PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker who embraces election conspiracies and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump won the Republican primary Tuesday for the top elections post in the presidential battleground.
Mark Finchem defeated three Republican candidates for the post of secretary-general. His challengers included another candidate who repeated Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election because of fraud, a longtime state lawmaker and a businessman endorsed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Democrats and election security professionals warned that Finchem’s win in the November general elections will pose a danger to democracy.
Finchem, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, has said he only intends to ensure that election laws are followed to address concerns by many Republicans about how elections are run. He attempted to convince the Legislature not to change the 2020 election results. Finchem has also spoken out in favor of major modifications to existing election rules.
Arizona’s was the most high-profile secretary of state’s race in Tuesday’s primaries. In Kansas, the top state elections official beat back a far-right challenger who promoted conspiracy theories, while in Washington voters were choosing from a mix of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated candidates in that state’s top-two primary.
The GOP primary elections for secretary of state are the latest this year to feature candidates who doubt the security of their states’ elections despite the lack of evidence of any problems widespread enough to change the results. These candidates have been rejected by Republican voters in other states.
All three Democratic presidential candidates reject the idea of a stolen 2020 election. They warn that any conspiracies-promoting candidate in November would jeopardize free and fair elections. In each state, the Secretary of State is the most important election official.
Finchem tried this year to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to notify Congress that Arizona wanted to decertify Democrat Joe Biden’s election win. He won Trump’s endorsement and said in a recent interview that worries about the effect of his potential victory on free and fair elections are unfounded. He assured that he will enforce all laws exactly as they were written.
“I think it’s interesting that there are people, particularly Democrats out there, claiming: ’Oh, he’s going to ruin the system. He’s going to do this, he’s a threat to democracy,’” Finchem said. Still, he contends tens of thousands of fake ballots led to Biden’s win, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.
The other Republican who backed Trump’s claims also is a member of the Arizona House. Rep. Shawnna Bolick proposed a bill in Arizona last year which would have allowed the Legislature with a simple majority to repeal presidential election results.
The other Republicans on Arizona’s ballot were state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who acknowledges Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to tighten election laws, and businessman Beau Lane, who was backed by the governor.
Two Democrats, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, are seeking their party’s nomination.
Trump won the state easily and Kansas didn’t have any major problems in its 2020 election. Yet Secretary of State Scott Schwab found himself on sometimes tricky ground politically because many Republicans have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that massive fraud cost him the race nationally.
Schwab has repeatedly stood by the safety of Kansas election and praised the new GOP-pushed laws including those that reduce the number of third-party delivery. He’s also said he can’t vouch for other states’ elections.
This message was a success in his primary victory against Mike Brown who is a Kansas City-area construction contractor. Brown supported conspiracy theories about election results and pledged to eliminate the state’s ballot drop box system.
In November, Schwab will face Democrat Jenna Repass, who was unopposed in her party’s primary.
Washington state’s top-two primary featured the incumbent, Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who easily advanced to the general election. The governor appointed him. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to retain his seat for the remaining two years of former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s four-year term.
Also on the primary ballot were several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an “America First” candidate who was fined by the state Supreme Court earlier this summer for making meritless claims alleging widespread voter fraud. Borrelli was far behind the other candidates on Tuesday night.
It was close race between Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson (running as an independent) and several Republicans for the second spot on November’s ballot.
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. Results could take days to tally because it’s an all-mail election.
This report was contributed by John Hanna, Topeka Kansas and Rachel La Corte, Olympia Washington.
Read More From Time