Democrat Adrian Fontes is projected to win the race for Arizona secretary of state against a Republican conspiracy theorist who claimed the 2020 race was stolen and led efforts to overturn the state’s results.
The outcome will prevent Fontes’ opponent, state Rep. Mark Finchem, from overseeing a key swing-state contest during the 2024 presidential election, protecting it from the sort of chaos Finchem attempted to create in 2020 and pledged to unleash as Arizona’s top election official.
Fontes previously oversaw elections in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest.
Finchem, who has described himself as a member of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, has said that he would not have certified President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona and has suggested that he would not officially approve the results of a Democratic victory in 2024.
Finchem won former President Donald Trump’s endorsement during the Republican primary, and is part of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of election deniers running for top election posts in Michigan, Nevada and other states.
Fontes cast Finchem as a threat to American democracy during the race, warning voters that his Republican opponent could use the secretary of state position to drastically limit voting rights and undermine the 2024 election through a full takeover attempt.
“We’ve been running against the guy who has basically said he’s willing to pick the winners, and stop people from voting, to muck up the system on purpose,” Fontes told HuffPost in October. “He has said it repeatedly and in a variety of different ways.”
Finchem played a direct role in Trump’s efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 race in Arizona, which Biden won by roughly 11,000 votes. He met with Trump lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, to discuss the fake electors scheme that was meant to overturn election losses in states like Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Finchem was in Washington, D.C., during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Video footage and news reports have shown that he was near the Capitol steps during the attack, despite his claims that he was far away when rioters stormed the building. He was subpoenaed to testify to the House committee that is investigating the insurrection.
As a state representative, Finchem was part of Arizona Repubicans’ legislative efforts to curb voting rights in response to Trump’s defeat in the state. He has cast early and mail-in voting ― which as many as 90% of Arizona voters typically use ― as sources of fraud, without any evidence to support his claims. He has also said that Arizona election officials should have to hand-count all ballots.
Fontes leaned on his experience as Maricopa County recorder, telling voters that he would protect voting rights and democracy.
“We will be looking to the American people to decide if they want to live in a democracy, or if they don’t. It’s a binary choice,” he told HuffPost of his race and others like it across the country. “There’s no middle ground here.”