Aug 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Election denial drives spending spree in AZ secretary of state race

Contributions to Arizona secretary of state candidates
Data: Brennan Center for Justice; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The Trump-endorsed, election-denying candidate for Arizona secretary of state has raised more money than any of his competitors — including hundreds of thousands from out of state, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Center.

Why it matters: Arizona has become ground zero for election denialism, a phenomenon that will be put to the test in Tuesday's GOP primaries for governor, secretary of state and key down-ballot races.

What's happening: Mark Finchem, an Arizona state lawmaker and conspiracy theorist who marched to the Capitol on Jan. 6, is part of a coalition of over a dozen election-denying "America First" candidates for secretary of state nationwide.

  • Finchem has raised $1.2 million so far and is polling in first place among GOP voters who have made up their mind.
  • Beau Lane, a Republican competitor who has been endorsed by Arizona's Gov. Doug Ducey, has raised the second-highest total at $1.1 million.
  • Out-of-state funds account for 59% of Finchem's itemized contributions, a higher proportion than that of any other candidate.

Zoom out: Overall, Arizona secretary of state candidates had brought in nearly $4 million through June, compared with $2.6 million for the same period in 2018.

  • The race has seen the largest increase in out-of-state donations for any of the six key secret­ary of state elec­tions Brennan is tracking this year — nearly four times more than in 2018.

Between the lines: The Arizona race has drawn $5.6 million in independent political spending as well, including substantial sums from dark-money groups that don’t disclose their donors, according to Brennan's analysis.

  • That's 12 times the state's record total for outside spending in recent secretary of state elections.
  • While state Rep. Regin­ald Bold­ing has raised less than $500,000 for his campaign for secretary of state, the Democrat has benefited from $2.5 million in independent spending, according to Brennan.

The big picture: Both Finchem and Kari Lake, former President Donald Trump's favored candidate for governor, have aggressively promoted the false allegations that the 2020 election was "rigged."

  • Trump's campaign to undermine the 2020 election results has morphed into widespread efforts to shape and control elections at the state and local levels — including in battlegrounds such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada.
  • Once-obscure state and local races are now drawing more vehemently partisan candidates, greater national attention and record fundraising.
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