PHOENIX — One of the leading proponents of the claims of election fraud in Arizona now wants to be in charge of the system.
State Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, has filed a formal “statement of interest’’ in running for secretary of state this coming year. That move allows him to begin collecting the signatures he would need to put his name on the ballot.
Finchem is unlikely to be alone.
Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current holder of the office, is likely eyeing a gubernatorial bid, what with incumbent Doug Ducey unable to seek a third term. That portends a wide-open race for the office whose duties include being the state’s chief elections officer.
But the office holds far more importance than the assigned tasks which also cover everything from regulating notaries public to registering telephone solicitors. Under the Arizona Constitution, the secretary of state is first in line of succession if the governor quits, dies or resigns, something that has occurred multiple times over the past few decades.
Also likely in the hunt, though there has been no formal action yet, is Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Government and Elections.
Finchem was one of the prime organizers of what was billed as a legislative hearing last year at a downtown Phoenix hotel to hear unverified claims of widespread election fraud in the November tally that gave the state’s 11 electoral votes to Democrat Joe Biden. The prime witness was Rudy Giuliani, attorney for Donald Trump, and even included the now-former president calling in to complain about the process and the results.
He also sought to have the Arizona Legislature called into special session to invalidate the results and award those electoral votes to Trump. That was shot down by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, who said there is no legal authority to do that.
Finchem, a proponent of the “#stopthesteal’’ movement, also was at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington that later turned into an invasion of the Capitol. He denied entering the building, though he posted a photo on Twitter saying, “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.’’
His participation led legislative Democrats to ask the FBI and the Department of Justice to look into his activities leading up to and at the event. To date, the only response from the agencies was that they had received the letter.
House Democrats also filed an ethics complaint against Finchem in a bid to get him expelled. When that was dismissed, he turned the tables and accused the Democrats of unethical conduct but that, too, was tossed.
Now Finchem has a defamation lawsuit against Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, one of the signers of the complaint.
Finchem also has backed the move by the Arizona Senate to audit the results of the Maricopa County vote, a process that remains in limbo while lawmakers figure out how to hire someone who do the work. But he also has suggested in an interview with Epoch Times that if that audit finds no problems it would be because county officials have destroyed evidence.
A retired Michigan police officer who moved to Arizona in 1999, he was first elected to the state House in 2014. He represents Legislative District 11, which includes Maricopa, Arizona City, Picacho, Oracle, Saddlebrooke, and parts of Casa Grande and Eloy in Pinal County.
Finchem did not return a request for comment.