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Media Smear GOP Candidate Seeking To Primary Leftist-Friendly Arizona Election Official

Media attacked Justin Heap for challenging Stephen Richer, the Maricopa recorder who has shown hostility to election integrity concerns.


Regime-approved media are engaged in a seemingly coordinated effort to smear a conservative candidate seeking to unseat an Arizona election official who regularly attacks Americans concerned about the integrity of elections.

A Republican in name only, Stephen Richer became Maricopa County’s election recorder after defeating incumbent Adrian Fontes — a Democrat who now serves as Arizona’s secretary of state — in the 2020 contest. Throughout his campaign, he pledged to “make the Recorder’s Office boring again,” and cast himself as an ardent supporter of election integrity efforts.

Despite these promises, Richer did a complete 180 after being sworn into office. As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway previously noted, the GOP recorder has since defended his Democrat predecessor’s administration of Maricopa’s 2020 election, penned “op-eds at CNN against the type of election audits he conducted to gain power,” and attacked “Republican leaders and voters for their election integrity concerns.”

Not long after becoming recorder, Richer “took the extremely unusual step” of launching a political action committee aimed at electing candidates “who joined him in refusing to acknowledge any problem with election administration.” He also lobbied against a 2022 ballot measure seeking to strengthen Arizona’s voter ID laws, a move his critics claimed is illegal. The initiative ultimately failed to pass, with 50.4 percent of electors voting “no” and 49.6 percent voting “yes.”

These actions don’t even take into account Richer’s role in overseeing Maricopa County’s disastrous 2022 elections, which resulted in an untold number of disenfranchised voters. Rather than work to address Arizonans’ concerns about incompetent election administration, Richer dismissed them as “conspiracy theories promoted on social media.”

[RELATED: Poll Worker Gives An Inside Look At ‘Complete Chaos’ In Maricopa County On Election Day]

Meanwhile, as of this article’s publication, Maricopa County appears to still be tabulating votes from its 2024 presidential primaries, which took place on Tuesday.

Media Attack Richer’s Opponent

With Richer running for reelection this year, legacy media are doing everything in their power to ensure he’s on the November ballot — which includes attacking his more conservative opponent, state Republican Rep. Justin Heap.

A member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus, Heap announced his campaign to challenge Richer for the GOP nomination for Maricopa County recorder last month. Speaking at his campaign kickoff, the Republican representative noted Maricopa’s “long track record of election-related issues” and claimed such problems have made the county “the laughingstock of our nation and the world.”

“Ensuring that voters have confidence in our elections and that Arizona’s election days are run honestly, transparently and securely is the civil rights issue of our time,” Heap said. Heap must collect 4,225 Republican signatures by April 1 to qualify for the July 30 primary ballot, according to the Arizona Independent News Network.

In the weeks since he launched his campaign, regime-approved media have smeared Heap as an extremist seeking to destroy “democracy.” For example, in an article that was supposed to be about Heap’s campaign kickoff, Axios Phoenix’s Jeremy Duda seemingly spent half of his report defending Richer and his disgraceful performance as county recorder.

“Conservative state Rep. Justin Heap launched a GOP primary challenge to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer — a prominent target of people who falsely believe the past two elections in Arizona were rigged,” the report’s opening paragraph reads.

The Arizona Republic’s Sasha Hupka employed a similar tactic when reporting on Heap’s bid for recorder. She wrote that Heap’s announcement comes after years of what she classified as “false voting conspiracies following recent elections and threats against Richer and other Arizona election officials.” Meanwhile, Dennis Welch of Arizona’s Family, a CBS affiliate, claimed several Arizona Freedom Caucus members “have pushed bogus claims of election fraud” when noting Heap’s involvement with the caucus.

And who could forget WIRED’s David Gilbert, who published a fawning profile of Richer on Tuesday. When referencing Heap’s candidacy, Gilbert accused the GOP representative of aligning himself with so-called “election deniers.”

Smear Campaign

Despite their attempt to paint him as a “conspiracy theorist” trying to undermine the republic, none of the aforementioned media figures could point to Heap doing anything of the sort, let alone reference an instance in which he claimed an election was “stolen.”

Just as they mischaracterize anyone concerned about election integrity issues as “deniers” and extremists, Democrats and their media allies are using this same playbook to hamper Heap’s electoral prospects and protect Richer. The goal is to make Heap seem unhinged and radical to the point that “democracy” would not survive should he become the nominee. In other words, they’re manipulating the truth about Heap and his positions to influence the outcome of another election.

[RELATED: The Real Conspiracy Theorists About U.S. Elections Are Legacy Media]

But Heap isn’t playing by their rules. When asked during his campaign kickoff if he thought Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial race and 2020 presidential election were legitimate, the GOP representative refused to play the media’s “gotcha” game, saying: “I’m an attorney. I will only make statements I feel I can prove” and “[I’m] not interested in rehashing” previous elections.

Combatting the media’s narrative, Heap has kept the focus on Richer’s failures and highlighted how incompetent election administration undermines voter confidence in the process.

“It is clear that the incompetence of our current county recorder contributes to a belief among all of our voters that things aren’t on the up and up,” Heap said. “They are not crazy for looking at our system — the entire country is looking at Maricopa County and saying, ‘Why can’t you guys run an election like every other state?'”

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