In Democracy Docket’s first-ever candidate Q&A series, we spoke with dozens of candidates running for federal and statewide office all across the country. Featuring candidates vying for competitive U.S. Senate seats like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) to candidates in tight governor’s races like Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), we asked them how they plan to use their offices to protect the right to vote and defend American democracy. (Don’t worry — we also asked them fun questions too!)
With Election Day only days away, catch up on all of our Q&As to learn more about the candidates and what they’ll do to fight back against threats to democracy and voter suppression laws and how they’ll make it easier to vote.
The battle for the U.S. Senate is one of the most closely-watched storylines in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats maintain control, they’ll be able to continue to confirm President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees. If Democrats win just two more seats, they’ll be in a position to consider eliminating the filibuster and passing the sweeping voting rights legislation that eluded them earlier this year. We spoke to the Democrats running for Senate in five states that will likely decide who controls the chamber next year.
We must make it easier, not harder, for eligible Georgia voters to exercise their most sacred right: the right to vote. Whether through vote by mail or in-person voting, it is critical that all Georgians can make their voices heard in our democracy. Taking action to pass voting rights legislation is not a policy argument; it is a moral argument about democracy itself. Voting rights are how we address the deepening divides in our country by ensuring every eligible voter’s voice is heard. And we, as elected representatives, have an obligation to protect their voices.Sen. Warnock on the need to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation.
Go-to walk up song: “Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder”
The best way to protect democracy and our fundamental freedoms is to vote for candidates who recognize they need to be protected and will have the courage to do so. Right now that is the Democratic U.S. Senate majority. In 2016, I won by just two points, and those two points are the reason we were able to stop [Sen.] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from repealing the Affordable Care Act. Your vote matters, and we need to work together to win this race — it’s critical for families in Nevada and across the country.Sen. Cortez Masto on what everyday voters can do to protect democracy.
Most underrated fact about Nevada: “There are so many Hawaiians living in Las Vegas that it’s referred to as the ninth island of Hawaii!”
What we need more than ever are senators who stand up for our constitutional rights and that’s what I will do as I have throughout my decades of service. But we know we can’t trust Budd to do that. He has voted against our constitutional rights and supports taking away our freedom to make decisions for our families, including supporting a total ban on abortion. As chief justice, I took action to keep communities safe and strengthen our communities — from creating a human trafficking court to support victims and hold traffickers accountable to establishing paid family leave to help people take care of their families and be successful at their jobs. I took my oath to fairly apply the rule of law and uphold the constitutions seriously. I’ve always led with integrity, honesty and justice — and I’ll bring those values with me to the U.S. Senate.Cheri Beasley on how her judicial experience will inform her work as a senator.
Lexington style or eastern style barbecue: All of the above.
Our democracy is fragile. We saw it in 2020, and in all likelihood we’ll see it again this year. Counties refusing to include lawfully submitted ballots, in defiance of federal and state court orders, endangers our democracy. And this brazen rule breaking will only embolden anti-democratic officials in future elections. We can and we must fight back and protect our democracy by enacting common-sense reforms.John Fetterman on counties refusing to certify election results.
Go-to walk up song: “You can’t go wrong with Back in Black by AC/DC.”
For far too many politicians, the voters are no longer their number one priority. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, corporate special interests dump millions into Super PACs to influence our elections. Meanwhile, multi-millionaires, like Johnson, pour money into their own campaign accounts, making them unaccountable. In the U.S. Senate, I will vote to end the filibuster so that we can move forward and deliver for working families in Wisconsin, strengthen ethics rules for elected officials and fight for a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United and puts political power back in the hands of the people of Wisconsin.Mandela Barnes on how he would use his position as a senator to protect the right to vote.
Most underrated fact about Wisconsin: “Wisconsin’s first labor unions were organizing before Wisconsin was even a state. The bricklayers organized in 1847. It’s a good reminder that Wisconsin has rich labor roots that have allowed so many, myself included, to realize their American dream.”
In addition to Congress, 36 states will elect a governor this year. As the state’s top executive, governors play important roles in American elections, vetoing suppressive voting laws or signing expansive ones and using their administrative powers to ease access to voting. They also play a key role in the certification of elections — raising the possibility that if election deniers are elected governor, they could use their powers to mess with the certification of valid results. We spoke to seven candidates for governor, several of whom are running against avowed election deniers.
