GOLD CANYON, Ariz. — Near the end of a candidates’ forum hosted by a central Arizona GOP club this week, Mark Finchem, a candidate for secretary of state whose views on the 2020 election usually have no basis in reality, told the audience he had some “breaking news” to share.
Finchem then fed the crowd a remarkably brazen lie. He said the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said – at 10 p.m. EST a federal holiday, nothing less – that mail-in ballots were unconstitutional. Finchem offered no further explanation for the major news he said just happened. The crowd cheered and cheered.
“It’s huge, ladies and gentlemen,” Finchem said, almost drowning in applause. “That’s huge. Huge. Wow.”
Was Finchem confused? Probably not. The closest approximation to what Finchem described occurred in January, when three judges of a Commonwealth court actually repeal Pennsylvania’s no-excuse mail-in voting law, which passed with bipartisan support in 2019. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf appealed the decision. In March, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared that the law could stay put during the appeals process to create less confusion ahead of the May 3 primary.
In June, the United States Supreme Court actually paved the way for Pennsylvania to count undated mail-in ballots after the GOP Senate primary between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick dwindled to a handful of votes, a move that was widely seen as a victory for supporters of postal voting.
It was the latest development, however, which makes what Finchem said neither last minute nor correct.
This was just a small example of the lies perpetuated by Finchem and other Holocaust deniers during this year’s midterm elections. And the crowd ate it up, highlighting how the “big lie” and easily debunked misinformation are virtually unchallenged in the grassroots GOP.
Finchem, a State House member who said he aspires to have ‘one of the most transparent campaigns out there,’ did not respond to a request through his campaign to clarify what he meant by his “breaking news” on Pennsylvania.
Arizona’s primary takes place on August 2, and in no other state are the tentacles of the election conspiracy as deep as the place that spawned an infamous partisan election audit.
Finchem is running to become the state’s top election official with the backing of former President Donald Trump, but his remarks to the group were light on the exact details of how he believes the 2020 election was stolen . The GOP majority-sanctioned partisan audit of the state legislature actually revealed more Democratic votes for President Joe Biden. By any measure, the Republicans have failed to prove anything sinister happened in the 2020 election beyond their own lies.
“For noon [on Election Day], we knew something was terribly wrong. We didn’t have to wait 15 minutes after the polls closed for Fox to call Arizona, we already knew something was seriously wrong. So in about five days my constituents sent out thousands of emails, hundreds of letters… we lost track of the phone calls begging us to do something,” Finchem said.
Finchem asserted that as Secretary of State, his goal would be free and fair elections for all Arizonans, regardless of political party.
“My job as secretary of state is to make sure that as soon as I’m elected, I take off my political hat – not my cowboy hat,” Finchem said, a joke about the oversized western hat that he sports often. “To make sure there is never an inch on the ladder for fair elections. If a Democrat wins, a Democrat wins.
But Finchem, a member of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia, has already shown that he does not exercise reasonable judgment when it comes to election results.
“[Former U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder is a criminal. [Georgia Gubernatorial candidate] Stacey Abrams is a criminal. [Former President] Barack Obama is a criminal,” Finchem said after encouraging the group to consult the widely discredited documentary “2,000 Slippers” by right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who purports to show how Democratic voting “mules” conspired to illegally collect and submit mail-in ballots in swing states, including Arizona. Trump called D’Souza’s film “incredible” at a rally in Pennsylvania for Oz, and many Republicans followed his lead in praising the controversial film.
“Each of you needs to see ‘2,000 Mules.’ This is going to make your blood boil,” Finchem said, echoing what I’ve heard at many other popular rallies since the documentary’s release.
At the same forum in Gold Canyon, an upscale Phoenix suburb with stunning mountain views and funky cacti, Kari Lake, a former TV reporter and Trump’s choice for governor, said fighting fraud election was one of his top priorities as governor.
“We’re that pioneering spirit in Arizona, so we weren’t going to sit idly by because they stole our election,” Lake said.
Who are “they” exactly? Lake and others seem to think these are dark forces aligned with the Democrats that no one has been able to pin down in the nearly two years since the 2020 election.
‘It was the Arizona patriots who stood up and said we wanted a forensic audit,’ she said, failing to mention how it only provided further evidence that Biden won. .
The events that unfolded the next day in Washington provided a chilling misinterpretation of what I heard at Gold Canyon and elsewhere. At the Tuesday, Jan. 6 committee hearing, Russell “Rusty” Bowers, the Arizona House speaker who may be out of office any longer — Bowers is running for the state Senate and must clear a primary from the GOP – described the pressure he was under to illegally declare Trump the 2020 winner.
“There was no evidence presented of any force…anything that would say to me, ‘You have a doubt. Renounce your oath. I won’t do that,” Bowers said in moving testimony.
At a GOP club rally in Tucson the next day, which was supposed to introduce Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters, the Jan. 6 committee might as well have met in another universe.
Masters, who told the group he had to cancel due to a contentious meeting with Trump, was replaced by a guest speaker from the pro-gun group Arizona Citizens Defense League who carried a gun on his hip and spoke about the laws. of the red flag. (To get a sense of how Masters’ candidacy plays out among at least one segment of the GOP base, the Gold Canyon Group Chairman described Trump’s decision to endorse Masters over Jim Lamon, a man of business who signed a document certifying he was a fake 2020 “We can’t expect him to be perfect with all these endorsements,” Gold Canyon President Pam Burks said during the Monday’s event, while introducing Lamon, a hulking Alabama native who drawled quickly from the South and talked about border security and Chinese manufacturing.)
The Tucson club met at lunchtime for an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. I asked a retiree from the friendly group if he had an opinion on Bowers, whose testimony touched the heart and epitomized the struggle some Republicans faced during Trump’s break from reality. Far-right Republicans dislike Bowers because he blocked GOP-sponsored electoral reform legislation.
“Me,” he said. “It’s a tool.”
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