National politics seeped into the governor’s races years before Trump came on the political scene – and governor election campaigns have still retained some unique detachment. But Trump influence on GOP has quickly pushed his signature policy and rhetoric in the 2022 governor’s race – especially his false, conspiratorial allegations that “election integrity” is threatened or even that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Republican candidates are parroting these allegations while running for offices that will have a significant impact on election procedures in their states, potentially including certification of future elections.
“I am telling [Trump], the only way we can guarantee that in 2024 we will have a Republican president is that we need a leader here in the state of Nevada who understands our election laws and [is] willing to change them, ”said Dean Heller, a former Republican senator who is now running for governor of Nevada, during the recent debate. He called the state’s current laws “corrupt” and said he would make state elections “fair”.
“Republicans win when the process is fair,” said Heller, who occasionally clashed with Trump during the president’s first year but later pulled Trump close during his losing campaign in 2018. “I want a Republican president in 2024. It is going to take a Republican governor to make the necessary changes to make that happen. “
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano – who became prominent by parroting Trump’s lies about the election and pushing for an “election revision” in his home state – dragged two Trump employees out during his campaign launch last weekend: former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign attorney Jenna Ellis. Both have been among the loudest advocates of conspiracies over the 2020 election.
A number of agents with connections to Trump is about to find work in the state. State Senate President Jake Corman announced that his team included Kelly Anne Conway, Trump final 2016 campaign manager, while former Rep. Lou Barletta hired the firm Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who led Trump campaign into Election Day 2020. Bill McSwain, who was an American lawyer at the Trump administration hired former Trump campaign assistant James Fitzpatrick to lead his campaign.
Pennsylvania – where the primary field is so great that the forum organizers had to cram two parallel rows of lecterns stage at an event last week – a typical example of the expansive list of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls running in swing states, including Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada. Democrats control the governor’s mansion in all of these states except Arizona.
The exception to the crowded primary rule has been Wisconsin, where former Lieutenant Rebecca Kleefisch is the only credible GOP challenger to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers so far. But even there, Trump tried to draft former Representative Sean Duffy before he passed a campaign last week, and former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson is actively considering jumping in the race.
Candidates across the map are vying for Trump approval. So far, Trump has largely sat out in open GOP gubernatorial primary elections in the most competitive 2022 states – weighed in only in Arizona to support former TV anchor Kari Lake.
However, he gives Lake some early political muscle. Trump’s political committee announced Tuesday that Lake would join the former president on stage at his demonstration in the state on Saturday – along with prominent election conspiracy theorists Mike Lindell and State Representative Mark Finchem, whom Trump has backed as secretary of state. It is Trump’s first demonstration 2022.
But even for candidates who do not gain Trump support, it will still be the key in a Republican primary to win the former president’s supporters.
“Not only do you not run away from it, you embrace it without hesitation,” said Arizona-based Republican operative Barrett Marson, who works for an outside organization that supports the former rep. Matt Salmon’s governor in the state.
The former representative Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Who has been critical of Trump since he left office three years ago, said there “will be a concerted attempt by some candidates to consolidate Trump-first followers , so in that regard there is a Trump lane. ” But Costello warned that many candidates vying for the same group of voters could break the ballot in a primary election and that the field is unresolved in his state.
“It is important to note that not all Trump first-time voters are reliable primary voters outside the year,” he added.
It is unclear whether Trump will support in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary election. He backed former military veteran Sean Parnell in the state’s open Senate race, only to see Parnell suspend his campaign after he lost custody of his children following his ex-wife’s allegations of abuse. He is now staying out of that race for the time being, though that may change.
But Pennsylvania Republicans expect a Trump approval, if it comes, to play a big role in the decision to run for governor, said former Trump administration official Mick McKeown, a native of Pennsylvania.
“He’s still the biggest name in politics, whatever you think of him. And for Republican primary voters, I think he can still resonate with a significant portion of the base,” he said. “In a crowded primary election like this, a support from President Trump, even if weighty, would weigh even more.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have cleared a path to replace the time-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, where state Attorney Josh Shapiro is functionally without opposition to the nomination.
Democrats across battlefield states have sought to further highlight the candidates’ ties to Trump. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party routinely refers to the GOP competition as the “super MAGA” premiere. And the Nevada Democrats warned on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that the Republican field continues to “embrace the dangerous lies and cast doubt on the integrity of Nevada’s election.”
Republicans also warn that battlefield candidates will have to do more than attach themselves to Trump if they are to win in November.
Bill McCoshen, a well-connected Republican lobbyist in Wisconsin who briefly considered his own gubernatorial race, highlighted Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial voter in Virginia who disturbs former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe late last year to turn the state around as having the “perfect template” for how to conduct parliamentary elections in a battlefield state.
“Take his support, keep him at a distance, unless you absolutely must have him for a rally, and run your own race,” McCoshen said.
And national Republicans argue that candidates who commit to Trump will not return to hurt them in what looks set to be a strong Republican year.
“The thing to keep in mind right now is that the messages and issues that matter to voters are still on our side,” said Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors’ Association. “Ultimately, we still believe that no matter who comes out of some of the most competitive races, we will still have an effective message that they can pass on to the general, especially when looking at the states with incumbent democratic governors.”
Trump’s influence is not limited to open governorships in swing states. He has also increasingly sought to bring the incumbent Republican governors to the heels. As a result, he supported Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp and supported former Senator David Perdue’s primary challenge.
Trump has been at war with Kemp, an otherwise down-the-line Conservative politician, for not supporting his efforts to topple Trump’s losses in the state. Even before approving Perdue, Georgia was expected to be one of the most expensive gubernatorial races this year, with Democrats gathering behind Stacey Abrams. But the approval there still tears healing wounds up among the party in the state and can drain the bank account of the one who is ultimately the nominee.
But even with Trump playing an increasingly prominent role in the gubernatorial race, some Republican strategists believe it will not last through the November general election. There is still some demarcation between the almost uniform nationalized congressional races and governor contests, they say.
“In most cases, the governor’s race is less Washington, DC-focused, and thus less about the candidates’ Trump orientation,” said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Pennsylvania-based GOP consultant who advises gubernatorial candidate Charlie Gerow in Pennsylvania. “Because governors must, as the old saying goes, get the trains running on time.”
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