How the GOP’s Far-Right Candidates Fared

Blake Masters, Kari Lake, State Representative Mark Finchem and Abraham Hamadeh speaking with attendees at an Arizona First Election Eve rally at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore

On Election Day, Democrats braced for a red wave that could put the GOP’s most extreme candidates into office. But nearly a week later, that wave looks more like a trickle. Americans generally rejected the party’s far-right candidates, though many of these far-right candidates have yet to accept the will of the people.

In Michigan, Republican nominee for secretary of state Kristina Karamo soundly lost to current Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Just days before the election, Karamo launched a lawsuit to try to throw out tens of thousands of votes from Detroit voters who voted by mail-in ballots, claiming that they were fraudulent. When that lawsuit to disenfranchise voters in the majority-Black, majority-Democratic city failed ahead of the election, Karamo turned her attention to Ann Arbor, where the student-heavy population waited hours in line to vote.

In a press release in the wee hours last Wednesday, Karamo accused the Ann Arbor City Clerk of breaking several election laws, claiming that the clerk allowed voters to enter the line after 8 p.m. deadline, and criticized the Ann Arbor police for failing to “investigate election crimes.” In a tweet, she took those accusations a step further, accusing the clerk of “engaging in mass election Crimes. Illegally registering people after 8pm. Registering non-Michigan citizens to vote.”

“We are not election deniers or threats to democracy,” Karamo claimed in her press release. “This is a real threat to our society as it demoralizes citizens to believe that voting is pointless as their legal ballot will be nullified by fraud.”

Karamo issued another press release Thursday in which she doubled down on her accusations of fraud and called for her supporters to “Standby,” promising, “there’s much more to come.”

As we reported ahead of Election Day, Karamo made election denialism a key component of her campaign and was expected to allege fraud should she lose. The Wayne County judge who dismissed her lawsuit targeting Detroit voters said Karamo provided “no evidence” of her allegations.

Other clear losses for the GOP’s extreme candidates were seen in Maryland, where Michael Peroutka, the Confederacy-supporting, Dixie-singing Christian nationalist, soundly lost his bid for attorney general to Democrat Anthony G. Brown. Ahead of Election Day, a top aide to Peroutka had encouraged voters to get in line to vote late in the day—a move denounced by the Maryland Democratic Party as “plotting to create chaos and laying the groundwork to challenge the upcoming election.” It didn’t matter, as Peroutka’s loss was called by the Associated Press as early as 11 p.m. on Election Day.

Peroutka didn’t concede. In a press release, Peroutka claimed that “many odd and suspicious incidents were reported by poll watchers.” He concluded with this: “I plan to investigate these strange occurrences and I do not plan to concede the race.”

Doug Mastriano, the election-denying, Christian nationalism-promoting Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, lost by more than 14 percentage points to Democrat Josh Shapiro. He, too, refused to concede after the Associated Press called the race in favor of Shapiro, saying that he still “had faith.” But by Sunday, that faith was gone, and he finally acknowledged, “there is no right course but to concede,” all while still calling for “election reform.”  

Next door, in Ohio, a Trump-endorsed candidate had a win. Trump sycophant J.D. Vance beat out Democrat Tim Ryan for that state’s Senate seat. Vance has spread the racist great replacement theory and urged Trump to rule with an iron fist should he return to the presidency.

Speaking to supporters in Youngstown, Ryan conceded the race, calling it a “privilege … because the way this country operates is that when you lose an election, you concede.” That appeared to be a jab at those Republican candidates who have signaled their refusal to concede and instead baselessly suggested electoral fraud was afoot.

Nowhere was that signal clearer than in Arizona, where GOP nominees alleged that a printer error in Maricopa County was part of Democrats’ efforts to delay GOP wins or even take them away.

On election night, GOP nominee for governor Kari Lake lashed out at “incompetent” election workers, attacked the “fake media,” and asked her supporters to not let “cheaters and crooks” sow doubt about her supposedly forthcoming win. Throughout the week, Lake continued attacking the media and election officials, with pundits and activists like Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk echoing her claims.

As of Monday afternoon, Lake continues to trail Democrat Katie Hobbs by 1 percentage point, with 93 percent of the vote counted. Ahead of the election, Lake had suggested the only way Hobbs could win would be by stealing the election.

Other election-denying Republican candidates trailing their Democratic opponents joined in alleging fraud. Blake Masters, who has perpetuated a version of the racist replacement theory, found himself behind Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by nearly 6 percentage points when the AP called the race in favor of Kelly Saturday night.   

Masters had spent Election Day suggesting that the printer error in Maricopa County could’ve been malicious. He tweeted on Election Day, “Hard to know if we’re seeing incompetence or something worse. All we know right now is that the Democrats are hoping you will get discouraged and go home.”  

Masters declined to concede on Saturday, saying that he wanted “every legal vote” to be counted first.  

Abe Hamadeh, an Arizona Republican running for attorney general who has denied the 2020 election results, trails Democrat Kris Mayes by less than a percentage point with 93 percent of the vote counted as of Monday afternoon 

Speaking to supporters on election night, he said that “incompetent” election officials threatened American democracy. He took that message further over the weekend.  

