Two things were clear after watching the Arizona Secretary of State Debate this evening (September 22, 2022) between Adrian Fontes and Mark Finchem at an event hosted by Arizona Horizon-Clean Elections and moderated by Ted Simons and Richard Ruelas.

  1. Mark Finchem really believes in all this Fringe-Extremist-Dangerous 2020 Big Lie-Conspiracy Theory Trumpist Mumbo Jumbo he has been talking about for almost two years. That is really bad for Arizonans
  2. Adrian Fontes, who was prominently featured in a Time Magazine article called The Defenders,  has the temperament and fortitude to be the Secretary of State in charge of overseeing elections and, as he mentioned at the end of the event, Governor, should that be necessary.

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Fontes Frames the Debate with His Opening Statements.

While Mr. Finchem regurgitated the Trump Republican talking points of electoral integrity and security (as long as they win,) Mr. Fontes framed what was at stake in the election by stating:

” If the last six years have taught us anything, it is that democracy is a decision… a decision between building community or conspiracies that lead to corruption or chaos. A decision between laws and lies. Democracy is a decision between voting and violence.”

Talking about his three daughters, Fontes in an apparent subtle reference to their reproductive as well as political freedom, said “they deserve the freedom to make their own choices, to make their own decisions. Tonight we’ll talk about their choices and decisions on how they can vote and how our Democracy can vote. “

Finchem offers Crazed Delusions while Fontes relays Reality and a Calm Demeanor. 

The contrast between the two candidates vying to be the next Chief Election Officer for Arizona (and perhaps the next Governor) was telling from the very first question of the approximately half-hour encounter.

Throughout the exchange, Mr. Finchem, sometimes defensively raising his voice, relied on conveying discredited conspiracy theories to make his case while the calm Mr. Fontes referred to documents like the United States Constitution to make his.

When asked if he would accept the 2020 Presidential election results, Finchem said there were “too many hypotheticals to really know.”

He then said that Maricopa County (despite even the Cyber Ninjas audit which showed Biden had more results than previously thought) and Yuma County results should have been set aside because so many of the results were votes, which he claimed were outside the law and they should have been set aside.

When asked how were these votes irredeemable and how were these votes outside of the law, Finchem claimed there was ballot harvesting in Yuma. He also said people “have been indicted and pled guilty. Those votes from the indicted individuals altered the outcome of Yuma County.”

When Fontes was asked if he agreed with Finchem, the former Marine calmly responded: “we have to have faith in our democracy. Our democracy rests on the decisions thousands of people make… when we have conspiracy theories and lies like the ones Mr. Finchem has just shared, based on no real evidence, what we end up doing is eroding the faith that we have in each other as citizens…the kind of divisiveness not based in 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.”

Finchem protested, saying “I take exception to what he just said,” claiming Fontes was “running over the evidence that has been presented…visual evidence.” He repeated the ballot harvesting claims and maintained that this has all been recorded.

Moderator Richard Ruelas asked if he was talking about the “evidence” from the discredited  Dinesh D’Souza 2000 Mules movie and Finchem said “exactly.”

He then went on and repeated about the people in Yuma being indicted (only two) and pled guilty (again only two)

When Ted Simons pointed out that a lot of the evidence is not admissible in court, Finchem, his voice raised, countered “That is not true sir.”

Simons also asked whether Finchem’s evidence was enough to overturn an election, the Trump Republican said “I am not talking about overturning an election. I’m talking about declaring one county’s election is irredeemably compromised.”

Fontes responded to Finchem’s assertion with there is “the rule of law and the Constitution. There are processes and procedures. There are court filings that can be made and often get made in Arizona when there are questions about the outcomes… The Certification (of all 15 Arizona counties including Maricopa and Yuma) went through Boards of Supervisors, to the Secretary of State, and ultimately to the Governor’s office. What we now have is an entire set of fiction that has somehow managed to make a lot of money for some people (Donald Trump, Cyber Ninjas) outside of the norms that we expect. This is a chaotic way of readdressing a political loss…We need stability and predictability in our elected offices and our elected officials. We can’t have wild-eyed skepticism…The point here is this. The process has already existed. They went through and it’s time to move away from 2020.

Finchem then brought up apparent criticism of Mr. Fontes handling of the 2020 election while Maricopa County Recorder, citing critical commentary from the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts and Abe Kwok when the Democratic Secretary of State nominee sent out primary ballots to every eligible voter in the county. Finchem said that we “need to have a senior elections official that will just follow the law instead of making it up as he goes.”

