As President Donald Trump continues to dispute the winner of the 2020 election, New York Republicans are largely siding with the president, declining to publicly question the administration's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, and in some cases advancing their own specious attacks on the integrity of the election.
Four days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the election, few GOP leaders have acknowledged their party’s impending loss of the White House. Of the half dozen Republicans who represent the five boroughs in the City Council, State Senate and Assembly, only one responded to Gothamist’s inquiries about the president’s refusal to concede.
“All I can say is that I believe that every vote that’s legally cast needs to be counted. If there are concerns of voter fraud they need to be taken seriously,” said Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican State Assembly Member on Staten Island, who is projected to win her race against Max Rose for his congressional seat. “I think they need to finish the count.”
Malliotakis declared victory in her own race on election night, when there were still 41,000 absentee votes to count. She said her situation was different because her lead was more substantial than the margins in states like Pennsylvania. The Associated Press called the election for Biden on Saturday, after determining that the remaining ballots in Pennsylvania would not be sufficient for Trump to catch up.
Asked whether she had seen evidence to support the president’s unfounded allegations of pervasive voter fraud and election-rigging, Malliotakis, who prominently featured Trump's endorsement in her campaign, demurred. “I don’t want to have this deep discussion of what’s going on with the president,” she said. “I’m not in these states, I don’t know what’s happening.”
Other mainstream GOP leaders in New York appeared even more reluctant to discuss Trump’s attempt to cast himself as the winner of the election.
Repeated requests to the state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy were not returned. His longtime predecessor, Ed Cox, declined to address the president’s claims on the record.
The Metropolitan Republican Club, the one-time stronghold of moderate Republicans, which is now led by an ardent Trump backer, also did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls.
Gavin Wax, the 26-year-old president of the New York Young Republican Club, told Gothamist that he supported the president’s choice to fight the result, alleging rampant corruption in the electoral process. As evidence, he said that 14,000 dead people cast votes in Michigan — a debunked conspiracy theory with no basis in reality that quickly gained traction on social media. “It’s a little hypocritical to say that this is not happening when it very much is,” Wax added.
The mix of silence and outright misinformation mirrored that of Republican officials in Washington.
Defying a longstanding Justice Department policy of steering clear of election-related investigations until after the count is certified, Attorney General William Barr empowered federal prosecutors on Monday to investigate vote counting “in certain cases” — prompting the department’s top election crimes prosecutor to resign from his post in protest.
During a briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the country’s top diplomat, stunned reporters by promising a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” before adding that all votes should be counted.
After Georgia’s Republican secretary of state said there was no evidence of widespread fraud, the two U.S. senators from Georgia demanded that he resign, reportedly at Trump's behest and in advance of likely runoff contests in which they will need the support of Trump's base.
Henry Farrell, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins, said there were serious risks to the Republican party’s “ridiculous, nonsensical” allegations, even if Trump is eventually forced from the White House.
“It’s more probable that the damage done is this causing Republican voters to believe the democratic process is unfair,” Farrell told Gothamist. “The more that voters come to believe the process is rigged against them, the frailer democracy is likely to become.”
Other New York Republicans have raised the specter of possible election fraud, even while admitting that they were waiting for Trump to furnish evidence.
“I can’t actually say I’ve been shown the irregularities beyond what I believe is a poor way of counting,” said Gerry Kassar, a Brooklyn resident who serves as chair of the State Conservative Party. “I don’t believe the President or his team are foolish, so let’s see what they come up with in the next 48 hours,” he added.
Wax, the head of the NY Young Republican Club, said he expected Trump to prolong the race for much longer, possibly into next year. He vowed to stand with the president until he admitted defeat.
“I think it’s going to be messy, I think it’s going to be murky,” Wax acknowledged. “If Trump doesn’t concede we’ll have to rewrite the history books because a lot of stuff is going to go down that’s never gone down before.”