Secretary of state elections across the country are shaping up to be some of the most competitive races of 2014, and more outside groups have formed to play a role in these campaigns.
While most eyes are on vulnerable House and Senate seats, others are looking at these state offices as important wins going into the 2016 presidential election, since secretaries of state oversee elections and play a key role in determining voting rules, which can make a difference in tight races, Politico reports
Three political action committees have formed since December exclusively aimed at influencing secretary of state races — one Republican and two Democratic. And a lot more outside money is expected to make its way into these races.
"I'm certainly not surprised," said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. "We've seen an increased attention over the last number of years because if you can influence how the votes are cast, you could certainly influence the results thereof."
"And the truth is, here in Colorado and throughout the nation, with the changes enacted to our election laws, who the secretary of state is really matters," Call added.
The exact role of a secretary of state can vary from state to state, but in 39 states they serve as the chief election officer; in 38 states they manage the canvassing of election results; and in 24 states they oversee and certify initiatives, proposition and referendum petitions, collect filings for those seeking elected office, and receive reports about candidates' campaign finances.
"It is critically important that we understand who these folks are that are conducting and certifying our elections, what they believe in, and how they plan to execute their offices in their states," said Gregg Phillips of conservative super PAC SOS for SoS.
The majority of secretary of state offices are currently held by Republicans, in 28 out of 50 states, and the Republican Secretaries of State Committee said that it will work to keep that majority. Eighteen of those seats will be up for re-election this year, and the group is also aiming to pick up more in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Iowa, where there are open races.
"I read that the average secretary of state race costs $500,000, which is pretty amazing in this day and age," Phillips added. "The import of all of this, and $500,000, can make a difference."
Phillips' group plans to spend $5 million to $10 million in nine 2014 races in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, and Ohio.
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