Joker: Mark Finchem, AZ State Rep, Election-Denier’s Bad Day: Tripled down on Big Lie, badly defeated, duly sanctioned

“If you care about the survival of our republic, we cannot give people power who will not honor elections.”

– Liz Cheney




AZ State Rep. and candidate for AZ Secretary of State Mark Finchem fits the bill – he is clearly someone to whom power should not be given.  Read on:

  • Finchem supported the “Stop the Steal” movement, which falsely claimed that Donald Trump won the election nationally and in Arizona,)
  • called for the Arizona legislature to appoint presidential electors of its own choosing,
  • was one of the chief proponents of the discredited post-election ballot review in Arizona, and 
  • has been endorsed by Trump in his bid for secretary of state, and in that capacity would be responsible for the integrity of Arizona elections and for certifying (or not) the 2024 presidential election.
  • It has also been reported that a business affiliated with Finchem, Mark Finchem PLLC [sic], received $6,037 from the Trump reelection campaign. Finchem [unhelpfully] said the payment was for security costs related to his meeting with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s disbarred enabler-in-chief of the “Stop the Steal” movement.



“Supreme Court rejects Kari Lake, Mark Finchem in machine voting lawsuit, ending legal challenge”

Arizona Republic. No surprise: “Legal experts had predicted the court would not exercise its discretion to add the case to its docket, citing well-established legal precedent and the court’s low acceptance rate.” Moreover:

“U.S. District Judge John Tuchi dismissed their claims and what he called their “frivolous complaint” in Aug. 2022, saying they did not have standing — a legal precedent that requires an individual who files a case is directly impacted by the conduct they are suing over. Tuchi later ordered their legal team to pay six figures in sanctions to deter “similarly baseless suits in the future.” 

“The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October upheld Tuchi’s ruling and agreed the case rested on hypotheticals. The case was funded by Mike Lindell, founder of MyPillow and a fervent ally of Trump who promotes false claims that elections are rigged.”


A Trump ally is ready to come clean on Georgia’s fake electors. You listening, Kris Mayes?

Opinion: Prosecutors in Georgia and Michigan are putting the screws to their fake electors and election schemers. AG Kris Mayes should follow their lead.

Laurie Roberts

Arizona Republic
October 20, 2023
Well, well, well.

A key figure in the fake elector scheme took a plea deal in Georgia on Friday, agreeing to come clean about his part in the conspiracy to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Are you seeing this, Attorney General Kris Mayes?

Trump-aligned lawyer Kenneth Chesebro wrote memos detailing how Republicans could send false slates of presidential electors to Congress in an attempt to give Donald Trump the win or at least delay the Jan. 6, 2021, certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

According to his Fulton County, Ga., indictment, one of his memos “provides detailed, state-specific instructions for how Trump presidential elector nominees in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would meet and cast electoral votes” for Trump, even though he lost the election in those states.

Chesebro, who is pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit filing false documents, on Friday agreed to testify at any future trials of his fellow co-conspirators. He also agreed to turn over all emails and text messages to the district attorney’s office.

What does Chesebro know about Arizona?

[Boldface added]

Have got your plane ticket to Atlanta yet, AG Mayes?

It might be interesting to see what light Chesebro can shed on Arizona’s 11 fake electors.

Specifically, how they came to be meeting at state Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, signing documents falsely claiming to be “duly elected and qualified” to cast Arizona’s electoral votes for the guy who didn’t win.

How these “patriots” — including two who are now state senators (Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern), the now-former chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party (Kelli Ward) and a top executive with Turning Point USA (Tyler Bowyer) — came up with the same wild idea that just coincidentally occurred to Republicans in six other swing states won by Biden.

Or how, even as those phonies were meeting in Phoenix to cast their non-existent votes for Trump, across town a group of Republican legislators were signing a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Congress urging them to accept those “alternate” electoral votes.

Or how then-Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the state’s loudest stop the stealers, hand carried the lawmakers’ request to Washington on Jan. 5, 2021, putting it into the hands of one of Trump’s strongest acolytes on Capitol Hill, Rep. Andy Biggs.

Or how Biggs, along with Reps. Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko, then voted the next day to reject Arizona’s legitimate electoral votes.

[Boldface added]

Where does Mayes’ investigation’ stand?

This wasn’t just 11 local Arizona rubes who decided on a whim to protest Biden’s win by casting a symbolic electoral vote for Trump.

This was a carefully planned scheme, meticulously coordinated — from the seeds of doubt deeply planted to erode trust in our elections to the fake electors who were part of a plot to steal the vote in Arizona and other swing states to the storming of the nation’s Capitol to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

And certain Arizonans appear to be in on it up to their eyeballs.

Fake electors:Had a cast of characters helping them

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear what Chesebro might know about that?

Mayes vowed during last year’s campaign to investigate Arizona’s fake electors. She reportedly assigned a team of prosecutors to the investigation in May. Dan Barr, Mayes’s chief deputy, in July told the Washington Post the investigation was in the “fact-gathering” phase.Since then, we’ve heard nothing.

Michigan is bringing charges. What about us?

Meanwhile, in Michigan, one of that state’s 16 fake electors this week agreed to testify against his fellow phonies in return for dismissal of eight felony counts, including forgery and conspiracy to publish a false statement.

The Michigan 16, just like the Arizona 11, met at their state GOP headquarters and signed documents stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.”

“That was a lie … and each of the defendants knew it,” Michigan prosecutors said, in their charging documents.

The Michigan fake elector whose charges were dismissed has agreed to “cooperate fully” with the AG’s office, agreeing to testify at trial and key hearings and provide investigators with “any and all relevant documents.”

Michigan in July became the first state to bring charges against the fake electors.

It shouldn’t be the last.

Simply put, Arizona’s fake electors and their co-conspirators tried to steal our vote.

There should be a penalty for that.

AG Mayes, I hear Atlanta is nice this time of year.

A reasonable concept from unreasonable people
Hank Stephenson
July 12, 2023
The Arizona Agenda
Back in March 2021, then-lawmaker Mark Finchem invited a company called Authentix to showcase its proposed “counterfeit-proof” ballot paper to a crew of maskless lawmakers in the poorly-ventilated state House of Representatives basement.Cochise County Recorder David Stevens provided Authentix a blank Cochise County ballot to mock-up with watermarks, QR codes and other counterfeit-prevention tools. Lawmakers who showed up to bask in the glow of watermark-illuminating blacklights¹loved the idea, as reporterJulia Shumway detailed in the Yellow Sheet Report at the time.Yesterday, after more than two years of small, incremental steps, Stevens was poised to finally launch the Legislature’s test program for counterfeit-proof ballots, which Finchem has championed as a way to stop his imagined “injection” of fake ballots in Pima County that he erroneously believes swung the 2020 election in Arizona against Donald Trump

But the plan was thwarted, at least temporarily, by county supervisors, who noted Stevens hadn’t followed protocol or met conditions of the grant that was seemingly designed just for him and forthe company that would create the ballots, as the Washington Post detailed earlier this year. (However, two companies ultimately bid on the project: Authentix, which has no experience in elections, and the California-based Pro Vote Solutions, which does have experience in electionsand appears to be cheaper.)

