Real-estate developer and former state Sen. Jesse Haw is the best-funded contender in the GOP field after plowing his own money into the race.
And, more recently, Marchant has lobbied local governments to abandon the use of machines to cast and count votes. He wants to return to hand-counting ballots — a move experts say will cause errors and chaos in future elections.
Marchant did not respond to multiple interview requests from CNN.
His rise in recent months — and his effort to elect like-minded election chiefs elsewhere — has raised alarms among national voting rights activists.
“Marchant’s rhetoric and record make it clear that he’s a dangerous extremist who would work to undermine democratic elections,” Nick Penniman, the CEO of the election watchdog group Issue One Action, said in a statement. “Elections should be run by devoted public servants who want to administer free and fair elections, not rogue partisan activists who would overturn the will of the people.”
Whoever becomes Nevada’s new secretary of state will oversee the election machinery in one of the country’s most important presidential swing states.
The margins of victory have grown tighter in this battleground in recent years. Biden won the Silver State by a little more than 2 percentage points in 2020, down from the more than 6-point victory by the Obama-Biden ticket there in 2012.
The state is a top priority for Republicans this year as they look to take control of the US Senate. Former President Donald Trump backs former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the Republican nomination fight. Laxalt, scion of a powerful political Nevada family, served as Trump’s Nevada co-chair in the last presidential election. The GOP Senate nominee will take on first-term Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the fall.
Trump had not made an endorsement in the secretary of state contest as of this writing, although Marchant has emphasized the former President’s support of his unsuccessful 2020 congressional bid in this year’s campaign.
Whoever captures the GOP nomination for secretary of state on Tuesday will face Las Vegas attorney Cisco Aguilar, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The ‘America First slate’
So far, the so-called “America First” slate that Marchant is promoting has had mixed results. Secretary of state candidates backed by the group have lost recent primaries in Idaho, California and Georgia.
But others in the America First group have advanced to November’s general election. They include the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a leading voice in promoting Trump’s baseless claims about election fraud in the Keystone State. In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state.
And last week, Audrey Trujillo — another member of the “America First” coalition and a critic of vote-counting machines — was officially nominated as the GOP secretary of state candidate in New Mexico. Trujillo, who ran unopposed for the nomination, will face the incumbent, Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver. Trujillo likely faces a tough climb: Oliver won her first full term to the post in 2018 by a 20-point landslide.
You need to read
- This story by CNN’s Dan Merica about the GOP candidates with ties to January 6 who are winning their primaries.
- An analysis by CNN’s Adam Wollner on the former Trump administration officials who are seeing success at the ballot box so far this year.
- This piece from NBC about an eight-figure campaign to promote Democratic secretary of state candidates in several key states — another sign of the high stakes of these down-ballot contests in the current political environment.