This is what Adrian Fontes, who’s running as a Democrat in Arizona’s secretary of state race, had to say on my SiriusXM radio show last week about his Republican opponent, Mark Finchem: “Fascism is growing in the United States of America and he is the epitome of that.” Fontes added: “He doesn’t want you to vote for president. He wants to pick them. … That is what totalitarians and authoritarians do.”
He is way beyond a run-of-the-mill “election denier.” He is an even greater danger.
If you think Fontes, a former prosecutor who served in the U.S. Marines Corps, is being over the top, then that’s because you don’t know Finchem. He is way beyond a run-of-the-mill “election denier.” He is an even greater danger.
As MSNBC’s Ja'han Jones has detailed, Finchem is a self-professed member of the extremist Oath Keepers militia who was seen outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Several leaders of the Oath Keepers are currently on trial, charged with “seditious conspiracy” for plotting to overturn the 2020 election using force, and one Oath Keeper leader has testified that he was willing to sacrifice his life to keep then-President Donald Trump in power.
Follow our 2022 midterm elections live blog at msnbc.com/midterms beginning Nov. 7 for the latest results, news and expert analysis in real time.
In that vein, Finchem, as CNN’s KFile has documented, posted violent imagery on social media that included warnings of a coming “war in America” that will have “no rules of engagement.” In encouraging likeminded people to stockpile ammunition, he’s warned “you need to be prepared.” He also posted a fake quotation claiming George Washington said U.S. citizens should be armed against the government. In a vacuum you could say this is simply overheated political rhetoric, but in an America where our Capitol was attacked by Trump supporters, such calls to arms must be taken seriously.
After all, we are currently seeing armed individuals in Arizona harassing voters at ballot drop boxes and accusing them of “being a mule” trying to cast fraudulent ballots. As complaints of this type of voter intimidation was being reported in the Arizona media and the local sheriff’s office pledged to protect voters, what was Finchem doing? He was calling for even more vigilantes to do the same, posting in all caps on social media: “WATCH ALL DROP BOXES. PERIOD. SAVE THE REPUBLIC.” The following day Finchem tweeted, “Soros does not want people to watch their shenanigans. We must watch all drop boxes … ”
You may be asking yourself: Why would Finchem invoke George Soros, the wealthy Jewish Democratic donor? Simple. For the same reason he has invoked Michael Bloomberg’s name.
Finchem, echoing language you might see in Neo-Nazi propaganda, has peddled antisemitism this campaign with posts such as: “Democrat politicians on the ballot in Arizona are liars and deceivers. They want total control over you and our state. Their loyalty is to George Soros and Mike Bloomberg.” When Arizona’s Jewish Community Relations Council denounced Finchem’s comments as antisemitic, the GOP candidate doubled down by posting: “I need to raise $15k by midnight to stop the deceiver who is bankrolled by billionaires Soros & Bloomberg ... ”
And then we get to Finchem’s election denying, which he has also taken to dangerous heights. Just weeks after the 2020 election, Finchem, an Arizona state representative, organized a meeting featuring Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and other Arizona Republican officials to uncover what he said was election fraud in the state. And despite recounts and court cases confirming President Joe Biden’s win, there was Finchem in Washington, the night before the Jan. 6 attack, speaking at a "Stop the Steal" rally, where he said of the 2020 election, “When you steal something, it's not a win. It's a fraud."
Finchem even co-sponsored legislation that would allow Arizona’s Republican-controlled state Legislature to ignore the will of the voters and award presidential electors to any candidate they believe should be president. There’s no more clear example of a person telling you that they don’t believe in democracy than legislation like that — which, as of now, has not passed.
Because of his efforts to “Stop the Steal” and his admission that he was at the Capitol that Jan. 6 to deliver two Arizona Republican members of Congress “evidence” of voter fraud, Finchem was subpoenaed and interviewed by the House Jan. 6 committee. No wonder Trump gleefully endorsed Finchem in the 2022 Republican primary, declaring that “Mark was willing to say what few others had the courage to say” about the 2020 election.
Finchem even co-sponsored legislation that would allow Arizona’s Republican controlled state legislature award presidential electors to any candidate they believe should be president.
A moment that proves how intellectually bankrupt Finchem is came during his September debate with Fontes. When asked if there had been fraud in his Republican primary win in August, Finchem at first stated that he had "no idea." After being pressed by the moderators to explain why he didn’t think there was fraud this election given that no changes in the voting procedures had been implemented since the 2020 election, Finchem then said the change was “the candidates.” As Fontes noted during the debate, Finchem admitted that it was "not the process, not the people running things, not the rules," that had changed since 2020 — only the results.
There are other deeply alarming GOP secretary of state candidates running in Nevada and Michigan, but Finchem is still the most dangerous. His peddling antisemitism, sharing violent political imagery and encouraging armed people to intimidate voters sets him apart.
As Fontes told me about the peril posed by Finchem: “He has vowed that unless Trump wins in 2024, he won’t certify the election,” adding “that means this election isn’t not just about the past — it’s about the future of democracy.” Fontes is correct. This is about the future. And it’s clear that Finchem and democracy cannot co-exist.