The Republican-controlled board was surprised to learn yesterday that Stevens had already spent some of the funds, considering they didn’t approve the spending and the request for proposal specifically says they must approve all vendors. And they questioned whether the grant funds were even still available, as the project was supposed to be completed more than two months ago, per the special budget provision lawmakers wrote. Stevens assured them that he had spoken with an unnamed person at the Legislature who said the delay — which Stevens pinned on the company’s inability to purchase paper — was no problem. 

But supervisors were not convinced. They postponed the decision of whether to enter into contracts for two weeks, saying Stevens will have to show them the grant is still available.

“I haven’t seen anything in writing that (the deadline) has been extended. Word of mouth doesn’t count,” Supervisor Ann English said.

But the plan that supervisors temporarily foiledhas been a long time in the making, and Stevens isn’t likely to give up so easily. 

After the Covid-friendly Authentix blacklight presentation in the House basement, Finchem and friends sponsored legislation attempting to mandate the state switch to the new prototype ballots by Authentix, despite pleas from elections officials who cautioned the whole idea was half-baked. 

Adopting the new “counterfeit-proof” ballot paper would require not only new tabulation machines, but also a way to test as many as 19 anti-counterfeit markings on the ballots, which counties do not have, they warned. Experts debatejust how secure the ballots would be, and they are quick to note that counterfeit ballots are not a thing anyway.

The bill to mandate using the far more expensive counterfeit-proof ballots ultimately failed. But Finchem and crew managed to slip a $12 million appropriation into the FY2022 state budget to open the door for Authentix. The “Election Integrity Fund” they set up was originally set to pay for things like the kind of post-election hand recounts that Cochise and others have attempted to do. The next year, lawmakers diverted $1 million of that money to “one or more” county recorders to test new counterfeit-proof ballots. 

Stevens is an affable, low-key inside player for the Stop the Steal movement who has helped push the county further into election skepticism. He and Finchem are old friends and Stevens serves as the director of Finchem’s nebulous election integrity nonprofit. Since Finchem failed to win his race for secretary of state, the Cochise County crew — including Stevens, the county’s Republican supervisors and new election-conspiracy-spreading elections directorBob Bartelsmeyer — represent the Stop the Steal movement’s beachhead into election administration in Arizona. 

This is the same group of great minds who attempted to not certify the 2022 election, then attempted to conduct a full hand recount of the county’s election until a judge shot them down. The county is still appealing.

But the truth is, we don’t see anything wrong with adding additional security measures to ballots — except, of course, that the whole goal of the people pushing for it is to reinforce the erroneous belief that counterfeit ballots are a problem and then fundraise off of it. Other states require watermarks and other money-like anti-counterfeit features, and Arizona could too.

However, as far as we’re concerned, any project that involves Finchem, Stevens and their hand-picked vendor has zero credibility and deserves detailed financial scrutiny. The board of supervisors made the responsible decision, for once, in questioning and postponing the contract. They should continue their good-judgment streak and pull the plug on this project entirely.


“‘Furthering false narratives’: Lake, Finchem lawsuit draws sanction order from judge”

Arizona Republic:

In a blistering 30-page opinion, a federal judge ordered sanctions against the attorneys of Kari Lake and Mark Finchem in their lawsuit against voting machines, hoping to deter “similarly baseless suits in the future.”

Lake and Finchem, Trump-endorsed Republicans who failed in their bids for governor and secretary of state, filed suit in April in an attempt to block Maricopa and Pima counties from using any electronic device to cast or count votes. They asked the court to order the counties to require paper ballots and conduct a hand count of all the ballots cast.

U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi dismissed the suit in August, calling it full of “conjectural allegations of potential injuries.”

Before the dismissal, the five members of the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — the defendants in the case — had asked for sanctions for the “numerous false allegations about Arizona elections” the candidates and their attorneys made in their federal complaint.


Election denier Finchem defeated in Arizona secretary of state race



The Associated Press called the race on Friday night, soon after projecting a win for incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in the Grand Canyon State.

Finchem frequently echoed former President Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud, making them a central focus of his campaign to be Arizona’s top election official.

The Republican candidate, who was endorsed by Trump, was also seen outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in footage uncovered in June of that year.

Finchem was one of several election deniers vying for secretary of state roles across the country, leading to concerns about potential impacts on the 2024 election. Another election denier, Kristina Karamo, also lost in her bid to be Michigan’s secretary of state.


Election Denier Mark Finchem Projected to Lose AZ Secretary of State Race to Adrian Fontes

AZ Republic:

Adrian Fontes wasn’t popping the champagne corks just yet.

Minutes after being projected as the winner of Arizona’s secretary of state race on Friday night, he said he accepted the conclusion as ‘the media’s best estimation.”

But he was quick to add that the official determination will be made when all of the votes are properly and fully counted, a process that could take another week or so.

“I meant it when I said I respect the process,” a measured Fontes said minutes after being named the unofficial winner by The Associated Press, NBC News and CNN.

A Democrat and former Maricopa County recorder, Fontes built his campaign around a defense of the state’s electoral system, which he said has withstood the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. He oversaw the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, which became the epicenter of conspiracy theories that the vote was rigged to hand Joe Biden the win.

His campaign was a sharp contrast to that of Republican Mark Finchem, a Trump-endorsed candidate who has denied the results of the 2020 election and suggested that he would not accept the results of the secretary of state race if he found the “slightest suggestion of impropriety.”

On Friday, Finchem wrote on social media that “the media does not decide elections, the voters do.”

Fontes said he will wait for the voters’ official decision, but expressed optimism in a positive outcome for his campaign.

“I hope this projection sticks and I plan to be a solid secretary of state for every Arizonan, not just for those who share my party affiliation,” Fontes said in a brief interview.


“Election denier Mark Finchem’s sleeper campaign closes in on MAGA prize; The Oath Keeper hoping to run Arizona’s elections is getting outspent 40 to 1 and makes few press or campaign appearances. He still might pull it off.”

The question is most urgent in Arizona, where two of the former president’s loyalists may well become governor and secretary of state.

The Times On Politics newsletter, a guide to the political news in Washington and across the nation

It’s a nightmare scenario for American democracy: The officials in charge of certifying an election refuse to do so, setting off a blizzard of litigation and possibly a constitutional crisis.

And there are worrying signs that the fears of independent scholars, Democrats and a few anti-Trump Republicans could become a reality. We could soon be in legal terra incognita, they said — like the days when medieval cartographers would write “Here Be Dragons” along the unexplored edges of world maps.

“It would be completely unprecedented,” said Nathaniel Persily, an elections expert at Stanford University. “I hate to be apocalyptic,” he added, but the United States could be headed for the kind of electoral chaos that “our system is incapable of handling.”

In Arizona, Kari Lake, a charismatic former television anchor, and Mark Finchem, a state lawmaker, have a very good chance of becoming governor and secretary of state. Both are ardent supporters of Donald Trump and his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

On Friday, a group sponsored by Representative Liz Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the House committee investigating the Capitol assault, put $500,000 behind a television and digital ad that underscores the alarm some anti-Trump Republicans share about Lake and Finchem.

“If you care about the survival of our republic, we cannot give people power who will not honor elections,” Cheney says in the ad. “We must have elected officials who honor that responsibility.”

