What's more ridiculous than Mark Finchem's (many) conspiracies? He could actually win

Mark Finchem, candidate for secretary of state, greets the crowd during a Save America rally at the Findlay Toyota Center on Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott Valley.
Mark Finchem, candidate for secretary of state, greets the crowd during a Save America rally at the Findlay Toyota Center on Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott Valley.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

He wants to end Arizona’s wildly popular early voting program – the one that spares literally millions of voters from having to stand in long lines on Election Day.

He is obsessed with the 2020 election and for nearly two years has regularly promised to produce evidence that it was stolen, yet somehow, he never … quite … does.

He has called for the decertification of Arizona’s vote and the arrest of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and his opponent, former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes – no need, apparently, to mess with niceties like actual evidence that they committed an actual crime.

He believes the Arizona Legislature should have the power to veto voters’ pick for president.

And if all that doesn’t sound scary – or ridiculous – enough?

Mark Finchem just might become Arizona’s next secretary of state, the guy in charge of running the 2024 presidential election in this key swing state.

Fontes wants to make voting easier

That is, unless voters start taking a good look at Finchem and the imaginary mule he rode in on.

“He can win,” longtime Republican strategist Chuck Coughlin told me this week. “The secretary of state’s race is not a race that drives a lot of public attention. It’s a down-ballot race and tends to follow the party line and the party cycle and this should be a fairly good Republican cycle.”

It’s difficult to imagine a bigger travesty. Or a greater contrast in candidates.

Fontes, 52, is an Arizona native, a Marine Corps veteran and former prosecutor who in 2016 was elected Maricopa County recorder. He proceeded to replace precinct polling places with voting centers, freeing voters to cast their ballots wherever it was most convenient, and he expanded early voting options, enraging Republican Party officials who saw him as a blatant partisan. He also made some errors – most notably by proposing to send ballots to every registered voter in 2020 – and ultimately lost in his reelection bid in 2020.

Fontes vows to make it as easy as possible for qualified voters to vote, and he stands as perhaps the best proof of all that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen. If he was going to fix the election, after all, wouldn’t he have started with his own?

Finchem wants to make it more difficult

Finchem, 65, moved to Tucson in 1999, having retired after 21 years as a police officer and firefighter paramedic in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he apparently wasn’t exactly an overachiever. His personnel file lists his date of retirement along with this notation: “Retired, poor rating, would not rehire.”

He later became vice president of business development for a now-defunct Idaho-based company that claimed that it could generate and deliver clean energy “without wires, anywhere around the world.”

He is now finishing up his fourth term in the Arizona House, where he is best known for his hard right politics and his insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. His campaign centers on making it more difficult to vote in order to counter the widespread corruption that seems to exist only in his imagination.

Finchem sees conspiracies everywhere and enemies all around him, even within his own party.

Finchem sees conspiracy everywhere

He promotes the theories of the QAnon kooks who believe the world is run by a global cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles, including Hollywood celebrities and liberal elites who spend their spare time sex-trafficking children.

“We’ve got a serious problem in this nation,” Finchem said last year. “There’s a lot of people involved in a pedophile network in the distribution of children ... And, unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.”

In court: Judge slams Finchem, orders him to pay fees

He said the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., – where a woman was killed when a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters – “has Deep State PSYOP written all over it.”

He believes Marxists conspired to manipulate the 2020 election and that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol “was a setup.”

He accused Pence of trying to stage a coup

Finchem is a Stop the Steal organizer and a member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group that figured prominently in the storming of the Capitol. In fact, he was spotted outside the Capitol as rioters stormed the building to stop the certification of the election. He was there, apparently, to deliver “evidence” to Vice President Mike Pence, according to the House select committee investigating Jan. 6.

And why not? The election in Arizona, the one that Joe Biden won in a nail biter? Finchem has said the election was set up to look like it would be close but that really, Trump won in a “blowout.”

“So yeah, part of that was a PSYOP,” he said in an April podcast interview. “They worked very, very hard to convince the American people that, ‘Oh it’s going to be a close race.’ No, it wasn’t; it was a blowout.”

Finchem also has accused then-Vice President Mike Pence of orchestrating a coup when he tried to stop the MAGA mob from laying siege to the U.S. Capitol.

“Mike Pence seized power over an existing president,” Finchem said, in July remarks to a group of “patriots.” “Pence had zero authority to order the DOD, DHS or DOJ around. Zero, zip, nada ... ladies and gentlemen, that’s a coup.”

Oh the horror, that the vice president -- the one who refused to go along with the fake elector scheme and overturn the results of the election -- would call for help as the mob was breaching the building and running through Capitol corridors.

Finchem continues to promote the Big Lie

Needless to say, Finchem didn’t accept the results of the Senate audit of Maricopa County’s vote, the one that found no evidence of widespread fraud. In a May email, he assured Republican supporters that had he been secretary of state in 2020, “We would have won. Plain and simple.”

Which is, of course, precisely why he and so many other promoters of the Big Lie are running to get in place before the 2024 election.

They’ve even formed the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group of election denying candidates who want to make massive changes in elections – requiring, among other things, a single day of voting and the hand counting of all ballots.

Last weekend, Finchem appeared with three of his fellow Republican secretary of state nominees – Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, Nevada’s Jim Marchant and New Mexico’s Audrey Trujillo – at a south Florida conference for believers in the Big Lie.

There, the candidates suggested that members of their own Republican Party are part of the plot against America, with Finchem noting that Gov. Doug Ducey Ducey dismissed his concerns about the 2020 election.

“How do you like me now, Doug?” he asked.

“We are in battle against a cartel.”

Yet he's in a tie with Fontes. Yes, really

So says the candidate who sees a conspiracy behind every cactus – one who apparently requires no actual evidence of wrongdoing or proof of corruption before locking people up or overturning democracy.

And the most shocking part of this stunner of a campaign season?

A HighGround poll taken in mid August shows Finchem in a statistical tie with Fontes, well within the margin of error to become Arizona’s next secretary of state, just one heartbeat away from the Governor’s Office.

Holy PSYOP, Mark Finchem could actually win this thing.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mark Finchem peddles the Big Lie and STILL actually could win