Salt Lake clerk candidate once claimed election was stolen

September 30, 2022 GMT
Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk Goud Maragani is interviewed in Salt Lake City, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk Goud Maragani is interviewed in Salt Lake City, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk Goud Maragani is interviewed in Salt Lake City, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk Goud Maragani is interviewed in Salt Lake City, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk Goud Maragani is interviewed in Salt Lake City, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Democratic officials are railing against a Republican running to be the top election official in Utah’s most populous county after reporting detailed his history of claiming, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday that Salt Lake County Clerk candidate Goud Maragani had in social media posts insisted that Democrats stole the 2020 election. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill condemned the statements.

“Extremism and conspiracy theories have no place in our public institutions,” Gill wrote on Twitter.

Republican activists nominated Maragani, a veteran and attorney, to be their candidate for Salt Lake County Clerk at their convention in April. Clerks record the proceedings at council meetings, issue marriage licenses and oversee elections.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in Salt Lake County by nearly 20 percent, according to voter registration statistics. Those numbers, however, obscure how competitive elections can be, partially because many progressives in the county register Republican to participate in the primaries where most seats in Utah are won or lost. Since winning the nomination, Maragani has distanced himself from fraud claims, yet remained focused on issues popular among election deniers, including ballot drop-box security and poll watching.

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Maragani has vehemently pushed back against allegations from his opponent Lannie Chapman’s campaign that he embraces conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election. His website states explicitly he doesn’t believe the last election was stolen.

Yet in July 2021, Maragani claimed without evidence that Democrats stole the election, the Tribune reported.

“I want you to act like we won (bc we did) and use every tool you have to thwart what the Democrats are doing,” he wrote in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

Maragani told the Tribune he needed to review the context of the posts before commenting.

Numerous investigations have failed to yield evidence that the 2020 race was ridden with fraud or tampering. Election officials and former President Donald Trump’s own attorney general have affirmed that the 2020 election was free, fair and secure. Judges have rejected dozens of cases claiming fraud brought by Trump and his allies.

Still, nearly one in three Republican candidates for statewide offices that play a role in elections have echoed lies about widespread fraud costing Trump reelection, according to an Associated Press tally.

Maragani’s rhetoric parallels changes in messaging of other Republicans running in 2022. Many are distancing themselves from past fraud claims as they get further from the primary and closer to the general election.

That includes Don Bolduc who insisted the election was stolen in the lead-up to his primary victory in New Hampshire earlier this month, before reversing himself after winning and saying on Fox News that after further investigation, he no longer thinks it was stolen.