Another reason for the worries about Arizona in particular: Unlike in other states where Trump has promoted election-denying candidates, several of the politicians who pushed back on his calls to overturn the 2020 results will be gone.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who resisted Trump’s efforts in 2020, is leaving office after his term is up, as is Attorney General Mark Brnovich, an ally in that opposition. Rusty Bowers, who as the Republican speaker of the State House stood with Ducey and Brnovich, lost his primary this year for a State Senate seat. And even Brnovich, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against another election denier, Blake Masters, has shifted his tone about the 2020 election.

“Ducey was a little bit of a moderating factor,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic Party’s leading election lawyer. But Ducey was also “willing to tolerate a lot of crazy,” Elias added.

The governor is backing Lake, as is the Republican Governors Association, actions that Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist whose group is spending at least $3 million in Arizona opposing Lake and Finchem, called “despicable.” Longwell said that Lake was especially dangerous because of her ability to “talk normal to the normies and crazy to the crazies.”

What could happen if Lake and Finchem win?

The most worrisome scenario, several nonpartisan experts said, is that Finchem and Lake might refuse to fulfill the traditionally ceremonial act of “canvassing” the results of a presidential election under Arizona law, or that the governor could refuse to sign the required “certificate of ascertainment” that is then sent to Washington.

Elias’s firm, which has grown to nearly 80 lawyers, would then have to decide whether to sue in state or federal court, or perhaps both, depending on which path was more relevant. But he acknowledged some uncertainty about how that litigation might play out.

One new factor in 2024 may be an overhauled Electoral Count Act, which is expected to pass Congress after the midterms. It would create a new panel of three federal judges who would rule on election-related lawsuits, with appeals going directly to the Supreme Court. Proponents say the new panel would allow disputes to be adjudicated more quickly.

“It’s not actually all that easy to anoint the loser of an election the winner,” cautioned David Becker, the director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonpartisan group.

“The one exception to that is the presidential election,” Becker said, in which there’s an opportunity for a “corrupt individual” to send a slate of electors to Washington that does not reflect the will of voters. If the national Electoral College results were close, a protracted dispute in Arizona could hamper Congress from rapidly determining the overall winner.

But Becker said he was more worried about the prospect for political violence fueled by uncertainty than he was about the integrity of the legal system.

Neither Lake nor Finchem responded to questions. Finchem has said he would certify the next election “as long as all lawful votes are counted and all votes cast are under the law,” while failing to specify what he means by “lawful.” Finchem has also said that he couldn’t imagine President Biden winning.

Secretaries of state also have enormous power over elections, though it’s county officials that actually run them.

To take just one recent example: Finchem and Lake both support a return to hand-counting ballots, which election experts say would introduce more errors and uncertainty into the process.

One rural Arizona county controlled by Republicans, Cochise County, initially planned to count every vote in the midterms by hand — only to back down when Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state who is running for governor against Lake, threatened to sue.

In neighboring Nevada, another G.O.P.-controlled county’s plan to count ballots by hand is on hold after the State Supreme Court ruled the process illegal. The Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, then ordered the hand-counting process to “cease immediately.” Her possible successor, the Trump-backed Jim Marchant, might have acted differently.

One of the Arizona secretary of state’s chief tasks is assembling the elections procedures manual that, once approved by the governor and the attorney general, is distributed to county and local officials. Brnovich refused to accept the 2021 manual proposed by Hobbs, so the state has been using the 2019 edition.

The manual is limited to the confines of Arizona election law. But Finchem could tinker with the rules regarding the approval of voter registration, or ballot drop boxes, in ways that subtly favor Republicans, said Jim Barton, an election lawyer in Arizona. He could also adjust the certification procedure for presidential elections.

“You can imagine a lot of mischief with all the nitty-gritty stuff that nobody pays attention to,” said Richard Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Looming over all this is a Supreme Court case on elections that is heading to oral arguments this fall.

The justices are expected to rule on a previously obscure legal theory called the independent state legislature doctrine. Conservatives argue that the Constitution granted state legislatures, rather than secretaries of state or courts, the full authority to determine how federal elections are carried out; liberals and many legal scholars say that’s nonsense.

If the court adopts the most aggressive version of the legal theory, Persily noted, it could raise questions about the constitutionality of the Electoral Count Act, adding a new wrinkle of uncertainty.

“My hair is on fire” to an even greater degree than it was in 2020, said Hasen, who published a prescient book that year called “Election Meltdown.”


“Arizona GOP secretary of state nominee stands by election conspiracy theories in debate”


Arizona Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem doubled down on the conspiracy theories that he has espoused about the 2020 presidential election in a debate against Democrat Adrian Fontes Thursday night, asserting that the votes in several key Arizona counties should have been “set aside” even though there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 contest.

“There are certain counties that should have been set aside as irredeemably compromised — 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 that called for decertifying the 2020 election results in three Arizona counties — even though legal experts say there is no legal mechanism to do so. “We have so many votes outside of the law that it begs the question, what do we do with an election where we have votes that are in the stream, which should not be counted?”

Finchem, a Republican state representative in Arizona, was endorsed by Donald Trump in September of 2021 after becoming one of the most vocal supporters of the former President’s lies about the 2020 presidential election. Trump is supporting a broad array of election deniers vying for office in November as he continues his unrelenting campaign to undermine and subvert the 2020 results.

Finchem is one of at least 11 Republican nominees running for state elections chief who have questioned, rejected or tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, as CNN’s Daniel Dale chronicled last month — a trend that has alarmed election experts and increasingly drawn the notice of the public.


The battle over ‘the big lie’

This November, voters will decide the future of American elections. Arizona is ground zero


Political machines of the past have dominated elections in certain American cities for periods of time, doling out patronage and making local deals to hold onto the levers of power; think Tammany Hall in 19th century New York or the Chicago Democratic machine for most of the 1900s. But today’s movement to seize control of national elections is unprecedented in scope, and perhaps more reminiscent of the maneuvers used by democratically elected strongmen in countries like Hungary, whose authoritarian president, Viktor Orban, headlined the recent CPAC conference.

“We haven’t had to worry before, at least in modern American history, that election administrators might not run elections fairly, and might try to subvert the results to benefit one side or another,” says Rick Hasen, director of UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project and one of the country’s foremost experts on election law. “But that’s now a real threat that’s on the table. And we’re gonna have to figure out how to address it.” 

The strategy is reshaping state and local campaigns in curious ways. Beyond prominent offices like governors and legislators — whose influence is a little more obvious — certain down-ballot races are drawing a higher profile than ever, precisely because they play a role in election integrity. And because the emphasis is on loyalty to the former president, some candidates have resumes that might seem surprising. 

campaign ad for the Republican candidate for Arizona secretary of state offers an interesting case study. On screen, he slides on a white cowboy hat — posturing as a man of action — over wire-framed glasses and a bushy mustache. Ads are rare this far down the ballot, but this man is lucky enough to let a former president speak for him. “He is tough as hell,” Trump says. “Mark Finchem had the courage to hold the hearings that led to the Arizona audit,” a voiceover artist adds. “Mark Finchem is the election integrity fighter we need, now.” 

