Arizona’s New Secretary of State Wants to Call ‘Election Deniers’ ‘Traitors’

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“I have not conceded, we all know why. That is all,” Mark Finchem, the QAnon-promoting, Oath Keeper-repping GOP candidate for Arizona Secretary of State tweeted after he lost. Finchem was among the last of former President Donald Trump’s cadre of election-denying candidates to have his race called last week. He lost to Democrat Adrian Fontes, a lawyer and former Maricopa County recorder. I reached out to Fontes to see how he felt about bringing down one of 2022’s democracy-threatening candidates. 

What message do you think Arizona voters were sending in your win over Mark Finchem? 

Arizona voters told its government, “we’re ok with elections the way they are now. We don’t want major changes. We don’t want hand counts. We’re ok with machines the way they are. We don’t want the Big Lie any more. We just want to vote, find out who won, who lost.” That’s what my mandate is. 

Why do you say it’s time to do away with the term “election deniers” to describe people who falsely say Biden didn’t win in 2020? 

Calling them election deniers gives them too much breathing room. It minimizes the threat in using that label. It’s as if we’re trying to be politically correct against the political aggressor and I don’t believe in that type of appeasement. Call the traitor a traitor. Call the seditionist a seditionist. Call the authoritarian an authoritarian. Why let them off the hook? We’re gonna hurt their feelings?

Sometimes bad guys don’t like being called bad guys. And just because they’re sensitive does mean they’re not a-holes. 

Huh. I’m not sure I’ve heard that from any other candidate. Pro-democracy candidates seemed to do pretty well in the midterms. But a lot of them at times seemed to struggle to find clear and salient language about what was at stake for democracy. 

We came up with a slogan around this. “Sabemos lo que es perderlo.” ”We know what it’s like to lose it.” We used it in all our Spanish-language radio and TV ads. The idea that we know what it’s like to lose it is real from a cultural context and the cultural history of Latinos and Native Americans in Arizona. 

It was hard to justify a basic translation about democracy that was relevant to the cultural DNA of “pioneers” or “trailblazers.” It doesn’t have the same cultural heft if you were the child of a family that was here already when the pioneers showed up. Or if you’re an immigrant from some other Latin American country because you ran away from authoritarianism or totalitarianism.  

I felt it as a Hispanic man in the US. I wanted to hold myself to a higher standard because I’m not just representing a party or a brand, but myself. And I wanted to do it right with something better than a rote translation.

Mark Finchem and others on the right are now debasing the election, calling for a redo, and demanding it not be certified. It appears election denialism isn’t going anywhere in Arizona, even as you get ready to take over.

They don’t like being pushed back against. You saw his reactions on Twitter. I don’t follow him because I don’t give a shit what he has to say, but he was melting down. People of strength don’t usually do that. He’s very weak, and it shows. The Republicans who voted for me saw it. As for their demands, I don’t occupy myself with nonsense until there’s something real to deal with. This election was a good election and was run well. We’ll have a canvass in a week or so, we may have one or two recounts, but we’ll move on. And democracy has survived. 

Kari Lake, Republican gubernatorial candidate for Arizona, speaks during an Arizona Republican Party election night rally in Scottsdale, Arizona, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jon Cherry/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Lake effect 

Right-wing conspiracists who’ve staked their relevance (and tons of income) on perpetuating stolen-election mythology were running short of options this week. It was bad enough that many of their favorite candidates lost in the midterms. Far worse: many acknowledged their defeats and conceded. It was clear a lot of candidates realized that voters had rejected election conspiracies just days before. Maybe there’s not much future in it! Even Donald Trump didn’t talk about them much in his low-energy announcement at Mar-a-Lago. So it was clear that the online authoritarians were pinning their immediate hopes on Kari Lake, Arizona’s election-denying GOP candidate for governor, as their best bet for keeping the lies alive. 

Kari Lake didn’t let them down. 

Lake said next to nothing (aside from crying “BS!”) after the race was called for current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, but she broke her silence yesterday. Unlike many GOP candidates who lost and said so, Lake is throwing in her chips with the GOP base, who, unlike its elites and donors, believe tripling down on election conspiracy theories is still the path to power in the party. 

And just in case you’re wondering where that path leads for Lake, that video posted Thursday morning. By the afternoon, Lake was at Mar-a-Lago

Former Vice President Mike Pence visits “Fox & Friends” at Fox News Channel studios on November 16, 2022 in New York City. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

T.W.I.S.™ Notes 

Republicans begged Donald Trump not to announce his candidacy for president so early. But Trump still has a grip on the party’s base. He could get the nomination. Oh yeah, and he thinks it’ll help keep him from getting charged with a bunch of crimes. This Week in Subpoenas, the Road to (dear God, I want off this hellride) 2024! 

