PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker who embraces election conspiracies and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump won Tuesday’s Republican primary for the top polling station in the presidential battleground.
Mark Finchem beat three other GOP candidates in the secretary of state race. His challengers included another candidate who repeated Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election due to fraud, a longtime state legislator and a businessman endorsed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Democrats and election security advocates have warned that a Finchem victory in November’s general election would be dangerous for democracy.
Finchem, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally that preceded the violent attack on the US Capitol, said he only intended to ensure election laws were followed to address concerns among many Republicans about how the election was conducted. . However, he tried to convince the Legislature to overturn the results of the 2020 election and talked about major changes to the election rules being written by the secretary.
Arizona’s was the most high-profile secretary of state race in Tuesday’s primary. In Kansas, the state’s top election official beat a far-right challenger promoting conspiracy theories, while in Washington, voters chose from a mix of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated candidates in that state’s first two primaries.
The GOP primary for secretary of state is the latest this year with candidates doubting their state’s election security despite lack of evidence of any problems widespread enough to change the results. Republican voters elsewhere have been divided over the mission of these candidates the November ballot.
Democratic candidates in all three states are rejecting the case of a stolen 2020 presidential election and warning that victories in November by any of those promoting conspiracies would jeopardize free and fair elections. In all three states, the secretary of state is the top electoral official.
Finchem tried this year to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to tell Congress that Arizona wanted to decertify Electoral victory of Democrat Joe Biden. He won Trump’s support and said in a recent interview that concerns about the effect of his potential victory on free and fair elections are unfounded. He said he would simply apply the laws as written.
“I think it’s interesting that there are people, particularly Democrats out there, who claim, ‘Oh, it’s going to destroy the system. He will do that, he is a threat to democracy,” Finchem said. However, he maintains that tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots led to Biden’s victory, a claim for which there is no reliable evidence.
The other Republican who supported Trump’s claims is also a member of the Arizona House. Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced a bill last year that would have allowed a simple majority of the Legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election.
The other Republicans on the Arizona ballot were state Sen. Michelle Ujedi-Rita, who recognizes Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to strengthen election laws, and businessman Bo Lane, who was endorsed by the governor.
Two Democrats, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, are seeking their party’s nomination.
Kansas had no major issues heading into the 2020 election, and Trump carried the state. But Secretary of State Scott Schwab has found himself on sometimes difficult political ground because many Republicans have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that massive fraud cost him the national race.
Schwab has repeatedly vouched for the security of Kansas elections and has supported new laws pushed by the GOP, including those that would limit third-party ballot delivery. He also said he could not vouch for elections in other states.
The message worked well for him in his primary against Mike Brown, a construction contractor and former county commissioner in the Kansas City area. Brown embraced election conspiracy theories and promised to rid the state of the polls.
In November, Schwab will face Democrat Jenna Repass, who was unopposed in her party’s primary.
The first two Washington state primaries featured incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who easily advanced to the general election. He was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last November and hopes to keep his post for the remaining two years of former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s four-year term.
Also on the primary ballot were several Republican and unaffiliated challengers, including Tamborine Borrelli, an America First candidate who was fined by the state Supreme Court earlier this summer over allegations of widespread voter fraud. Borrelli was lagging far behind other candidates Tuesday night.
There was a tight race for second place on the November ballot between Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who was running as an independent, and several Republicans.
Under Washington’s primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. Results may take days to be tallied because this is a mail-in election only.
Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.
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