A member of the Arizona House since 2015, Finchem is also a member of Oath Keepers, a nationwide militia. As of this writing, that group’s leader and seven other members were awaiting trial in federal court on seditious conspiracy charges, among others, for their alleged role in the insurrection of January 6, 2021. At least three more had already pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say the group kept a “death list” of officials who oversaw the Georgia elections in 2020, which Trump lost, and brought explosives to Washington, D.C., for potential use during the uprising. Finchem was there, too, photographed among the mob at the Capitol steps and tweeting a photo of his own. That same month, he posted a “treason watch list” on his Pinterest account featuring Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano and other prominent Democrats. On his website, a banner declares: “Sign the petition to decertify and set aside AZ electors.” 

The Arizona Republican Party’s Anti-Democratic Experience

First, it turned against the establishment. Now it has set its sights on democracy – the principles, the process and even the word itself.

By Robert Draper

August 15, 2022

The most telling among Trump’s Arizona endorsements is that of the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, whom Trump has described in an official statement as “a true warrior” who took an “incredibly powerful stance on the Massive Voter Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election Scam.” Indeed, Finchem, as a state representative, was one of Arizona’s first public officials to baselessly claim that the state’s voting machines had been corrupted in Biden’s favor. At a candidate forum I attended in mid-July, Finchem disclosed to the audience that he had charged $5,000 to his personal American Express card to rent out a Phoenix hotel conference room where, on Nov. 30, 2020, he and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani staged a multihour presentation to Finchem’s fellow state legislators of supposed fraud in Arizona, even as state officials were certifying the election for Biden a few miles away. As secretary of state, Finchem would be Arizona’s top election official during a potential rematch of Trump and Biden in 2024 and could work to invalidate the results, which the current secretary of state, the Democrat Katie Hobbs, now running for governor, refused to do in 2020.The enmeshment of Finchem and other Arizona Republicans in the tumultuous final weeks of Trump’s presidency is remarkable in its depth and complexity. On Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, Representative Paul Gosar conceived the first protest of the results anywhere in the United States, marching to the Maricopa County recorder’s office in Phoenix, where the ballots were still being tallied. Joining Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell in a postelection lawsuit seeking to invalidate Arizona’s results, on the factually unsupported grounds that “old-fashioned 19th-century ballot stuffing” had occurred there, was the Phoenix lawyer Alexander Kolodin, who on primary night won a seat in the State Legislature (no Democrat will oppose him in the general election). As the flurry of Arizona lawsuits failed one by one, the state’s G.O.P. chairwoman, Ward — who had also filed an unsuccessful election lawsuit — maintained a weekslong pressure campaign against the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to throw out the results, saying in one ominous text message (among many that were obtained by The Arizona Republic), “I know you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who led the charge to certify a fraudulent election.”
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Two weeks after the Nov. 30 election-fraud hearing convened by Finchem and Giuliani, while state officials were certifying the Arizona results, the official state G.O.P. Twitter account posted a video of Ward and 10 other Republicans signing documents falsely proclaiming themselves to be the state’s electors and declaring the election results illegitimate. Among the phony electors were three Republicans who would later appear on the 2022 primary ballot: the U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon and the State Senate candidates Anthony Kern and Jake Hoffman. (Lamon was defeated by Masters; Kern and Hoffman won.) This fake-elector scheme had been in the works for over a month and involved Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who in emails obtained by The Washington Post urged two Arizona lawmakers, Speaker Rusty Bowers and State Representative Shawnna Bolick, to “take action to ensure that a clean slate of electors is chosen.”When that maneuver also failed to bear fruit, several Arizona Republicans joined with Trump in attempting a final desperate postelection measure. On Dec. 21, 2020, Gosar and his fellow Arizona congressman Andy Biggs, then the head of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, were among a group of G.O.P. House members who met with Trump in the White House to discuss actions including calling on Vice President Mike Pence to decertify the election results unilaterally. Two weeks later, on Jan. 5, 2021, 16 Arizona legislators — Bolick, Kern and Finchem among them — signed a letter to Pence that was also signed by Republican legislators in four other contested states, urging him to delay certifying the election results for 10 days. Pence refused to do so, and on Jan. 6, Kern and Finchem were among the Arizonans who descended on the Capitol. Finchem photographed the riotous mob and posted it on Twitter with the caption, “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”As a result of their involvement in Trump’s efforts to steal back the presidency, Finchem, Ward, Biggs and other Arizona Republicans have been issued subpoenas by the Jan. 6 committee. (Though Ward taunted Democrats last year for their resistance to the State Senate audit in Arizona — “What are they hiding?” she demanded at the time — she has since sued to block the committee from obtaining her cellphone records.) Back home in Arizona, however, they have faced no reprisals within their party. Far from it: Their willingness to assist Trump in overturning the 2020 election was rewarded across the boards on primary night.There was no mystery as to why. According to a state survey of Arizona voters last year, 61 percent of Republicans believed the 2020 election “was stolen from President Trump.” Perhaps not by coincidence, the G.O.P. primary candidates who spoke the most vociferously about fraud in the 2020 elections were those like Kari Lake and Blake Masters, who were not in Trump’s trenches back then and now had to work overtime to prove themselves fit for combat against the enemy.At the event held in Prescott by the Lions of Liberty, I asked Rose Sperry, the G.O.P. state committeewoman, which information outlet she most trusted. She immediately replied, “OAN” — One America News, the Trump-touting network that provided daily coverage of “America’s Audit” in Arizona even as one of its show hosts, Christina Bobb, was helping to raise funds for and directly coordinate the operation between the Trump team and state officials.One guest on OAN’s heavy rotation over the past year has been the secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, who appeared on a broadcast last September to discuss the State Senate audit of the 2020 election, accompanied by a chyron that read, “Exposing the Crime of the Century.” In July, I drove to Fountain Hills, where Finchem was speaking at a candidate forum hosted by the Republican Women of the Hills. Finchem sidled up to the microphone with a pistol conspicuously strapped to his right hip. After describing his work history in law enforcement, the private sector and Arizona politics, he then offered a different sort of qualification. With a grin, Finchem said, “The Atlantic put out a piece yesterday: I’m the most dangerous person to democracy in America.”The article Finchem was referring to did not designate him “the most dangerous person” — but rather as one of “dozens” of election-denying candidates who “present the most significant threat to American democracy in decades.” Regardless, the notion of Arizona’s G.O.P. secretary of state front-runner as a threat to democracy was received rapturously. Several women in the audience yelled out “Whooo!” and applauded.

The Bannon Strategy  (Steve Bannon’s Man in Arizona)

Fringe candidates promising to stop the steal, like Mark Finchem in Arizona, might just have their year.

You’d think that by now, Mark Finchem would be tired of subverting American democracy. For nearly two years, the Arizona state lawmaker has pushed Donald Trump’s stolen-election lies everywhere he possibly can—QAnon talk shows, Steve Bannon’s podcastoutside the U.S. Capitol building on January 6—and all with the dutiful enthusiasm of a Boy Scout. Despite the lack of any evidence, Finchem has continued to assert that Trump, not Joe Biden, won the 2020 election. This claim has been the bedrock of Finchem’s campaign for Arizona secretary of state.