“REMEMBER: 72%+ of the votes on Election Day in person were Republican. When you have 30% of the tabulating machines failing, causing people to leave the lines and give up. This is voter suppression targeting a political party,” Hamadeh said in a post on Twitter Saturday.  

Hamadeh also shared an Uncover DC story authored by Tracy Beanz, a QAnon conspiracy theorist influencer and self-declared investigative journalist, to try to bolster his allegations. Beanz claimed that an “election judge” said that the printer error in Maricopa County was no error. “In my opinion, the machines were programmed to do this, and it was all planned,” Beanz quoted the “election judge” as saying. This story is gaining steam on far-right platforms and outlets, including The Gateway Pundit.   

Mark Finchem, the self-declared member of the far-right extremist Oath Keepers, also fell short of expectations in his bid to become secretary of state in Arizona. Finchem was deeply involved in the so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign, a disinformation campaign aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election and was credited with bringing the campaign to Arizona. He lost to Democrat Adrian Fontes, a former Maricopa County election official, by more than 5 percentage points. Finchem refused to concede.  

“It is completely ridiculous that the #FakeNews is calling the elections in Arizona when there are 390k (many election day) ballots outstanding. RIDICULOUS!” Finchem tweeted after the AP called the race Saturday.   

On Twitter, Finchem predictably alleged fraud. He shared stories from the Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft that claimed it was impossible for Maricopa County to vote Democrat; he accused Democrats of “ballot harvesting” and Fontes of “laundering money” from billionaire philanthropist George Soros; and he peddled a money laundering conspiracy theory that implicated Ukraine.

In Nevada, Jim Marchant, the QAnon-adhering election-denying secretary of state candidate, lost to Democrat Francisco Aguilar in the race to become in charge of that state’s elections by about 3 percentage points. When Marchant, who put together a coalition of likeminded “America First” secretary of state candidates, lost Saturday, it marked a string of losses for his coalition. Only one survived in Indiana. Marchant, who claimed his failed 2020 congressional bid was stymied by fraud, has yet to concede.  

Among the upsets for far-right candidates is Joe Kent, who received support from white nationalists and has blamed the attack on the U.S. Capitol on “deep state provocateurs.” Kent lost to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in Washington state in a close race called by the AP Saturday.  

In the primaries, Kent had beat out incumbent Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 Republicans who had voted for Trump’s second impeachment. But moderate Republicans who were alarmed by Kent’s extremism threw their support behind Gluesenkamp Perez ahead of Election Day. On Saturday, Kent refused to concede and told his supporters to correct their mail-in ballots.   

“What the media says is irrelevant, its another narrative designed to stop voters from ballot curing & to force me to concede – not gonna happen,” Kent wrote on Twitter Saturday. “We’re on the streets ballot curing. The fight goes on while the talking heads talk.”  

In response to Kent’s loss, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, tweeted, “White supremacy just doesnt win races like it did in 1921.”   

Another shock occurred in Colorado’s 3rd District. Rep. Lauren Boebert, the gun-toting, QAnon-believing Christian nationalist of Colorado, appeared to be a shoo-in. But by Wednesday morning, she was trailing her Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch. On Monday, with 99 percent of the vote counted, Boebert gained the lead but by less than 1,000 votes. The race has yet to be decided and could well head to a recount should either candidate win by less than 0.5 percent.   

Election deniers did get a win in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson narrowly retained his Senate seat after a group of right-wing billionaires funded a series of racially charged ads attacking Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Johnson had supported Trump’s efforts to remain in power after the former president lost the 2020 election.   

In other notable news, throughout the country, voters voted to enshrine abortion rights into their state constitutions, and in Kentucky, voters rejected a measure that would have prevented that right from being enshrined in that state’s constitution.   

As of Monday, Democrats retain control of the Senate. The House still remains undecided, with 17 races to be called. And though it appears likely Republicans will gain control of the House, it will be a smaller majority than Minority Speaker Kevin McCarthy wanted.

Trump’s candidates fared poorly at the polls; it turns out the biggest Trump sycophants made for candidates of questionable quality, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested in August. Notably, Trump-endorsed candidates in Arizona—where the so-called Stop the Steal campaign of 2020 found solid footing and where right-wing organizations like Turning Point USA poured their resources—underperformed. If Trump Republicans can’t claim that state, what does that say about Americans’ appetite for Trumpian politics?  

Of course, far-right candidates are suggesting that fraud has played a part in their poor performance at the polls and are refusing to concede. Such claims of fraud were expected, but unlike 2020, these baseless allegations don’t appear to be catching steam nationwide.

We need your help. Every day, Right Wing Watch exposes extremism to help the public, activists, and journalists understand the strategies and tactics of anti-democratic forces—and respond to an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian far-right movement. The threat is growing, but our resources are not. Any size contribution—or a small monthly donation—will help us continue our work and become more effective at disrupting the ideologies, people, and organizations that threaten our freedom and democracy. Please make an investment in Right Wing Watch’s defense of the values we share.