2020 U.S. presidential election in Wisconsin

Election denier, doubter or defender? Here’s our analysis of some GOP candidates

One of the major themes of election night 2022 is that hundreds of people who are running for office have rejected the results of the 2020 presidential race.

LIVE RESULTS: Track GOP Candidates who’ve denied, doubted or defended election results

Joe Biden won the presidency in an election deemed free and fair by countless election officials and courts across the country, repudiating former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Many of those officials standing up for the process are Republicans or Trump-appointed judges.

Two years later, the former president continues to push baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen, and many Republican candidates vying for office this year are repeating his lies.

A Washington Post analysis found that 51 percent of Republican nominees in the current election cycle – 291 in total – have denied or questioned the results of the previous election. Of those, 171 are running for seats that are considered safe for the GOP. Election deniers will be on the ballot in 48 states.

The NewsHour took a closer look at the Republican nominees for governor and secretary of state, two key statewide positions with influence or control over elections. Governors can sign laws that regulate elections, help decide whether to challenge results, and in several key states (including Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas) appoint the secretary of state who oversees elections. In the vast majority of secretary of state races, the winner will have direct oversight over the election process in 2024 and beyond.

To determine where each candidate falls, we examined their public statements and actions over the last two years – in ads, interviews, tweets, lawsuits they joined, etc. – and classified them as:

  1. Denies the results of the 2020 election
  2. Fuels doubts about the results or election integrity
  3. Or, defends the results of the election

The candidates who we’ve classified as deniers have expressly pushed claims of fraud or the idea of a stolen election. Dan Cox in Maryland and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, for example, each organized buses to the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6 that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Cox claimed to witness voter fraud. Mastriano held events with Rudy Giuliani to push fraud claims. Others have used works like “stole” (Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey), “corrupt” (Arizona’s Kari Lake), and “rigged” (Massachusetts’ Geoff Diehl).

Those that are fueling doubts have landed in the gray area. Many have acknowledged Biden won in 2020, but they continue to raise questions about potential cases of voter fraud or have pushed concerns about election integrity. Others have gone out of their way to dodge questions about the 2020 results.

And the smallest category is the candidates that have defended the results and integrity of the 2020 election. That includes Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp who pushed back on Trump’s efforts to overturn the results. Others like Rhode Island’s Ashley Kalus called the election “legitimate,” and Vermont’s Gov. Phil Scott called Trump’s attempts to halt vote counting while he was still president “absolutely shameful.”

According to our analysis, out of 36 Republican nominees for governor, a quarter of them (nine) are election deniers. Another 53 percent (19) have fueled doubts about the election. Less than a quarter (eight) have stood up for election integrity.

The results are similar for the 26 GOP secretary of state candidates. More than a third (nine) deny the results. Another 42 percent (11) have fueled doubts. Just 23 percent (six) have defended the previous election results.

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