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Finchem, who wears a cowboy hat and bolo tie despite having spent most of his life in Michigan, is not destined to win. He leads the Republican primary, but the party’s voters are still mostly undecided, and he could be a tough sell for independents in a general election. Still, Finchem’s candidacy is one to watch. He and the dozens of other election-denying candidates running across the country are the electoral legacy of January 6 in America. They present the most significant threat to American democracy in decades. And despite the expected electoral hurdles, this might just be their year.

If you’re a hard-right Republican, now “is the time to be running,” the Arizona pollster Mike Noble told me. Biden’s poll ratings, even among Democrats, are plummeting, and the president’s party typically loses ground in midterm elections. “The red wave’s a-comin’—and a lot of people will be able to surf in [to office] who are typically on the fringe,” Noble said. Which means that Finchem, the man who brought the “Stop the Steal” movement to Arizona, might soon be in charge of this swing state’s elections.

After working for 21 years in the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Finchem moved to Arizona, where he was elected in 2014 to the state’s House of Representatives to represent a rural district north of Tucson. In his adopted state, Finchem is well known for his distinct home-on-the-range vibes: thick mustache, conservative policy views, and an abiding distrust of the federal government. For a while, he was the Arizona coordinator for the Coalition of Western States, a group that supported the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, and he’s identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group. But what has earned the lawmaker statewide name recognition—and the attention of the broader MAGA movement—has been his dedication to the Stop the Steal cause. (Finchem did not respond to requests for comment.)

Finchem was present for the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. He tweeted that the riot was “what happens when the People feel ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.” Although Finchem has denied being closer than 500 yards to the Capitol building that day, photos appear to show him standing in the crowd just outside its east steps right after Trump supporters had stormed it. Ali Alexander, the founder of the Stop the Steal campaign, has credited Finchem for single-handedly bringing the antidemocratic movement to Arizona. After the state certified Biden’s win over Trump in 2020, and after subsequent official audits confirmed that result, Finchem and other local Trump allies insisted that there was—there had to be—evidence of widespread fraud. He held firm, even after the partisan review he’d supported turned up nothing. He started posting his theories on MAGA social-media sites such as Gab, where he goes by the username @AZHoneyBadger. He appeared on a number of far-right programs, including more than 80 times on Bannon’s War Room podcast alone, to warn of election-fraud bombshells that never seem to actually explode. Bannon, a former Trump adviser, credits his show with Finchem’s rise: “He was almost like a contributor to War Room for a moment,” Bannon told me. “War Room made him a thing.”

Unsurprisingly, Finchem has secured Trump’s endorsement. During his campaign for secretary of state, Finchem has continued to call for the 2020 election to be decertified, and has advocated for laws that he says would make future elections more secure, co-sponsoring legislation that would allow lawmakers to reject election results, and that would restrict early and mail-in voting. (Finchem opposes early voting, despite having voted early in almost every election since 2004, according to The Arizona Republic.) He also recently filed a lawsuit with the gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake—also endorsed by Trump—to ban the use of electronic voting machines and require that all ballots be counted by hand.
“If we don’t get to the bottom of the fraud that was committed in 2020, it will be pervasive in ’22, ’24, [and] ’26,” Finchem told an interviewer from a right-wing website last month, during an unofficial hearing about the thousands of supposed “counterfeit ballots” submitted in 2020. Americans believe “that we have compromised elections in every state and every county,” Finchem said.

Hundreds of people have emerged from the proverbial political woodwork since 2020 to attach themselves to the fever dreams of a sore loser. Arizona has a passel of these Stop the Steal candidates and politicians, including Lake, who has called Biden an “illegitimate president”; State Senator Wendy Rogers, who encouraged people to “buy more ammo” as Arizona electors were casting their ballots in 2020; and state GOP leader Kelli Ward, who was recently subpoenaed as part of a federal investigation into fake slates of electors convened by the Trump campaign in 2020. But the trend is hardly limited to the Grand Canyon State. Finchem is part of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of election deniers running for the job in a dozen states. Four members of that slate have earned their party’s nomination this year, including Kristina Karamo in Michigan, whom I wrote about last month. Doug Mastriano, who is also part of the coalition, won the GOP’s nomination for governor this year in Pennsylvania and can appoint the secretary of state once in office.

Finchem’s is one among many once-minor (or at least less partisan, less politicized, and less well-financed) state races that have become the target of Trump allies nationwide. And the effort extends to far more junior positions too. Election deniers across America are running to be poll workers and precinct officers and county clerks, positions that have never before received so much attention. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct,” Bannon announced on his podcast last year.

The goal, broadly speaking, is to continue investigating the 2020 election and, in some cases, even to attempt to “decertify” 2020 state results, a move that has no legal basis. What’s the harm in asking questions? candidates like Finchem and the others argue when criticized. We’re protecting future elections! But their investigations only serve to breathe more and more oxygen into conspiracy theories that undermine confidence in American democracy. “There is harm,” Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, a private foundation working to improve the democratic process in the U.S., told me, “if they refuse to accept the answer.”

Finchem is up against three other primary candidates, and although he has a small lead in recent polling, most Arizona voters are still undecided. (Early voting began in Arizona last week.) Winning a general election would be tough. Even if he does end up in office, some Republicans argue that he wouldn’t pose a risk to democracy. As secretary of state, “he’d follow the law. He may want the law to be different, but he’d follow it,” Chuck Warren, a state GOP strategist, told me. Despite his reputation as a fringy kook, Finchem has integrity, some of his allies told me. He “has dedicated a good part of his life to protecting and serving the public,” says Teresa Martinez, a colleague of Finchem’s in the state House.

But Finchem has spent two solid years trafficking in lies. He’s demonstrated that, through ignorance or cynicism, he is not willing to prioritize the truth over the wild claims of a man desperate for power. Again and again—and mostly on the condition of anonymity—other state Republican advisers and strategists told me that they dread the idea of Finchem in an election-oversight role. In a tight vote, “I would absolutely expect Finchem to both bend the meaning of laws and throw up roadblocks to the normal election procedures,” Barrett Marson, an Arizona GOP consultant, told me.

A nightmare scenario in 2024 isn’t hard to conjure: As secretary of state, Finchem could try to muddy the waters after an election outcome that he or Trump didn’t like by delaying or undermining the election-certification process. If the governor or attorney general shared his desire, they could decide not to certify the election. Arizona on its own might not be enough to tip a general election—Biden would still have won if this scenario had played out in 2020—but if leaders in other states, say Michigan and Pennsylvania, do the same, the election outcome could be subverted.

The midterms will be the first major elections held since Trump lost in 2020. They will test how Americans feel about the sore losers who have spent almost two years crying conspiracy and fraud—and whether this precinct strategy to undermine the country’s democratic system was worth the effort. Will November’s results signal a return to simpler times, when candidates with fewer votes accepted defeat? Or will the midterms confirm that we have entered a new era of postelection doubt-casting and lie-peddling?

Americans’ freedom begins with secretaries of state, Finchem said during the interview at the hearing last month. “This has been the most overlooked office for years, but that’s how they got away with it,” he told the interviewer. “It was supposed to be boring—vanilla. Not so much so anymore.”

Elaine Godfrey is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
Trump-Backed Conspiracy Theorist Vies to Take Over Arizona Elections

Mark Finchem, a full-throated MAGA warrior, is a leading contender to be Arizona’s next secretary of state. He has said he won’t concede if he loses.

