NEW YORK (AP) — Before winning Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement in his race to become Arizona’s top election official, Mark Finchem received several calls from people close to the former president making clear they approved of the work he was doing to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
“They said I had been noticed,” said Finchem, a state representative who was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and has been a key proponent of a widely panned partisan ballot review in Arizona. In subsequent conversations, he said, Trump praised his work and expressed hope he would continue.
As Trump considers another presidential run in 2024, he has taken similar interest in important but relatively obscure races in other critical battlegrounds. He’s throwing his support behind candidates who have not only perpetuated the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, but in some cases also actively tried to overturn the results. The moves reflect Trump’s desire to exert influence on all levels of the Republican Party and install allies into critical roles in the states that may be more amenable to helping him subvert future election results.
“President Trump’s failed attempts to overturn the results and the will of the people were really just the beginning,” said Jena Griswold, the Colorado secretary of state, who serves as chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, a group dedicated to electing Democrats to the positions.
While the races for secretary of state and attorney general have historically been overshadowed by higher-profile contests, the offices hold significant power. Attorneys general are their states’ top law enforcement officers, while secretaries of state serve as chief election officers, overseeing efforts like voter registration and mail-in ballot distribution, depending on the state.
Rick Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University School of Law, said Trump’s attention on the positions had changed the kinds of candidates they were attracting, with “much more partisan activists" taking interest.