Republicans in Pennsylvania and North Carolina appeared poised on Tuesday evening to nominate candidates for key offices who have denied, challenged or questioned the 2020 presidential contest, 18 months after Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over Donald J. Trump in a democratic election.
Senate races in both states and a governor’s race in Pennsylvania were set to test Republican voters’ appetite for the lingering effort to re-litigate Mr. Trump’s loss. One election denier was the front-runner in the G.O.P. race for Pennsylvania governor, and a congressman who refused to certify the results was poised to win in a Senate primary in North Carolina.
A third high-profile primary, for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, was a three-way battle, with two of the candidates echoing Mr. Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election result, to varying degrees, and the third largely ducking the question.
The races aligned on the most consequential primary night of the year so far — with voters also picking nominees in Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon. The lineup was certain to test the power of Mr. Trump’s endorsements with his fiercely loyal base. On the Democratic side, voters in Pennsylvania were choosing between John Fetterman, the left-leaning lieutenant governor who trades on his laid-back image, and Conor Lamb, a moderate congressman.
Mr. Fetterman spent Election Day in the hospital after suffering a stroke that forced him to cancel his final weekend of events. His campaign said Tuesday he had undergone “a standard procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.”
Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general and presumptive nominee for governor, also had to leave the campaign trail on its final day after he tested positive for Covid, saying he was experiencing mild symptoms.
In their eagerness to win the support of Mr. Trump and his strongest devotees, Republican candidates across the country continue to actively advance the myth of a stolen election, or at least try to avoid stating that Mr. Biden won fair and square. As the season of midterm primaries moves into full swing, there is no pullback in this tide. Before Ohio’s Senate primary two weeks ago, all five candidates were asked if Mr. Trump should move on from his baseless claims. Only one did so; he finished third.
In Pennsylvania, State Senator Doug Mastriano, the front-runner to take on Mr. Shapiro for the open governor’s seat, was instrumental in the failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state. On Jan. 6, 2021, he “passed through breached barricades” as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the final certification of the vote, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee report. Mr. Mastriano has been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack.
Establishment Republicans’ attempts to block Mr. Mastriano’s rise seemed to fall short, and Mr. Trump handed him his endorsement this weekend.
In the state’s Senate race, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who also secured Mr. Trump’s backing for Senate, has not made the 2020 election the center of his bid, but he argued at a debate last month that “we can’t move on.” Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator making a late surge in the race, has fanned baseless claims of voter fraud since badly losing a House race in 2020, which she never conceded. Ms. Barnette was among the protesters marching in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
In North Carolina, Representative Ted Budd, who earned Mr. Trump’s backing in the Senate race, voted in Congress against certifying the electoral votes of Pennsylvania and Arizona.
After the 2020 election, Mr. Budd signed a letter urging the Justice Department to investigate voter fraud and irregularities. Text messages published by CNN showed Mr. Budd pushing a baseless conspiracy theory to Mark Meadows, who was then the White House chief of staff, suggesting that Dominion Voting Systems might have ties to George Soros, the liberal billionaire.
After the Jan. 6 riot, Mr. Budd condemned what he called the “mob violence” he had witnessed at the Capitol.
Representative Madison Cawthorn, seeking re-election in his redrawn North Carolina district, spoke at the Jan. 6 rally behind the White House that preceded the assault on the Capitol.
Even candidates with no major record of questioning the election results can’t afford to speak plainly about the election without the risk of alienating Trump voters. At a rally Dr. Oz held on Monday, a voter received applause for mentioning the movie “2000 Mules,” which makes the conspiratorial claim that Democratic operatives stuffed ballot drop boxes with phony votes. “What are you going to do to fix that problem?” the voter demanded.
Dr. Oz said he hadn’t seen the movie but urged support for the Republican candidates for governor, who, he said, would green-light lawmakers in Harrisburg “to investigate what happened in 2020.”