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Financing of Races for Offices that Oversee Elections: February 2022

Fundraising for secretary of state candidates continue to rise at a remarkable pace, and party-aligned groups that are active in election official contests have also seen record-setting donations.

Last Updated: February 16, 2022
Published: February 10, 2022
Collage features currency, contribution totals, and quotes from candidates that deny election results
Daniel Cullen/Spyros Arsenis/EyeEm/Alan Schein Photography/Getty
View the entire Tracking Races for Election Administration Positions series

This year’s elections will determine who runs the 2024 elections for races at every level up to and including the presidency. These offices, from governor to secretary of state to local supervisors and clerks, play crucial roles in how Americans access the franchise as well as how ballots are counted and the results certified. This year’s contests are attracting the most attention of any in recent memory.

Part of the reason for the increasing visibility of election officials is the spread of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was so corrupted by fraud as to call into question the accuracy of the result. Across the country, campaigns for posts that will administer elections are targeting “election denial” as a central issue. 

In this series, the Brennan Center examines the finances and political messages in many of the most important contests to the future of election administration. 

Throughout 2022, we will be taking a regular look at relevant contests in battleground states that had the closest results in the 2020 presidential election. This will include races for governor, secretary of state, and local election administrator positions. As candidates file disclosure forms and information becomes available, we will examine questions like how much money is raised, who the biggest donors are, how much candidates rely on small donors, and how much outside spenders like super PACs and dark money groups spend. 

In this entry, we focus on contributions to candidates for state secretary of state, which is the chief election officer in most states.

Key Takeaways

Record Breaking Fundraising

  • Fundraising in secretary of state elections continues to rise at a remarkable pace: Across the key battleground states identified by the Brennan Center, contributions are three times higher than they were at this point in the 2018 cycle and eight times higher than 2014. The numbers are particularly high in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.*
  • In Georgia, two candidates have raised more than $1 million. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R), who has said if 2020 was a “fair election, it would be a different outcome,” took in $1.6 million. State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D), who has said she fears “a secretary of state who is anti-democratic and refuses to certify the results of the election,” has raised $1.1 million. Facing a primary challenge from Hice, incumbent Brad Raffensperger (R) has raised $705,000.
  • Party-aligned groups that are active in election official contests in multiple states have also seen record-setting donations.

Broader Donor Interest Across the Nation

  • Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem (R), whose campaign sent supporters an email in February announcing his bill to “decertify three 2020 county elections” in the state, has attracted 7,516 donors, over six times more than the number of the donors to all the candidates in the state’s 2018 election.
  • In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who has said that the “Big Lie is . . . about planting seeds to overturn the next” election, has 4,890 donors. One of her challengers, Kristina Karamo (R), who has said voting machines in the state could have flipped 200,000 votes to Joe Biden, has gained 2,206 donors. Each of them has more donors than all the candidates put together at this point in 2018.
  • These state races are becoming nationalized, with significant money flowing in from out-of-state. In Georgia, the two fundraising leaders together have already raised more out-of-state money than all the candidates in the state’s 2018 secretary of state election combined. Two-thirds of Finchem’s donors live outside Arizona. In Michigan, out-of-state contributions have soared to $475,000 so far this cycle, three-and-a-half times the amount at this point in 2018 and 90 times that of 2014.

A Continued Focus on Election Denialism

  • The issue of election denial remains a central campaign topic for candidates on both sides of the aisle in key election administrator contests throughout the nation, with leading Republican candidates questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election, and many leading Democrats highlighting such views as an existential danger to American democracy.

Donor Connections to Other 2020 Election Challenge Efforts

  • Large donors who have ties to election subversion efforts, like the Trump campaign’s election challenges and the January 6 insurrection, have made contributions to secretary of state candidates who question the 2020 election results. 

Below we discuss the financing of secretary of state races in battleground states based on available data. We focus here on secretary of state races because elections for these offices are the most visible offices directly relevant to election administration. Future analyses will delve into the financing of races for governor and local offices.

