- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Campaign cash is flooding secretary of state races in presidential battleground states as the office responsible for overseeing elections becomes a hot commodity in post-2020 America, an analysis released Wednesday shows.

Fundraising hauls for some secretary of state candidates more than doubled from previous cycles, the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice found.

“It suggests we will see record amounts of money in election administrator contests in 2022,” the center’s report said.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has raised $1.2 million for her reelection campaign – six times more than her predecessor raised at the same point in the 2014 election cycle.

Republican challenger Kristina Karamo, who has the backing of former President Donald Trump, has raised more than $164,000 from over 2,600 contributions.

Mr. Trump and his allies put a sharp focus on secretaries of state when they challenged 2020 presidential election results in several states, to no avail. What followed was a flurry of interest — and cash.

The Brennan Center report noted that many of the states, including Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin, have unusual increases in fundraising for campaigns for the top election administrator.

The focus on election systems and voting rules hasn’t waned. President Biden and congressional Democrats are demanding a major national overhaul of election laws and warn that Republicans are subverting democratic processes.

Georgia has been ground zero for Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election and Mr. Biden’s push for nationalizing election laws.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, an anti-Trump Republican running for reelection, has been raking in cash. He raised less than $100,000 at this point in 2018 but now has almost $400,000 in the bank.

Still, his campaign haul trails that of Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican candidate who has echoed Mr. Trump’s concerns about voter fraud.

Mr. Hice, whose congressional district of urban and rural communities stretches from Atlanta to Augusta, has raised almost $600,000 in his bid for secretary of state.

He says Mr. Trump “absolutely” won in 2020 and “I believe if there was a fair election, it would be a different outcome.”

On the Democratic side, Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen has raised nearly $400,000 in her bid for secretary of state. She is running on her opposition to “misinformation, conspiracy theories and, at times, straight-out lies” about the integrity of the state’s elections.

“I recognized exactly how dangerous that was for our democracy,” Ms. Nguyen told WABE, the NPR affiliate in Atlanta.

In Arizona, state House Democratic leader Reginald Bolding is campaigning for secretary of state. He said the Republican effort to restrict voting rules was the main factor in his decision to run.

“Across the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures are conducting partisan audits and rammed through election laws that suppress the right to vote,” Mr. Bolding said last week. “This is why I am running for secretary of state in Arizona. We must fight to protect our right to free and fair elections at all cost, where our voices are heard and our votes were counted.”

Arizona also was in the national spotlight with a controversial audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county.

The audit results confirmed Mr. Biden’s victory and found he received a larger number of votes than originally counted.

Jessica Anderson, executive director of the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said to expect more scrutiny of those running elections.

“More and more people are starting to pay attention to who holds those incredibly vital positions as a secretary of state,” Ms. Anderson said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “What I think is important is that we don’t allow the secretary of state position to be politicized in any way.”

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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