On October 29, embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, currently facing multiple felony charges for tampering with election equipment, sat on a panel of Republican candidates for Secretary of State from across the U.S., all of whom have openly promoted the idea that the 2020 election was rigged. All of these candidates have ties to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that claims Donald Trump is fighting a secret war against a cabal of Democratic pedophiles.
The “Florida Election Integrity Conference 2.0” was sponsored by the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a national slate of GOP candidates who have made it their primary mission to “fix” America’s elections in the wake of 2020, even though there is no evidence that elections were stolen. Each candidate plans to do this by curtailing mail-in and early voting, as well as pushing for hand counts of ballots.
The coalition’s affiliated PAC has received a large amount of funding from Trump-linked “The America Project,” a dark-money group that backed Arizona Republicans’ audit of votes in Maricopa County, which experts decried as a partisan attempt at damaging confidence in U.S. elections. The America Project also contributed $100,000 to a PAC supporting Tina Peters’ campaign for Secretary of State.
In Colorado, Tina Peters lost her primary campaign for Secretary of State. She went on to pay for a recount of the primary election, which failed to change the results in her favor.
“They are doing whatever they can, but the people of Colorado are fighting back, and here’s the latest,” Peters said during the forum. (2:45:45 – 2:47:20). “And I’ll wrap it up with this. So we raised $256,000 to pay for a recount of the race that they stole from me. … [Peters GOP primary opponent Pam Anderson] was put in place, as well as another one, to stand in, to make sure that [Incombent Democratic Secretary of State] Jena Griswold got elected, and then they cheated the race.”
While Peters may have failed, many other conspiracist candidates, some of whom are running in key battleground states, still have strong support. If elected, they would become the top elections officials in their respective states. Some of them have indicated that they would refuse to accept a Democratic victory.
Four of these Secretary of State candidates spoke beside Peters during the Florida forum. Here’s what you should know about them.
Jim Marchant (R-NV)
Marchant is a former GOP assemblyman who ran for U.S. House in 2020, only to lose to Democrat Steven Horsford. Following his loss, Marchant would claim that he “was a victim of election fraud,” and that all Nevada elections since 2006 have been stolen by a “deep state cabal.”
He announced his campaign for Secretary of State soon afterward, in February 2021, at the urging of QAnon influencer Juan O. Savin, the Guardian reported.
“When my coalition of secretary of state candidates around the country get elected, we’re gonna fix the whole country, and President Trump is gonna be president again in 2024,” Marchant said at a Trump rally in October.
In addition to founding the America First Secretary of State Coalition, Marchant also runs the affiliated PAC Conservatives for Election Integrity, which promotes his campaign. The PAC has received multiple complaints for violations of campaign finance law, with evidence suggesting that Marchant is illegally using the PAC to avoid donation limits.
Mark Finchem (R-AZ)
During his tenure in the Arizona state House, Mark Finchem has already attempted to modify voting law to restrict early voting and end the use of ballot drop-boxes.
“What you are witnessing right now is a return of the idea that elections belong to the people, they don’t belong to the government,” Finchem said during the forum.
While he claims to be returning elections to the people, Finchem’s proposed “reforms” could potentially disenfranchise entire counties. During a September debate with his opponent Adrian Fontes, he said that votes from certain Arizona counties should have been set aside as “irredeemably compromised” and excluded from the 2020 election. He also co-sponsored legislation that would empower state legislators to reject election results outright.
He also encouraged the audience to download VotifyNow, an app for monitoring and reporting alleged election “irregularities” in local areas.
“This is a national database that secretaries of state, once they’re elected, presuming they can overcome the avalanche of fraud that’s on our way,” Finchem said. “We’ll have attorney generals, we’ll have secretaries of state, and we’ll even have governors who can begin looking at what are the vulnerabilities so we can tighten up security in elections in our system.” (2:19:20 – 2:19:45)
Finchem is a self-proclaimed Oath Keeper who was in Washington for the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, though he says he never entered the Capitol. He also has ties to QAnon, and once alleged that multiple elected officials are “involved in a pedophile network in the distribution of children.”
RELATED: Arizona Secretary of State Candidate Promotes Tina Peters’ Election Conspiracy
Audrey Trujillo (R-NM)
Trujillo had never run for political office before this election but says she was heavily involved in conservative activism in her state. In an interview with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who was recently sentenced to jail time for contempt of Congress, Trujillo said that it was impossible for Biden to have won the election in New Mexico because she did not personally know anyone who supported him.
“Somebody asked me, ‘How do you know Trump won New Mexico?’ and I’m like, ‘We didn’t see Biden signs anywhere,’” she told Bannon.
During the forum, she alleged that fraudulent activity was being hidden on empty land in her state: “New Mexico has 2.1 million, roughly, of population total. So we don’t have a whole lot of population, but we do have a lot of land, and a lot of places for all this stuff that is happening to be hidden.” (2:20:20 – 2:20:35)
Beyond claiming that election fraud took place, Trujillo has also promoted other conspiracy theories. She has claimed that school shootings and COVID were both false flags made to propagate fear. And on Facebook, she once promoted the bizarre theory that Joe Biden died prior to the 2020 election and was replaced with a clone or body double – a theory which has also been promoted by QAnon adherents.
“With God’s hand, and everyone here, and all our participants that are fighting against this, we are going to expose this thing that’s happening down there,” she said, ending her speech. (2:23:20 – 2:23:35)
Kristina Karamo (R-MI)
Kristina Karamo made national news following the 2020 election, when she claimed that she personally saw fraud taking place while volunteering as a poll challenger in Detroit. Following her rise to prominence, she announced her bid for Secretary of State, and quickly received Donald Trump’s endorsement.
“These people are terrified of not just us cleaning up corruption in this election system, but they’re also terrified of us discovering their activities, which will have legal consequences for them,” she said during the forum. (2:32:15 – 2:32:30)
During her campaign, Karamo has been a polarizing figure – she spoke at a QAnon-linked rally last year, and has claimed that Jan. 6 was a false flag by left-wing activists. Many Michigan Republicans have voiced concern with her history of extreme statements. However, Karamo has claimed that her campaign for election integrity is nonpartisan.
“We are just getting our message out that this is not a partisan issue. … Our fight is not partisan, it’s a freedom issue. We don’t have control over our government. We don’t have secure elections.” 2:32:30 – 2:32:50
While Karamo has reiterated throughout her campaign that her message is nonpartisan, she has previously stated that she holds Democrats in extreme disdain. Prior to announcing her bid for Secretary of State, Karamo hosted a podcast titled “It’s Solid Food,” in which she discussed Christian apologetics as it relates to culture and politics. On one episode of the podcast, she said that moderate Republicans who attempt to reach across the aisle are “cowards,” referencing Democrats’ stances on abortion as proof that they are not worth reasoning with.
“And they just somehow think if we play nice with liberals, suddenly they’re going to be our pals. You got to be a fool. You have to be,” she said on the podcast. “They’re not going to be your friends. They’re not going to play messenger. They’re always going to be the ravenous dogs they are. Because they kill babies.” (36:40 – 37:02)
Other comments Karamo made speak to her extreme tendencies as a conservative Christian. She previously accused Beyoncé of being a satanist witch, claimed that men and women living together before marriage would ultimately “normalize pedophilia,” and said that belief in evolution has led people to become serial killers.