Fundraising Analysis

In all six of the battleground states with secretary of state elections — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin — fundraising for 2022 is at its highest level since 2010.*

Although our analysis is focused on contributions given directly to candidates, party-aligned groups that are active in multiple states have also seen record-setting donations. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State raised $2.4 million last year, three-and-a-half times its next highest revenue for a non-election year, and more than even its best election year, which was $1.8 million in 2020. Republicans do not have a direct counterpart, but the Republican State Leadership Committee, which spends in secretary of state races as well as state legislative and judicial races, also took in a record high amount for a non-election year, $26.4 million.


Secretary of State

Fundraising for the 2022 secretary of state race in Arizona is more than double the level at this point in the prior cycle and is more than eight times that of the 2014 cycle. So far four candidates have outraised what the 2018 winner, Katie Hobbs (D), had at this point. Hobbs was not the fundraising leader then, but both candidates that were ahead of her went on to lose their primaries. The number of donors in this year’s secretary of state election, 11,566, is higher than that of recent cycles by a factor of 10.

Two of the 2022 candidates are head and shoulders above the rest in contributions: advertising executive Beau Lane (R) ($714,000) and State Rep. Mark Finchem ($663,000). Lane has relied on large donations from just 410 donors. Finchem, who has said that “Trump won” and called for “decertifying” the election, has attracted a huge number of donors: 7,516. By comparison, only 1,235 people gave to all the Arizona secretary of state candidates combined in 2018.

A distant second in the number of donors is former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes (D), who raised $385,000 from 1,968 contributors. Fontes faced attacks for a plan to send every voter in his county a mail ballot in 2020 and criticized the state senate’s partisan review.

Finchem has, far and away, the most out-of-state donors in the race: two-thirds of the 7,516 donors to his campaign live outside of Arizona. State Rep. Reginald Bolding (D) — who has raised alarm about election denial in ads by saying, “The fate of our democracy is on the line right now” — has the next greatest reliance on out-of-state donors, with 54 percent of his 1,390 donors from other states. Lane, Fontes, and state Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R) all saw 80 to 90 percent of their donors living in Arizona.

Finchem and Bolding’s out-of-state fundraising successes are like nothing Arizona has seen in recent years. The amount that donors from other states have contributed is almost 10 times more than in the 2018 cycle and over 30 times more than in either the 2014 or 2010 cycle.

So far in this open-seat race, contributions to Republicans, at $1.6 million, are more than double the amount given to Democrats, $700,000. This is driven by the facts that the two candidates dominating fundraising are both Republicans, and the GOP also has a larger number of competitive candidates in its primary.

Issue Advertising

Outside spenders — those other than the candidates themselves — often focus messages on issues that are prominent in an election to help one side or the other. This spending, which can come from super PACs, dark money groups, or others, is usually concentrated in the final weeks before voters head to the polls. Even though it is still early, there has already been some outside spending in Arizona focused on the issue of election denial. These messages, and future ads in this vein, could impact races for election administration posts.

For instance, Opportunity Arizona, a national nonprofit advocacy group, has spent an estimated $573,000 on ads criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who is term-limited, over the Maricopa partisan review and attempts to change mail voting laws. Another national group, Defending Democracy Together, bought TV ads that feature Republican local officials from Arizona saying the result of the ballot review by the company Cyber Ninjas was to “desecrate our democracy” and calling for Republicans to stop lying about the election. In a potential indication of further plans in the state, the same group put out an ad in late January attacking gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) as an “enemy of democracy” for her stance that Trump won the election and that she would not have certified the 2020 election.


The amount of money flowing into the Georgia secretary of state election is four times higher than it was at this point in 2018 and 30 times higher than in 2014. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who has said if 2020 was a “fair election, it would be a different outcome,” has a strong lead with $1.6 million. Hice has raised twice as much as the incumbent he is challenging in the Republican primary, Brad Raffensperger, who has collected $705,000.

The fundraising leader among the Democrats, State Rep. Bee Nguyen, who has said she fears “a secretary of state who is anti-democratic and refuses to certify the results of the election,” has raised $1.1 million. All three of these leading fundraisers have blown far past the highest amount raised at this point in any of the last four cycles, which was Brian Kemp’s (R) $388,000 in 2010. 

In a sign of intense national interest in the race, the combined contributions from outside of Georgia to the two leading fundraisers in this election have already topped the total amount of out-of-state donations to all the Georgia secretary of state candidates for the whole 2018 cycle. Hice has raised $420,000 from other states, and Nguyen $308,000. In the 2018 cycle, the race saw $675,000 from outside Georgia, the vast majority of which went to former U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D). Out-of-state contributions in the 2014 cycle totaled less than $30,000.

