Republicans affiliated with former President Donald Trump are seeking to reclaim power from the ground up, fueled by the election fraud theory.
“We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct,” Steve Bannon stated on his podcast last year.
Republicans who support Trump and his phony election fraud claims have established a statewide alliance to target the formerly inconspicuous offices of secretary of state in battleground states, in the hopes of exerting greater political influence over how elections are conducted.
“The Coalition of America First secretary of state candidates” is working behind the scenes to “fix” the electoral system, which they believe is corrupt, Nevada candidate Jim Marchant told Business Insider.
A little more about Jim Marchant, running for Nevada's secretary of state:
➡️ Ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2020
➡️ Promoted an antisemitic election conspiracy theory about George Soros
➡️ Wants to overturn the 2020 election resultshttps://t.co/aYFm6Ta4Gh
— The American Independent (@AmerIndependent) February 6, 2022
A secretary of state is usually the highest-ranking election official in a state, with responsibilities that include maintaining voter rolls, allocating voting machines, and overseeing election administration.
While secretary of state elections have traditionally been low-key processes involving low-profile bureaucrats, these positions have taken on new significance as Trump-supporting Republicans continue to insist that the 2016 election was rigged.
At least six candidates have joined the movement, including Jim Marchant in Nevada, Mark Finchem in Arizona, and Jody Hice in Georgia, all of whom have made election denial a central theme of their campaigns.
Kristina Karamo from Michigan, David Winney from Colorado, and Rachel Hamm from California are among the others. Marchant said he’s looking for applicants in Minnesota and Wisconsin right now.
Trump has endorsed three secretary of state candidates so far — Finchem in Arizona, Hice in Georgia and Kristina Karamo, a community college professor in Michigan who has pushed conspiracy theories about the election and the attack on the Capitol. https://t.co/27Bzzx2FYi pic.twitter.com/2JVmkAALta
— Lily Evans Potter (@LilyPotter130) January 5, 2022
Marchant stated that Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor in Pennsylvania, is working with the group since he would be in charge of nominating the secretary of state.
Except for Democratic stronghold California, all of these states were won by Joe Biden by a razor-thin margin in the 2020 election and will be contested states in 2024.
This is on top of at least nine additional non-Coalition of America First Republican candidates competing for secretary of state seats, all of whom are anti-election.
Some of these contenders, notably Hice, Finchem, and Karamo, have received Trump’s support.
Former Nevada state assemblyman Jim Marchant ran for Congress in 2020 but lost, believing that he and Trump were both victims of vote fraud. Marchant, like Trump, unsuccessfully appealed his election loss in court.
— Nevada Globe (@NevadaGlobe) January 31, 2022
When asked who could have committed electoral fraud and why Marchant stated he didn’t know but that “extremely powerful individuals” with “a lot of money” had to be involved.
Marchant told Insider that “people that are very close to Trump” persuaded him to run for Secretary of State.
@SarahAshtonLV points out that Secretary of State candidate, Jim Marchant, has claimed it was our state–Nevada–that originated the idea of "fake electors." I-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g. https://t.co/0BIqlQBrzU
— AntiFash Reno (@AntiFashReno) February 3, 2022
“I said ‘sure’ because I realized how important the secretary of state races are to the election process,” Marchant said.
Marchant refused to say who in Trump’s orbit asked him to run when questioned, claiming that they would “definitely be furious with me if I said that.”
Despite rumors that Trump loyalists Mike Lindell and Patrick Byrne contributed to the coalition’s funding, Marchant told Insider that Byrne gave only a little amount and Lindell gave nothing. Byrne stated that he donated $15,000 to the group.
Despite the fact that the 2022 election season is still in its early stages, the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institution, reports that these races are already garnering more cash than typical.
The center discovered that fundraising in the secretary of state elections is two and a half times greater than it was at the same period in either of the previous two election cycles, based on data from three states.
Marchant told Insider that if elected, he will implement a number of electoral reforms, including eliminating Dominion voting machines, “cleaning up” voter records, and eliminating mail-in ballots, all of which have been blamed by Trump supporters for his 2020 election defeat.
