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Mark Finchem, a Trump-backed “poster child” of election denialism, has lost his bid to become Arizona’s top election official.

Even by the current standards of the Republican Party, Finchem is extreme. After spending the first part of his career as a public safety officer in Michigan, he relocated to Arizona and adopted the look of a western lawman. In 2014, while running for the state house, Finchem said he was a member of the Oath Keepers, the right-wing militia whose founder is now on trial for seditious conspiracy. He won that election and has been a state representative ever since.

On January 6, 2020, he was photographed outside the US Capitol in one of his trademark cowboy hats (he didn’t enter the building). The next year, he started his run for secretary of state. As Mother Jones explained in August, he called for decertifying the results of the 2020 election, said he supported banning early voting, and co-sponsored legislation that would allow state legislators to overturn election results. He told supporters that if he’d been secretary of state in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.”

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump endorsed him and other members of the America First Secretary of State Coalition started by Nevada candidate Jim Marchant.

In August, Finchem won his primary by nearly 20 percentage points, despite GOP Gov. Doug Ducey endorsing his main opponent. In the general election, Finchem faced Democrat Adrian Fontes, who’d previously served as the recorder of Maricopa County.

The race was close, but media outlets projected Friday night that Fontes had prevailed—an outcome that will avoid the possibility that Finchem will be able to provoke a democratic crisis by refusing to certify the results of a future election. 

But it’s hard to take much solace in Finchem’s defeat. The reality is that a Kalamazoo conspiracy theorist with a cowboy hat was one break away from taking over Arizona elections. We won’t always be so lucky.

Noah Lanard

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