Pence’ll erase

Who’s got white hair, would like to be president, and is refusing to volunteer what he knows about Trump’s attempt to overthrow the U.S. government? Former VP Mike Pence says he won’t appear in front of the January 6 committee to talk about the coup attempt, because the panel has “no right” to his testimony. As an excuse, Pence complained about partisanship and lamented that the committee wasn’t modeled after the 9/11 Commission, while ignoring the fact that Republicans killed a commission of precisely that kind. Bottom line: Pence did the right thing on Jan. 6, but now that he wants the GOP base to come back him, he’s choosing obfuscation. Apparently not even the noose Trump’s mob had ready for him is reason enough for him to stick his neck out. 

Pence won’t testify, but his top aides already have… in the January 6 committee and in the  federal grand jury running a criminal investigation into the coup plot. 

– Records and fakes

The committee will get information from Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, who lost her battle in the Supreme Court to keep her phone records out of investigators’ hands. Ward teamed up with Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Maricopa County officials to stop tabulating ballots. She also joined the fake electors plot in her state, even after expressing concerns it might be treasonous.

No-show

The January 6 committee made official this week what you already knew in your heart: There is no way Donald Trump is complying with subpoenas for his testimony and documents related to the coup attempt that culminated in a riot at the Capitol. There’s not much the panel can do here. Republicans will take over the House in a little over 10 weeks, and since their leadership has focused like lasers on a covering up what happened on and right before Jan. 6, it’s all but assured they’ll shut down the committee and all block the vital information it provided to the midterms-going public. 

That makes getting the committee’s report out by the New Year all the more vital. The panel floated this week that they could focus the narrative on Trump’s central role in the several facets of the coup plot, and not on other important issues like security or law enforcement lapses. Let’s hope they don’t leave out the critical role several Republican members of Congress, like Rep. Scott Perry, played in the plot to execute a coup.

– Fulton County All-Stars

It was a big week for testimony in the Fulton County grand jury investigating the effort to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. Gov. Brian Kemp, fresh off his re-election, testified on Tuesday. Cassidy Hutchinson, the former White House aide who riveted the January 6 committee with testimony of thrown lunch and a lunging president, appeared Wednesday. And Thursday it was Sen. Lindsey Graham, who’s all-in for Trump’s 2024 campaign and also called Georgia election officials to inquire about tossing ballots. 

Ret. Gen. (what the hell happened to) Mike Flynn is set to appear next week

Meanwhile, DA Fani Willis may be fixing to offer more immunity deals to get testimony out of some of the Georgia GOP’s fake electors. Willis already informed most of those fake electors that they’re targets of her investigation, so that’s making them clam up.

Here’s a helpful compendium of all the charges Trump could be facing under Georgia Law in Fulton County, ranging from interfering in elections all the way up to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, aka RICO. And since Trump has officially declared his candidacy for 2024, here are all the reasons prosecutors may have made their jobs a lot harder by moving slowly on both the coup attempt and the Mar-a-Lago documents case. 

Choppin’ Lagos

And HERE’s a compendium of all the charges under federal law Donald Trump could be facing in the Mar-a-Lago records case, from concealing government records, to false statements, to obstruction. It’s a model prosecution memo that concludes: DOJ has a clear case, and they would have already prosecuted it against any other offender.

“You’re welcome.” – Liz Cheney, to Kari Lake. 

Ballot blocks — Now that Trump is running for president again, what about the part of the Constitution that bars insurrectionists from holding public office? Democratic Rep. David Cicilline has been circulating a letter in Congress promoting legislation to do just that. Cicilline’s promising a bill that prevents Trump’s election based on the Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Activist groups have tried to block several Trumpist lawmakers from the ballot based on their role in the insurrection. None succeeded, except for one challenge that removed Otero County, N.M. commissioner Couy Griffin from office for participating in Jan. 6. 

Missed my Q — Is this Q 2.0? VICE’s David Gilbert and Mack Lamoureux have the story on how the QAnon movement has metastasized so much that enthusiasts no longer even care when the person or persons claiming to be Q post online. Don’t all prophets reach a point when their followers no longer need them? Which brings us to Trump, who invited QAnon influencers to his Mar-a-Lago speech, but really disappointed a lot of the rank and file. 

General-Lee anti-democratic — Georgia’s 2021 election restrictions mean voters will lose one Saturday of early balloting ahead of the December 6 Senate runoff. The Saturday before Election Day is when many Black churches run get-out-the-vote efforts sometimes called “Souls to the Polls.” But voting that day is now canceled because of a state holiday that until recently was used to honor Robert E. Lee. Chef’s kiss! Sen. Raphael Warnock is suing to try and get that day of voting reinstated. 

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