Across all the candidates in the 2022 race, Republicans have the fundraising advantage, with a total of $2.7 million going to those vying for the nomination, including the incumbent. The Democratic candidates together have raised $1.6 million.


Fundraising in the Michigan secretary of state race is three times higher than at this point in the last election cycle. This is driven largely by incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who has raised $1.5 million as of December 31. With another 10 months until the election, that is almost as much as the $1.6 million Benson raised for the entire 2018 cycle. Benson, who has said that the “Big Lie is . . . about planting seeds to overturn the next” election, has amassed 4,890 donors this cycle. That is three times more than the number of donors to all Michigan secretary of state candidates combined by this point in 2018.

Kristina Karamo comes in a distant second in fundraising, with $233,000. More than 2,000 donors have supported Karamo, who claims that Trump won the election. Although that is a much small number than Benson’s, it is still more than the total number of donors in the secretary of state election by the same point in the last cycle.

None of the candidates opposing Karamo in the Republican primary has raised a significant sum.

The fundraising successes of Benson and Karamo have driven massive increases in the number of donors in the contest, as well as donations from people who live outside of Michigan. Overall, 7,142 people have given to a secretary of state candidate this cycle, virtually all of them to either Benson or Karamo. That is almost five times the number of contributions given to all candidates in 2018 and over six times more than in 2010 or 2014 (all these comparisons are to December of the year before the election). Out-of-state money has surged, by similar proportions, to $475,000 so far this cycle. 


In Minnesota, contributions to secretary of state candidates are more than four times those to this point in the 2018 cycle and double those in 2014. As in other states, the incumbent has a strong fundraising lead. Secretary of State Steve Simon’s (D) haul is more than six times the combined fundraising of both candidates in the Republican primary. Simon has raised more through December than he took in for the entire 2018 cycle (he was also the incumbent in that election). 


The $911,000 flowing into the Nevada secretary of state race is far higher than in recent cycles. In this year’s race, Cisco Aguilar (D), an attorney and former staffer to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, is the fundraising leader with $486,000. Second is Republican former State Rep. Jim Marchant — who said if he were secretary of state in 2020 he would have refused to certify Biden’s win — has amassed $136,000. (Note: Nevada data updated on February 16 with additional candidates and fundraising totals)


In Wisconsin, the secretary of state does not administer elections and in fact has little authority of any kind. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, like elections administrators in many states, has been attacked over the 2020 elections. There has been a push, including by several declared candidates for secretary of state or governor, to give the secretary of state greater power over elections. 

The incumbent, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D), has been in office continuously since 1983, in addition to a term in the 1970s. Early contributions have been essentially nonexistent in recent elections, but in this cycle Amy Loudenbeck (R) has almost singlehandedly driven fundraising to $75,000. Loudenbeck is a six-term member of the state assembly who sits on the powerful Joint Finance Committee, and her experience fundraising for legislative campaigns has likely given her a boost in this race. She is campaigning on giving the secretary of state more power, saying that an elected official should act as a “check” on the appointed Wisconsin Election Commission. 

Election Denialism in 2022 Campaigns

As detailed below and in our prior report, candidates across the nation are using their campaigns to claim widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and many implicitly or explicitly argue that control of election administration in 2022 will determine the future and survival of American democracy. In all six of the battleground states with secretary of state elections in 2022, there is at least one candidate who has questioned the legitimacy of the last presidential election. 

Below, we examine statements by candidates for election administration positions who have made election denialism a key issue in their campaigns. By “election denial,” we mean claims that the last election was illegitimate or reached the wrong result. Narratives and buzzwords of election denial include election fraud, stop the steal, officials rigged the vote, suitcases of ballots appearing, dead people voting, and so on.

In addition, we collect examples of candidates making opposition to election denial central to their campaigns. These candidates argue that the 2020 election was secure and reached the correct result, and they frequently portray election denialist candidates as existential threats to election administration or democracy.

The list of examples below builds on those we collected last month and is not comprehensive. States United has published examples of election denial by candidates, including in states that are not battlegrounds, as well as in state attorney general elections.


