Arizona GOP secretary of state nominee stands by election conspiracy theories in debate | CNN Politics



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Arizona Republican Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem doubled down on conspiracy theories that he confirmed about the 2020 presidential election in a debate Thursday night against Democrat Adrian Fontes, saying that votes in several major Arizona counties have should have been “set aside”. However there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 contest.

“There are some counties that should have been set aside because irrevocably was compromised – Maricopa County was one of them. Yuma County was one of them,” said the Republican state lawmaker, who made a February resolution echoing the claims that three Arizona counties had called for the 2020 election results to be annulled — even though legal experts say there is no legal mechanism to do so. “Outside the law we have so many votes that begs the question, what do we do with an election where we have votes in the stream that shouldn’t 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 proponents of the former president’s lies about the 2020 presidential election. Trump is backing a wide range of those running for office in November as he continues his unrelenting campaign to undermine and destroy the 2020 results.

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

His claims on Thursday evening – which he made when a moderator asked him whether he would have certified the 2020 presidential results – drew a sharp rebuke from Fontes, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, who said Finchem just underlined Was charged with managing and overseeing Arizona’s election systems for why it would be so dangerous.

“Our democracy really rests on the decisions of thousands of people – Republicans and Democrats – who made elections work. When we have conspiracy theories and lies like Mr. Finchem just shared, without any real evidence. “What we are doing is eroding the trust that we have in each other as citizens,” said Fontes, who served as the first. Recorder of Maricopa County. “The kind of division, not based in fact, not based on any evidence, which we have seen trumpeted by Mr. Finchem, is dangerous for America.”

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

In a Quinnipiac University poll released last month, 67% of Americans said they believe the country’s democracy is “in danger of collapsing”, a 9-point increase from January.

As Trump contemplates another run for the White House, FinChem’s close alliance with the former president has drawn closer scrutiny as he is charged with managing and certifying the election results of the 2024 presidential election in a critical swing state. Will be charged, which President Joe Biden won, at least. Over 11,000 votes.

The office he is seeking is also critically important in another regard because in Arizona, the secretary of state is second to governance.

FinChem co-sponsored legislation with fellow Republican lawmakers in Arizona that would allow lawmakers to decline election results and require election workers to hand-count ballots instead of using electronic devices to tabulate results. He has also claimed 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 Clean Electoral Commission and aired on Arizona’s PBS channel, Fontes, a former Marine, repeatedly tried to answer some of the ideas FinCem had, Which he proposed as an MLA. Reducing the ability to vote by mail.

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

When a moderator intervened and pressed FinChem to answer whether it wanted to eliminate mail-in voting, FinChem replied: “What I want doesn’t matter.”

He later allowed that he “doesn’t care about mail-in-voting. So I go to the polls.” The Republican lawmaker said he supports “absentee vote” programs, but not programs where ballots are sent to voters who have not requested them.

When one of the moderators asked FinChem whether the August primary election was fair, FinChem replied that he had “no idea.” When the moderator asked FinChem what changed between the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 Arizona primary, FinChem replied: “Candidates.”

When asked what role the federal government plays in Arizona’s elections, Finchem said he believes the federal government “needs to get out,” adding that it should be the legislature “that elections.” name of the time, place and manner, not the federal government.”

Fontes tried to lash out at FinChem over some of its controversial associations—in which he is a self-proclaimed member of the far-right extremist group known as the Oath Keepers—but the Republican lawmaker did not engage.

CNN’s KFile team has uncovered a series of posts from FinChem where they shared anti-government conspiracy theories, including a Pinterest account “Treason Watch List” (which included photos of Democratic politicians) and photos of Barack Obama. Pins are included. Man in Nazi dress gives Nazi salute.

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

Finchem took part in the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol – although he has said he did not participate in the riots. Around that time, the Arizona Republic reported that they posted a photo of rioters on the steps of the Capitol online, adding that the incidents “are what happen when people feel they have been neglected, and Congress has accepted massive fraud.” refuses to do.”

Fontes accused them of being involved in “a violent rebellion” that attempted to “overturn the constitution that held this country together”.

Finchem rejected that attribute. “Mr. Fontes is just engaged in total imagination, the creation of something that did not exist,” he said. “I was interviewed as a witness by the (Department of Justice) and (January 6) commission. .. . For him to claim that I was part of a criminal rebellion is absurd and, frankly, it is a lie.”

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