Kansas’ top election official defeats conspiracy promoter

The top state elections official in Kansas beat back a far-right challenger who promoted conspiracy theories in one of several primaries Tuesday featuring candidates for secretary of state who have expressed skepticism of elections or promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election.

Kansas had no significant problems with its 2020 elections and former President Donald Trump carried the state handily. Yet Secretary of State Scott Schwab found himself on sometimes tricky ground politically because many Republicans have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that massive fraud cost him the race nationally.

Schwab has repeatedly vouched for the safety of Kansas elections and touted new GOP-pushed laws, including ones that restrict the delivery of ballots by third parties. He’s also said he can’t vouch for other states’ elections.

The message worked well for him in his primary against Mike Brown, a construction contractor and former county commissioner in the Kansas City area. Brown embraced election conspiracy theories and promised to rid the state of ballot drop boxes.

In November, Schwab will face Democrat Jenna Repass, who was unopposed in her party’s primary.

The Kansas race was one of three races for secretary of state Tuesday in which primary voters were deciding whether to elevate election skeptics. Arizona’s Republican primary features two candidates who repeat Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Voters in Washington state were choosing from a mix of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated candidates in that state’s top-two primary.

The GOP primary elections for secretary of state are the latest this year to feature candidates who doubt the security of their states’ elections despite the lack of evidence of any problems widespread enough to change the results. Republican voters elsewhere have split on sending those candidates to the November ballot.

A secretary of state primary in Washington includes several Republican and unaffiliated candidates, including one who has made voter fraud claims without evidence. Washington state has a primary system in which the top two vote-getters make it to the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The Democratic candidates in all three states reject the premise of a stolen 2020 presidential election and warn that victories in November by any of those who promote conspiracies would endanger free and fair elections. In all three states, the secretary of state is the top election official.

In Arizona, a major battleground for president and the U.S. Senate, two of the four GOP candidates contend the election was stolen from Trump and plan to push major changes if they win the primary and the November general election.

They include state Rep. Mark Finchem, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He tried this year to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to notify Congress that Arizona wanted to decertify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win.

The other Republican backing Trump’s claims also is a member of the Arizona House. Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced a bill last year that would allow a simple majority of the Legislature to overturn presidential election results. Republicans control the Legislature in Arizona.

Two other Republican candidates are on Arizona’s ballot: state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who acknowledges Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to tighten election laws, and businessman Beau Lane, who is backed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.

Finchem is endorsed by Trump and said in a recent interview that worries about the effect of his potential victory on free and fair elections are unfounded. He said he will just enforce laws as written.

“I think it’s interesting that there are people, particularly Democrats out there, claiming, ’Oh, he’s going to ruin the system. He’s going to do this, he’s a threat to democracy,’” Finchem said. Still, he contends tens of thousands of fake ballots led to Biden’s win, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.

Two Democrats, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, are seeking their party’s nomination.

Washington state’s top-two primary featured the incumbent, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who easily advanced to the general election. He was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to retain his seat for the remaining two years of former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s four-year term.

Also on the primary ballot were several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an “America First” candidate who was fined by the state Supreme Court earlier this summer for making meritless claims alleging widespread voter fraud. Borrelli was lagging far behind other candidates Tuesday night.

There was a tight race for the second slot on the November ballot between Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, running as an independent, and several Republicans.

Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. Results could take days to tally because it’s an all-mail election.

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Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ap_politics.

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This story has been corrected to show the Trump loyalists support his false claims that he won the election, not that he lost the election.

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