Secretary of State

Reginald Bolding

Arizona State Rep. Reginald Bolding is campaigning on the dangers of election deniers taking office. A campaign ad on Facebook says “if we don’t win, then Donald Trump’s handpicked candidate will have control of our elections. The fate of our democracy is on the line right now.” In an interview, Bolding said of Republicans’ focus on secretary of state races, “They’re going to try to do in 2024 what they couldn’t do in 2020.”

Screenshot of Reginald Bolding Facebook ad

Shawnna Bolick

Arizona State Rep. Shawnna Bolick is the author of a December 2020 resolution calling for Congress to award Arizona’s electors to Trump and block the certification of the election result. In May 2021, she sponsored a bill that would allow the state legislature to override the popular vote and revoke the secretary of state’s certification. In a campaign video, Bolick implies that Arizona election officials have been “changing the rules to favor their preferred political party.” Bolick’s campaign has sent emails to supporters predicting that if her proposed reforms are not enacted, “the manipulation of our elections from the Left will continue and our voices will be silenced.”

Screenshot of Shawnna Bolick Facebook ad


Secretary of State

John Eaves

John Eaves (D), who used to chair the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, posted on Facebook: “there is no indication of fraud in last year’s election. The results still stand that after three ballot counts and multiple investigations Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump in Georgia’s presidential election by about 12,000 votes. It is time we move past the ‘big lie’ as it is a consistent waste of tax dollars.”



Ryan Kelley

Business owner Ryan Kelley (R) has said that the election was “stolen” and called for lawmakers to “decertify” it. In remarks at a January 2022 meeting where he encouraged supporters to sign up to serve as poll workers, Kelley said, “if you see something you don’t like happening with the [voting] machines . . . unplug it from the wall.” He shared the floor with another candidate who called on supporters to come to the polls “armed.” Kelly also said, “‘Give me liberty or give me death’ means you fight right now.”


Secretary of State

Steve Simon

In a January 2022 interview, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said the election “was fundamentally fair, accurate, honest, and secure.” He described Trump’s claims of voting irregularities as “not just factually wrong. It is corroding our democracy in many ways.”

Screenshot of Steve Simon tweet



Joey Gilbert 

The campaign of gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert (R), an attorney, sent an email to supporters that begins, “If our votes don’t count, our republic is doomed.” The email goes on to call on Gilbert’s supporters to serve as poll workers, explaining: “Watchers are only able to witness fraud taking place. Workers can stop it when they see it.” Another email claims that errors on voter rolls in 2020 mean “almost HALF of all votes could have been stolen.” 

Joe Lombardo

Although Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R) has acknowledged that Biden won, he has questioned whether it was “fair and square.” He has said he didn’t know if the results were accurate, and that he believes “there was fraud on both sides.” 

New Hampshire


Karen Testerman

Karen Testerman (R), a former member of the Franklin City Council, said in an interview about her campaign announcement that she does not believe Trump lost the election in New Hampshire. She has said there is widespread election fraud in the state and that “votes are not being counted accurately to say the least.” In early 2021, Testerman was one of the signatories of a document that called for the “termination of the state,” proclaiming that the New Hampshire government was illegitimate and the 2020 elections were “void for fraud.”



Joe Gale

As a Montgomery County commissioner, Joe Gale (R) voted not to certify Biden’s win in the county, alleging “irregularities” and “unverified mail-in ballots.” In a January 2022 debate, he said there is “no way” Biden received the most votes of any presidential candidate.

Charlie Gerow

Charlie Gerow (R), a public relations executive and political commentator, signed the false Electoral College certificate that attempted to assign Pennsylvania’s electors to Trump. January posts from the “Charlie for Governor” Facebook page say “Mail-ins are RIPE for fraud,” and that Gerow’s priorities include “Election Integrity because if we can’t get people to trust the vote we have no democracy.”

Dave White 

In a campaign ad from former Delaware County Council Member Dave White (R), the candidate says, “If there wasn’t any fraud in the Pennsylvania election, why every time we call for an audit do the Democrats cry like a little baby?” He claims Gov. Tom Wolf was “caught cheating” in the election, referring to the governor having his wife drop off his marked ballot in violation of state law.

