POLITICO: Kinzinger endorses Dems in major governor, secretary of state races

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the most prominent Republican critics of former President Donald Trump in Congress, is rolling out a bipartisan series of midterm endorsements Tuesday, including a handful of Democrats seeking to become their states’ top election officials.

Kinzinger (R-Ill.) endorsed four Democratic secretary of state candidates: incumbents Steve Simon of Minnesota and Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, along with Arizona’s Adrian Fontes and Nevada’s Cisco Aguilar, both of whom are running for open seats. Kinzinger’s endorsements, shared first with POLITICO, also include Democrat Josh Shapiro’s campaign for governor of Pennsylvania, where he would appoint the secretary of state if he wins.

In an interview, Kinzinger said he chose 2022 endorsements partly based on where there are “going to be positions that, frankly, can be bulwarks to defend against a real constitutional crisis in 2024.”

“A badly-placed, bad faith secretary of state can really throw the whole country into chaos,” he added.

Kinzinger also backed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who successfully fended off a Trump-backed primary challenger this year after refusing to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results. And Kinzinger gave another endorsement to Arizona Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, the state’s current secretary of state.

Kinzinger, who did not seek reelection this year, is making the endorsements through his leadership PAC, Country First. His endorsement list also included a handful of federal candidates. He backed Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is facing a Trump-backed challenger in her state, and Evan McMullin, the 2016 presidential candidate who is running an independent challenge to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

“It’s easy for me as a pushed-out or a homeless Republican to just stick with Republicans — to get involved in the primaries and kind of go away for the general,” Kinzinger said of his decision to back Democratic candidates. “But I and my group … want to put our money where our mouth is. The reality is we can disagree on policy, but that defense of democracy is the thing that I think can bring the union down” if it isn’t upheld.

Kinzinger said he’ll do “a little” traveling for the races, but his group’s focus will be turning out supporters in these races and helping with fundraising and advertising: “We want to take a rifle-shot approach, not a shotgun approach.”

The Jan. 6 committee member is also supporting longshot candidates in generally safe districts — Republican Larry Lazor in Connecticut’s blue 1st District and independent Clint Smith in Arizona’s red 5th District — along with Thomas Knecht, a Republican state House candidate in Minnesota.

The endorsements come amid more intense attention on election administration positions, as allies of Trump look to win control of the country’s election infrastructure. Kinzinger’s political operation has already been active here as well: A group of his allies backed Raffensperger during his primary earlier this year, and they recently launched a recruitment effort for “pro-democracy” candidates, with a particular focus on election official positions.

Over the weekend, Trump rallied with a pair of Republican secretary of state candidates who have embraced conspiracy theories about Trump’s loss in the 2020 election: Nevada’s Jim Marchant and Arizona’s Mark Finchem. The two are core members of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of election deniers who are running for office.

Both won competitive GOP primaries earlier this year, and recent polls from CNN in each state showed them with small leads over Aguilar and Fontes, respectively.



By Zach Montellaro

The original article can be found on POLITICO's website here.