(INDIANAPOLIS) – Republicans have ousted Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, making Indiana the latest state to choose a nominee who has questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Former congressional candidate Diego Morales defeated Sullivan in her bid for a full term, a year after Governor Holcomb appointed her to complete the term of her predecessor Connie Lawson. In a four-way race, Morales captured the nomination with 52% of the vote on the second ballot to Sullivan’s 35%.
Morales has called the 2020 election a “scam,” and bashed Sullivan for not being more vocal about election security. Meeting with reporters after clinching the nomination, Morales sought to downplay his comments about 2020, saying he’s focused on state and local elections. He and Knox County Clerk David Shelton, who finished third in the convention battle, both claim to have evidence that illegal immigrants have attempted to vote in Indiana. Morales says he’d work to prevent “people residing in Indiana cemeteries” from voting, and would partner with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to spot noncitizens on the voter rolls.
And Morales says he’d ask legislators to cut Indiana’s four-week early voting period in half. He says many clerk’s offices he visited before this year’s primary told him they’d had just one or two early voters all day, and argues counties can save money by cutting back.
Sullivan’s allies pointed out Morales worked in the office under two of her three predecessors, and both times was fired or resigned after criticism of his performance, a claim Democrats quickly elevated after the convention. State Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer shrugs off those incidents as more than a decade old, and predicts Republicans will unite after the bitterness of the convention battle.
Hupfer says Morales has “clarified” his stance on the 2020 election to criticize procedural changes made by election boards and governors without legislative approval. That list includes Indiana, which delayed the 2020 primary by a month due to the pandemic and allowed universal mail-in balloting, though Hupfer points out that change didn’t extend to the general election. Morales, asked about the 2020 results, says simply, “Joe Biden is in the White House,” before quickly adding, “And he’s doing a horrible job.”
Democratic nominee Destiny Wells predicts Morales’s nomination will energize voters around her campaign. Wells says she agrees on the importance of safe and secure elections, and even agrees with Morales on one specific reform: scrapping direct-recording electronic voting machines which are potentially vulnerable to hackers. But Wells blasts Morales as “a threat to democracy.” She notes his appearance on the “War Room” podcast of Trump ally Steve Bannon. And she charges Morales’s hints about fraud in 2020 and persistent warnings of further danger undermine public confidence in elections, with no evidence to back them up.
Wells points to her cybersecurity experience in Army intelligence in Afghanistan, and says she’d work to standardize election equipment across all 92 counties, instead of the patchwork of four or five approved systems. And Wells criticizes Morales’s proposal to slash early voting, saying the secretary of state should be making voting more accessible, not less.
Republican nominees for secretary of state in Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico have embraced the false claim that former President Donald Trump was the true winner in 2020, as has the nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, where the governor appoints the secretary of state. But Sullivan is the first incumbent secretary of state defeated for renomination this year, after Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger beat back a closely watched challenge from a Trump-endorsed opponent.
Carmel Economic Development Commission member Jeff Maurer is the Libertarian nominee. Sullivan will oversee the November election before her term expires in January.
Republicans had a different kind of drama in their other convention nominating contest. Former Morgan County Councilman Dan Elliott captured the nomination for state treasurer by just three votes, edging out Boone County Council president Elise Nieshalla on the third and final ballot in another four-way race. Monroe County Treasurer Jessica McClellan is the Democratic nominee to replace term-limited Republican incumbent Kelly Mitchell.
State Auditor Tera Klutz (R) and Democratic challenger ZeNai Brooks were unopposed for their parties’ nominations.