The NC primary and 'The Big Lie': What GOP candidates are saying about the 2020 election
The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. It was not rigged. There is no credible evidence that votes were dumped in a landfill or created in a lab or electronically cast from China.
Still, according to a WUNC survey of public statements, platform pronouncements, and social media posts, more than a dozen current and viable Republican candidates for Congress from North Carolina have stated in some fashion that they believe Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump was “fraudulent” or “stolen” or “not completely fair” — a position that persists in many corners of the Republican party.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Congress gathered to certify the 2020 election. Their votes, of course, were violently interrupted by, among others, a QAnon "shaman" and at least 18 North Carolina residents. But in between the storming of the Capitol, the House of Representatives took two votes to certify results from two states — Arizona and Pennsylvania — where Trump had lost, and was challenging the results.
North Carolina’s 13 members of Congress voted. Seven — all Republicans — voted not to certify either one or both states; Greg Murphy and Virginia Foxx objected to just the Arizona results. Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Richard Hudson and David Rouzer objected to both.
Notably, one Republican congressman — Patrick McHenry — did vote to certify both states.
All are up for reelection this year.
Greg Murphy: On Jan. 5, 2021 — the day before the vote/insurrection — Murphy told a radio talk show that, “I truly believe that fraud has occurred in this election. I know it’s occurred in the 3rd District. I know it for a fact.” He also said, after Jan. 6, that officials and judges rewrote election laws “from thin air” and said, without offering any facts, that Antifa was “partially responsible” for the violence on that day.
Unlike many of his colleagues, Murphy does not list elections or election integrity as one of his top issues on his campaign website. He is widely expected to win both the Republican primary and general election in the 3rd District.
Virginia Foxx: Along with Murphy, Foxx was the other member of Congress from North Carolina to vote to support the Pennsylvania objection but (after the riot interrupted the proceedings) not the Arizona objection. Since then, she has defended her vote: “Other states have been subjected to irregularities and allegations of voter fraud and that is of grave concern to me.”
Foxx is widely expected to win both the Republican primary and general election in the 5th District.
David Rouzer: Before the vote on Jan. 6, Rouzer was clear: “The American people need clarity that this election was fair and truly reflective of the will of the people. Unfortunately, the electoral and judicial processes so far have not provided for a thorough vetting.” After Jan 6, Rouzer told WHQR that, “There's nobody in the Capitol Complex, no elected office holder, who believed we were anywhere remotely close to overturning an election. In fact, that wasn't even the prime motive. The motive of this was to highlight the states that were in question.”
Rouzer is widely expected to win both the Republican primary and general election in the 7th District.
Dan Bishop: Bishop has been as outspoken about his contention that the election was stolen as almost any other incumbent member of Congress. The irony, some might say, is that Bishop won a special election to Congress only after the results in the 2018 race in the 9th District were thrown out due to a Republican operative harvesting ballots. Among the many false statements about the election in 2020, Bishop offered this (without proof) just last month:
Bishop is widely expected to win both the Republican primary and general election in the 8th District.
Richard Hudson: Hudson couched his vote to support objections to Arizona and Pennsylvania vote counts on Jan. 6 with some media bashing and free-speech rhetoric: "I know there are many who will disagree with my decision to object, and the hyper-partisan hysteria from some on the left and in the media is predictable. However, I am fighting to preserve the process that makes their disagreement with me possible in the first place." Hudson has been relatively quiet about election issues since, and (like Murphy) does not highlight elections among the top issues on his campaign website.
Hudson is widely expected to win both the Republican primary and general election in the 9th District.
Patrick McHenry: As mentioned earlier, McHenry is the only Republican member of Congress from North Carolina who did not vote to contest election results. He said he was “upholding my constitutional responsibilities” in voting to certify the election.
In the same statement, McHenry also raised this (more politically strategic) point: “I have no doubt that activists on the left will use Congress’ votes against legally submitted electors as further evidence for why the Electoral College must be eliminated. As evidenced by the fact Republicans have won the popular vote only once in the last 32 years, few actions could do more to ensure Democrat presidents than eliminating the Electoral College.”
In addition to very likely returning to Congress this year, McHenry is potentially in-line for a high-profile position in a Republican-controlled House.
Madison Cawthorn: Cawthorn has said he not only believes the election was stolen, but he has pretty clearly advocated for an armed conflict if he deems future elections to be unfair. As reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times, this is what Cawthorn said in August of 2021 at a GOP event in Franklin County:
"If our election systems continue to be rigged and continued to be stolen then it's going to lead to one place and that's bloodshed. And I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there's nothing I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American."
Cawthorn’s reelection prospects are up for debate in the 11th District due to some other issues, but he has led in numerous polls.
The GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Richard Burr has been contentious. Rep. Ted Budd is the clear front-runner, having been endorsed by Trump. Mark Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory are the other most prominent candidates in the race.
All three have various issues with past elections.
Budd tweeted that "millions of Americans do not have faith in the November election" about a month after the November election.
Millions of Americans do not have faith in the November election. One of the best ways to air out the legitimate concerns over voter fraud, machine irregularities, and mail-in ballots is at the Supreme Court. That’s why I support the Texas lawsuit. #CountEveryLegalVote— Senator Ted Budd (@SenTedBuddNC) December 11, 2020
As a congressman, Budd voted against certifying the elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6.
In a debate last month, Walker was asked if the election was stolen. “I don’t believe it was stolen,” he said, “but I don’t believe it was fair and square.”
Walker, like his former congressional colleagues from North Carolina, has offered no evidence that the election was not “fair and square.”
McCrory was asked the same question in the same debate and offered this: “I do not believe it was stolen... I don’t believe any election is completely fair."
Perhaps McCrory was referring to his own defeat for reelection for governor. In 2016, voters in North Carolina used the same ballots to elect Roy Cooper over McCrory and also Trump over Hillary Clinton. And while no one has claimed that voter fraud played a part in the presidential outcome, McCrory very publicly charged that the gubernatorial election was rife with election malfeasance.
McCrory pursued legal challenges, claiming that voter fraud occurred in half of the state’s counties, and his campaign contested individual votes at local election boards. (He did not offer any evidence how large numbers of voters could have committed fraud against a Republican governor on the same ballot in which they voted for a Republican president.)
A majority of the other Republican candidates for Congress – at least those who have actively campaigned and raised money – have chimed in on the topic of the 2020 election.
The claim/campaign talking points range from unspecific promises to “restore election integrity” to something closer to QAnon-style conspiracy theories.
For example, while District 1 still leans Democratic, it has become a winnable seat for Republicans, due to redistricting and the retirement of G.K. Butterfield. That has prompted seven candidates to vie for the Republican nomination – each with his or her own views on elections and what happened in 2020.
One of them, tech entrepreneur Brad Murphy, believes we should use blockchain to verify elections. Another, Sandy Roberson — the mayor of Rocky Mount — says we should “strengthen election integrity” with voter ID, more poll watchers, and tighter security.
And then there’s Sandy Smith.
Smith, here touting the election fraud movie from Dinesh D’Souza on her Twitter account, proudly attended the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a riot/insurrection on the Capitol. In a different tweet, she claims that she is a conservative Republican, and “the only one who says Trump won.”
That, like the many, many claims of a stolen election and voter fraud, is simply not true.
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