ST. GEORGE — While some are congratulating former Vice President Joe Biden on his projected presidential victory, others are withholding acceptance of the election’s conclusion until they are satisfied alleged issues of voter fraud and impropriety have been investigated and cleared one way or another.
One of Utah’s senators, as well as local Washington County political officials, shared their thoughts on Biden’s projected win and President Donald Trump’s claims of fraud.
So far, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is among a handful of congressional Republicans who have congratulated Biden as the president-elect. However, he has also said that Trump, who has not conceded the race to Biden and has made multiple accusations of election fraud, is within his rights to call for recounts and investigations into potential irregularities.
Fellow congressional Republicans, including Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, have also said Trump has a right to recounts and investigations, but have stopped short of acknowledging a Biden-Harris victory thus far.
“I think most of my colleagues are staying quiet,” Romney said in a conference call with Utah media Tuesday. “I received some calls and texts after my appearance on the Sunday shows that compliment my relatively measured tone, (but) I can’t speak for all my colleagues and how they react. I think most people looking at the election, whether it’s my colleagues or others, until they see evidence of a substantial nature are going to believe that the outcome of the election as has been predicted by the major networks that have looked at it.”
There have been election recounts in the past, Romney said, that have swung a few hundred votes one way or another, but nothing of a scale that suggests the outcome would be any different in this case.
Romney also said that Trump’s accusation that the election was rigged and stolen “was not accurate” and that, “I don’t know if there’s been any evidence presented so far that suggests that that happened in a sufficient number of cases to result in an overturning of the election results as we understand it.”
Claiming the election was also stolen is dangerous and destructive to the cause of freedom, Romney said. Other nations are watching America and how its people handle this issue, he said.
“I think it’s important that we show confidence in our institution, our ability to investigate cases, our ability to take cases to the courts and when that’s completed, I think by far the most likely outcome is that there will not be a change in the tally in a substantial way, and there will be a smooth transition of power. That’s what I’m anticipating,” Romney said.
The Trump campaign has launched lawsuits in various swing states where the vote has been very close, yet come out in favor of Biden. Additionally, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has authorized federal prosecutors to investigate allegations of voter fraud before the election results are certified.
As for what a post-Trump Republican Party may look like should election results hold in Biden’s favor, Romney said Trump will likely have a substantial influence on the party for a while yet.
“He has shown he has a pretty big presence on social media and in the media, so I think he’ll have a big influence,” the senator said. “If he wants to continue having a role in the party, he certainly will.”
Something the Republicans should consider, however, is how to best retain the base that Trump brought to the party in the last four years, as well as how to regain people the party may have lost due to the president.
“It depends on who decides to run in 2024 and what their message might be,” Romney said.
Among Trump’s supporters in Washington County who would like to see him retain the presidency is Jimi Kestin, chair of the county’s Republican Party. He said it’s premature to consider Trump a single-term president just yet.
“If I’ve learned anything about observing the president of the United States, it’s always a mistake to underestimate him or to count him out,” Kestin said.
Kestin is also among those who believe the election results need to be investigated. However, if the returns remain in Biden’s favor once certified, Kestin said he would accept the results.
“As an American, he’s my president,” Kestin said of a potential Biden win.
As a Republican, Kestin said there are parts of the election he and his fellow Republicans are happy about.
The Republicans gained a few more seats in the House and may likely retain control in the Senate. If the latter holds true, it will help curtail some of the policies Biden will try to enact, Kestin said.
“I don’t like some of his policies, and he will issue executive orders that will be damaging to the economy and the country,” Kestin said.
On the other side of the aisle, Chuck Goode, chair of the Washington County Democrat Party, said he was happy with the results of the presidential election.
“We think it turned out really well and look forward to the transition, and we’re being good sports about it,” he said.
While the majority of Utah voted for Trump, Goode said that, as Biden said in his acceptance speech Saturday, they would “like to be reunited” with their fellow Utahns and Americans.
While local Democrats didn’t win runs for the Utah House or Senate, Goode noted they received more votes than usual this time around, and that three legislative seats in northern Utah are on track to flip to Democrats.
As for Trump’s claims of election fraud, Goode said there hasn’t been much evidence of that yet in the courts.
Among the first order of business Goode said he wants Biden to address is getting the pandemic under control.
“Addressing the pandemic and solving that is the number one issue all over the nation,” Goode said. “One of the things that happens if you don’t do it over the whole nation, Utah tourism will bring it right back.”
According to the Associated Press, as of Tuesday, Biden has 290 electoral votes to Trump’s 214. With 270 needed to secure the presidency, several media outlets, including the Associated Press, have called the election for Biden and now refer to him as the president-elect. However, the final election results won’t be certified and official until January.
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