(Bloomberg) -- Republicans in Arizona chose Senate and secretary of state nominees -- and likely the winner of the governor’s race -- who have put 2020 election denial at the center of their campaigns, guaranteeing that the issue will dominate the state’s November election.
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The issue will be front and center in the governor’s race even if Kari Lake, a former television personality who says the 2020 election was rigged, is not the GOP nominee in a race that was too close to call on Wednesday. Lake called it “sickening” that a Republican rival wouldn’t say the 2020 election was stolen. The Democratic nominee is current secretary of state Katie Hobbs, who stood up to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in Arizona.
Republican primary voters also chose state Representative Mark Finchem, who was outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, as the nominee for secretary of state, and venture capitalist Blake Masters, who ran an ad saying he thinks Donald Trump won in 2020, for Senate.
It’s a high-risk strategy for Republicans with fewer than 100 days until November’s election as they pivot to winning over independents in the general election.
While Republican candidates across the country have raised questions about the 2020 campaign during primaries, they often drop the subject once the general election gets underway, as polls show independent voters don’t believe Trump’s baseless claims.
That will likely be the case in Michigan, where Republicans on Tuesday chose businesswoman Tudor Dixon as their gubernatorial nominee. She has already shifted on the issue.
After the 2020 election, Dixon tweeted that there were “obvious” and “sloppy” fraud by Democrats to “steal” the election, but recently she has dodged the question, responding instead by talking about her concerns over how the elections were run during the coronavirus pandemic.
Polls show election laws may not be a winning issue for Republican nominees in November.
In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 34% of voters listed inflation as the top issue facing the country, while 12% named gun violence. Only 8% named “election laws” as a top concern -- making it tied for third with immigration and abortion -- and even then, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans and independents to name it as their biggest issue, suggesting it could backfire for the GOP.
Some Democrats have even sought to boost fringe candidates who have taken stances on the issue that they think will make them vulnerable in November.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking state Senator Doug Mastriano during the Republican primary as too conservative, helping him win the nomination while also softening him up for the general election.
Like Finchem in Arizona, Mastriano worked directly on efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in 2020.
In Michigan, US Representative Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack, lost a Republican primary to former Trump aide John Gibbs, who has inaccurately claimed that it was “mathematically impossible” that Biden won.
On the eve of the election, Meijer harshly criticized the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for spending hundreds of thousands on ads to promote Gibbs, calling it “nauseating.”
Along with Dixon and Mastriano, election deniers Paul LePage won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Maine; Dan Cox, in Maryland; and Darren Bailey, in Illinois. New York gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin objected to the certification of Biden electors as a member of Congress.
Two attorneys general who supported a Texas lawsuit seeking to have the US Supreme Court intervene in the election also won on Tuesday.
In Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt won the Republican gubernatorial nomination, while in Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt won the Republican US Senate nomination.
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