Goud Maragani, the Republican nominee for Salt Lake County Clerk, used social media to accuse Democrats of “cheating” and stealing the 2020 election.
The winner of November’s county clerk race will oversee future elections in Utah’s most populous county.
In other posts, he called Democrats “commies” and “Marxists”; disparaged refugees from Afghanistan. He also advocated shutting down the prosecutions of those arrested in conjunction with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Throughout his campaign, Maragani has scolded those who accused him of dealing in conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. On his campaign’s social media accounts, he has posted videos to dispel any notion that he’s an alleged election conspiracy theorist.
However, public statements to Utah groups on the Telegram messaging app following the 2020 election tell a different story.
In a post from July 2021, Maragani complained about Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s alleged inaction on several topics, including his refusal to visit jailed rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“He wasn’t willing to speak up about how the Democrats cheated and stole the election,” Maragani wrote on Telegram.
“I want you to act like we won (bc we did) and use every tool you have to thwart what the Democrats are doing,” the GOP candidate said later in the post.
A month later, Maragani quoted a post from Jovan Pulitzer — whose own allegations of election fraud have been called “utter rubbish” by an election auditor hired by the Arizona Senate, according to the Arizona Mirror — claiming voter fraud occurred during the 2020 election, saying “Democrats are good at cheating. They’ll do anything to win.”
When reached for comment, Maragani did not dispute he was the author of the posts. He declined to comment on his opinion that the 2020 election was stolen.
“I will have to go back through my posts and review context first,” Maragani said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. He did not respond when asked later if he had additional comments.
Democrats have nominated Lannie Chapman, the county’s current chief deputy clerk, to replace outgoing and longtime clerk Sherrie Swensen.
In response to a video purporting to show two women stealing ballots from a mailbox in California, Maragani wrote on Telegram, “Not surprising. This is the problem with 100% mail in voting. It is susceptible to this type of activity.”
He also alleged in a separate Nov. 11, 2021, post, “Most of the cheating issues (adjudication, duplication, etc.) are from mail in ballots. They can’t cheat as much when people vote in person.”
In a section on his campaign website labeled “The Safest Voting Method,” Maragani says there are “advantages and disadvantages” to the different ways to cast a vote in Utah, and that there are considerations for using a drop box or submitting a ballot by mail. He goes on to allege that clerks are not able to ensure drop box ballots will make it to their offices “without being lost or damaged” and ballots sent through the U.S. Postal Service could also be lost, damaged or delayed.
Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, the state’s top election official, has said that there is no evidence of election fraud in Utah’s elections — including the use of vote by mail.
Due to the multiple layers of security used in Utah’s election, Henderson told The Tribune this summer, “Our mail-in ballots, I think, are actually probably one of the most secure ways that we could be administering an election.”
In a post from Dec. 20, 2021, Maragani agreed with another Telegram user who attacked U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for not investigating what “really happened” on Jan. 6 and “who stole the 2020 presidential election.” Maragani suggested McCarthy’s inaction was a piece of some larger conspiracy.
“McCarthy won’t look into those issues. He’s controlled opposition and should never be speaker,” Maragani wrote.
He also posted that Republicans in Congress should impeach the judges overseeing the cases involving Jan. 6 rioters and that the U.S. Attorneys Office in Washington, D.C. should be defunded “until all of the prosecutors involved in these cases are gone.”
In one instance, he directed another user to contact him at his personal email that began with Goud4Utah. In one of his final posts using the account, Maragani used his picture to highlight some upcoming campaign events. The posts end on April 1, 2022, shortly before he won the Salt Lake County GOP’s nomination.
Maragani, who is courting Democrats in his bid to become the first Republican to oversee elections in Salt Lake County in more than 30 years, called them “commies” and “Marxists” in several posts. He also claimed the party is “full of mental cases” and that Democrats were “very involved with human and child trafficking.”
In a response to The Tribune, Goud defended using “commies” and “Marxists” to refer to Democrats.
“This is a fact. Some Democrats have publicly admitted they are communists and call themselves such. I am merely referring to them as they call themselves,” Maragani said.
In an August 2021 post made during the fight over mask mandates, Maragani said state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, favored requiring masks in schools because she’s a Democrat.
“That’s not surprising. She’s a Democrat which means she wants kids masked up because it’s part of their indoctrination program to turn your children into commies like them,” Maragani wrote.
When asked if she had ever referred to herself as a communist or Marxist, Riebe denied Maragani’s accusation.
“No,” Riebe said.
In several posts from last summer, Maragani railed against coronavirus-related mask and vaccine mandates, suggesting teachers who favor such restrictions are “trained Marxists” who “need to be fired.”
In September 2021, after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, he claimed Afghan refugees were being brought to the U.S. to increase the number of Democratic voters. He also said Gov. Spencer Cox and Henderson did not object to bringing those refugees to Utah because they’re Democrats.
“We need to get rid of Cox and his Lt. They’re Democrat infiltrators,” he wrote.
Maragani, whose parents immigrated from India, did not back away from those claims.
“It is well known that most immigrant communities vote for the Democrat Party and that the Democratic Party encourages as much immigration from those countries as possible. Bringing more potential Democrat voters to the U.S. appears to be a major driver for an open southern border,” Maragani alleged.
Maragani told The Tribune he’d deployed with the military to Afghanistan and Syria, and those experiences have shaped his view on refugees.
“I am a gay man and son of immigrants. I still remember how horrified I was in 2016 when the son of an Afghan refugee went into the Pulse nightclub and killed or injured more than 100 people. If you know about the Taliban, their policy for gays is to stone them to death or crush them under a toppled wall. Homophobia is widespread in Afghanistan and many other Muslim countries,” Maragani said.
Salt Lake County Republican Party Chair Chris Null has defended the clerk candidate against suggestions that Maragani held conspiratorial beliefs about the outcome of the 2020 election. He did not respond to questions about whether he endorsed the opinions in Maragani’s Telegram posts.