ELECTIONS

2020 election denial is on the ballot in Arizona this year. These are the candidates

Arizona quickly became ground zero for election denial after the 2020 election. An audit of the presidential results lasted for months and cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but did not turn up evidence of widespread voter fraud. In fact, it further proved Joe Biden's victory

That hasn't stopped candidates claiming otherwise. Republicans at the top of the ballot have parroted former President Donald Trump's false claims of fraud and even suggested their own races this year were suspicious. 

Here are the candidates running in November and what they said or did about the 2020 election. 

Kari Lake, candidate for governor

Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake and Kevin Dang, president of the Vietnamese Community of Arizona, speak at the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in Glendale on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

Bio: 53 years old, Phoenix resident, former television news anchor for Phoenix’s Fox affiliate, Fox 10. She won the Republican nomination for governor of Arizona with a 5% margin, defeating a self-funded establishment challenger and two longshot candidates in the August primary election.

Actions: An ally of Trump, whom she has called “Superman,” Lake has emerged as one of his most outspoken supporters and has amplified his false claims of a stolen election. 

She has said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s win in Arizona in 2020. 

In interviews, she refers to Biden as an “illegitimate president.”  

She has said Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state and her Democratic opponent for governor, “should be locked up” and “broke laws” in the 2020 election. 

She supported the Arizona Senate’s ballot review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County and called for it to be expanded statewide. The widely criticized "audit" affirmed Biden’s win. 

Lake joined in a lawsuit seeking to end mail-in voting in Arizona in favor of limiting voting to only in-person on Election Day. Arizonans predominantly vote early and by mail, and have done so for three decades. 

Related:Arizona Senate leaders confirm Biden win but want further review of election procedures

Lake has said she supports more updating of voter registration rolls, “adding teeth” to a law that prevents a person from dropping off ballots for others, and “100% voter ID.” Identification is already required to vote in person, and she didn’t respond to a question to clarify her position. Presumably she wants to require it for mail-in ballots, too. 

She, along with Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem, filed a lawsuit seeking to ban electronic ballot counting machines in favor of a hand count, which elections officials say would likely be impossible in terms of staffing and expense. Trump praised the effort at a rally, calling Lake and Finchem “patriots.” The lawsuit was dismissed in August, but Lake and Finchem have filed an appeal. 

Lake has said rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were “invited in by Capitol police” and, asked whether insurrectionists should be pardoned, said she had no say in that but she didn’t like that “people are being held in prison without being charged. That’s un-American." Neither claim has been proven. Lake dismissed the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s inquiry into the riot as “a waste of time.” 

She said she would “go supernova radioactive” in July after she said she had detected “stealing going on” in this year’s election, but has repeatedly refused to provide evidence to support those claims.  

A day after the primary, when Lake was in the lead but the race had not been called, she declared victory and said her supporters “outvoted the fraud.” 

She has pledged not to turn away from her belief that election procedures are corrupted and Trump won in 2020. 

“I'm not going to change who I am,” she said. “I'm not going to change. Because I won doesn't mean I'm going to now pivot and try to become a Democrat. Absolutely not.” 

Lake was registered as a Democrat in Arizona between Jan. 2008 and Jan. 2012, according to Maricopa County records. 

“We will continue to talk about the election because we want to make sure we shore up those election laws,” Lake said in August. “It's pretty simple. We can't have this crazy election that goes out, we vote for 27 days, we’ve got ballots pouring in all over the place, we have locations running out of ballots." 

Lake said last month she would certify the 2024 election if she’s elected to be Arizona’s 24th governor, but dodged a question about whether she would concede if she loses in November. 

“I’m not going to lose to Katie Hobbs,” she said. Lake did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Mark Finchem, candidate for secretary of state

Mark Finchem, candidate for secretary of state, speaks during a Save America rally at the Findlay Toyota Center on Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott Valley.

Bio: Finchem, 65, is a former Realtor who's been an Arizona state representative for the last eight years.  

He is the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for Arizona secretary of state, emerging from a four-candidate field with nearly 43% of the vote and carrying all 15 Arizona counties.

Actions: He has been a vocal critic of the 2020 election, maintains Trump won and promises to "restore integrity" to a flawed election system.

He was in Washington D.C., on Jan. 6 for the "Stop the Steal" rally and marched with the crowd to the U.S. Capitol. He said he did not go inside when the insurrectionists broke windows and charged through doors.

He later posted a photo of rioters breaking into the Capitol on Twitter, and added: "What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”

Finchem organized a November 2020 meeting at a Phoenix hotel where Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis discussed ways to contest the presidential results in Arizona, where Trump lost.  

"I am glad that you are fired up. But ladies and gentlemen, you haven't seen nothing yet. Because when Satan wants to extinguish a light, he will stop at nothing," he said at the meeting, which he claimed elevated him to "the national spokesman for election integrity."

