Election denier Finchem wins Republican nomination to oversee voting in Arizona
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- The Republican nominee to become Arizona's chief elections officer is someone who has publicly denied that Joe Biden actually won the popular vote here in 2020 -- and someone who said he might not certify the results of the 2024 presidential race.
Results Wednesday showed state Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley with about a 15-point lead over businessman Beau Lane, his closest competitor. Trailing further back were state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, who last year had proposed allowing the legislature to override the popular vote for president, and Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita who, while not denying the results of the 2020 race, has raised questions about how it was run.
Finchem, endorsed by former President Trump, has been at the forefront of election deniers.
He traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6, 2021 rally, though he said he did not enter the Capitol. He also helped organize a hearing at a downtown Phoenix hotel following the 2020 election, bringing in Trump supporters including attorney Rudy Giuliani who detailed their own theories about why Biden actually lost the Arizona race.
Finchem has stood with the former president at two Arizona rallies, even proclaiming at one in Florence that "we know it and they know it: Donald Trump won.''
He also is a plaintiff in a lawsuit, along with gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, seeking to convince a federal judge to bar the use of equipment to tally vote totals and require all ballots to be counted by hand. No date has been set for a hearing on that.
And Finchem contends the U.S. Constitution already gives the legislature the power to set aside the results of presidential elections, even without a change in state law, if they believe there has been fraud.
Whoever survives the GOP primary is likely to face off against former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. Results Wednesday showed him with a 5-point lead over state Rep. Reginald Bolding.
There is one other critical role for the secretary of state.
Under the Arizona Constitution, that person is first in the line of succession if the governor dies in office, quits, is impeached or is convicted of criminal charges -- all things that have happened here.
Another Trump-endorsed candidate clinched the nomination for state attorney general. He ran far ahead of anyone else in the six-way field.
That paves the way for a head-to-head with Democrat Kris Mayes, a former Republican who served on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
With the attorney general as the state's chief prosecutor, abortion is likely to be a key issue in the race.
Even before the Supreme Court voided Roe v. Wade in late June, Mayes vowed she would never prosecute a doctor or medical provider for performing an abortion. That is based on her contention that the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy is protected by a specific right of privacy in the Arizona Constitution, something that does not exist in the national analog.
And Mayes said she would give the same advice to county attorneys.
Hamadeh, by contrast, described himself even before the final ruling as a "pro-life activist.''
"What we stand for are the rights of the vulnerable, to protect the vulnerable, which is the unborn child,'' he said in a radio interview.
It is unclear how the issue might play out in the campaign.
In Kansas, a decidedly Republican state, voters went to the polls and rejected a measure that would have eliminated abortion rights in that state's constitution.
Current Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who did not seek reelection, is involved in litigation about whether the reversal of Roe means a territorial-era law outlawing all abortions except to save the life of the mother can now be enforced.
In the race for state schools chief, Tom Horne, who used to have that job, outpolled business owner Shiry Sapir and state Rep. Michelle Udall. He will face off against incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman who ran unopposed in the primary.
Incumbent Treasurer Kimberly Yee, seeking a second term, rolled up more votes than either of her two GOP challengers, state Rep. Jeff Weninger and businessman Bob Lettieri. State Sen. Martin Quezada was the lone Democratic contender.
Three Republicans were running for the two available seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, with Kevin Thompson and Nick Myers leading Kim Owens.
Only two Democrats are vying for the two seats: incumbent Sandra Kennedy and Lauren Kuby, a former member of the Tempe city council.
Two legislative races also showed the Trump influence.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, seeking to move to the Senate, was trounced by former state Sen. David Farnsworth.
Bowers had been targeted by Trump supporters for his refusal to allow a House investigation of the 2020 election returns and, more recently, for testifying before the Jan. 6 committee about what he said were improper and illegal efforts by Trump and his supporters to overturn the results.
And incumbent Sen. Wendy Rogers won her reelection bid. She was running against fellow incumbent Sen. Kelly Townsend who found herself drawn into the same district.
Both had raised questions about the 2020 presidential election returns. But Rogers was much more pronounced in her belief that Trump, who endorsed her, actually won the popular vote in Arizona.
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