Screenshot of TV ad from Dave White's campaign
TV ad from Dave White’s campaign


With a March 1 primary and early voting beginning February 14, Texas will hold the earliest election among the battleground states.


Danny Harrison

Danny’s Harrison’s (R) campaign website critiques the incumbent he is opposing in the primary, saying, “Where was Governor Abbott when the election was stolen from back in November?”

Don Huffines

The campaign website of Don Huffines (R), a former state senator, claims: “Illegal aliens have cast ballots in Texas elections” and “criminals [can] cast votes on behalf of dead people.” The page states that in 2020, the governor “allowed Democrat-run counties to flagrantly violate state election law while Republican poll watchers were denied access to observe ballot counting.”

Chad Prather

Chad Prather (R), host of a show on the conservative Blaze TV outlet, has tweeted that “Stolen elections get people killed.” The “election integrity” section of his campaign website references conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, including proposals requiring that polling places be searched for “hidden boxes of suspect ballots,” as well as having “buildings surrounded by trusted people for 48 hours (or until count is announced) to ensure no strange vehicles turn up with ‘found’ ballots.”

Screenshot of Chad Prather tweet

Allen West

Former member of Congress Allen West (R) has called for audits of the 2020 vote in Texas and said that the Harris County Clerk “should probably be in jail for what he tried to do in undermining Texas election law.” In another interview promoted by his campaign, West referenced “unconstitutional actions” by governors and judges to change election law.

Hood County Clerk

Like approximately half of Texas counties, Hood County employs an elections administrator, who is not elected but rather appointed by a commission of local officials. The county clerk does not run elections, although the clerk sits on the five-member commission that appoints the elections administrator. We include the Hood County clerk election here because election denial is a prominent issue distinguishing two candidates in the Republican primary.

Michelle Carew

Michelle Carew (R), the former appointed elections administrator for Hood County, criticized election denialism in her campaign announcement, decrying attempts “to control how elections are run, just to benefit a radical politically partisan group.” Carew entered the race after the incumbent clerk, Katie Lang, attacked her for allegedly being biased in running the election. Lang attempted to oust Carew, who eventually resigned and entered the race to challenge Lang. In a Washington Post op-ed published days before she declared her candidacy, Carew wrote that “the constant questioning of the 2020 election and the constant spread of lies foster an environment that encourages attacks against election officials.” She insisted that “the votes were counted fairly.”

Major Donors Supporting Election Denialism

Just as the election denial messages are being repeated in state and local elections across the nation, some of the same donors are supporting candidates running on election denial in multiple races. And some of these donors have previously supported various efforts to overturn the 2020 election result.

Richard Uihlein

Shipping and packaging supplies magnate Richard Uihlein has given millions to groups involved in challenging the election result through donations from the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, which he funds. Uihlein gave $1.25 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, which employs Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who worked on the Trump campaign’s lawsuit to “set aside and disregard the election results” in Georgia over alleged fraud and participated in the phone call in which Donald Trump demanded state election officials “find” 11,780 votes for him. Uihlein has given to media outlets that promoted false information about the election, as well as groups involved in the January 6 insurrection: the Tea Party Patriots and Turning Point USA.

Uihlein has given to election denialist candidates in secretary of state elections as well. Last year, he donated $7,000 to Jody Hice in Georgia and $5,000 to Jim Marchant in Nevada — both donations were the maximum allowed at the time.

David Bossie

The Trump campaign initially assigned David Bossie to lead its election challenge efforts, but he was sidelined by a Covid-19 infection. Bossie heads a group called the Presidential Coalition, which gave $7,000, the limit at the time, to Georgia secretary of state candidate Jody Hice. This is a change from the group’s activity in the 2018 election, when it donated $3,900 to Brad Raffensperger, who is now being opposed by Hice in the primary and has faced attacks by election deniers. Bossie has publicly expressed interest in supporting Mark Finchem in Arizona.

Save America PAC

Donald Trump uses his leadership PAC, Save America, to raise funds and support allies, and it has raised over $105 million. The committee gave $7,000 to Jody Hice in Georgia and $5,000 to Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who claims that Trump won the 2020 election. It remains to be seen whether the PAC, through candidate contributions like these or independent expenditures in larger amounts, gets involved in more races with implications for election administration.

* — This sentence was updated on February 16 to account for additional fundraising data from Nevada.