Trump loyalist wins GOP nomination to oversee Arizona election

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona lawmaker who embraces campaign conspiracies and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump won the Republican primary on Tuesday for the top presidential battleground post.

Mark Finchem defeated three other GOP candidates in the race for Secretary of State. His challengers included another candidate who repeated Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election to fraud, a longtime lawmaker and a businessman endorsed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Democrats and election security advocates have warned that a victory for Finchem in November’s general election would be dangerous for democracy.

Finchem, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally that preceded the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, said he only intends to ensure that election laws are followed to address the concerns of many Republicans regarding the conduct of the elections. Yet he tried to get the Legislative Assembly to overturn the 2020 election results and talked about making major changes to the secretary-drafted election rules.

Arizona was the most prominent secretary of state in Tuesday’s primary race. In Kansas, the state’s top election official fended off a far-right challenger who promoted conspiracy theories, while in Washington voters chose from a mix of Democrats, Republicans and no-name candidates. affiliates in that state’s first two primaries.

The GOP primary election for Secretary of State is the last this year to feature candidates who doubt the security of their states’ elections despite lack of evidence of problems widespread enough to alter the results. Republican voters elsewhere are split on sending these candidates to the november election.

Democratic candidates in all three states reject the premise of a stolen presidential election in 2020 and warn 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 most senior election official.

Finchem tried this year to get the Republican-controlled legislature to tell Congress that Arizona wanted to decertify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. He won Trump’s endorsement and said in a recent interview that concerns about his potential victory’s effect on free and fair elections are unfounded. He said he would just apply the laws as they are written.

“I think it’s interesting that there are people, especially Democrats, who say, ‘Oh, he’s going to ruin the system. He’s going to, he’s a threat to democracy,'” Finchem said. Yet he argues that tens of thousands of fake ballots led to Biden’s victory, a claim for which there is no credible evidence.

The other Republican who backed Trump’s claims is also a member of the Arizona House. Representative Shawnna Bolick introduced a bill last year that would allow a simple majority of the Legislature to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Other Republicans on the Arizona ballot were State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who acknowledges Biden’s victory but has worked for a decade to tighten election laws, and businessman Beau Lane, who was supported 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 with its 2020 election, and Trump carried the state to the hilt. Still, Secretary of State Scott Schwab found himself on sometimes tricky ground politically, as many Republicans embraced Trump’s baseless claims that massive fraud cost him the nationwide race.

Schwab has repeatedly vouched for election security in Kansas and touted new laws pushed by the GOP, including those that restrict third-party ballot delivery. He also said he could not vouch for other states’ elections.

The message worked well for him in his primary against Mike Brown, a building contractor and former Kansas City-area county commissioner. Brown embraced election conspiracy theories and promised to rid the state of the ballot box.

In November, Schwab will face Democrat Jenna Repass, who was unopposed in her party’s primary.

Washington state’s first two primaries featured incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who easily qualified for the general election. He was nominated by Governor Jay Inslee last November and hopes to retain his seat 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 for making baseless claims alleging widespread electoral fraud. Borrelli was far behind the other candidates on Tuesday night.

There was a tight race for second place in the November ballot between Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, running as an independent, and several Republicans.

Under Washington’s primary system, the first two voters qualify for the general election, regardless of party. The results could take days to count as this is an election by mail.

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