This article is part of our Midterms 2022 Daily Briefing


PHOENIX — This spring, Mark Finchem traveled to Mar-a-Lago for the premiere of a documentary advancing the specious notion that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from President Donald J. Trump by an army of leftists stuffing drop boxes with absentee ballots. As a state representative and candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, Mr. Finchem was a minnow among the assembled MAGA stars, the likes of Rudolph W. Giuliani and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

But he still got his face time.

“President Trump took 20 minutes with me,” Mr. Finchem later recounted during a campaign stop. “And he said: ‘I want you to understand something. The Arizona secretary of state race is the most important race in the United States.’”

Arizona, of course, occupies a special place on Mr. Trump’s map of election indignities — as the onetime Republican stronghold where President Biden’s narrow and crucial victory was first called by, of all networks, Fox News. Should Mr. Trump run again in 2024, a friendly secretary of state, as administrator of the state’s elections, could be in a position to help him avoid a repeat.

Now, as Arizona prepares for its primaries on Tuesday, Mr. Finchem is the candidate of a Trump-backed America First coalition of more than a dozen 2020 election deniers who have sought once-obscure secretary of state posts across the country. While most of them have been considered extremist long shots, a recent poll gave Mr. Finchem an edge in Arizona’s four-way Republican race, though a significant majority of voters are undecided.

Mr. Finchem’s campaign pronouncements are testament to the evolution of the “Stop the Steal” movement: It is as much about influencing future elections as it is about what happened in 2020.

To that end, Mr. Finchem, who has identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia in the past, may be the perfectly subversive candidate. Like his America First compatriots, he seeks, quite simply, to upend voting.

He wants to ban early voting and sharply restrict mail-in ballots, even though the latter were widely popular in Arizona long before the pandemic. He is already suing to suspend the use of all electronic vote-counting machines in Arizona, in litigation bankrolled by the conspiracy theorist and pillow tycoon Mike Lindell. And he has co-sponsored a bill that would give the state’s Republican-led legislature authority to overturn election results.

If he loses his own race, Mr. Finchem told a June fund-raiser, “ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy.”

Mr. Finchem did not respond to requests for comment for this article, and one of his lawyers declined to comment. But in a May email he assured Republican supporters that if he had been in office in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.” In the days after the election, he was co-host of an unofficial hearing at a downtown Phoenix hotel where Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, aired bogus stolen-elections claims. He was instrumental in trying to advance a slate of fake Trump electors in Arizona — part of a scheme to overturn the elections in a number of states that is being investigated by the Justice Department — and he is helping gather signatures to petition to decertify the state’s election results, even though that is not legally possible.

Mr. Finchem also marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He has said he did not come closer than 500 yards, but photos have surfaced showing him near the Capitol steps. He is not among the Oath Keepers who have been criminally charged, though he has been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the attack.

Mr. Trump called him “the kind of fighter we need” in his endorsement and invited him to speak at his recent rally in Arizona. In the meantime, the other three Republican candidates for secretary of state, who in Arizona also serves as lieutenant governor, have staked out a range of positions on the 2020 election.

State Representative Shawnna Bolick says she would not have certified President Biden’s 2020 victory, even though it was legally required: “That would’ve been fine,” she said during a debate. “I would have been breaking the law.” The other two candidates — State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Beau Lane, an advertising executive — say they would have followed the law and certified the election.

“I don’t think he’s helping build faith in elections, I think he’s sowing doubt in elections, and that’s not what the secretary of state needs to do,” Mr. Lane said of Mr. Finchem in an interview.

“I do not accept that the election was rigged,” Mr. Lane said, adding that while there were “instances of fraud” that should be prosecuted, he had not seen “evidence of widespread organized fraud that would have changed the outcome.”

A Michigan transplant, Mr. Finchem, 65, has spent more than seven years as a lawmaker from a district outside Tucson, which during a recent visit was a boiling 115-degree valley set amid mountains and cactuses. He has embraced a sun-baked sheriff aesthetic, favoring large cowboy hats that belie his Detroit birthplace, and was the Arizona coordinator for the Coalition of Western States, a group that once supported the armed occupation of federal land in Oregon.

He speaks in sober and serious tones and presents himself as a common-sense family man. When asked about his family life by one interviewer, he said his “kids are all grown and gone” and added that nowadays, “I’m thinking about my grandkids” in battles he takes on.

But his family life has been rocky. He has been married four times and estranged for more than two decades from two adult children, and he does not know their children, family members said. (He also has two stepchildren.)

He talks frequently about his experience as a police officer and firefighter in Kalamazoo, Mich. But personnel records obtained from that city’s Department of Public Safety, which he left in 1999, include this note in his file: “Retired, poor rating, would not rehire.” A department spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. Finchem has raised more than $1.2 million, a considerable amount for a campaign for secretary of state. (Mr. Lane has raised about $1.1 million, while the other two candidates trail significantly behind.) Much of the money has come from out of state — seven of the eight donors who were listed as having donated the $5,300 maximum in his last two campaign filings were from elsewhere. Major donors include Brian T. Kennedy, a past president of the right-wing Claremont Institute, and Michael Marsicano, a former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., who recently lost a Republican congressional primary.

For all that, he has few visible signs of a staff or campaign office. About three-quarters of his expenditures, more than $750,000, have flowed to a Florida political consulting firm run by Spence Rogers, the nephew of Wendy Rogers, an Arizona lawmaker with ties to white nationalists, campaign filings show. A further $53,000, or nearly 5 percent of his total expenditures, have gone to payments to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. (Many other Trump-backed candidates have done likewise, including Kari Lake, Mr. Trump’s favored candidate for Arizona governor, whose campaign has spent more than $100,000 at Mar-a-Lago.)

Mr. Finchem’s handling of donor money has attracted scrutiny. Last year, he sought contributions to a political action committee to help pay for an election hearing. But he directed supporters to send money “to his personal Venmo and PayPal accounts,” rather than to the PAC itself, according to a complaint from a nonprofit group, Campaign for Accountability. State law bars the commingling of political and personal funds. The current secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor, referred the case to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, who did not pursue it further; his office said insufficient cause had been established.

Mr. Finchem limits his media appearances largely to right-wing talk shows; he is a frequent guest on the podcast of the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon. His embrace of conspiracy theories is expansive. He argues that Marxists conspired to manipulate the 2020 election, that people voted with “software that flips votes,” that Mr. Biden is “a fraudulent president.” The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “was a setup,” he said. “The whole thing was a setup.”

Mr. Finchem has also said that Hezbollah is operating camps in Mexico in league with drug cartels and that the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., “has Deep State PSYOP written all over it.” He has embraced QAnon theories, saying that “a whole lot of elected officials” are involved in a pedophile network. He espouses a version of the so-called great replacement theory, saying that “Democrats are trying to import voters” and “want to flood the zone with people who have no right to be here.”

His ceaselessly conspiratorial bent has its fans — but has also opened him up to ridicule. As one trolling commenter on Mr. Finchem’s Facebook page put it: “Mark Finchem KNOWS that each voting machine has a little illegal immigrant inside, and whenever you vote for our precious Eternal President Lord Donald Trump, that illegal immigrant changes your vote to a vote for HUGO CHAVEZ!”