Everyone knows that the law violates federal law, so it’s not surprising that the U.S. government and others are suing to keep the state from enforcing it. The law creates new barriers for voters that do nothing to make our elections more secure — like requiring voters to submit additional paperwork like “proof of residence” or identify their place of birth, neither of which election officials will be able to confirm. The law is so poorly drafted that even election officials are still grappling with its implications and how to implement it. Here’s the bottom line: When Arizona’s elected leaders should be bolstering and expanding access to voting rights and defending our democracy from election deniers like Kari Lake, they have chosen to cave to the whims of Trump’s “Big Lie” narrative and undercut Arizona voters in the process.Katie Hobbs on Arizona’s restrictive proof of citizenship law, House Bill 2492.
Favorite way to vote: “Personally, I vote by mail. As a longstanding tradition used by Arizonans for decades and an important part of our voting identity, it is unthinkable that anyone would want to take that away from us.”
We push back by showing up and showing up everywhere. There was a special election earlier this year in Northwest Arkansas, in an area where Trump won by probably 36, 37%. In the special election, the Democratic candidate came within around 30 votes of winning that election. She almost won that election and she’s back in the race again. How does she close the gap? By focusing on facts and the truth and highlighting the extremist approach to disrupt democracy.Chris Jones on pushing back against Republican lies.
Favorite way to vote: “Voting in person is a thing of pride. I did it with my family. My parents never told us who they voted for, but they always said it was important to make an informed decision. So we talked about all of that as we went there in person. And I want to continue that tradition with my family.”
I think they’re a hoax, they’re unfounded and they’re wrong. [The state] tried to impede people from voting. About 65% of Floridians passed Amendment 4, giving the right to vote to former felons or returning citizens that have paid their debt to society. [DeSantis is] gumming up the entire democracy system in the state of Florida and that has to stop. A new governor would have the opportunity and the authority — with significant power of the veto pen along with it — to stop it, reverse it and restore democracy. One of the things I’d like to do, as well, is make Election Day a state holiday. It’s hard enough for working folks to be able to vote. We ought to make it easier, not harder. [DeSantis] makes it harder because he doesn’t like democracy. I want to make it easier because I love democracy. I’m a Democrat running for governor to protect democracy.Rep. Crist on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) voter fraud arrests.
Go-to walk up song: Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) by Stevie Wonder.
That this is the lowest bar in a democracy, not committing treason. You should not be congratulated for simply doing your job, and their willingness to withstand the political pressure is something that Democrats and Republicans have done for centuries in this country. The absurdity is that we have people who are now giving them credit for intending good for the very people they work to strip powers from. The architect of S.B. 202, a law that denies access to water in a line, is driven by the same imprimatur that led Brian Kemp to arrest some 10 people in Quitman, Georgia, for the temerity of electing Black people to the school board. They had been arrested and incarcerated knowing they had done nothing wrong. Brian Kemp is no hero. Brad Raffenspberger is no hero. They are architects of voter suppression, and they should not be congratulated for doing their job. They should be held accountable for not doing their jobs for every Georgian.Stacey Abrams on why Republicans, like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), should not be lionized for refusing to overturn the 2020 election.
Most underrated fact about Georgia: “Georgia is the most diverse state in the Deep South, and that diversity is why we are such an exciting place to live. We are the epitome of not just a melting pot, but how diversity is a superpower. And we have amazing pie.”
Nevada Republicans know they can’t win on their dangerous and out-of-touch stances, so they’re desperate to keep folks out of the electoral process. My opponent wants to implement voter ID laws that disproportionately affect seniors, minorities, people with disabilities, low-income voters and students — constituencies who are an integral part of the Silver State and deserve to have their voices heard. As long as I’m governor, I’ll continue to expand access to the ballot — not suppress it.Gov. Sisolak on Republican attempts to enact voter ID laws in the Silver State.
What he would be doing if he wasn’t running for office: Las Vegas Aces superfan.
We need to elect people who not only support an election outcome, but also will bolster democracy with having strong voting rights, making sure that we have a really strong democracy that doesn’t have terrible redistricting and that listens to the voters, not the politicians. For my opponent, he’s trying to have it both ways. Trump endorses [DeWine], and [DeWine] says the election, appropriately, was [President Joe] Biden’s win, but then he hid from all of that this election cycle. And that’s what we see about Mike DeWine. He’ll say whatever is politically convenient at the time. But if you ever count on him to do the right thing, when it gets really hot, he’ll be nowhere to be found and go with the extremists and the radicals.Nan Whaley on Republicans that push back on the “Big Lie.”
