“The message this sends is that American voters care deeply about democracy, and they will stand up to extremism and effectively stop it,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D), the chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told HuffPost. “This was a fork in the road for the history of our country. We could have gone down the path of extremism, conspiracy and the rolling back of fundamental freedoms, or we could have chosen the path of democracy and fundamental freedoms. So we’re elated.”
Secretaries of state serve as the top elections official in most states, and they oversee everything from basic election procedures, including how votes are counted, to the certification of the results. Last year, conspiratorial candidates led by Marchant formed the America First Secretary of State Coalition, with the goal of using those offices to exert partisan control over elections and the 2024 contest specifically.
The prevalence of Republican election deniers, along with their open declarations about wanting to wield partisan influence over contests, made it easy for Democrats to define the stakes of the races, said Kim Rogers, the Democratic association’s executive director.
“We started pushing the message in 2021 that these races matter and that secretaries of state are essential to defending our democracy,” Rogers said. “We let folks know what was at stake, and we used that to define our opponents, because these were people who across the board were running on election denialism and conspiracy theories.”
“We’ve been running against the guy who has basically said he’s willing to pick the winners, and stop people from voting, to muck up the system on purpose,” Democrat Adrian Fontes told HuffPost of Finchem, his Republican rival, in October. “He has said it repeatedly and in a variety of different ways.”
This trend carried over even to red states where election deniers did prevail. Diego Morales, the America First coalition’s Republican candidate in Indiana, won his race but finished nearly 5 points behind Sen. Todd Young. The gap wasn’t explained solely by Young’s incumbency advantage: Morales also lagged the GOP nominee in an open seat race for state auditor by 7 points.