Democrat Adrian Fontes, left, and Republican Mark Finchem are running for  secretary of state in Arizona.
CNN  — 

Election skeptics who are their state’s Republican nominees for secretary of state have outraised their Democratic rivals in two races viewed as competitive by political handicappers – in the key presidential battleground of Arizona and in Indiana – according to a new analysis from a nonprofit watchdog group shared first with CNN.

Overall, Republican secretary of state nominees across the country who have denied the 2020 election results have raised more than $12 million in this election cycle – some with financial assistance from deep-pocketed GOP donors, according to research by the nonpartisan group Issue One.

“This is absolutely a wake-up call,” Nick Penniman, Issue One’s CEO, said of the financial support for some Republicans who have raised doubts about the 2020 election results. “For a long time, the political bet-makers wrote off some of these extreme candidates and assumed that they couldn’t win, that they weren’t viable.”

“But I think they have proven that they are viable because they have been able to tap into veins of money that are willing to support them,” he added.

In one sign of the Democratic concern about Arizona, officials with one liberal outside group, iVote, tell CNN that they plan to invest a total of $5 million to help boost the Democratic nominee, former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. That spending has not been previously reported.

The once low-key secretary of state races have garnered more attention than ever before in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which saw former President Donald Trump attempt to pressure public officials to set aside the will of voters after he lost the presidency. The people who win these jobs in November will play key roles in overseeing and certifying the results of the 2024 election – which could feature a rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden.

An analysis by CNN’s Daniel Dale showed that in at least 11 states – out of 27 with secretary of state contests on the ballot this year – the Republican nominee for election chief is someone who has questioned, rejected or sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Issue One’s researchers examined roughly four dozen races this year that featured candidates who have questioned the 2020 results and explored in more detail those who have secured their party’s nomination.

Among the races highlighted in the report: Arizona, where GOP state Rep. Mark Finchem has raised more than $1.2 million in his bid to become the top election official – far surpassing the nearly $700,000 collected by Fontes, the Democratic nominee, state campaign records show.

Finchem, who was endorsed by Trump in 2021, has called for the decertification of the 2020 election in three Arizona counties, although there is no evidence of widespread fraud and legal experts say there is no mechanism to set aside the results of that election. He also co-sponsored a bill that would have empowered state legislators to reject election results.

In Arizona, iVote is teaming up with the state’s Democratic Party to make what its president, Ellen Kurz, called an unprecedented $5 million investment in the race there to boost Fontes.

“With a candidate who has a proven history of rejecting results in a critical swing state, who wins this seat in 2022 will determine whether we have a constitutional crisis or not in 2024,” Kurz said in a statement.

Finchem did not respond to CNN interview requests.

Funders examined

The Issue One report zeroed in on who has helped fund the candidates who have challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Donors include Trump’s Save America leadership PAC; Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of who is a prominent funder of efforts to challenge the 2020 election results, and Lewis Topper, a Florida-based fast-food entrepreneur.

Byrne has been at the forefront of efforts to challenge the legitimacy of the last presidential election. A group he helped found, The America Project, helped underwrite a widely derided review of ballots cast in Maricopa County, Arizona, that in the end only confirmed Biden’s victory there. And the America Project is among the donors to a political action committee, Conservatives for Election Integrity, overseen by Jim Marchant, the Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state, who has said he would not have certified Biden’s victory there and has led a campaign to encourage counties to ditch voting machines and instead hand count ballots.

Individually, the Issue One report found – and state records show – that Byrne has contributed to Marchant; Kristina Karamo, the GOP nominee for Michigan secretary of state, and to Tina Peters, the Mesa County, Colorado, clerk and recorder, who lost the GOP nomination for Colorado secretary of state this year.

(A county grand jury indicted Peters earlier this year following an election breach investigation by local authorities. Last month, she pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges.)