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Warnings of fragile democracy echo in Arizona ahead of next week’s midterms



CNN

Voters who flocked to a Phoenix high school to hear from former President Barack Obama were looking to send a defiant message Wednesday night.

They said they were determined to defeat former President Donald Trump’s hand-picked list of Holocaust deniers – including gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Senate candidate Blake Masters and presidential candidate. State Mark Finchem – and will not allow voters in their state to be intimidated by activists who came to monitor the ballot boxes late last month – some of them were armed, masked and dressed in camouflage.

As President Joe Biden warned Americans in Washington, DC on Wednesday night that democracy was at stake, it is here in Arizona that democratic institutions look most fragile ahead of next week’s midterm elections. and the 2024 presidential election, in which Arizona is likely to be a key battleground.

Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who successfully defeated Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election, now finds herself locked in a close race against Lake, who has said she will accept the results of an “election fair, honest and transparent,” after previously refusing in an interview with CNN to commit to accepting the results if she lost. And Finchem, who could become the state’s chief election administrator, is still trying to overturn the results of the last election.

“If you need one more reason to vote, consider the fact that our democracy is on the ballot. And nowhere is that clearer than here in Arizona,” Obama told the crowd Wednesday, adding later that “democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona” if election deniers fill out all the boxes. major state offices.

Maricopa County was the site of repeated “audits” after the 2020 election – including the bogus partisan scrutiny conducted by the now-defunct corporation known as Cyber ​​Ninjas. Both political parties are now bracing for another potential battle over the election results in a state Biden won by less than 10,500 votes. And the GOP candidates at the top of the ticket are setting the tone.

Joann Rodriguez, a registered Democrat from Maricopa County, said it was chilling that her state’s “radical Republicans” were able to elevate candidates like Lake and Masters, who won their primaries in part by echoing the lies of Trump on the 2020 election.

“What are they running on, other than Trump talking points that the election was stolen?” Rodríguez said. She noted that “a lot of Trumpers” are still driving their trucks with Trump flags around her neighborhood in Glendale, Arizona. “And they walk around with guns on their hips, show up at the polls or show up at election sites – for what reason? I mean, do they think their bullying tactics are going to work? »

Hobbs touted his record as secretary of state on Wednesday night. “I stood up for democracy when I refused to give in to the insurgents who surrounded my house after certifying the 2020 election and I still do so today in this gubernatorial race,” she said. declared.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released this week showed her in a tied race with Lake. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales calls the race a toss-up.

The state was on edge when Obama arrived in Arizona less than a week before the midterm elections to campaign for fellow Democrats, including Sen. Mark Kelly, who is in a close race with Masters. The fact that these high profile statewide contests can be decided on a knife edge is what has brought Obama to the Grand Canyon State as he seeks to inflame the Democratic base and s ensuring that young voters and Latino voters — who will be critical to victory in Arizona — participate in a year of midterm elections.

Both Biden and Obama have argued that the fate of democracy hangs in the balance, but Biden, who was not asked to campaign in major swing states, had to make his case on the other side of the country.

The political climate and concerns about the sanctity of election results are what brought Keith Greenberg, a registered Republican from Maricopa County, to Obama’s rally. He said in an interview that he was not voting for the Democrats in this election, he was voting against the Trump ticket.

“The Republican Party today is not the Republican Party I’m a part of,” said Greenberg, who described the 2020 election as fair and honest. “It’s more like the American Nazi Party and I can’t stand that – the lie.”

If the Trump ticket wins, Greenberg said, “it means the state of Arizona has lost its mind. And it’s no longer a safe place to live. If Mark Finchem wins and says, ‘Well, I don’t care what people voted for’. I’ll do it’ – so what’s the point? We have lost our democracy.

Arizona’s status as a powder keg of election controversy is underscored by the fact that two lawsuits have already been filed in federal court on behalf of voters who felt intimidated by aggressive poll patrols late in the month. last.

Voters have filed complaints with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office after some activists took pictures of voters and their license plates – apparently inspired by debunked conspiracy theories about so-called ” mules” who stuffed the ballot boxes in 2020. A federal judge ruled in one of Tuesday’s cases barring members of a group known as Clean Elections USA – whose leader falsely claimed that the 2020 election was rigged – openly carrying guns or wearing body armor within 250 feet of drop boxes.

As a result of the ruling, members of the group are now prohibited from speaking or yelling at voters casting their ballots, and they cannot photograph or film voters at the polls. The Ministry of Justice had weighed in on the case brought by the League of Women Voters. The DOJ hasn’t officially taken sides, but in a legal brief, federal prosecutors said the right-wing group’s ‘ballot security efforts’ were likely illegal and ‘raise serious concerns about voter intimidation “.

The depth of Republican belief in Trump’s election lies was underscored by a CNN poll by SSRS that was released Wednesday: 66% of Republicans said they didn’t believe Biden legitimately won the election.

This dynamic is even more pronounced in a state like Arizona where Trump cronies control the Republican Party and have censured figures like incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey and former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake for what they do. called it insufficient loyalty to the former president.

Michelle Gonzales, a registered Democrat from Maricopa County, said she thought people came to see Obama on Wednesday night “so they could have hope” about the democratic process amid all the noise.

“With all, all the rhetoric going on, I think it’s important to really hear from someone – who we trust and who we believe in – that we can have hope for this election,” he said. she declared. “You can see all these people here. Thousands of people are waiting. I just want to believe that people want to believe in something better – that they have morals and values ​​that we should all have as human beings and not elect these liars and crooks.

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