Update to David Gordon’s post, Mark Finchem Demonstrates During His Debate With Adrian Fontes Just How Crazy He Is.

Laurie Roberts of The Republic adds, It took only 30 minutes for Adrian Fontes to own Mark Finchem in their debate:


Thursday night’s face-off between the two men who want to run Arizona’s elections showed exactly why debates are important. [Real debates, not this PBS 1/2 hour stuff.]

The contrast could not have been clearer.

One man was calm, measured, steady. The other sounded, at times, unhinged as he spouted conspiracy theories about many ways in which the 2020 election was “irredeemably compromised”.

Consider the central question in the secretary of state candidates’ debate: Would you have certified the 2020 election?

Finchem howled about a stolen election

Here’s Rep. Mark Finchem, who has been howling about a stolen election since November 2020:

“There are too many hypotheticals to really answer that question because we didn’t know what we knew after the election until after the certification of the canvass occurred,” Finchem told the debate moderators. “But knowing what we know today, there are certain counties that should have been set aside as irredeemably compromised. Maricopa County was one of them. Yuma county was one of them.”

Finchem offered several conspiracy theories, unsupported by any evidence, for his belief that Maricopa County’s vote was rigged. In Yuma County, he pointed to an actual fact – several people who have pleaded guilty to ballot harvesting.

“We’ve got people who were indicted for the very thing that we’re talking about right now, who pled guilty and frankly, those votes altered the outcome of Yuma county,” he said. “So how do they get counted? How did people who were disenfranchised to nullification, how do we help them?”

2 cases did not alter the election outcome

In fact, two Yuma County residents pleaded guilty to “harvesting” a total of four ballots. And it happened not in the November 2020 election (which Trump won in Yuma by more than 4,000 votes) but in the August 2020 primary.

Of course, those votes didn’t, as Finchem insists, alter the outcome of the presidential election.

His continued cries of conspiracy, however, have unfairly altered voters’ confidence in our electoral system, and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes called him on it.

“What we have to look at here is the common value that we share, and that is, you have to have faith in our democracy. And our democracy really rests on the decisions that thousands of people make, Republicans and Democrats alike, who did the work of elections.

“When we have conspiracy theories and lies, like the ones Mr. Finchem has just shared, based in no real evidence, what we end up doing is eroding the faith that we have in each other as citizens.

“I was talking to someone last night and who said, and she’s a Democrat, who said, ‘I just want to be friends with my Republican neighbors again’. That kind of divisiveness, not based on fact, not based in any evidence that we’ve seen, trumpeted by Mr. Finchem, is dangerous for America, and we have to call it what it is.”

Fontes never tried to rig the election

Finchem pressed on with his insistence that the election was both botched and rigged.

“If the election is mismanaged, what redress do the people have for that mismanagement and that malfeasance?” he asked.

Fontes explained it to him: “So the answer to that question is the rule of law and the Constitution. There are processes and procedures. There are court filings that can be made and do often get made in Arizona when there are questions about the outcomes of races.”

During the debate, Finchem read several times from a March 2020 column I wrote in which I rapped Fontes for making up election law. The pandemic was just hitting Arizona, and Fontes decided to send an early ballot to every registered Democrat rather than opening polling places for the party’s presidential preference election.

Various state officials, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, argued there was nothing in state law that gave Fontes the power to send ballots to every registered Democrat. He argued that there was nothing in law that prevented him from doing it.

Ultimately, a judge blocked him.

Curiously, though, Finchem never quoted the part of the column in which I said this: “Clearly, Fontes isn’t trying to rig the election.”

He was trying to protect public health.

The ‘right’ people won, so the election is OK?

Nor did Finchem quote from any of my more recent work. For example, my column this week, in which I noted Finchem’s startling admission to a Time magazine reporter – the one where he said he knows the 2020 election was rigged because “I can’t find anyone who will admit that they voted for Joe Biden.”

Finchem did, however, offer an eye-opening response when debate moderators asked whether the August 2022 primary – the one in which the Trump slate prevailed in every Republican race – was fair.

“I have no idea,” FInchem replied. “It is what it is.”

Moderator: What changed?

Finchem: “What changed? The candidates. I have no idea. We’ve not really dug into what happened with the processing of ballots and I think that there has been certainly a heightened sense of scrutiny.”

In other words, because the “right” people won, this election was legitimate?

Fontes has the best, last word

I’ll give Fontes the final word here because clearly, he owned Finchem in this debate.

“I think what we just heard is the most telling piece of information here,” he told the moderators. “When you asked, ‘What changed,’ he said, ‘The candidates’. Not the process. Not the people running things. Not the rules, generally speaking, but the candidates. …

“Here’s the bottom line: All of what Mr. Finchem is talking about is politically motivated and it’s that kinda instability, it’s that kind of unpredictabaility that Arizona and its sound government – the people who are vested in the interest of making sure that we can have predictability in these things for the purposes of business and law and medicine. All of the schools that have their budgeting cycles. Every little bit of our society is run by this idea of a constant election cycle.

“Elections are the golden thread that run through the fabric of our society and if you pull that out, with this unpredictable, chaotic way of looking at things based on the candidates, the entire fabric disintegrates and we can’t afford that kind of unpredictability. Doing it right is what we did. It’s not our fault that he can’t accept one loss.

Adrian Fontes, Democratic nominee for Arizona Secretary of State, joined MSNBC’s The ReidOut for an interview with Jason Johnson sitting in for Joy Reid.