Stop the Stealers (Mostly) Concede

Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon speaks to supporters and volunteers on November 7. (Photo by Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

Whether or not a candidate concedes has no legal bearing on the ultimate outcome of a race: Elections come to a close after the results are canvassed and certified. But so far, more losing candidates who had espoused “Stop the Steal” rhetoric akin to that of former President Donald Trump have actually conceded than some analysts had predicted.

At a media briefing just before last week’s election, when asked if election officials anticipated trouble with candidates refusing to concede, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson answered flatly: “Yes.”

“Unfortunately, this is the moment that we’re in,” Benson, a Democrat, added. “We’re hoping for smoothness and acceptance of the law and facts but you know, candidates don’t get to declare who wins and loses elections anyway. So we will just simply ensure that the voters’ will is respected whatever that may be.”

Once the results of the Michigan gubernatorial contest became clear Tuesday night, GOP candidate Tudor Dixon initially claimed the race wasn’t over. But by Wednesday, Dixon’s campaign sent out a statement noting that the candidate “called Governor [Gretchen Whitmer] this morning to concede and wish her well.” Ditto with GOP candidate Matthew DePerno in the Michigan attorney general race.

Others did as well: In New York’s gubernatorial contest, GOP nominee Lee Zeldin conceded to Kathy Hochul after a close contest. Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels conceded to incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

In Pennsylvania, GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz called his opponent to concede Wednesday morning after several news outlets called the race for Democrat John Fetterman. “We need everyone to put down their partisan swords and focus on getting the job done,” Oz said in a statement. GOP candidate Doug Mastriano conceded Sunday to Democrat Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial contest, though it took him five days to do so. Mastriano lost by more than 15 points.

In the New Hampshire Senate contest, Republican Don Bolduc conceded Tuesday night in a speech to supporters. He had earned an endorsement from Trump, who said Bolduc had been “a strong and proud ‘Election Denier.’” Trump pinned blame for the loss on Bolduc’s subsequent waffling regarding election fraud claims: “He lost tonight when he disavowed, after his big primary win, his longstanding stance on Election Fraud.”

And Democrat Stacey Abrams conceded Georgia’s gubernatorial race in her rematch with GOP incumbent Brian Kemp despite never conceding their first match in 2018.

Politicians publicly accepting defeat, “seems like a small thing but it’s actually a very very large thing,” Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University, said. Not conceding, he added, “creates too much uncertainty. It erodes trust in our institutions.” 

But there were some notable exceptions: Benson confirmed to The Dispatch that her GOP opponent, Kristina Karamo, has yet to concede in Michigan’s secretary of state race.

Instead, Karamo released a statement Thursday claiming that there were “election law violations and other irregularities” and closed by telling supporters to, “standby, there’s much more to come.” Karamo has claimed that Trump won Michigan and floated other conspiracies about election fraud.

Arizona Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem—who had adopted “Stop the Steal” rhetoric about 2020—lost to his Democratic opponent but as of Sunday night had not conceded.

Other races remain too close to call.

In Arizona, one of the most vocal election conspiracy theorists of this cycle, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, is locked in a tight contest.

Lake has raised complaints about a voting machine printer snafu that affected 20 percent of the precincts in Maricopa County, Arizona, for part of Tuesday. She painted those running elections as “cheaters and crooks.”

As of Sunday night, Lake was lagging behind Katie Hobbs by less than 2 points, with 89 percent of the ballots counted. 

“We’re going to be patient, guys,” she told supporters.

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