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Kentucky GOP Secretary of State Michael Adams fends off challengers touting election fraud

Adams expanded voting access in 2021, then faced a tough primary against rivals who said there was significant fraud in the 2020 election.
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams in Lexington, Ky., on May 8, 2023.
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams in Lexington on May 8.Timothy D. Easley / AP file

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams won the GOP primary and a shot at a second term Tuesday, fending off challenges from two candidates who campaigned on voter fraud claims, The Associated Press projected.

Adams defeated Stephen Knipper, an information technology project manager who also lost the primary for secretary of state in 2019, and Allen Maricle, a former state legislator. Both campaigned on voter fraud claims, turning the race into a referendum on the 2020 presidential election.

To hear Adams tell it, doing his job well is what earned him a tough primary. In 2020, he worked with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to expand voting access during the pandemic; the following year, he led the charge to codify some of those changes — including early voting — into Kentucky law, along with some ballot security measures.

The 2021 compromise legislation won remarkable broad bipartisan support, just as Republican-controlled legislatures across the country were enacting sharp restrictions on mail voting.

In an interview, Adams said he was unwilling to cater to conspiracy theorists in election administration, even if it meant he would lose his job.

“The other lesson I’ve learned from what happened to my colleagues in other states — Republicans who are incumbents in this office — is if you feed the tiger, it still eats you. If you cave and get into these conspiracy theories, all it does is validate them,” Adams said. "I’m not going to fall for that.”

Knipper made headlines by running a “Restore Election Integrity” tour around the state in 2021, claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that he personally saw hackers manipulate U.S. election results online, according to The State Journal, based in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Maricle didn't go as far in his rhetoric (he has called Knipper a “nut job”), but he has still argued that there is significant fraud in Kentucky elections, particularly in mail voting. There is no evidence of significant, widespread fraud in Kentucky or anywhere else in the U.S.

Adams now faces Democrat Charles Wheatley, a former state legislator, in the November general election.