A CNN analysis found that at least 19 of this year’s Republican nominees have contested or refused to affirm the 2020 results. The list includes five incumbent senators and 11 other candidates who have at least a reasonable chance of winning in November.
The success of election deniers in Republican Senate primaries around the country — from the southern border to the northern border; in swing states, conservative states and liberal states; among established officeholders and first-time candidates — is yet more evidence of the broad support among party voters for former President Donald Trump’s lie that the election was stolen.
Not all election deniers are alike. Some of the Senate candidates on the list have made formal attempts to reverse the will of the American people — for example, by voting to reject the congressional certification of electoral votes Biden won — while others have made false claims from the sidelines. Some of the candidates have aggressively spread specific conspiracy theories; others have evasively complained of “irregularities” and refused to answer directly when asked whether Biden was legitimately elected.
We will update the list if we find evidence that additional Senate nominees should be included. (There has been little media coverage of some longshot nominees, like Bob McDermott of Hawaii and Gerald Malloy of Vermont.) Here is the rundown as it stands in mid-September now that the primary elections have concluded.
Alabama: Katie Britt
Britt is the former chief of staff to outgoing Sen. Richard Shelby and former chief executive of the Business Council of Alabama. Her Democratic opponent is Will Boyd, a pastor who once served as a city councilman in Illinois.
Britt’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Arizona: Blake Masters
Masters’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
California: Mark Meuser
Georgia: Herschel Walker
Walker is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Kentucky: Rand Paul
Paul’s Democratic opponent is former Kentucky state representative Charles Booker.
Louisiana: John Kennedy
Incumbent Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy objected to the certification of Biden’s victory in Arizona, though Kennedy voted to certify Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania.
Nonetheless, Kennedy still attempted to override the will of millions of Americans. And he has broadly questioned the legitimacy of the election as a whole.
Maryland: Chris Chaffee
Asked for his stance on the legitimacy of Biden’s win, and whether he stands by his expressed opinions that the election was fraudulent and corrupt, Chaffee said in an email to CNN last week: “My stance is this is September 6, 2022 and we need to move forward. The general election for 2022 is November 8, 2022. Please concentrate on that. We must ensure that in the 2022 United States elections have integrity.”
Missouri: Eric Schmitt
Schmitt is running against Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine, a nurse and an heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer fortune, for the open seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.
Schmitt’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Nevada: Adam Laxalt
Laxalt is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Laxalt’s campaign did not respond a request for comment for this article.
New Hampshire: Don Bolduc
Bolduc is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. Bolduc’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
North Carolina: Ted Budd
In a CNN interview in May 2022, Budd declined even when pressed to say Biden won the election. Instead, he said that Biden is the current president but that he has “constitutional concerns” about the election.
Budd is running against Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. Budd’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Ohio: J.D. Vance
Vance continued: “I mean, look, I think the fundamental problem is we had a massive effort to shift the election by very powerful people in this country. I don’t care whether you say it’s rigged, whether you say it’s stolen…”
Vance’s Democratic opponent is Rep. Tim Ryan; they are competing for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. The Vance campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Oklahoma: James Lankford
Lankford is being challenged by Democratic candidate Madison Horn, a cybersecurity professional. Lankford’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
– CNN’s Lauren Fox and Alex Rogers contributed to this item.
Oklahoma: Markwayne Mullin
Mullin’s Democratic opponent is former congresswoman Kendra Horn. Mullin’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Oregon: Jo Rae Perkins
When CNN asked Perkins for comment for this article in August, and informed her for fairness that we planned to mention that she has promoted false claims about the election being rigged against Trump, she responded in an email: “I will not answer your questions since you already have a skewed opinion without talking to me directly. How do you know the claims are false?”
Pennsylvania: Mehmet Oz
Oz is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. His Democratic opponent is John Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor.
Utah: Mike Lee
But Lee had previously tried to overturn Biden’s victory.
Lee pressed Meadows four days after Election Day to have the White House meet with attorney Sidney Powell and hear her “strategy to keep things alive and put several states back in play.” Later in the month, Lee expressed concerns about Powell’s wild claims. But on November 23, 2020, Lee promoted another lawyer who was trying to overturn the election, John Eastman, and also suggested an “audit” of ballots in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan — baselessly claiming to Meadows that “something is not right in a few states.”
Then, on December 8, 2020, Lee floated the idea of states won by Biden appointing fake pro-Trump electors: “If a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path.” On January 4, 2021, just two days before the congressional vote, Lee texted, “We need something from state legislatures to make this legitimate and to have any hope of winning.” He also texted that he had been “calling state legislators for hours today” and was “going to spend hours doing the same tomorrow.”
Lee’s main opponent in the Senate race is independent candidate Evan McMullin. Lee’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Washington: Tiffany Smiley
Smiley is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.
Wisconsin: Ron Johnson
Incumbent Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson played a role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory in his state, though he maintains that his involvement was brief and insignificant.
Johnson spokesperson Alexa Henning said in an email last week: “The Senator accepted the results of the election over a year ago. As he has stated over and over, his goal with investigating election irregularities was to simply restore confidence in our election system by resolving suspicions with full transparency and public awareness. The Senator intended to transparently address the problem of the high level of public skepticism about the 2020 election.”
Johnson’s Democratic opponent is Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.