By Linda Rawles
The last thing you want in a secretary of state is election conspiracism. But that’s the first thing you get in state Rep. Mark Finchem, Republican candidate for Arizona’s secretary of state.
If elected, Finchem would serve as the chief election officer in Arizona. His job would be to certify voting devices, election results, candidates, ballot measures, and the results of statewide elections. In other words, it’s a very important job that ensures our elections in Arizona are conducted well.
Do we really want the person who oversees elections in our state to think, erroneously, that our elections are rife with fraud?
Beyond his responsibility for conducting elections, Finchem would be next in line to succeed the governor in case the governor dies or resigns, just like lieutenant governors in other states. An equally unnerving proposition.
Finchem is part of a coalition of self-described “America First” secretary of state candidates across the country who aim to subvert our elections while perversely claiming to keep them free of fraud. One of them, Jim Marchant in Nevada, already won his Republican primary last month. That should be a warning to Arizonans.
Finchem is a fervent proponent of the Big Lie—the idea that the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. After the 2020 election, he supported the “Stop the Steal” movement and called for the Arizona legislature to overturn the election result by appointing its own electors. And he didn’t stop there. He led the charge to decertify Arizona’s 2020 election results—and now he’s campaigning to be in charge of Arizona’s elections.
He has made the Big Lie the centerpiece of his campaign. In January, he said, “I suspect that Donald Trump probably won by at least the margin that Ronald Reagan won, if not greater.” The next month, his campaign ran an ad saying that “Donald Trump won” the 2020 election. As the Republican Accountability Project put it, “This is more like a warning than a campaign ad.”
Indeed, virtually everything Finchem says should frighten Arizona voters.
Unsurprisingly, he is Trump-endorsed. This endorsement has helped Finchem immensely, particularly in fundraising. Last year, his campaign raised more than $660,000—more than his two potential Democratic opponents combined. He has momentum, and it’s only getting stronger.
Before he began pushing the Big Lie, he promoted other conspiracy theories. He called the 2017 protests in Charlottesville a “Deep State PSYOP.” He accused Barack Obama of “taking every opportunity to install his ideological, totalitarian dictatorship.”
Some of his conspiracy theories come straight out of the QAnon handbook. In an interview on Victory Media, he said, “There’s a lot of people involved in a pedophile network in the distribution of children.… And, unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.”
He doesn’t just say crazy things. He also does them. Finchem is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group that has ties to white supremacists and participated in the January 6 insurrection.
That might explain where Finchem was on January 6: our nation’s capital. Not content with spewing conspiracy theories from Arizona, he ventured to Washington, D.C., to act them out. It’s unclear what he did there, but it’s safe to assume that he made the trip in support of the president who tried and failed to overthrow our democracy.
Like Trump, Finchem says he will not concede the election if he loses. “There ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy,” he said, referring to himself. We know what happens when losing candidates refuse to concede, and it isn’t pretty.
There are no questions about Finchem’s fitness for office. He has answered them, loud and clear. He’s both politically unfit and personally reckless, and his candidacy poses a threat to the integrity of our democratic system. We should take it seriously.
Finchem should be kept as far away from our elections as possible, not be put in charge of them.
Linda Rawles is an attorney and lifelong Republican in Carefree, Arizona.