Favorite restaurant in Ohio: The Pine Club in Dayton. It’s a steak place, but bring cash; they take no credit.
As governor, one of my most important jobs is to certify election results. My opponent, Tim Michels, supports radical ideas around elections and won’t commit to certifying the results of democratic elections. I will continue to provide accurate information about voting rights and our elections, and will carry out my duty as governor to uphold the democratic process. I trust that state and local election officials will once again deliver accurate results in the 2022 election.Gov. Evers on how he will combat future election subversion.
Favorite campaign fuel: Always an ice cream cone.
Secretary of State
Secretaries of state often serve as the chief elections official of their state. As seen in the 2020 election, they can either stand as bulwarks against illegal election interference or aid right-wing conspiracy theorists in their efforts to undermine our democracy. We spoke to three Democrats running for secretary of state, including the Nevada Democrat running against an election denier.
We have seen what has happened in Coffee County with Sidney Powell and the local election board in Coffee County. We know that there was potentially some malfeasance, some copying of data within Coffee County elections. Today, over a year after that incident has been flagged, nobody has been held accountable for that. [The situation is] unclear because the secretary of state has been very quiet on this issue and not transparent with the public whether or not an investigation was actually carried out. We need bad actors to be held accountable because if they are not held accountable for breaching the system for committing a crime, then we will continue to see that kind of behavior.Rep. Nguyen on counties undermining election results.
Favorite way to vote: “I love voting with my sisters. They live in my district, but we are in different precincts, so that means we have to vote early in person in order to vote together. That’s been a tradition that we’ve been carrying out the past few election cycles is voting early in person together.”
I absolutely understand why some people feel like our government is no longer working for them. For too long, the powerful have made it harder and harder for everyday Americans to have their voices heard and have an impact on how our country works. What our opponents are counting on is that we get too discouraged, too cynical and check out. The truth is, who we elect matters. I’m making a commitment to work hard for the people of Nevada and to be accountable to them. The same should be true of every elected official, up and down the ballot. No one should be above accountability to their constituents, and this November voters should remember that they have the power.Cisco Aguilar on his message to voters who feel like they aren’t being heard.
Favorite way to vote: I love the convenience of filling out my mail-in ballot at home and dropping it off at a secure drop box!
In 2018, 74.89% of Ohioans — an overwhelming majority, we consider that — voted for redistricting reform and fair maps. The current redistricting commission, which is made up of seven people — five GOP and two Democrats — was intended to be a bipartisan commission. It’s not. What the GOP on this commission has done since last year — since the very beginning following the decennial census — is they have obstructed this entire process and they have blown past constitutional deadlines. We have paid independent mapmakers hundreds of dollars an hour, all for [the GOP] to refuse to even consider maps that actually are constitutional. What happened was these maps were consistently contested because they weren’t fair. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed, and found that both the congressional and legislative are unconstitutional. One of the reasons [the secretary of state] position is so critical to our democracy and voting rights here in the state is because the secretary of state is a voting member on that commission.Chelsea Clark on Ohio’s tortured redistricting process this year.
Most underrated fact about Ohio: We have beautiful, beautiful places. We actually have beaches and you can enjoy all seasons here. You can go from the beach to even the mountains here — it’s absolutely beautiful, and a great place to learn and a great place to play.
Attorneys general serve as the chief law enforcement officer in their states and can play an important role in elections as well. In 2020, numerous Republican attorneys general joined a long-shot lawsuit filed in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election in four swing states. The architect of that plan was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) — who’s also currently under indictment for securities fraud. We spoke to the Democrat running to replace him.
My campaign actually helped bring this issue to light after some people in my community started receiving uncertified letters from the secretary of state’s office notifying them that they would be purged off the voter rolls if they didn’t respond within 30 days. It was extremely worrisome because some of these people had been U.S. citizens for years and had been voting for years. The citizenship data being used by Cameron County was old, but nevertheless, more than 2,000 voters were purged by November 2021. As Texans, we need to coalesce on the issue of voter suppression and combat it for the sake of our democracy.Rochelle Garza on voter purges in Texas.
Go-to walk up song: Bad Blood by Taylor Swift.