”
“[W]e need people who are competent running our elections,” she told her supporters last week. “This incompetency or maladministration is outrageous. And I think the good thing is that more people are waking up to the fact that Arizona has real troubles when it comes to elections.”
Nonetheless, she added: “I’m willing to wait until every vote is counted … I think every candidate should wait until every vote is counted.”
Her supporters who turned out Saturday outside the Maricopa County Election Center in Phoenix were not so patient.
“We the people are requesting the military step in and redo our election,” one protester told Reuters. “It’s fake and false. Our government is full of corrupt people.”
Others marched around with bullhorns and denounced the proceedings inside the building, as well as the officers guarding the center, who they called “traitors.” One sign declared “Hobbs is a cheat,” while another read: “FBI honor your oath, arrest all traitors.”
“Katie Hobbs is a lying George Soros-owned piece of garbage,” one shouted into a bullhorn. “She’s a poor excuse for a human being.” He also threatened the county’s Board of Supervisors that they would be out of jobs “once Kari Lake is the governor.”
These protesters had been largely called into action by state Sen. Wendy Rogers, a notorious “Patriot” movement conspiracy theorist. She tweeted out a call to action on Friday, telling her fellow “patriots” to “rise up to rally” and “pray for the Light to shine in the darkness and for His truth to be revealed.”
But then Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA—one of Lake’s most high-profile supporters who has been tracking the vote results closely in real time (somewhat grimly)—and other Lake supporters warned Rogers that protests could cause a delay in the vote counting process, which they fear might create an opportunity for chicanery. Rogers quickly backtracked.
“Hey everyone, honestly, it’s better for folks to STAY AWAY from Maricopa county offices, SO THEY CAN FINISH their job of counting votes,” Rogers wrote in a followup tweet. “The last thing anyone wants is a reason to stop the counting. Understood?”
Bill Gates, the GOP chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, has angrily rejected claims from the election denialists that they were purposely delaying results. The county’s election workers, he told reporters, have been working 14 to 18 hours a day.
“We are absolutely not slow-rolling it,” Gates said Thursday. “And quite frankly, it is offensive for Kari Lake to say that.”
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone warned politicians and political personalities to “be thoughtful” about how they go about rallying their supporters.
“If you are an elected official and you are doing things to provoke a crowd to come out front here that can lead to the point of acts of violence or crimes, not only should we put you at the top of the criminal report and charge you, but I feel we should send you the bill,” he said at a Saturday press conference.
“They’re trying to pour cold water on this movement,” Lake said Thursday during an interview with Kirk. “This movement is on fire and no amount of water is going to put that fire out.”
The cold water of reality, however, was dumped on the election denialists by nationwide election results after Tuesday’s vote. One of the last pieces to fall was in Nevada, where the Associated Press has projected that Democrat Cisco Aguilar will defeat Republican election denier Jim Marchant in Nevada’s race.
There had been mounting concern over the slate of election denialists that Republicans had managed to put into place over the past year, running for secretary of state in at least five battleground states, and 11 states overall. But Marchant’s loss confirmed that Democrats had pulled off a clean sweep of the major contests for secretary of state that GOP election deniers had targeted, including Mark Finchem, a Lake ally, in Arizona.
Democrats also beat election conspiracy theorists running for secretary of state in Michigan and Minnesota, and defeated Republican Doug Mastriano in the Pennsylvania governor race—an ardent election denialist (and Jan. 6 participant) who would have been in position to select a new secretary of state if he had won. Democrats also easily knocked off election denialists in more liberal states like Massachusetts and New Mexico.
The Washington Post, which had earlier tabulated nearly 300 election denialists who won GOP primaries this year, found after the election that more than 170 of them have won the general so far—but almost entirely in safe red districts and states.
In fact, two Arizona races—Lake’s and the attorney general’s race pitting Abraham Hamadeh against Kris Mayes—are the only two battleground-state races where the denialists haven’t already lost. Denialists only won the large majority of the 171 races in districts where they were favored—almost entirely safe seats in traditionally red districts and states; states where their ability to affect a national election are small, since Republicans already win those electors.
And they lost the large majority of the 46 races in competitive districts. They lost every one of the 83 races in which they were not favored. None of the seven races they have won so far elevated them to a position to be able to directly affect the administration of elections in their state.
“The message this sends is that American voters care deeply about democracy, and they will stand up to extremism and effectively stop it,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told HuffPost. “This was a fork in the road for the history of our country. We could have gone down the path of extremism, conspiracy and the rolling back of fundamental freedoms, or we could have chosen the path of democracy and fundamental freedoms. So we’re elated.”
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Holy crap, what an amazing week! Where do we even begin this week's episode of The Downballot? Well, we know exactly where: abortion. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard recap Tuesday's extraordinary results, starting with a clear-eyed examination of the issue that animated Democrats as never before—and that pundits got so badly wrong. They also discuss candidate quality (still really important!), Democratic meddling in GOP primaries (good for democracy, actually), and "soft" Biden disapprovers (lots of them voted for Democrats).