His remarks Thursday night, which he made when asked by a moderator whether he would have certified the 2020 presidential results, drew a sharp rebuke from Fontes, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, who said Finchem had just explained why he would be so dangerous for him to be charged with managing and overseeing Arizona’s electoral systems.
“Our democracy is really based on the decisions (of) thousands of people, both Republicans and Democrats, who made the election work. When we have conspiracy theories and lies like the ones Mr. Finchem just shared, based on evidence, what we end up doing is eroding the faith we have in each other as citizens,” said Fontes, who previously served as County Recorder “The kind of division, not based on facts, not based on any evidence, that we’ve seen Mr. Finchem touting is dangerous for America.”
Fontes was elected Maricopa County Recorder in 2016, but was defeated in his 2020 re-election bid after facing criticism for some of the changes he made to the county’s voting systems. Finchem repeatedly criticized his performance in the registrar’s office on Thursday night.
As Trump considers another run for the White House, Finchem’s close alliance with the former president has come under close scrutiny because he would be in charge of managing and certifying the election results of the 2024 presidential election in a crucial state that President Joe Biden won by less than 11,000 votes.
The job he’s running for is critically important in another way, too, because in Arizona, the secretary of state is second in line to the governor.
During the 30-minute debate, which was sponsored by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission and broadcast on Arizona’s PBS, Fontes, a former Marine, repeatedly tried to get Finchem to vouch for some of the ideas he has proposed. as a legislator how to restrict the possibility of voting by mail.
Finchem resisted, arguing that the secretary of state doesn’t set policy: “The secretary of state doesn’t take away people’s ability to vote. That’s up to the legislature,” he said.
When a moderator jumped in and pressed Finchem on whether he wanted to eliminate mail-in voting, Finchem replied, “What I want doesn’t matter.”
He later admitted that he “doesn’t care about voting by mail. That’s why I go to the polls.” The Republican lawmaker said he supports “absentee voting” programs, but not programs where ballots are sent to voters who haven’t requested them.
When one of the moderators asked Finchem if the August primary election was fair, Finchem replied that he “had no idea.” When the moderator followed up by asking Finchem what had changed between the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 Arizona primary, Finchem replied, “The candidates.”
When asked what role the federal government has in the Arizona election, Finchem said he believes the federal government “has to meddle,” adding that it should be the legislature “that determines the time, place and manner of a election, not the federal government. government”.
Fontes accused him of participating in “a violent insurrection” that sought to “overthrow the very constitution that holds this nation together.”
Finchem rejected that characterization. “Mr. Fontes has just gotten involved in total fiction, creating something that didn’t exist,” he said. “I was interviewed by the (Justice Department) and the (January 6) commission as a witness… For him to claim that I was part of a criminal uprising is absurd and, frankly, a lie.”