Trump-backed conspiracy theorists are about to handle the Arizona elections

PHOENIX — This spring, Mark Finchem traveled to Mar-a-Lago in Florida for the premiere of a documentary, furthering the typical notion that an army of leftists filling drop boxes with absentee ballots The 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Donald Trump. As the nominee for Representative and Secretary of State in Arizona, Finchem was one of the assembled MAGA stars, Rudy Giuliani of Georgia and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green’s Choice.

But they’ve still got their face time.

“President Trump took 20 minutes with me,” Finchem later explained 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, holds a special place on the map of Trump’s election outrage—as a lifelong Republican stronghold where President Joe Biden’s narrow and critical victory was called, first of all, by the network, Fox News. Should Trump run again in 2024, a friendly secretary of state, as administrator of state elections, may be in a position to help him avoid a repeat.

Now, as Arizona prepares for its primaries on Tuesday, FinChem is a Trump-backed America First Coalition candidate for more than a dozen 2020 election denials who once obscured secretaries of state across the country. has demanded. While most of them are considered extremist long shots, a recent poll gave FinChem the lead in Arizona’s four-way Republican race, though a significant majority of voters are undecided.

FinChem’s campaign announcements are testament to the growth of the “Stop the Steel” movement: it is as much about influencing future elections as it was in 2020.

To that end, Finchem, which has in the past identified itself as a member of the Oath Keepers militia, may be an utterly subversive candidate. Like his America First compatriot, he simply wants to stop voting.

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

If he loses his race, FinChem told a June fundraiser, “There’s not going to be a concession speech from this guy.”

Finchem did not respond to requests for comment for this article, and one of their attorneys declined to comment. But in a May email he assured Republican supporters that if he were in office in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.” In the days following the election, he co-hosted an informal hearing at the Downtown Phoenix hotel, where Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, circulated fake plagiarism-election claims. He was one of the fake Trump voters in Arizona. Slate was instrumental in trying to move forward — part of a plan to overturn elections in several states being investigated by the Justice Department — and he is helping gather signatures on a petition to deauthorize the state election. result, even if it is not legally possible.

Finchem also did a march to the capital on January 6, 2021. He has said that he did not come closer than 500 yards, but photographs have surfaced that show him near the Capitol stairs. He is not one of those sworn in to criminal charges, although the House committee probing the attack has summoned him.

Trump called him “the kind of fighter we need” in his endorsement and invited him to speak at his recent rally in Arizona. Meanwhile, the other three Republican candidates for secretary of state, who also serves as lieutenant governor in Arizona, have held multiple positions in the 2020 election.

State Representative Shawna Bollick says she would not have attested to Biden’s 2020 victory, even though it was legally required: “It would have been fine,” she said during a debate. “I would have been breaking the law.” The other two candidates – state Sen. Michelle Uganti-Rita and an advertising executive Beau Lane – say they must have obeyed the law and certified the election.

Lane said of FinChem in an interview, “I don’t think he’s helping build confidence in elections, I think he’s sowing doubts in elections, and the secretary of state doesn’t have to. “

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

Finchem, 65, a transplant from Michigan, has spent more than seven years as a legislator for a district outside Tucson that during a recent visit was a boiling 115-degree canyon set between mountains and a cactus . He has adopted 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 armed the Confederate lands in Oregon. supported the occupation.

He speaks in a calm and serious tone and presents himself as a family man with common sense. When asked about his family life by an interviewer, he said that his “kids are all grown up and gone” and that nowadays, “I’m thinking of my grandchildren” is the fight he would do. Is.

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

He talks frequently about his experience as a police officer and firefighter in Kalamazoo, Michigan. But personnel records obtained from the city’s Department of Public Security, which he left in 1999, include this note in his file: “Retired, poor rating, won’t hire again.” A spokesman for the department declined to comment.

FinChem has raised more than $1.2 million, a considerable amount for a campaign for the Secretary of State. (Lane has raised about $1.1 million, while the other two candidates have fallen far behind.) Most of the money has come from out-of-state — seven of the eight donors who donated a maximum of $5,300 in their last two campaign filings. was listed, they were from elsewhere. Major donors include Brian T. Kennedy, the former president of the right-wing Claremont Institute, and Michael Marcicano, the former mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who recently lost a Republican congressional primary.

To top it all, he has few visible signs of an employee or campaign office. About three-quarters of his spending, more than $750,000, has flown to a Florida political consulting firm, campaign filings show, the nephew of Wendy Rogers, an Arizona lawmaker. Another $53,000, or about 5% of his total expenditure, has gone to pay for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. (Several other Trump-backed candidates have done the same, including Kari Lake, Trump’s favorite candidate for governor of Arizona, whose campaign has spent more than $100,000 at Mar-a-Lago.)

FinChem’s handling of donor money has attracted scrutiny. Last year, he sought contributions to a political action committee to help pay for election hearings. But he instructed supporters to send money “into their personal Venmo and PayPal accounts” instead of PACs, according to the complaint from the non-profit group, Campaign for Accountability. State law prohibits the influx of political and personal money. The current secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor, referred the matter to Attorney General Mark Branovich, a Republican, who did not pursue it; His office said insufficient cause had been established.

Finchem limits its media exposure mainly to right-wing talk shows; He is a frequent guest on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. His embrace of conspiracy theories is wide. They argue that Marxists conspired to manipulate the 2020 election, that people voted with “vote flipping software”, that Biden is “a fraudulent president”. The January 6 attack on the Capitol “was a setup,” he said. “The whole thing was a setup.”

FinChem has also said that Hezbollah is operating camps in Mexico in league with drug cartels and that a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, read “Deep State PSYOP.” He has embraced the QAnon principles, saying that “too many elected officials” are involved in a pedophile network. He supports a version of the so-called great replacement theory, saying that “Democrats are trying to import voters” and “flooding the area with people who have no right to be here.”

His relentlessly scheming leanings have their fans – but they have also opened up to ridicule them. As one trolling commenter on Finchem’s Facebook page put it: “Mark Finchem knows there’s a tiny illegal immigrant inside every voting machine, and whenever you vote for our precious eternal President Lord Donald Trump, that illegal immigrant Turns your vote into a vote for Hugo. Chavez!”

Reginald Boulding, Statehouse minority leader and one of two Democratic primary candidates for secretary of state, said FinChem’s victory “will signal that our elections will not be safe and secure and that party affiliations and results will be tampered with.” he want. ,

“I don’t know if Mark Finchem actually believes what he said, but they are not based on reality,” he said.

Doug Ducey, a Republican, has supported Lane, as have many in the business community. Finchem sees yet another conspiracy in its rival: “Beau Lane is a Democrat plant,” he tweeted recently. Lane, for his part, described FinChem’s plan to stop using counting machines as fictitious.

“It’s something that is logistically impossible in Arizona,” he said. “Maybe you can pull it off in Wyoming or South Dakota or Delaware. But Arizona is one of the top 15 most populous states. And that doesn’t make sense.”

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