Hundreds of Republican federal and state candidates have embraced former President Trump's election lies as they run for office or seek re-election in 2022. Some of them may soon hold an alarming amount of power over future elections.
At least one-third of the nearly 700 Republicans who have filed to run for Congress have echoed Trump's false election claims, according to an analysis by The Washington Post, including the 136 members of Congress who voted not to certify the election results in several states in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Another 500 of the 600 state lawmakers who have echoed Trump's lies are up for re-election next year, including at least 16 who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the Capitol riot.
Five of the 18 Republican attorneys general who joined a lawsuit to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania are also running for re-election next year. And several Trump allies are eyeing bids for secretary of state positions, which would give them power over their states' elections.
"What's really frightening right now is the extent of the effort to steal power over future elections," Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, told the Post. "That's what we're seeing across the nation. Literally in almost every swing state, we have someone running for secretary of state who has been fearmongering about the 2020 election or was at the insurrection. Democracy will be on the ballot in 2022."
Many of these Republicans have made Trump's election lies — which have been roundly rejected by every court that has encountered them — focal points of their campaigns.
Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally and is now running for secretary of state, recently told a QAnon-related talk show that he hopes the dubious "forensic audit" in Maricopa County will overturn Trump's loss in the state.
Fellow Arizona state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, also a candidate running for secretary of state, sponsored a bill that would allow the Republican-dominated state legislature to ignore the popular vote and appoint its own presidential electors.
Some Trump supporters have already been successful in taking down Republicans who have disputed baseless allegations of fraud or election-rigging. Just last month in a Virginia House of Delegates primary, Trump election lawyer Wren Williams defeated 14-year Republican incumbent Charles Poindexter, who rejected the frivolous fraud claims in the GOP primary.
Poindexter "said that he had not seen any evidence of voter fraud," Williams told the Post. "And I said that I had seen evidence, because obviously I had played the role of lawyer for Trump in Wisconsin."
Williams did not mention that the lawsuit he attempted to file in Wisconsin was dismissed like all the others, and a recount demanded by Trump in Milwaukee County only found additional votes for Joe Biden.
At least six pro-Trump Republicans have already lined up to challenge Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who voted to impeach Trump and has continued to denounce his election falsehoods, losing her GOP leadership position in the process.
Trump has already endorsed Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., in his bid to unseat Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who repeatedly debunked Trump's false claims and rejected the then-president's request to "find" enough votes to overturn his loss in the state.
Most Republican voters believe the 2020 election was "stolen" from Trump, according to a recent poll, and some candidates have eagerly tried to win over the former president by appealing to his election obsession.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is considering a bid for governor, recently traveled to Arizona to observe that state's so-called audit, telling Trump in May that he could "engineer an audit in his state" as well, according to the Post.
Energy executive Jim Lamon, a Trump donor who has contributed to the Arizona "audit" and to various groups pushing conspiracy theories, has tried to gain Trump's attention for his potential campaign against Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., by buying ads on Fox News in New Jersey, where Trump is staying at his Bedminster golf club thousands of miles away.
The avalanche of election falsehoods in the 2022 campaign comes as Republican-led states across the country enact new voting restrictions inspired by Trump's lies, restrictions that many Democrats have compared to Jim Crow-era laws. Some states have also enacted laws that could make it easier to overturn future elections.
If Republicans win back control of either the Senate or the House next year, voting rights advocates worry that the next ceremonial certification of electoral results could play out very differently than it did on the night of Jan. 6 this year.
"I have real pause about the role the 'big lie' will play not only in campaigns next year but in challenges to a fair and accessible election," Allison Riggs, an election lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told the Post. "We expect it."