“We must defeat those who will lie, cheat, and steal to win an election at any cost,” wrote Rep.-elect Bob Good — who won his own race in central Virginia but is supporting President Trump’s effort to challenge the national results.
Their claims are part of a cacophony of doubt that Republicans have sown in the election since Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden. Across the region, some losing candidates have yelled “stop the steal” with pro-Trump protesters. Some, like Benjamin, are raising money for their own “legal defense” (though Benjamin said in a statement he will return the donations if it turns out he has no actionable case).
And of the five sitting Republican members of Congress in Virginia and Maryland, only outgoing Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) has said he accepts Biden’s victory.
Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) did not respond to questions about whether they recognize Biden as president-elect, and a spokesman for Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) said he could not be reached.
All four have backed Trump’s legal challenges in public statements, to varying degrees.
Harris said on Facebook that he was not alleging fraud but that “secret unobserved vote counting in the swing states means that we will have to wait until a court unravels what really went on. When that thorough investigation is over, and we know that only legal votes have been counted then we will know who the real winner is — and then and only then we need to move on.”
Riggleman, who was defeated by Good in a nominating convention this summer, said he believes any instances of fraud should be rooted out. But he called allegations of widespread illegal voting a baseless conspiracy theory.
“When you see vote totals like this, and you have these theories that don’t bear fruit, that have no basis in fact, it starts to take away the moral authority of these lawsuits,” he said.
“Are you telling me these individuals were so exquisite in their planning that they could fix the election for Joe Biden, but go ahead and let Republicans attain multiple seats in the House and maintain their hold on the Senate? It’s a ridiculous notion.”
Election officials nationwide have said there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in the election, and several legal challenges by the Trump administration have already been rejected.
But the president has refused to concede, even as Biden’s lead grows. Many Republicans are embracing his attacks on the electoral system and his efforts to overturn results in key states.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), like Riggleman, is an exception; he was among the first Republicans to recognize Biden’s victory and denounce efforts to undermine its legitimacy.
Griffith, in contrast, encouraged people on Facebook to contribute to Trump’s “official election defense fund,” with 50 percent of donations going toward Trump’s campaign account for debt retirement and the rest going to a “Recount Account.”
Cline wrote on Facebook that he and other lawmakers wrote to Attorney General William P. Barr saying it was “appropriate for him to examine ‘substantial allegations’ of voter fraud that may exist. . . . In a close race such as this, we all should be insisting that every legal vote is counted before a winner is declared.”
And Wittman, saying courts should hear Trump’s case, also posted: “We must ensure the integrity of our elections and we must follow the laws on the books. . . . Every legally cast vote should be counted and every ineligible vote should not.”
Tucker Martin, who was communications director for then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), said Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge Biden’s win is a refusal to “live in reality.” As for Republicans accepting results in their own races but not in Trump’s, he said, “The election results aren’t a buffet. You can’t choose the ones you like and not the ones you don’t.”
Republicans have not won a statewide race in Virginia since McDonnell was elected in 2009. Martin said party leaders risk harming their brand by questioning the election results.
“When you’re making claims of fraud about margins that large, you do two things that are both negative for future prospects,” he said. “One, you erode your voters’ trust in the process and thus their interest in participating in it going forward. Two, you also refuse to adapt to Virginia’s political reality so you can hopefully be competitive going forward.
“Every day you spend saying the last election was stolen is one day you lose to prepare for the next election,” Martin said.
In Virginia, Republican Nick Freitas is among the handful of candidates refusing to concede after losing to Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger by two points. After days of silence, he released a statement Thursday saying he was investigating alleged “irregularities” in the results while acknowledging his efforts probably would not change the outcome. He later insisted the statement was not an admission of defeat.
“There seems to be some confusion on my statement so allow me to clarify. I have not conceded,” he wrote on Facebook. “I have not stopped fighting or investigating the results.”
In Maryland, Republican Kim Klacik conceded to Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) but has continued to make claims of voter fraud. She raised millions for the race after Trump boosted a viral campaign ad and says she may use leftover campaign funds to investigate results in her race, while also backing Trump’s efforts.
“I will keep my eyes glued to the television and hope President Trump prevails,” she said in a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday night. “If not, I still will support him 100 percent even after the fact.”
Another long-shot candidate, Virginia Republican John Collick, rescinded his concession to longtime Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D) on Monday, as GOP-driven claims of “irregularities” picked up. Anantatmula, who challenged Connolly, said on Facebook that she won’t admit defeat “until after the [Supreme Court] decision on irregularities and massive voter fraud nationwide.”
As of now, there is no such case before the high court.
Virginia Republican Daniel Gade, who conceded to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) the morning after the election, said he knows the losing candidates’ frustration — but said it’s time to accept reality.
On Election Day, the Associated Press called the race for Warner at 7 p.m., moments after the polls closed, which Gade said infuriated him. He was leading by at least 200,000 votes in early returns. Then came the absentee ballots. He eventually lost by roughly half a million votes.
Gade said he woke up the next day and accepted what he knew to be true: It wasn’t a conspiracy. Rather, more Democrats voted early and by mail, and those ballots were reported last.
“It’s a dangerous idea to pretend as though somehow our elections are illegitimate,” Gade said. “After it’s clear that a candidate has lost, it’s inappropriate for that candidate or his or her supporters to undermine the results of the election.”