Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Arizona election official’s battle to fend off MAGA-aligned primary challenger heats up

By 37ci3 Jun25,2024

PHOENIX – In Arizona’s key state, the last two elections are still months away from the next election. No one feels this more than Stephen Reacher.

Richer, one of the nation’s most outspoken Republican defenders of the electoral process, is preparing to control the vote this fall in Arizona’s largest battleground state, Maricopa County, while simultaneously fighting to keep his job.

The usually sleepy race for Maricopa County recorder heats up, with Richer and his GOP opponents — one of whom is backed by MAGA-aligned election deniers — more than a month away from their first and only debate on Monday. initially.

“No, the election was not stolen,” said Richer, the only candidate to directly respond to a moderator’s question Monday about whether the 2020 or 2022 election was stolen.

When asked if former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and Kari Lake’s 2022 loss for governor were the catalysts for electoral denial in the state, Richer was unequivocal.

“I think a lot of it comes from the results of the 2020 election and the 2022 election because two people didn’t want to accept the results of those elections, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

Richer’s primary challenger is state Rep. Justin Heap, who has dodged questions about whether the 2020 election was rigged. But he has the support of many of Arizona’s most prominent suffragettes, including Lake, who is running for Senate. Longtime candidate Don Hiatt, who has worked in information management technology, has been more openly skeptical about the 2020 election.

Timothy Stringham, an attorney and Navy Reserve officer, is running as a Democrat.

“I ran for this office because the Maricopa County election made us a national laughing stock,” Heap said during Monday’s debate. “He was the man in charge, the chief elections officer, during the worst election in Arizona history,” Heap said in his closing remarks, attacking Richer, referring to the 2022 midterm elections in which Democrats won the governor and Democratic primary races. Senate.

Arizona will be again is an important part of the national map November hosts competitive presidential, Senate, and House races. But ahead of the general election, the July 30 GOP primary for the Maricopa County recorder could have a similar level of importance.

“For a race that almost nobody knows about, this is one of the most important races in Arizona,” said Arizona Republican strategist Barrett Marson.

Maricopa County has been the focus of many conspiracy theories and lawsuits since the 2020 election, in which Joe Biden became the first Democrat to carry Arizona for president in 24 years.

That has turned the under-the-radar race for Maricopa County recorder — an office that processes deeds and oversees the voter file and other parts of elections — into a proxy race for GOP leadership. Richer has become a prime target of right-wing Republicans, who are regularly tricked into saying the 2020 and 2022 elections were not rigged.

Heap, a member of the state House Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee, has sponsored election reform legislation since taking office last year. At the January 24 committee meeting, Heap said there will be consequences if confidence in elections is not restored.

“When it comes to our elections, my biggest concern is not the possibility of fraud. It’s the lack of confidence and trust that voters feel in our electoral system.” “The reality is that if we can’t trust our votes in our elections, violence remains. If we lose faith in our elections, our society will go there.”

Justin Heap.
Arizona State Rep. Justin Heap is challenging Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.Rebecca Noble/Getty Images file

Democratic state Rep. Laura Terech, who serves on the election panel with Heap, cautioned that Heap’s voting record suggests he would be an activist county recorder.

“You look at his votes and they tell a really clear story,” said Terech, who plans to resign from the Legislature at the end of the month. “I worry that we will make decisions based on lies and misinformation, not information.”

Heap was backed by Lake, a staunch Trump supporter who raised unsubstantiated allegations of rigged elections after losing the gubernatorial race against Democrat Katie Hobbs two years ago. He specifically blamed Richer for his loss he intentionally printed the wrong size ballots tabbing on election night.

Richer sued Leigh he claims to have slanderedin her lawsuit, she claimed that because of Lake’s “knowing and malicious lies” she and her family were “targeted with threats of violence and even death and had their lives turned upside down.”

During Monday’s debate, Richer’s tenure and problems in recent elections were frequently discussed. Ballot printers and vote counting machines Arizona is screwed during the 2022 election, making unsubstantiated allegations of malicious activity. The glitches were later attributed to printers struggling with the new thick paper election officials used in the 2020 election, a change fueled by conspiracy theories about ink running on thinner paper.

Heap also repeated some of the claims made by Lake and other state Republicans during Monday’s debate.

“From the day we found out who won the election in half of the polling places to the three-week delay, it became clear that ensuring the right of every citizen to trust their vote, regardless of party, has become the civil rights issue of our time,” Heap said.

About 60 of the county’s 223 polling stations reported related problems in 2022 rather than half.

Richer reminded Heap and the debate audience that the Maricopa County recorder’s office does not deal with voting day.

“If you want to vote in person, you must run for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; If you don’t appreciate the difference, you haven’t done your homework,” Richer said.

Richer continued to face many attacks outside the debate stage. On Monday, he Posted a video on X Shelby Bush, the chairwoman of Arizona’s delegation to the Republican National Convention next month, said she would “lynch” him if she had the chance. The video stems from a March 20 event in Mesa that went live on Rumble, a conservative video platform.

“This gentleman here used to work for the county recorder and he’s a good Christian man who believes what we believe,” Busch said, referring to Hiatt in the crowd. “We’re going to have a good Christian fundraiser and treat each other well and get through this together, right? This is unity.”

“If Stephen Reacher walked in this room, I’d lynch him,” he said.

Richer said in his post: “This is not healthy. And is not responsible. We should not want this as part of the Republican Party.

In a statement to NBC News, Busch said, “Everybody knows I don’t like Richer. This statement was a joke and was made in jest. I do not accept violence against anyone and never will.”

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By 37ci3

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