Attorney Kim Crockett addresses delegates in Rochester, Minnesota, after winning the Minnesota Republican Party's endorsement for secretary of state on May 13. (Photo: Dave Orrick/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)
Kim Crockett won Minnesota’s Republican secretary of state primary Tuesday night, making her the latest GOP candidate who has lied about the 2020 election to win the party’s nomination in a race to become a state’s top elections official.
Crockett defeated Erik van Mechelen, who called the 2020 election a “coup” and has spread conservative conspiracies about electronic voting machines. She held a 64%-36% lead with nearly half of precincts reporting vote counts when the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico projected her as the winner.
She will face incumbent Secretary of State Steve Simon (D), who is seeking a third term, in November’s general election.
Crockett has said the 2020 election was “rigged” and, during a discussion with Minnesota state Rep. Jeremy Munson (R) this year, agreed with his assertion that the election was “illegitimate.” She has said Minnesota should “return to in-person voting” and roll back the “chaotic, insecure absentee balloting system” that roughly 58% of the state’s voters used during the pandemic, the Minnesota Reformer reported. She has also nodded toward right-wing conspiracies that electronic voting machines were used to steal the election from former President Donald Trump.
And as HuffPost reported last week, she used a 2020 radio interview to question whether people with disabilities and non-English speakers should be allowed to vote, while insinuating that laws allowing such voters to seek assistance lead to fraud.
Her victory will turn Minnesota into yet another battleground over the 2020 election and the future of American democracy, as Crockett will join a cadre of election-denying GOP candidates who have won secretary of state primaries as part of a broader right-wing effort to assume control of key election systems ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.
Those candidates, including Nevada’s Jim Marchant, Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, and Arizona’s Mark Finchem, have left little doubt about their motivation for pursuing secretary of state roles: They want to wield the powers secretaries of state have to exert influence over future contests, and potentially attempt to undermine or even overturn the results if Democrats win legitimately.
Minnesota, where Democrats hold every major statewide office and have not lost a presidential election since 1972, is not typically considered a swing state on par with Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. But its statewide races are often decided by razor-thin margins: Hillary Clinton won it by less than 2 points in the 2016 presidential contest, and Simon’s first secretary of state race was even closer in 2014.
In a midterm environment that may naturally favor the GOP, Minnesota Democrats say they aren’t taking anything for granted in a race that Simon cast as a fight for voting rights and democracy.
Crockett’s win would be “a symbol of the number one threat to our democracy, which is this coordinated campaign of disinformation about our election system,” Simon told HuffPost on Tuesday. “That’s what we’re seeing in Minnesota, and that’s what we’re seeing nationwide.”
Crockett is not part of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of election deniers that includes Marchant, Karamo, Finchem and Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who would appoint the state’s elections chief. Trump did not endorse Crockett, despite backing numerous GOP secretary of state candidates who embraced his election lies.
But according to the Minnesota Reformer, she has been affiliated with the “Election Integrity Network” formed by the Conservative Partnership Institute, a right-wing think tank whose election efforts are led by an attorney who joined Trump on the now-infamous phone call during which he pressured Georgia officials to overturn his loss in the state.
Minnesota’s secretary of state does not unilaterally certify the state’s election results. But should she win, Crockett “could leverage [her] belief in conspiracy theories to at least slow down the process, or cast doubt on the process” in a way that “could have an effect on the certification process,” Simon said.
And other comments Crockett has made have inspired fears that she could seek to limit voting rights and overhaul elections in ways that limit participation or suppress votes in the state that had the nation’s highest turnout rate two years ago.
“So, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that indeed you can help an unlimited number of people vote if they are disabled or can’t read or speak English, which raises the question, should they be voting?” Crockett said during the September 2020 radio interview. “We can talk about that another time.”
Crockett told HuffPost last week that “individuals should be assisted by someone they know and who understands their capacities and does not influence them.” But she also asserted that she had witnessed “political operatives, and other people with bad motives” take advantage of such voters in the past, without providing evidence to back her claims.
Crockett on Tuesday called for the implementation of a voter identification law while casting her ballot in the primary. Minnesota does not require voters to show ID at polling places unless they need to register or update their registration. But despite Republican claims that this leaves the state’s elections vulnerable, Minnesota has reported two cases of voter fraud in elections since 1979. Crockett has previously supported new restrictions on early voting and same-day registration as well.
At the Minnesota GOP’s May party convention, Crockett played an antisemitic video that portrayed Simon, who is Jewish, as a puppet of liberal billionaire George Soros, who is also Jewish. Crockett has also previously made racist and xenophobic comments about Minnesota’s large Somali refugee population: “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way,” she told The New York Times in 2019. “These people are very visible.”
Simon will enter the fall as the clear favorite to hold onto the seat. But Crockett’s primary win will nevertheless give Republicans yet another chance to pick off a key office that could bolster their efforts to undermine future elections.
Crockett’s positions on voting rights and elections “are extreme, increasingly bizarre and sometimes dangerous,” Simon said. “We don’t want anyone who thinks and acts like that to be anywhere near the control or supervision of our election system.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.