GOP’s Morales wins Indiana elections office that ousted him

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Diego Morales extended on Tuesday his party’s control of Indiana’s top elections office after a campaign during which he faced criticism for doubting the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and twice being ousted from jobs in that office.

Morales, a former governor’s office aide to Mike Pence, defeated Democratic candidate Destiny Wells to win the secretary of state’s office despite shifting his stances on early and mail voting issues, facing allegations that he possibly committed voter fraud in 2018 and avoiding forums or debates with Wells.

Morales celebrated his victory Tuesday night by telling Republican supporters that “the truth always prevail. Always.”

“My commitment to you is that I will work as hard as I’ve been doing to make all of you proud and take this office, the legacy of all secretaries of state, to the next level,” Morales said.

Morales won the Republican nomination over current Secretary of State Holli Sullivan in the June party convention — even though he left low-level jobs in that office in 2009 and 2011 after being written up for poor work performance. He wrote an online column earlier this year in which he called the 2020 election a “scam” while pointing to unfounded claims former President Donald Trump and his allies have made about other states.

Wells, a lawyer and Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, argued Morales was “sowing seeds of fear and doubt” about elections and that the secretary of state should focus on improving Indiana’s troubles with low voter turnout.

Wells said in her concession speech that the country’s democracy would continue to be threatened by election deniers.

“We will continue to fight together, not for the sake of our political affiliation, but for our state and for our country.” Wells said.

Morales, who immigrated to Indiana from Guatemala as a teenager with his parents and sisters, also called for tougher voter restrictions that included cutting Indiana’s 28-day early voting period in half and eliminating several reasons why people can request mail-in ballots, but later dropped those positions without explanation.

The Indiana secretary of state’s office oversees statewide policies for elections, which are run by elected county officials under laws enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Republicans have controlled the office since 1995, winning double-digit percentages in six of the past seven times it has been on the ballot.

This story is Tom Davies of The Associated Press.