Mark Finchem: Arizona’s GOP secretary of state candidate is in the running for election conspiracy theories




CNN

Arizona Republican Secretary of State Mark Finchem doubled down on his 2020 presidential conspiracy theories during a debate against Democrat Adrian Fontes on Thursday night, saying votes in several key Arizona counties should be “set aside.” Although there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 contest.

“There are some counties that should be left non-binding — Maricopa County was one of them. Yuma County was one of them,” the Republican state lawmaker said, echoing claims he made in a February resolution calling for the 2020 election results in three Arizona counties to be certified. and legal experts say that there is no legal mechanism for this. “We have so many illegal votes that it begs the question, what do we do with the election, where the votes are in the stream, that don’t need to be counted?”

Finchem, a Republican state representative from Arizona, was endorsed by Donald Trump in September 2021 after becoming one of the most vocal supporters of the former president’s lies about the 2020 presidential election. Trump is endorsing a number of election deniers running for office in November as he continues his relentless campaign to undermine and overturn the 2020 results.

Finchem is one of at least 11 Republican candidates running for state election chief who have questioned, ignored or tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, CNN’s Daniel Dale reported last month, a trend that has alarmed election experts and drawn increasing attention. of the public

His assertions late Thursday — made when a moderator asked him whether he would certify the results for the 2020 presidency — drew sharp rebuke from Fontes, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, who said Finchem had just explained why it would be so dangerous. Responsible for managing and overseeing Arizona’s election systems.

“Our democracy is based on the decisions of thousands of people (Republicans and Democrats) who actually did the work of elections. When we have the conspiracy theories and lies that Mr. Finchem just shared, without any real evidence, what we do is eroding our faith in each other as citizens,” Fontes said. , who previously served as supervisor. Maricopa County Recorder. “The kind of division that we have seen trumpeted by Mr. Finchem, not in fact, based on any evidence, is dangerous to America.”

Fontes was elected Maricopa County recorder in 2016, but was defeated in a 2020 re-election bid after facing criticism for some of the changes he made to the county’s voting systems. Finchem repeatedly criticized his performance in the recorder’s office Thursday night.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, 67 percent of Americans said they believed the nation’s democracy was “at risk of collapse,” a 9-point increase from January.

As Trump considers another bid for the White House, Finchem’s close alliance with the former president has come under scrutiny, as he would be responsible for managing and securing the results of the 2024 presidential election in a key swing state where President Joe Biden narrowly won. More than 11,000 votes.

The office he is seeking is also very important in another party, Arizona, where the secretary of state is second in command to the governor.

Finchem co-sponsored legislation with Arizona Republican lawmakers that would require lawmakers to discard election results and require election workers to count votes by hand instead of using electronic equipment to tabulate the results. He also confirmed without evidence that early voting leads to electoral fraud and questioned whether it is constitutional.

During the 30-minute debate, which was sponsored by the Arizona Citizens’ Fair Election Commission and aired on Arizona’s PBS station, Fontes, a former Marine, repeatedly tried to get Finchem to respond to some of the ideas he has proposed as a lawmaker. reducing the ability to vote by mail.

Finchem countered, arguing that the secretary of state does not set policy: “The secretary of state does not take away people’s ability to vote. That is up to the legislature,” he said.

When a moderator pressed Finchem for an answer on whether he wanted to eliminate mail-in voting, Finchem replied, “It doesn’t matter what I want.”

He later admitted that he “doesn’t care about postal voting. That’s why I’m going to vote.” The Republican legislature has said it supports “absentee ballot” programs, but not programs that are sent to voters who did not request a ballot.

When one of the moderators asked Finchem if the August primary election was fair, Finchem replied that he had “no idea.” When the moderator asked Finchem what had changed between the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 Arizona primary, Finchem replied, “The candidates.”

Asked about the federal government’s role in Arizona’s election, Finchem said he believes the federal government “must deal with it,” adding that the legislature should be “the one to appoint the time, place and manner of the election, not the federal government.” “.

Fontes tried to take Finchem out on some of his controversial associations – including being a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group known as the Oath Keepers – but the Republican legislature was not on board.

CNN’s KFile team found a series of posts by Finchem in which he shared anti-government conspiracy theories, including a Pinterest account with a “Treason Watch List” (including photos of Democratic politicians) and pins of photos of Barack Obama, along with images of one. A man in a Nazi costume doing the Nazi salute.

Fontes also pressed Finchem to explain what he was doing in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.

Finchem took part in the Jan. 6 demonstration that preceded the attack on the US Capitol, although he said he was not involved in the riots. At the time, the Arizona Republic reported that it posted a photo online of the riots on the steps of the Capitol and said the incident was “what happens when the people feel ignored, and Congress refuses to recognize the fraud.”

Fontes accused him of participating in a “violent rebellion” that sought to “overturn the very constitution that holds this nation together.”

Finchem rejected this characterization. “Mr. Fontes has just engaged in complete fiction, the creation of something that didn’t exist,” he said. it’s a lie.”