Barack Obama hit the campaign trail in the election season’s final weeks, rallying Democratic voters to support some of the party’s top-of-the-ticket candidates. But as the dust settles on the cycle, the former president isn’t yet done shining a light on an office that’s traditionally overlooked.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much Secretary of State races matter,” Obama wrote on Twitter yesterday. “They don’t always get the most attention, but they’re crucial to ensuring we have fair elections — and this time, voters across the country chose candidates who will fight for democracy.”
They did, indeed. Politico reported yesterday:
Former President Donald Trump endorsed four Republicans for secretary of state positions in the general election, boosting candidates who have cast doubt on the legitimacy of U.S. elections in some of the most closely divided states. Every single one of them lost.
Part of these results came into focus last week. As we discussed the day after the elections, Kristina Karamo, the right-wing secretary of state candidate in Michigan, enjoyed the former president’s enthusiastic support, but she lost by roughly 14 points. In Minnesota, Republican Kim Crockett, also echoed Trump’s lies, also received his backing, and also lost her bid for secretary of state by 10 points.
But there were still a couple of races that needed to be resolved. In fact, by some measures, the two most radical secretary of state candidates in the country were Arizona’s Mark Finchem and Nevada’s Jim Marchant — and as of late last week, both of their races remained uncalled.
As regular readers probably recall, Finchem is an unhinged election denier who’s appeared on QAnon radio shows, attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, and identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia group. He’s also, incidentally, peddled weird conspiracy theories about Brazil’s presidential election, all while encouraging vigilantes monitoring ballot drop boxes in the Grand Canyon State.
As for the race in Nevada, Marchant has been unreserved when pushing ridiculous ideas — and not just about Trump’s 2020 race. As we’ve discussed, the Republican, who’s been accused of having QAnon ties, has also told Nevadans, “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.”
Marchant has also insisted that prominent Democratic lawmakers — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, et al. — shouldn’t be seen as having won legitimate elections, either, despite their landslide victories.
We learned over the weekend that Marchant lost, too.
As this relates to Trump’s endorsement, the call in Nevada meant the former president was 0-for-4 in these key contests.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, I remain mindful of the fact that for many voters, secretary of state — at the state level, not the cabinet secretary who leads the U.S. State Department — is probably a fairly obscure office. These officials tend to work behind the scenes on unglamorous tasks such as election administration, and few reach the household-name level.
But in the wake of Jan. 6, the Republican Party’s brazen lies and conspiracy theories, and Trump’s fixation on installing election-denying allies in key positions, secretaries of state — and this year’s campaigns to elect secretaries of state — have taken on extraordinary importance.
In practical terms, we’re talking about officials who could take radical and undemocratic steps before Election Day, and then make matters worse after Election Day by refusing to certify election results they don’t like, including vote tallies in the 2024 presidential election.
In other words, there was a lot riding on these contests — and democracy came out on top.
Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”