Reginald Bolding, the minority leader of the statehouse and one of two Democratic primary candidates for secretary of state, said that a Finchem victory would “signal that our elections would not be safe and secure and “would be manipulated by party affiliation and outcomes that he wants.”

“I don’t know if Mark Finchem actually believes the things that he says, but they’re not based in reality,” he added.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has endorsed Mr. Lane, as have many in the business community. Mr. Finchem sees in his competitor yet another conspiracy: “Beau Lane is a Democrat Plant,” he recently tweeted. Mr. Lane, for his part, called Mr. Finchem’s plan to stop using vote-counting machines fanciful.

“It’s something that’s logistically impossible in Arizona,” he said. “Maybe you could pull that off in Wyoming or South Dakota or Delaware. But Arizona is one of the top 15 most populous states. And it just makes no sense.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Danny Hakim is an investigative reporter. He has been a European economics correspondent and bureau chief in Albany and Detroit. He was also a lead reporter on the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. 


Legal Effort Expands to Disqualify Republicans as ‘Insurrectionists’

New lawsuits target Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as Mark Finchem, a candidate for Arizona secretary of state, claiming they are barred from office under the 14th Amendment.

By Jonathan Weisman

April 7, 2022


A legal effort to disqualify from re-election lawmakers who participated in events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol expanded on Thursday, when a cluster of voters and a progressive group filed suit against three elected officials in Arizona to bar them under the 14th Amendment from running again.

In three separate candidacy challenges filed in Superior Court in Maricopa County, Ariz., voters and the progressive group, Free Speech for People, targeted Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and State Representative Mark Finchem, who is running for Arizona secretary of state with former President Donald J. Trump’s endorsement.

It was unclear whether the challenges would go anywhere; an initial skirmish, also led by Free Speech for People, failed to block Representative Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy in North Carolina. But they were the latest bids to find a way to punish members of Congress who have encouraged or made common cause with those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In all three suits, the plaintiffs claim that the politicians are disqualified from seeking office because their support for rioters who attacked the Capitol made them “insurrectionists” under the Constitution and therefore barred them under the little-known third section of the 14th Amendment, adopted during Reconstruction to punish members of the Confederacy.

That section declares that “no person shall” hold “any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath” to “support the Constitution,” had then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech for People, said the effort was putting pressure on the Justice Department and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack to take action against individual members of Congress — and to find remedies in court.

“Our goal is to reach a ruling by a competent state tribunal, which of course can be appealed to the highest levels if need be, that these individuals are in fact disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment,” he said. “These are even stronger cases. We’re not going after people who have a tenuous connection to the insurrection.”

James Bopp Jr., a conservative election lawyer who is defending Ms. Greene and Mr. Cawthorn, said the groups ultimately could take action against as many as two dozen Republican lawmakers, hoping to establish some legal precedent for trying to bar Mr. Trump from the presidential ballot in 2024. And with enough test cases, one might succeed.

“Judges do make a difference,” he said.

Mr. Gosar, Mr. Biggs and Mr. Finchem did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The legal fight in the cases has come down to two questions: What is an insurrectionist, and did Congress in 1872 not only grant amnesty to those who supported and fought for the Confederacy but also to those who would take part in future insurrections, effectively nullifying Section 3?

The lawyers bringing the new suits believe they have a stronger case to show that the elected officials in question are insurrectionists.

In the run-up to Jan. 6, Mr. Gosar and Mr. Biggs repeatedly posted the falsehood that Mr. Trump had won the election. Mr. Gosar organized some of the earliest rallies to “Stop the Steal,” the movement to keep Mr. Trump in office, coordinating with Ali Alexander, a far-right activist, and with Mr. Finchem.

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She Defended Democracy. Do Voters Care?

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs might wind up the only person standing between Arizona and the triumph of the Big Lie.

By Elaine Godfrey

FEBRUARY 28, 2022


At this particular moment, the people who are most likely to become Arizona’s next governor are two 52-year-old women who have planted their flags on opposite sides of the battlefield for American democracy. If Lake or another Big Lie–endorsing candidate wins, a 2024 election-subversion scenario is not difficult to conjure:

In two years, Donald Trump runs again for president. He is defeated again, and again, instead of conceding, he accuses Democrats of fraud.

This time, though, the system works in his favor. Trump calls on his allies, newly installed in key election-administration positions in states and cities across the country, to contest the results.

In Arizona, the new Republican secretary of state, Mark Finchem, chooses not to certify the election, and Governor Lake refuses to sign a certificate of ascertainment appointing the winning candidate’s electors.

Instead, she suggests a different slate of electors who will vote for Trump, and they do, sending a certificate of that vote to Congress.

In spite of a wave of legal challenges brought by Democrats, Republican political leaders in other swing states follow suit, setting off a chain of events in which Trump, despite losing, is declared the next president.

Distrust in America’s institutions reaches new heights. Some question whether America remains a democracy. Others cheer.

These are the stakes of Katie Hobbs’s campaign for governor. She’d better hope that Arizona voters understand them.


Republicans have reacted to the state’s leftward drift by stocking the 2022 ballot with conspiracy theorists and extremists.



Just when it seemed Arizona Republicans couldn’t make more of a spectacle, they found another way. 

As the party hardens around its fealty to former President Donald Trump, the GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that’s drifted leftward in recent elections.

The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress last week. 

It isn’t just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim that the November election was stolen. It’s that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now. The state’s congressional delegation features Rep. Paul Gosar, who spoke earlier this year at a conference organized by a white nationalist, and Rep. Andy Biggs, who falsely maintains “we don’t know” who won the presidential election in Arizona. 

State Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the chief proponents of the discredited post-election ballot review in Arizona, has been endorsed by Trump in his bid for secretary of state. And Kari Lake, the former TV anchor who has become a frontrunner for governor, still insists Trump carried the state and said recently that she would not have certified the 2020 election.

With Watkins’ entry into a competitive House race, the rush to the fringe has become so fulsome that one of his more prominent competitors in the GOP primary — a state lawmaker who has publicly praised the Proud Boys extremist group — now looks, in comparison, like a moderate.

All of this comes after state party officials had already censured the state’s sitting governor and other prominent Arizona Republicans deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump. 

“The goalposts keep moving,” said Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor. “It used to be that we got into genuine debates about whether you’re more of a conservative or a moderate. We used to debate over ideology. And now it is how far you can go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. And if you’re unwilling to do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life, if you’ve never voted for a tax increase. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, unfortunately.”

Arizona, in fact, is now fast becoming a full-blown exporter of conspiracies. The recently concluded election “audit” there served as a template for similar partisan ballot reviews in other states. No fewer than five Arizonans, including Watkins and four state lawmakers, are among speakers scheduled to appear at a QAnon-tinged conference in Las Vegas this weekend.

Back home in Arizona, Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign strategist who has used his “War Room” podcast to amplify Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, will be among the featured speakers at the Pima County GOP’s sold-out Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, officials said.

“When I’m out speaking with people, I’m seeing frustration and maybe even some anger,” said Shelley Kais, chairwoman of the Republican Party in Pima County. “I won’t say that the first thing out of people’s mouths is election integrity, but they will say that it’s the No. 1 issue.”

