For many inside the Republican Party base, election integrity is the No. 1 issue, with roughly 75 percent of Republicans thinking the 2020 elections were stolen. (For that matter, almost 30 percent of Democrats agree.) So it goes without saying that a broad swath of the electorate will be expecting candidates in the 2022 cycle to highlight that issue and then to actually work toward meaningful reform.
This brings us to Arizona. Many have been following the Maricopa County audits, in which nearly two-thirds of all the votes in Arizona are being audited, all arising from serious questions about how the state’s 2020 elections were run last fall.
As a key battleground state in 2020, Arizona will of course be that again in 2024. But it will also be one of the key U.S. Senate pick-up potentials for Republicans in the 2022 midterm cycle, as Republicans can potentially take out Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. This is why election integrity for Arizona is such an important issue: It could not only decide the Senate majority in 2022, but it could also play a key role in deciding the White House in 2024.
Who Is Mark Brnovich?
In the field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is running against Thiel Capital COO Blake Masters and a few others for the nomination to challenge Mark Kelly.
Brnovich has relentlessly campaigned as the “America First” candidate who has been the most supportive of former President Donald Trump. But there are some red flags with Brnovich, especially on the topic of fighting for election integrity. On the day after the 2020 election, after multiple swing states stopped counting votes and resumed in the early morning with sudden leads for Joe Biden, many were rightfully skeptical about what was taking place.
Brnovich was not among those skeptics. Brnovich was quick to bolster corporate media claims that nothing could possibly have gone awry with the election. In an interview with CBS News, he dismissed any questions about the Arizona election and the quick call for Biden as nothing more than “conspiracy theories” and scolded those who raised such concerns by saying it “doesn’t do any of us any good.”
Brnovich nevertheless tried to hedge his bets by claiming Trump would ultimately win among the then-outstanding ballots and thus claim the state of Arizona. He went on to say, however, that whatever the outcome would be, “We need to have good losers” and “accept the results,” lest such challenges to the election results risk “undermining our confidence in the system.” But confidence in the system was already undermined by the suspicious circumstances in several important states.
The next day, Brnovich said he ultimately agreed with “what the election officials have said” and that he would “take them at their word” when they insisted there was no voter fraud. He reaffirmed his belief at the time that there was no “conspiracy” in Arizona to steal the election for Biden, naively claiming that any possible voter fraud scheme in the state “would affect both parties equally.”
When concerns arose at the time over the possible disqualification of thousands of voters due to some voters using Sharpie markers instead of pens, Brnovich claimed his office had investigated the matter and ultimately concluded that this was a baseless claim as well. The extent of his “investigation,” however, was simply accepting an explanation by election officials in Maricopa County rather than actually using the power of his office to look into the matter himself.
With the secretary of state’s office under the control of Democrat Katie Hobbs, this left the fight to be picked up by the Trump campaign itself, which filed its own lawsuit on the matter without Brnovich’s help. Brnovich reaffirmed in a televised interview nine days after the election that he was satisfied with county officials’ explanations and had no reason to believe any fraud had taken place.
At the initial moment of truth, when the corporate media had collectively and prematurely called Arizona for Biden, Brnovich had been all too quick to accept this declaration and agreed that Biden had won. He pointed to the losses of several Democrats at the county level as proof that the election was not rigged but instead simply saw numerous “split-ticket” votes. He even went so far as to indirectly blame Trump for losing Republican votes due to his “style.”
In the clearest statement yet on the matter, Brnovich told the Washington Post that “based on what we know happened in the past, there is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe that the election result was changed.” These words were shouted from the proverbial rooftops by the Post, which was all too eager to trot out a Republican attorney general who disagreed with Trump.
As the month of November came to a close, multiple chances arose for Brnovich to step up and take action on his own, only for him to refuse each time. On Nov. 30, Brnovich joined Hobbs and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in signing the certification of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes for Biden.
Making matters worse, in December, 17 Republican state attorneys general signed onto the historic lawsuit Texas v. Pennsylvania in support of Texas’s efforts to hold the swing states accountable for their unilateral and unconstitutional changes to election laws in the months prior to the election. Arguably even worse than opposing Texas, Brnovich sat on the fence and filed a brief in support of neither side, instead offering a vague argument in support of “election integrity.”
Brnovich Is ‘Lackluster’
Brnovich’s repeated failures to enforce the law or even acknowledge the legitimacy of claims of voter fraud was not lost on Trump. In May 2021, the former president referred to Brnovich as “lackluster,” pointing out that he “is nowhere to be found” on the subject of voter fraud. Trump was referring to the fact that Brnovich has remained largely on the sidelines as the Republican-led Arizona state Senate conducts its own audit of the election results in Maricopa County.
Brnovich has played his cards very selectively since announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. In appearances on conservative media such as Newsmax, he has defended the authority of the state Senate to carry out such election investigations against the all-encompassing boogeyman of “the radical left.” He was careful to do so in a manner that, to a voter unaware of his past record, might easily come across as supportive of the audit itself. Yet throughout the audit, it should be noted that Brnovich, the state’s top law enforcement officer, has taken absolutely no action to investigate election fraud himself, choosing to stay out it for fear of being criticized and because, as he’s said, he believes it’s all just a crazy “conspiracy theory.”
To this end, the only thing Attorney General Brnovich, the man with actual law enforcement power, did was what many soft Republicans do in an effort to portray themselves as “fighters”: He wrote a strongly-worded letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting that the Department of Justice not interfere with the Arizona audit.
Brnovich is not a member of a legislative minority like the Republicans in the United States Senate, however. He is a statewide official in charge of one of the most powerful offices in Arizona. He had, and still has, the authority to do much more than write angry letters. He could have made a real difference in proving whether the election was legitimate, but he chose to stand aside.
Let’s hope Republican voters are not faced with a choice between a radical, gun-grabbing Democrat and a soft Republican who is all talk and no action. The America First base, which is also the base of the Republican Party, is tired of sending ineffective leaders to Washington who settle for strongly-worded letters and posturing but who aren’t actually fighters. Brnovich, when in a position of power and able to actually do something, is more reminiscent of past senators like Jeff Flake rather than the true fighter that the people of Arizona deserve.