Thursday night’s showdown between the two men who want to run for office in Arizona showed exactly why the debates matter.
The contrast couldn’t have been sharper.
A man was calm, measured, stable. The other sounded, at times, unbalanced as he spouted conspiracy theories about many of the ways the 2020 election was “irretrievably jeopardized”.
Consider the central question in the Secretary of State Candidate Debate: Would you have certified the 2020 election?
Here’s Rep. Mark Finchem, howling about a stolen election since November 2020:
“There are too many assumptions to really answer that question because we didn’t know what we knew after the election until the certification of the solicitation happened,” Finchem told debate moderators. . “But knowing what we know today, there are certain counties that should have been set aside as irretrievably compromised. Maricopa County was one of them. Yuma County was one of them.
Finchem offered several conspiracy theories, unsupported by evidence, for his belief that the Maricopa County vote was rigged. In Yuma County, he pointed to a real fact: several people who pleaded guilty to collecting ballots.
“We have people who have been charged for the very thing we are talking about right now who have pleaded guilty and frankly those votes have changed the outcome of Yuma County,” he said. “So how are they counted? How have the people who have been disenfranchised been nullified, how can we help them?”
In reality, two Yuma County residents plead guilty to “harvest” a total of four ballots. And that didn’t happen in the November 2020 election (which Trump won in Yuma by more than 4,000 votes), but in the August 2020 primaries.
Of course, these votes did not, as Finchem insists, change the outcome of the presidential election.
However, his continued cries of conspiracy unfairly damaged voter confidence in our electoral system and former Maricopa County recorder Adrian Fontes called him out on it.
“What we have to look at here is the common value that we share and that is that you have to have faith in our democracy and our democracy is really based on the decisions that are made by thousands of people, Republicans and Democrats, who have does the work of elections.
“When we have conspiracy theories and lies, like the ones Mr. Finchem just shared, based on no real evidence, we end up eroding the trust we have in each other as citizens. I was talking to someone last night who said, and she’s a Democrat, who said I just wanted to be friends with my Republican neighbors again. This kind of division, not based on facts, not based on any evidence we have seen, trumpeted by Mr. Finchem, is dangerous for America and we must call it what it is.
Finchem insisted the election was both botched and rigged.
“If the election is mismanaged, what recourse do the people have for this mismanagement and malfeasance?” He asked.
Fontes explained it to him: “So the answer to this question is the rule of law and the Constitution. There are processes and procedures. There are court filings that can be filed and are often filed in Arizona when there are questions about race results.”
During the debate, Finchem repeatedly read an excerpt from a Chronicle of March 2020 I wrote in which I hit Fontes for inventing the electoral law. The pandemic had just hit Arizona, and Fontes decided to send an early ballot to every registered Democrat rather than open polls for the party’s presidential election.
Various state officials, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, argued that there was nothing in state law that gave Fontes the power to send ballots to every Democrat. checked in. He argued that nothing in the law prevented him from doing so. Eventually, a judge blocked it.
Curiously, however, Finchem never quoted the part of the column in which I said this: “Obviously Fontes isn’t trying to rig the election.” He was trying to protect public health.
He also did not cite 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 – one where he said he knew the 2020 election was rigged because “I can’t find anyone who will admit that he voted for Joe Biden.”
Finchem, however, offered a telling response when debate moderators asked if the August primary — the one in which the Trump slate prevailed in all Republican races — was fair.
“I have no idea,” FInchem replied. “It’s like that.”
Moderator: What has changed?
Finchem: “What has changed? The candidates. I have no idea. We didn’t really dig into what happened with the processing of the ballots and I think there’s definitely been an increased sense of scrutiny.”
In other words, because the “good” people won, was this election OK?
I’ll give the last word to Fontes because it was clear he owned Finchem in this debate.
“I think what we just heard is the most telling information here,” he told moderators. “When you asked, ‘What’s changed,’ he said, ‘The candidates.’ Not the process, not the people running things, not the rules, in general, but the candidates. ..
“Here’s the bottom line: Everything Mr. Finchem talks about is politically motivated and it’s that kind of instability, it’s that kind of unpredictability that Arizona and its sound government — the people who are invested in the interest of making sure that we can have predictability in these things for business, law and medicine. All the schools that have their budget cycles. Every little part of our society is run by this idea of a cycle constant election.
“Elections are the golden thread that runs through the fabric of our society and if you pull it back with this unpredictable and chaotic way of looking at things based on the candidates. The whole fabric disintegrates and we cannot afford this kind unpredictability.” That’s what we did. It’s not our fault that he can’t accept defeat.”
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