Election denials take on new relevance in battleground states: The Note

Typically low-profile races may now carry weightier implications than ever.

September 22, 2022, 6:09 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

In a year where candidates are seldom agreeing on even how and when to disagree with each other, Thursday brings a rarity: a debate between a Democrat and a Republican, both vying to become secretary of state of Arizona.

As has been well-documented, typically low-profile down-ballot races may now carry weightier implications than ever in light of the staggering number of GOP candidates who deny the legitimacy of the last presidential election -- and who might, like in the case of the Arizona office, be charged with overseeing the next one.

The right's resistance to congressional efforts to reform the Electoral Count Act serves as a reminder of the perils facing the electoral system going into the midterms and 2024. The only House Republicans voting for a reform bill Wednesday aren't returning to Congress, and prospects of passing the Senate are dim owing to GOP opposition.

Even given that context, statewide races in Arizona stand out. The state where Biden's victory withstood counts, lawsuits and even the Cyber Ninjas' "audit" has Republican nominees for secretary of state and governor who refuse to commit to accepting the results in their own races -- and who are already indicating they may hesitate to stand behind results in 2024.

When pressed by Time magazine, Mark Finchem, the Republican running for secretary of state in Arizona, said he would certify a Biden victory "if the law is followed, and legitimate votes have been counted" and "if there's no fraud" -- yet added that such a proposition "quite frankly, is a fantasy."

"It strains credibility," Finchem -- a self-identified member of the Oath Keepers who was at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington (but said he didn't go inside the Capitol -- told Time when asked why he couldn't accept Biden's victory in Arizona in 2020. "Isn't it interesting that I can't find anyone who will admit that they voted for Joe Biden?"

Much has rightly been said about candidates who have advanced to the fall ballot while denying or disputing the results of 2020. By FiveThirtyEight's count, some 60% of Americans will have the choice of at least one candidate for major office who denies the legitimacy of President Biden's election.

But there's another category of races -- in battlegrounds including Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- where candidates have gone beyond Trump's lies about 2020 to raise questions about 2022 and 2024. Some are going so far as to preemptively judge voting that's still two years away.

PHOTO: Arizona state representative Mark Finchem speaks at a rally in Iowa State Fairgrounds, in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 9, 2021.
Arizona state representative Mark Finchem speaks at a rally in Iowa State Fairgrounds, in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 9, 2021.
Rachel Mummey/Reuters, FILE

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is calling on the Supreme Court to weigh in on a case that would impact how social media companies moderate content.

Moody filed a petition Wednesday urging the nation's highest court to take on the case because a Florida law on the issue has been blocked twice by lower courts. The law includes a provision that prevents the platforms from kicking off politicians.

"When social media companies abuse their market dominance to silence speech, they distort the marketplace of ideas," the petition states. "The question whether the First Amendment essentially disables the States—and presumably the federal government too—from meaningfully addressing those distortions should be answered by this Court, and it should be answered now."

Moody argues that Florida's legislation keeps social media companies from "abusing their enormous power to censor speech."

Opponents of such laws worry that they could both force platforms to allow the dissemination of hate speech and misinformation and create government restrictions on the content companies do and don't offer.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a tech advocacy group, was one of the groups who challenged the law in lower courts. It also wants the Supreme Court to take up the case.

"Although we oppose legislation like Florida's social media law, which threatens the First Amendment and democratic principles, CCIA agrees that the Supreme Court should resolve issues in this case," said the group's president, Matt Schruers. "With state legislatures considering a greater role for governments in online speech, the question of whether a government can compel social media services to disseminate content violating their policies is destined for the Supreme Court."

If the case does go before the court, it could have far-reaching implications. According to the CCIA, more than 100 bills related to moderating social media have been filed in state legislatures across the country.

PHOTO: TikTok app logo.
TikTok app logo.
Dado Ruvic/Reuters, FILE

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik is anticipating a major change for her party's conference in 2023, telling reporters on Wednesday that she projects the number of GOP women in the House will grow from its current 34 members to possibly as much as 50 lawmakers following the midterms.

As the House Republican Conference chair, Stefanik's political stake in building support for emerging GOP women on the campaign trail through her political action committee is two-fold. Not only would a female GOP boost in November raise her leadership profile, but a lineup of wins associated with her backing would also stand to unite any incoming lawmakers with her efforts in the House.

"There are currently 34 Republican women elected to Congress. If every E-PAC-endorsed GOP woman won, there will be more than 50, so we are building towards 50," Stefanik said a press event, referring to her political group, ABC News' Brittany Shepherd reports.

"One in four of the Republican nominees in [National Republican Congressional Committee] target races are women -- just to underscore the point that House Republican women are going to build this majority and fire [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi," Stefanik added.

Across the aisle, the number of Democratic women in the House currently stands at 92. That tally includes Pelosi, who is now in her fourth term after being elected the first female speaker in 2007.

With a total of 147 lawmakers spanning both the House and the Senate, women make up more than a quarter of seats in the current Congress. According to Pew Research Center, the representation of female lawmakers as of January 2021 demonstrated a 50% increase compared to the previous decade. Still, the number lags women’s overall share of the country's population.

PHOTO: Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik speaks during the House Republican Conference news conference in the Capitol, September 14, 2022.
Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik speaks during the House Republican Conference news conference in the Capitol, September 14, 2022.
Bill Clark/AP


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with a look at the new lawsuit against Donald Trump by New York Attorney General Letitia James. ABC's Aaron Katersky leads us off. Then ABC News contributor Stephen Ganyard discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest military escalation. And, "FReadom Fighters" co-founder Carolyn Foote talks about the growing concern among librarians about banned books. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with the President of the Philippines Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr., in New York City at 11 a.m. ET. In the afternoon, Biden will be briefed on Hurricane Fiona and its impacts on Puerto Rico. Finally, Biden will attend a Democratic National Committee reception at 4:40 p.m. ET before returning to Washington, D.C.
  • The House Oversight subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy holds a hearing on inflation at 9 a.m. ET.
  • The Arizona Secretary of State Debate takes place today, where the Republican nominee Mark Finchem faces off against Democratic nominee Adrian Fontes, starting at 8 p.m. ET.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Friday for the latest.

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