PHOENIX – An Arizona lawmaker who embraces election conspiracies and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump won Tuesday’s GOP primary for the highest office in the presidential race.
Mark Finchem defeated three other GOP candidates in the race for secretary of state. His challengers included another candidate who repeated Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election due to fraud, a longtime state lawmaker and a businessman backed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Democrats and election security advocates have warned that a Finchem victory in the November general election would be dangerous for democracy.
Finchem, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally prior to the violent attack on the US Capitol, said he only intended to ensure that election laws were being followed to address the concerns of many Republicans about how they were conducted the elections. Still, he tried to get the Legislature to overturn the results of the 2020 election and talked about making major changes to the election rules that were written by the secretary.
Arizona was the most prominent secretary of state race in Tuesday’s primary. In Kansas, the state’s top election official defeated a far-right challenger who promoted conspiracy theories, while in Washington, voters chose from a mix of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated candidates in the state’s first two primaries.
The GOP primary for secretary of state is the last this year to feature candidates who doubt the security of their states’ elections, despite the lack of evidence of problems prevalent enough to change the results. Republican voters elsewhere were split on sending those candidates the vote in November.
Democratic candidates in all three states reject the premise of a stolen 2020 presidential election and warn that victories in November by any of those promoting conspiracies would threaten free and fair elections. In all three states, the secretary of state is the top elected official.
Finchem tried this year to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to notify Congress that Arizona wants to decertify Election victory of Democrat Joe Biden. He won Trump’s endorsement and said in a recent interview that concerns about the effect of his potential victory on free and fair elections were unfounded. He said he would simply enforce the laws as written.
“I think it’s interesting that there are people, especially Democrats, who say, ‘Oh, he’s going to screw up the system. He will do that, he is a threat to democracy,” Finchem said. Still, he claims that tens of thousands of fake ballots led to Biden’s victory, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.
The other Republican who backed Trump’s claims is also a member of the Arizona House. Rep. Shawna Bolick introduced a bill last year that would allow a simple majority of the legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election.
The other Republicans on the Arizona ballot were state Sen. Michelle Uggenti-Rita, who recognized Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to tighten election laws, and businessman Beau Lane, who was endorsed by the governor.
Two Democrats, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, are seeking their party’s nomination.
Kansas didn’t have significant issues with its 2020 election, and Trump ran the state comfortably. Still, Secretary of State Scott Schwab has found himself on sometimes difficult political ground as many Republicans have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that massive fraud cost him the national race.
Schwab has repeatedly vouched for the safety of Kansas elections and touted new GOP-pushed laws, including ones that would limit third-party ballot delivery. He also said he could not vouch for elections in other states.
His message worked well in his primary against Mike Brown, a developer and former county commissioner in the Kansas City area. Brown embraced election conspiracy theories and promised to rid the state of the ballot box.
In November, Schwab will face Democrat Jenna Repass, who was unopposed in her party’s primary.
Washington State’s first primary featured incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs easily making it to the general election. He was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to keep 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 baseless claims alleging widespread voter fraud. Borrelli was far behind the other candidates Tuesday night.
There was a close race for second place on the November ballot between Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who is running as an independent candidate, and several Republicans.
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. It may take days for the results to be counted as this is a postal election.
Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.
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