Madison, Wis. – Wisconsin’s secretary of state doesn’t play a role in elections, but that could change if Republicans can flip the seat and pass legislation to do so this year authorize the office with a lot more responsibility.
All three GOP candidates competing for the nomination in Tuesday’s primary support the postponement, mirroring that of former President Donald Trump false claims This fraud cost him the 2020 election.
If successful, the move would be a bold attempt to shift power to an office that Republicans hope to control in the 2024 presidential election, and would mark a reversal from just six years ago when Republicans established it Wisconsin Electoral Commission with bipartisan support. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin by around 21,000 votes in the presidential race.
“This isn’t about politics,” said David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney who heads the bipartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. “It’s about election results and only election results.”
Once an under-the-radar competition that has been overshadowed by campaigns for governor and attorney general, the races for the position of secretary of state are attracting huge interest and money this year, largely due to the 2020 election, as electoral systems and processes of Trump and Trump were attacked his supporters. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting systems in the 2020 election.
There are also Tuesday primaries in secretary of state races in Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont. In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate has called the 2020 election “rigged” and has been criticized for a video attacking three prominent Jewish Democrats, including current Secretary of State, Democrat Steve Simon, who is seeking re-election.
Though the stakes are high, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State election has been mostly quiet. The incumbent, Democrat Doug La Follette, campaigned very little. In June, the 81-year-old, who was first elected to office in 1974, decided to take a two-week trip to Africa.
La Follette has raised about $21,000, according to recent campaign finance reports. This is not uncommon, as the bureau’s only duties are to sit on a state timber committee and review certain travel documents.
La Follette said he decided to run again to stop Republicans from interfering in the election, citing Trump’s call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 election asked him to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. La Follette’s main opponent, Dane County Democratic Party executive chair Alexia Sabor, has raised about $24,000.
Republican candidates argue that dissolving the Electoral Commission and empowering the Secretary of State to oversee elections would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions. They have all sharply criticized the Commission’s decisions in view of the 2020 elections, when the COVID-19 pandemic posed major challenges to the conduct of elections.
To achieve their goal, Republicans would also need to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November, who would block such a move.
The leading fundraiser among GOP Secretary of State candidates is State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, who has reported raising approximately $94,000. The other two Republicans are businessman Jay Schroeder and Justin Schmidtka, who hosts a political podcast. Also on the ballot is Libertarian candidate Neil Harmon.
In Minnesota, the leading Republican nominee for Secretary of State Kim Crockett has called the 2020 election a “train wreck” and accused state election officials of using the pandemic as a “cover to change how we vote, but also how.” the votes are counted.”
While Crockett does not typically publicly claim the election was stolen from Trump, she has linked with those who do and has campaigned with them at events.
At the state party convention in May, where Crockett was supported by congressional delegates, she showed a video showing billionaire philanthropist George Soros as a puppeteer pulling the strings of Simon, the current Secretary of State, and prominent campaign attorney Marc Elias , with a caption that said, “Let’s ruin elections forever and ever.”
All three men are Jews. The GOP state chairman soon apologized, claiming Crockett did not intend it to be anti-Semitic. Crockett did not apologize, and a day after the chairman’s apology, she sent a donation letter titled “media smears and communist tears” and claimed she was the victim of “contrived and false political attacks”.
In their respective primaries, Crockett and Simon face lesser-known opponents – Republican Erik van Mechelen and Democrat Steve Carlson.
The Connecticut and Vermont races have drawn widespread interest after two longtime Democratic secretaries of state said they would not seek re-election.
Much of the debate in both the Connecticut Democratic and Republican primary has focused on voter identification requirements. A voter in Connecticut can sign an affidavit instead of showing ID, and several types of ID are accepted, including a bank statement or recent utility bill.
Republican candidate Dominic Rapini, a former chief executive of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., has called for tightening ID requirements and a purge of the state’s voter rolls. While Rapini says he’s suspicious of Connecticut voter fraud and believes reform is needed, he hasn’t repeated Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
Rapini is facing State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who has also called for stricter rules on voter identification and voter roll sanitization.
On the Democratic side, both candidates oppose GOP voter identification proposals. Norwalk State Rep. Stephanie Thomas, who won the party’s support at the state convention this spring, faces Maritza Bond, New Haven City Health Director.
In Vermont, the Democratic primary has garnered the most attention. For the first time since 2010, Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, will not stand for election after announcing plans to step down.
All three Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primary vowed to continue their efforts to make the state’s elections as accessible and safe as possible. Last year, lawmakers passed legislation requiring general election ballots to be mailed to all registered voters, although people can still vote in person on Election Day.
The nominees are Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, who has served at the office for 25 years; State Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who co-sponsored last year’s Voting Bill; and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, who has overseen elections in the Vermont capital for the past decade.
A permanent candidate for office, H. Brooke Paige, is the only person running in the GOP primary. He also appears on the ballot for three other statewide offices.
Cassidy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski of Minneapolis, Susan Haigh of Hartford, Connecticut, and Wilson Ring of Montpelier, Vermont contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/08/07/gop-seeking-power-over-elections-in-wisconsin-minnesota/ GOP seeks power over elections in Wisconsin, Minnesota