Fontes replied “Well I would ask Mr. Finchem to revise that statement based on his presence at the violent insurrection on January 6 that resulted in the deaths of police officers. What we saw was an angry mob that didn’t like the outcome of one election and so, instead of going through the process procedure that he normally said we apply, what he did was engage in a violent insurrection and try to overturn the very Constitution that holds this nation togetherHe is part of an organization that has called for the violent overthrow of our government. He has supporters and he himself has called for a civil war in this country and the stockpiling of ammunition for this very war. It is an unhinged and violent aspect of Mr. Finchem that he’d rather not discuss…The point of March 2020 (when he sent out the primary ballots) is this if I could. At the outset of a global pandemic, when only Democrats were eligible to vote and people were afraid to leave their homes because they might die. My opportunity to send ballots was on the side of the voters, not on the side of some made-up prohibition that frankly did not exist at the time.

Finchem accused Fontes of “engaging in total fiction.”

When Ruelas asked what did you expect would happen on January 6, 2021, Finchem repeated that “Mr. Fontes has engaged in total fiction,” saying he was interviewed by the Department of Justice and the January 6 Commission as “a witness.”  He then accused Fontes of being the one with a criminal record (a youthful indiscretion when a student at ASU,) and continued by stating “for him to assert that I was part of a criminal uprising (he obviously chooses to ignore the pictures of him at the Nation’s Capitol when his fellow insurrectionists were breaking into Congress) is absurd and frankly it is a lie.”

When asked by Ruelas what he thought would happen on January 6, 2021, Finchem did not respond.

When asked by Simons to account for the fact that all the audits did not find evidence of wrongdoing, Finchem replied “We’ve got the evidence. The media has just refused to look at it.”

When asked by Ruelas if the August midterm primaries were fair, Finchem answered, “I have no idea.”

When asked by Simons what changed between the two elections, Finchem replied, “the candidates.”

Fontes, smiling at the political gift Finchem just handed him, offered, “I think what we just heard was the most telling piece of information here. 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 and we know from what he said in Time Magazine, he asserts that the only reason that he believes the only reason Donald Trump won 2020 was because he doesn’t know anyone who voted for Joe Biden (apparently, Mr. Finchem was not looking at the person directly in front of him during the debate.) …Elections are the golden thread that runs through 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. We can’t afford that kind of unpredictability. Doing it right (in 2020) is what we did and it’s not our fault that he can’t accept one loss.”

Finchem then countered by discussing how Fontes is unqualified to be Secretary of State because he could not hold down his county job due to hiccups in  the 2018 primaries, saying, “if you can’t handle one county, how are you going to handle 15?”

On the role of the federal government in elections, Finchem expressed the Unconstitutional position that “the government needs to butt out of state’s rights.”

Given another political gift from the Trump Republican, Fontes cited Article One, Section Four of the Constitution to rebut Finchem, saying that passage “would disagree with Mr. Finchem’s assertion about who is charged with the time, place, and manner of elections. Clearly, Congress plays a significant role and that happens to be the federal government for your information, sir.”

Fontes then brought up Finchem’s opposition to mail-in voting, saying his opponent “wants to strip Arizona Citizens of their capacity to vote by mail…It was created by his party decades ago. It is a secure, accountable, and economical system far better for so many voters than having to stand in long lines in person…Moreover, he wants to take freedoms away like our choice for U.S. Senator…He got on a bill that would do the exact same thing for President…Mr. Finchem, for all his bluster, doesn’t want you to vote for these offices…that’s dangerous.”

When asked if he wants to eliminate mail In voting, Finchem evaded, saying “what I want doesn’t matter…my mindset and judgment doesn’t matter.”

When pressed by Simons, he finally said, “I don’t care for mail-in voting. That’s why I go to the polls.”

Fontes came back and told the moderators that his opponent also wanted to eliminate early voting at polling locations, saying that would put a strain on older voters, disabled veterans, or remote area residents.

Finchem said Fontes’s position “was a false choice” because he supports absentee voting where people opt-in instead of sending ballots to all eligible voters, insinuating (lying) that the courts told Fontes not to do that. Fontes said, “that’s not what the court said Mark and you know it.”

On the question, presented by Simons on whether Arizona voters would want a Chief Elections Officer at a riot at the U.S. Capitol to overturn an election, Finchem actually replied, “the last time I checked, to be at a place when something is happening is not illegal.” He went further stating that he was there to deliver evidence to be considered on the Senate floor regarding the challenge to Arizona’s 2020 electoral votes.

Again, a picture is worth a thousand words. It does not look like Finchem was being the delivery boy when his cult of Trump kindred spirits was about to storm the Capitol.

On a question about archives, Finchem spouted potential conspiracy implications if records are not kept for a longer period of time.

Fontes alluded to Finchem’s lack of temperament, noting that the Secretary of State “is the successor to the Governorship and I think we have to pay attention to the temperament and firm judgment of the folks who would like to be the Secretary of State.”

After viewers watch the debate, they should clearly be able to see for themselves that there was only one candidate at that debate that had the temperament, judgment, demeanor, and grasp of reality that would be necessary to become the next Arizona Secretary of State and, if necessary, Governor.

It clearly was not January 6, 2021 collaborator, insurrectionist, and traitor Mark Finchem.

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