Mar 22, 2022 - Politics

Mike Stewart's new mission

State Rep. Mike Stewart holding a megaphone while wearing a mask.

State Rep. Mike Stewart. Photo: Alan Poizner/The Tennessean/USA Today Network

State Rep. Mike Stewart believes we've all moved on too quickly from Jan. 6, 2021.

  • Not just the deadly mob scene at the U.S. Capitol, but the cavalcade of events that led people to believe the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate.

Why it matters: Stewart, 57, is walking away from the safe House seat he has held for 14 years to dedicate his political life to the issue of election integrity.

  • Instead of running for Congress or Nashville mayor, the Democrat is sounding the sirens that Americans now need to actively engage in the fight to protect the sanctity of elections well in advance of the next presidential race.

What he's saying: "The efforts by former President Trump to redefine who won the election, which is something I never thought I'd see in the United States, demonstrates how vulnerable our democracy is," Stewart tells Axios.

  • "It's time for people who are involved in politics to understand that we're entering into a new era — an era in which authoritarianism and the destruction of our democracy is not just a science-fiction type thing, but an immediate threat."

Details: Stewart says a lot of Republicans "stood up for democracy" following the 2020 presidential election but that others drove the "big lie" that President Biden didn't actually win.

  • "It's a new thing where you have leaders denying election results," Stewart says. "So to me, it just requires a different approach."

Zoom out: Stewart plans to launch a website soon to highlight issues related to election integrity and wants to spotlight critical races in swing states like Michigan and Arizona.

  • "I plan to talk about this as much as I can and build a network of people who care about this issue," Stewart says. "People need to think through this problem not merely as politicians, but as lawyers. And that means, look at the details."

The big picture: The most important aspect of his strategy is recruiting and training poll watchers in swing states.

  • "You need to have multiple people at every poll, so that if there's some bogus claim at a precinct in west Pennsylvania, you've got some lawyer there with a Pitt law degree to say, 'Wait a minute, I was there, too, and no such thing happened,'" Stewart says. "That's how you fight back at a grassroots level."
  • "It's a precinct-by-precinct fight."

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