National: Election officials defended the 2020 vote. In 2022, they’ll have to defend themselves. | Zach Montellaro/Politico
Donald Trump transformed these once-obscure officials into either the enemies — or the saviors, as most would have it — of American democracy. Now, campaigns for secretary of state are becoming the next major arena of nationwide political combat. Sitting secretaries and political groups are preparing for a flood of candidates, money and attention into campaigns for the newly prominent positions in 2022. Voting rules have become a bigger cause for both political parties, while coronavirus-fueled election changes combined with Trump’s conspiracy theories to turn secretaries of state into pivotal characters in last year’s presidential election. The biggest battleground is likely to be Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is set to face dual challenges after Trump targeted him for certifying President Joe Biden’s victory there. Democrats are eager to take control of state election administration in Georgia, which has for years been at the center of national debates about voter suppression. But first, Raffensperger may see Trump endorse a primary opponent out of retribution for perceived slights. “This will be a true test of where the Republican Party is going,” said Jordan Fuchs, who ran Raffensperger’s 2018 campaign and is now deputy secretary of state in Georgia. “There’s some growing pains now that Trump is not the leader of the Republican Party. And these primary elections are going to be defining for us for a very long time.” Twenty-six states will have secretary of state elections next year, including five of the 10 closest states in the 2020 presidential election, and incumbents from both parties are preparing for tough battles. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat up for reelection in 2022, said she will likely have to raise more money than before — but she expects it to be easier now. “If anything, the change will be that I won’t have to spend as much time, perhaps, persuading someone or convincing someone of the importance of investing in these races, as you might have in years past,” Benson said.