The candidates for the top electoral position in Arizona will face off in the debate

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By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) – A Republican Arizona The lawmaker who embraces election conspiracies and has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump will clash with the Democrat who helped oversee the 2020 election in Maricopa County on Thursday night as they both seek the job highest electoral in the state.

State Rep. Mark Finchem has built a national following among Trump supporters and those who believe without evidence that the former president lost in Arizona and other battleground states to fraud.

Finchem will debate Democrat Adrian Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder who lost his 2020 re-election bid. Fontes says Finchem’s claims have eroded faith in democracy and he finds himself in the strange position of having to “debate someone who does not believe in reality”.

The 30-minute debate sponsored by the Arizona Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission is the only scheduled opportunity for the public to see the two candidates for secretary of state side-by-side. The secretary acts as Arizona’s top election official, oversees many business documents, and is next in line if the governor leaves office prematurely. The debate will air at 5 p.m. on Arizona PBS and will be moderated by longtime Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons, who has handled clean election debates for more than a decade.

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Finchem was at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 and was subpoenaed by the Justice Department while investigating the insurgency. He joined a lawsuit with Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake seeking to demand that all ballots be counted by hand in a state that has seen 3.4 million ballots cast in 2020 covering more than 100 races. A federal judge dismissed the case in August, but they appealed.

Finchem insists the courts and the media are ignoring legitimate concerns about 2020 election issues. He is a retired Kalamazoo, Michiganmember of the Arizona House since 2015.

“People are, they got the guts of the narrative that there was nothing wrong” with the 2020 election, Finchem said in an interview the day after winning the 2nd four-vote Republican primary. august. “All the false narrative that the national media has tried to paint over the past two years has crumbled – and now I’m vilified by rags like the Guardian and the Atlantic.”

Fontes is a lawyer and former Marine who ran primary ads saying he would protect the right to vote for all Arizonans and that Holocaust deniers like Finchem were carrying out a full-fledged attack on democracy.

Fontes said Finchem’s statements are detached from reality and that it is difficult “to have a convincing debate.”

“His cognitive dissonance is so out of whack that nothing he says can be trusted,” Fontes said Wednesday. “And that’s a shame, because I’m in the awkward position of having to argue with someone who doesn’t know what reality is.”

Finchem says he will run the secretary’s office without favoring either side, and his first priority is to rewrite the state’s election procedures manual, which sets out rules for county officials to administer the elections. The manual was the source of controversy earlier this year, with the Republican attorney general suing Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs over a new manual that Brnovich refused to endorse. A judge refused to impose the changes requested by the attorney general.

Finchem said the current manual “is full of flaws.” It is drafted by the secretary, and the attorney general and governor must sign it each election cycle. If Finchem and the Republican candidates for attorney general and governor all win, they can make sweeping changes to the rules for administering elections.

“My campaign is going to talk about one priority, and that’s restoring the rule of law, holding people accountable to upholding election law,” Finchem said in the post-primary interview. He has not returned repeated calls and messages in recent weeks.

Finchem continues to insist that the 2020 election was unfair, and recent reports have documented that he accused former Vice President Mike Pence of orchestrating ‘a coup’ when he called the army to stop the attack on the Capitol. He also said he believed Trump won Arizona because he had never met anyone who had voted for President Joe Biden.

Fontes said he expects Finchem to attack him for his efforts to send absentee ballots to all county residents in the March 2020 presidential primary, a move that occurred at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and was blocked by the courts. He supports these efforts to improve voter access and his record of good management of the Registrar’s Office.

“I think he’s going to try to pass himself off as a lowly, small-town policeman and ignore the fact that he was part of a violent insurgency that resulted in the deaths of police officers,” Fontes said of the debate. to come (Finchem did not enter the Capitol). “He will try to distract himself from his responsibility to essentially erode our democracy.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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