For Republicans, the reason is obvious. Kais said, “If we don’t get elections right, we’ll never be able to do anything else. If we can’t get elections right, it won’t matter about the economy, it won’t matter about national security, it won’t matter about the coronavirus, because we’ll never be able to put anyone in office to change that … I think that’s what people are coming to.”

The wholesale transformation of the state GOP over the course of the year would not be so remarkable if it was happening in an impenetrably red state. But in Arizona, Republican voters only slightly outnumber Democrats and independents. The state went for Joe Biden in November, flipping the state Democratic for the first time in a presidential election since 1996. 

While this was once the state of the late, moderate Republican Sen. John McCain, the GOP saw fit to censure his widow, Cindy McCain — who endorsed Biden — earlier this year. 

It’s possible Watkins will flame out. Stan Barnes, a former state lawmaker and longtime Republican consultant, said, “I don’t think anyone considers him a serious candidate,” casting Watkins as “just part of the circus that is the 2022 election.”

But the idea that the election was stolen is not Watkins’ alone — or anywhere near outside of the mainstream in Republican thinking in Arizona.

“The center is not holding in the political spectrum,” Barnes said. “You need to understand that among Republican primary voters, the concept that President Trump was done wrong in the Arizona election scores very high. It is a very popular opinion, majority opinion, among Republican voters who will turn out in the Republican primary.”

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, there were some indications that Arizona Republicans might pull back. Several thousand GOP voters in the state abandoned the party, re-registering as independents. In the Phoenix area, a group of CEOs took out a full-page ad in The Arizona Republic, writing that “we find the weeks of disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election from the head of the Arizona Republican Party and some elected officials to be reprehensible.”

But the resistance was short-lived. Kelli Ward, the MAGA-proud chair of the Arizona Republican Party who still calls the November election “uncertifiable,” was reelected to her post. Lake has secured Trump’s powerful endorsement, with the former president promising that she “will fight to restore Election Integrity (both past and future!).”

It isn’t as though Republicans in Arizona don’t have other, more established choices. They do. But Matt Salmon, a former House member who was the Republican Party’s nominee for governor in 2002, was running in single digits in the gubernatorial primary field, at 9 percent, according to a poll by Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights last month. The poll had Lake far ahead, with 25 percent support.

In the race to unseat Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Watkins, a former online message board 8chan administrator, has sought to distance himself from QAnon, denying that he is the author of Q writings. Still, he insisted in a Telegram post that Trump remains “the de facto leader of the United States” and that the election was “stolen” from him. He also posted a photograph taken with Lake, saying he had “just had dinner” with her and that “she inspires me with her tenacity and willingness to lead the fight to take back Arizona from do-nothing RINOs.”

In an email, Lake said she does not know Watkins and did not eat dinner with him. She said the homeowner who hosted an event they both attended in the Scottsdale area didn’t know him, either, “as he showed up with another guest.”

“I showed up, took photos with about half of the 75-100 supporters in attendance. Then I spoke and took questions and left. I had nothing to eat and spoke to the man you are referring to for about one minute total time,” Lake wrote.

She added, “I am all for anyone who feels they can contribute to preserving our freedoms and make our communities/state a better place to run for office. Our founders envisioned a country where everyday Americans stepped forward to lead and run for office. That being said, I don’t know anything about his platform or about him.”

The state party did not respond to a request for comment. 

Watkins, in a brief interview Wednesday, maintained he is not Q and has “never posted as Q.” Of his House race, he said his biggest issue is protecting freedom of religion, followed by concerns about elections. He maintains Biden’s victory should be decertified.

He said he is also concerned about coronavirus vaccine mandates.

For some Republicans in Arizona, the party’s ongoing focus on the 2020 election remains a source of concern, after Trump’s rhetoric about “rigged” elections appeared to depress Republican turnout in the Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January, allowing Democrats to win two seats and take control of the Senate.

“I think people are getting tired of hearing it,” said Delos Bond, chair of the Republican Party in Apache County.

In the midterms, he said, “I really think we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot if we just expound on 2020.”

But Bond, whose county went for Biden by more than 30 percentage points in 2020, said he knows that in the broader Republican universe in Arizona, his view is in the extreme minority. Candidates and their strategists know that, too.

“The Republican primary voter base has become tired of being betrayed by campaign-only conservatives — people who run for office saying, ‘I’m going to do all these great, conservative things,’ then get into office and haggle with Democrats over how much more to spend and how much more to give up the principles of the party,” said Rory McShane, a Republican strategist working on House and state races in Arizona. “In the late ‘90s, early 2000s, if you had the faith coalition on board, you had the Republican primary. Now it’s moved further into the coalition built by President Trump.”

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State Rep. Mark Finchem, Kelli Ward among those subpoenaed by House Jan. 6 committee over fake electors plot

By Associated Press

February 15, 2022

PHOENIX (AP) – The House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection subpoenaed six more individuals, including former Trump campaign members and state lawmakers, Tuesday over the efforts to falsely declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election in several swing states.

The panel is seeking testimony and records from the individuals who they say had knowledge of or participated in efforts to send false “alternate electors” in seven of the states President Joe Biden rightfully won.

“The Select Committee is seeking information about efforts to send false slates of electors to Washington and change the outcome of the 2020 election,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said in a statement. “We’re seeking records and testimony from former campaign officials and other individuals in various states who we believe have relevant information about the planning and implementation of those plans.”

The individuals subpoenaed include Michael Roman and Gary Michael Brown, who served as directors for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. The committee believes the two men reportedly promoted allegations of election fraud as well as encouraged state legislators to appoint false slates of electors. Pennsylvania State Rep. Douglas Mastriano and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Laura Cox, were also subpoenaed.

Mastriano, a former Army officer currently seeking Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, was among Trump’s most dedicated supporters during the 2020 campaign. He helped organize and host a four-hour state Senate Republican policy hearing regarding the election on Nov. 25 at a hotel conference room in Gettysburg. It was attended by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump addressed the hearing remotely, claiming during a roughly 11-minute call that the election had been rigged.

Arizonans among those subpoenaed:

Two of the six individuals subpoenaed are from Arizona: State Rep. Mark Finchem and state Republican Party chair Kelli Ward.

Finchem and Ward’s subpoenas came weeks after Arizonans Nancy Cottle and Loraine B. Pellegrino were subpoenaed by the same committee.

According to the official canvass of the November 2020 election by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, Cottle, Pellegrino and Ward would have served as official electors for Trump, had Trump won Arizona’s electoral votes. However, since President Biden carried Arizona, electors for Biden were selected instead. Finchem was not an elector for any of the presidential candidates in the 2020 election.

Two weeks ago, Ward and her husband filed a lawsuit against the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot seeking to block a subpoena of their phone records. Ward and Michael Ward were presidential electors who would have voted for Trump in the Electoral College had he won Arizona. Both signed a document falsely claiming they were Arizona’s true electors, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state. No decisions have been issued in the case.

Messages requesting comment from Ward, Mastriano and Roman were not immediately returned.

“Democracy is a way of life controlled by a working faith in the possibilities of human nature.”

— John Dewey