Once again, GOP voters reject election deniers
While Kentucky ’s state primary elections often fly under the radar, this year’s secretary of state contest functioned as a referendum among Republicans on whether the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Once again, “Stop the Steal” lost, and truth prevailed.
Incumbent Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican who has rejected stolen election claims as “crazy myths,” soundly defeated two election-denying challengers in the Republican primary. Adams earned 64% of the vote, leading his next closest competitor, Stephen Knipper, by nearly 40 points.
Adams stood by his convictions and his record, and Bluegrass Republicans noticed.
Adams took office as the commonwealth’s chief elections officer in January 2020, just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic, the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the chaotic 2020 presidential election. In the midst of deep partisan divides, Adams got to work alongside newly elected Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to expand early in-person and absentee voting, giving voters more options for participating in the 2020 election safely and securely. After the election, Adams defended the integrity of the process and walked voters through the many mechanisms in place to keep Kentucky elections secure.
In 2021, Adams and Beshear built upon the bipartisan goodwill they earned in 2020 to pass a substantial election reform package through the state legislature. The bill made elections more accessible for voters by permanently offering early in-person voting, creating an online portal for requesting an absentee ballot, and opening county vote centers. The legislation also improved election security by requiring paper ballots, implementing risk-limiting audits, and developing a process for curing ballot signatures. The package was a bipartisan success.
Despite his achievements in office, Adams came under fire for his support of Kentucky’s continued membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center, an organization designed to help states keep voter rolls up to date. Although the organization had previously been lauded by Republican state officials, eight Republican-led states have recently withdrawn from the organization, citing amorphous concerns about voter privacy and partisan bias. Nevertheless, Adams has stuck to his convictions, and Kentucky will continue to update its voter rolls using ERIC data.
It may sound surprising that a pro-democracy candidate, who rejects the stolen election narrative and stands firm amid national pressure, could win in a primary limited just to registered GOP voters. After all, in a recent poll of Republican voters, more than 60% reported that they want candidates who say Trump actually won the 2020 election.
But Adams is not the first secretary of state to stand up to stolen election claims and be rewarded by voters. Like Adams, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger famously dismissed arguments that Georgia’s election was stolen, going so far as to rebuff Trump’s request to “find” him votes. Like Adams, Raffensperger supported legislation to improve election access and security. And, like Adams, Raffensperger won big in a Republican primary.
Even outside of red states, straight-shooting Republicans have done well. For example, former Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman developed a reputation for telling the truth and administering the state’s all-mail elections with competence. When Trump criticized vote-by-mail in advance of the 2020 election, Wyman stood up for her state’s electoral system and defended its integrity. Voters responded, and Wyman defeated her Democratic opponent, earning a third term in the deep blue state.
Telling voters the truth and serving constituents well continues to be the path to electoral success for our country’s top election officials. Michael Adams’s victory in the Kentucky GOP primary is yet another example showing that despite Trump’s attempts to undermine our elections, there’s still an appetite for Republicans who lead with conviction, speak honestly to voters, and work diligently to improve elections.