Jim Marchant sounds like he's trying to get named in a Dominion lawsuit like Mike Lindell 👀
— Mark Riffenburg (@ItsJustMarkNV) February 4, 2022
The renewed attention on the secretary of state races is part of a larger picture of Trump-aligned Republicans seeking power from below.
After the January 6 insurgency, right-wing extremists shifted their attention to local rather than national action, according to Jared Holt, a resident fellow at think tank The Atlantic Council who researches extremism.
“These national movements are kind of breaking apart from the big national stage in DC and taking it down to the states, even sometimes down to regions or locales,” Holt said.
"Your vote hasn't counted for decades. You haven't elected anybody. The people who are in office were selected. You haven't had a choice." – Jim Marchant, former Elected Official, current Conspiracy Theorist
— Mark Riffenburg (@ItsJustMarkNV) February 4, 2022
“By doing that, they are sometimes able to avoid national scrutiny successfully, whether that be from law enforcement or journalists, or the public at large, and additionally, they can oftentimes be more effective on these smaller scales.”
Former White House strategist and Trump friend Steve Bannon popularized the shift to local politics last year on his “War Room” podcast, encouraging listeners to become involved.
According to the publication, Bannon’s call to action resulted in an inflow of Trump supporters joining up for low-level local party jobs such as precinct workers.
Since the start of Bannon’s campaign, GOP leaders in 65 important counties have reported an extraordinary rise in signups.
Several Trump loyalist secretary of state candidates have been tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory, in addition to supporting conspiracy theories regarding electoral fraud.
Jim Marchant first mentioned the alliance in public in October at the Patriot Double Down conference in Las Vegas, which was hosted by a QAnon influencer and featured QAnon images and language in its promotional materials.
Mark Finchem and Kristina Karamo, both members of the coalition, spoke with Marchant.
Marchant told Insider when asked about his ties to the conspiracy theory: “Well, what is the QAnon movement? Can anybody even explain that? I don’t even know what it is. I know what the media tells me it is. But do they really know?”
And they will cheat every opportunity they get. Jim Marchant has said he will right this wrong. I say, he will be exposed and is already set his intentions by Trump’s endorsement. Jesse Law can forget about it as well. https://t.co/n2tLWA6Nay
— Dove Lady (@lvboomer46) February 3, 2022
While Marchant is not a “QAnon type person,” he believes that people have the right to do and believe whatever they wish.
The pervasiveness of election denial in the secretary of state contests was a “disturbing development,” according to Edward B. Foley, a professor of constitutional law at Ohio State University who oversees the university’s election law program.
“There’s no more basic function in a democracy than casting and counting votes. So, if you can’t have that based in reality, that’s really problematic,” he said.
Trump attempted to reject the verdict of the 2020 election despite his “undeniable” defeat, according to Foley, and this may be especially hazardous if the next election results are not as clear-cut.
“When things are in that zone of uncertainty, and you have somebody who thinks their job is to be a Trump loyalist, and I think we could include some of these candidates in that, that’s much more worrisome.”
Trump has endorsed election denier Jody Hice against incumbent Republican Brad Raffensperger in the Georgia secretary of state contest, according to Foley. Trump’s demand to “find” 11,780 ballots to sway the election in his favor was notoriously rejected by the latter.
Georgia trucking business executive and congressional candidate Mike Collins is leading big in a crowded field of contenders hoping to replace Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), according to a new Trafalgar Group poll. https://t.co/0nrnxpwGno
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 4, 2022
Following the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies went to considerable measures to prevent Joe Biden’s victory from being certified.
Candidates for the Coalition of America’s First Secretary of State position in 2024 could use their positions to influence or overturn the outcome of a future presidential election.
If Biden were to win in 2024, Marchant said last month that if he were secretary of state, he would consider sending an alternative slate of electors from Nevada to vote against the results.
When questioned by Insider, Marchant recanted that remark but added that without an audit, he “probably would not have validated” Biden’s victory in Nevada in 2020.
Despite these concerns, Foley explained that states must set out their procedures for elector appointments ahead of time and cannot amend the rules after the election if they are unhappy with the results.
Foley believes that updating the Democratic Count Act, which would “substantially diminish the capacity for malevolent action,” is the best approach to prevent any attempts to manipulate the electoral process.