GOP seeks power over Wisconsin, Minnesota elections

Wisconsin’s secretary of state plays no part in elections, but that could change if Republicans can flip the seat this year and pass a law that would give the office a lot more responsibilities.

All three GOP candidates competing for the nomination in Tuesday’s primaries support the shift and echo former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud cost him the 2020 election.

If successful, the move would be a bold attempt to transfer power to an office Republicans hope to control in the 2024 presidential election, and it would be a turning point from just six years ago when Republicans won the Wisconsin Elections. Commission with bipartisan support. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes in the presidential race.

“This isn’t about policy,” said David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney who heads the impartial Center for Election Innovation and Research. “It’s about election results and just election results.”

Once an under-the-radar contest that has been eclipsed by governor and attorney general campaigns, this year’s Secretary of State races are attracting huge interest and money, driven largely by the 2020 election, when voting systems and processes were attacked by Trump and his supporters. . There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting systems in the 2020 election.

There are also primary elections Tuesday in the Secretary of State races in Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont. In Minnesota, the leading Republican nominee has called the 2020 election “rigged” and criticized a video attacking three prominent Jewish Democrats, including current Secretary of State, Democrat Steve Simon, who is seeking reelection.

While the stakes are high, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State’s primary has been largely silent. The incumbent, Democrat Doug La Follette, has barely campaigned. In June, the 81-year-old, who was first elected to the position in 1974, opted for a two-week trip to Africa.

La Follette has raised about $21,000, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. That’s not unusual, as the only duties of the office are to sit on a state wooden board and verify certain travel documents.

La Follette has said he has decided to run again to prevent Republicans from meddling in the election, citing Trump’s appeal to Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, after the 2020 election, asking him “find” enough votes to undo Biden’s victory in the state. La Follette’s main opponent, Alexia Sabor, chair of the Dane County Democratic Party board of directors, has raised about $24,000.

The Republican candidates argue that dismantling the Election Commission and empowering the Secretary of State to oversee the election would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions. All of them have sharply criticized the committee’s decisions heading into the 2020 elections, when the COVID-19 pandemic presented major challenges to conducting elections.

To achieve their goal, Republicans would also have to defeat Democratic government leader Tony Evers in November, who would block such a move.

The main fundraiser under the GOP secretary of state candidates is state representative Amy Loudenbeck, who has reported about $94,000 in contributions. 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 that Trump’s election was stolen, she has contacted those who do and has campaigned at events with them.

At the state party’s convention in May, when Crockett was approved by convention delegates, she showed a video of billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros as a puppeteer pulling the strings of Simon, the current secretary of state, and prominent election attorney Marc Elias, with a caption that said, “Let’s screw up elections forever and ever and ever.”

All three men are Jewish. The GOP state president quickly apologized, claiming that Crockett had no intention of being anti-Semitic. Crockett did not apologize, and a day after the chairman’s apology, she sent a fundraising letter titled “Media Smears and Communist Tears” claiming she was the victim of “contrived and fake political attacks”.

In their respective primaries, Crockett and Simon face lesser-known opponents: Republican Erik van Mechelen and Democrat Steve Carlson.

Races in Connecticut and Vermont have attracted a lot of interest after two longtime Democratic secretaries of state said they would not be re-elected.

Much of the debate in both the Democratic and Republican primary in Connecticut has revolved around voter identification requirements. A Connecticut voter can sign an affidavit in lieu of showing ID, and there are multiple forms of ID that are accepted, including a bank statement or current utility bill.

Republican nominee Dominic Rapini, former board chairman of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., has called for tougher ID requirements and the clean-up of the state’s electoral rolls. While Rapini says he is suspicious of voter fraud in Connecticut and believes reforms are necessary, he has not echoed Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Rapini faces state representative Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who has also called for stricter rules on voter identification and the cleanup of voter lists.

On the Democratic side, both candidates oppose the GOP’s proposals on voter identification. State Representative Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk, who won the party’s endorsement at the state convention this spring, faces Maritza Bond, New Haven City Health Director.

In Vermont, the Democratic primary has attracted the most attention. For the first time since 2010, Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, will not be on the ballot after announcing plans to retire.

All three Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primary pledge to work to make elections in the state as accessible and safe as possible. Last year, the legislature passed a law requiring blanket ballots to be sent to all registered voters, although people can still choose to vote in person on Election Day.

The candidates are Secretary of State Chris Winters, who has worked in the office for 25 years; state representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who co-sponsored last year’s voting bill; and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, who oversaw elections in the Vermont capital for the past decade.

A perennial candidate for office, H. Brooke Paige is the only person to run in the GOP primary. He also appears on the ballot for three other offices statewide.


Cassidy was reporting from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont, contributed to this report.

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