Kristina Karamo wants voters to know she made the 2,000-mile trek from Michigan to Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix to get a firsthand glimpse of the Maricopa County election audit that has become a cause celebre for supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Ms. Karamo, a candidate for secretary of state, is among a growing number of Republicans running for public office who have made the pilgrimage to Arizona to learn about the process and pay homage to Mr. Trump and his supporters.
“I think it is the next chapter in the political wave that is the Trump presidency and the residual aftereffects,” said Stan Barnes, an Arizona-based Republican Party strategist. “The audit itself is a historic anomaly in Arizona, and in the afterglow of the 2020 election outcome, it is surreal but important, and it is going to have its effects not only in Arizona but all over the country.”
It is not out of the ordinary for politicos to make fact-finding missions to other states to bolster their mastery of issues, hone their messages and strengthen their political brands.
Democrats rushed to the southern border in 2018 to protest “kids in cages” and criticize Mr. Trump’s approach to immigration.
Republicans are now trying to highlight how President Biden’s unwinding of Trump policies has created a humanitarian crisis at the border.
In Maricopa County, they are tending the “stolen election” flames months after recounts and court challenges failed to keep Mr. Trump in the White House.
State Rep. Mark Finchem, a candidate for Arizona secretary of state, said auditors have welcomed delegations and visitors from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alaska, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.
“More are sure to follow,” Mr. Finchem said last week on social media.
Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward said the visiting delegations “have toured the audit operations and are looking at what should and must be done in their own states to ensure election integrities.”
Some of the out-of-staters have welcomed the chance to appear on One America News, one of Mr. Trump’s preferred television networks.
“I was blown away. This is a logistical masterpiece,” Jackson Lahmeyer, a U.S. Senate candidate from Oklahoma, said of the audit. “We don’t just need this here in Arizona; we need this in several other states like Georgia. We need this in Pennsylvania [and] Michigan because what happened in 2020, it cannot ever happen again.
“We believe that that was a stolen election,” he said. “In fact, I believe it was a stolen election.”
After recounts and court challenges failed to reverse Mr. Biden’s win, Mr. Trump and his followers have waged a relentless campaign to keep challenging election results. Polls consistently find that most Republicans believe Mr. Trump won reelection.
Republicans in the Arizona state Senate hired Cyber Ninjas, even though the cybersecurity company had no experience with election audits.
The effort has raised the eyebrows of election experts and angered the Republican-led Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Board members say the effort has made Arizona a laughingstock.
The supervisors’ objections, however, resonate more with Democrats and left-leaning news media than with the Republican Party base.
Mr. Barnes said the audit and claims of a stolen election are helping Republican candidates bolster their brands with the party’s base.
“Where the audit plays most dramatically is in the Republican primary in Arizona and in similar Republican primaries in other states,” Mr. Barnes said. “It is important for the Republican voters that turn out in primary elections to know where candidates are on the issue of the audit and the election.
“It is something the candidates can’t duck and dodge,” he said.
Ms. Karamo told OAN that the audit was “remarkable” and was being conducted with integrity.
“The voters in Michigan have lost confidence in the election’s system,” Ms. Karamo said when asked why she was in Maricopa County.
“We are encouraging our state legislators to do the same exact thing that we see in Arizona in Michigan,” Ms. Karamo said. “So I wanted to see the forensic audit in Arizona firsthand to make sure the process in Michigan would be replicated to the T.”
On Monday, Ms. Karamo blasted out a press release announcing plans to share what she learned.
She suggested that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, is afraid of what an audit might find in Michigan.
“If the Democrats have nothing to hide, what’s the problem with a complete audit?” Ms. Karamo said in the press release.
David A. Dulio, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University, said there is “great energy and enthusiasm in the Republican base — as long as it is about 2020.”
“That is where the grassroots are right now, and they are charged up,” Mr. Dulio said. “I think that making a trip to Arizona and coming back with a report for Republican activists simply establishes that individual’s bona fides as someone who is squarely in the Trump camp.”
Ms. Karamo plans to appear Thursday at a Michigan Conservative Coalition event, where activists are set to deliver more than 7,000 notarized affidavits demanding a statewide audit of the 2020 election to legislative leaders.
“Michigan voters know something very wrong happened in our 2020 presidential election,” said Marian Sheridan, co-founder of Michigan Conservative Coalition and leader of the affidavit collection process. “It will be up to our elected officials to either hear or continue to ignore the voices of the people of their state.”
The heated rhetoric keeps hope alive that Mr. Trump will somehow be returned to the Oval Office. It also illuminates widespread distrust of the U.S. election process.
Mr. Trump has applauded the Arizona effort and pressured elected leaders in other states to follow suit.
On Monday, Mr. Trump called out Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Sen. David Argall, chair of the Senate State Government Committee, which oversees elections, over their reluctance to call for an audit.
“Corman is fighting as though he were a Radical Left Democrat, saying that a Forensic Audit of Pennsylvania not take place,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Why is Senator David Argall playing the same game? Are they stupid, corrupt, or naive? What is going on?
“I feel certain that if Corman continues along this path of resistance, with its lack of transparency, he will be primaried and lose by big numbers,” Mr. Trump said.