He held a similar meeting a year later in the Tucson area to explore alleged fraud in Pima County in 2020.

He claims credit for the creation of the state Senate "audit" of the 2020 Maricopa County election results.

Fact check: Arizona audit affirmed Biden's win, didn't prove voter fraud, contrary to Trump claim

He's been a member of the Oath Keepers, described by the Center for Strategic & International Studies as a far-right anti-government group, since at least 2014.

He kept a "treason watch list" on his Pinterest account.

He has argued the state Legislature has the power to set aside presidential election results if lawmakers believe there is illegality in how those results were obtained.

"(T)he 2020 General Election is irredeemably compromised, and it is impossible to name a clear winner of the contest," he said in a Feb. 17, 2022 news release from the Arizona House of Representatives.

He introduced a resolution to reclaim Arizona's presidential electors because he believes the results in three Arizona counties were compromised. The resolution was never brought up for a vote and no evidence of widespread fraud has been shown in the counties.

“I don’t like being lied to by the people that I hired to do the job," he said at a Church Militant gathering in Wisconsin in August, referring to Maricopa County officials who have defended their conduct of the 2020 election. “So far, every single assertion they made has proved to be false.” 

He said "early voting opens up the pathway to fraud," that early and mail-in voting should be abolished (with exceptions for overseas and traveling voters) and ballots should only be cast in person at the polls on election day. And ballots should be hand-counted, he said, arguing voting machines can be manipulated.

With Lake, Finchem asked a federal judge to block the use of tabulation machines in the November election. The judge dismissed the case, but the candidates are appealing the case the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"There ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy. I’m going to demand a 100% hand count if there’s the slightest hint of any impropriety," he said in a speech prior to his primary election.

And in July, Finchem said former Vice President Mike Pence, who certified the 2020 election results, orchestrated a "coup" against Trump

"Mike Pence seized power of an existing president," Finchem said in a videotaped speech. "Pence had zero authority to order the DOD, DHS or DOJ around. Zero, zip, nada...ladies and gentlemen, that's a coup."

2022 election:These candidates still deny or question 2020 Trump election results

Blake Masters, candidate for U.S. Senate

Blake Masters, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, walks on stage during a Unite and Win rally held by Turning Point Action at the Arizona Financial Theatre on Aug. 14, 2022, in Phoenix.

Bio: 36 years old, Tucson resident, former president of Thiel Foundation and co-author of "Zero to One," a best-seller about business startups written with billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Masters won the Republican nomination over four other candidates with Trump's endorsement after more than a year of intimating election fraud and decrying what he viewed as basic unfairness.

Actions: Throughout the five-way Republican primary, Masters said the 2020 contest was "unfair," citing, for example, social media algorithms and the delayed announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. He suggested that if the election had been fair, Trump would have won.

Before he formally joined the Senate race in 2021, he said his father advised against running because Democrats would just steal the election.

"I don't know what happened in the 2020 election. I don't. I think that's part of the problem. We don't know," he said. "Maybe the Democrats played pretty aggressively with ballot harvesting all the way to know it's pretty rigged. And they flipped some switches in the voting systems and it's rigged."

For subscribers: GOP Senate hopeful Blake Masters repeatedly has criticized US military

In a pair of December 2020 tweets, Masters said he saw a broken election system.

"Why not have airtight election procedures immune to all challenge, like Taiwan? Why do we prefer to have systems that look dodgy?" he wrote. "Where fraud is or looks possible, public trust evaporates. Election security will be top priority on the right going forward. And we’re going to figure out how to win big and make cheating impossible."

In a July 2021 radio interview, Masters blamed the media for Trump's loss and called it a stolen election. Asked whether the election was stolen, he said he's "not sure."

"It was in many obvious ways. First of all, the media had its thumb on the scale, cooking up polls that show Biden is up 8 points," he said. "The whole idea here is to demoralize Trump voters and keep them home, another way in which (it) was stolen."

Masters also equivocated.

"I don't actually know if there was fraud in Arizona," he said in the same interview, which took place during the state Senate's partisan-led review of Maricopa County's ballots. "I hope we'll find out. I want to think Arizona is a lot cleaner than places like Georgia."

As a general election candidate, Masters has taken down language on his campaign website calling the 2020 election "a rotten mess."

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert

In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., makes a point during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Bio: Schweikert, 60, is a six-term member of Congress and a former state house representative. He is running for reelection in the new 1st Congressional District, which consists of: Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Cave Creek and Fountain Hills. He will face Democrat Jevin Hodges in November.

Actions: Schweikert was boosted by Trump's endorsement of his candidacy, which helped him prevail over a major fundraising disadvantage with second-place candidate businessman Elijah Norton and numerous ethics scandals, involving, among other things, misappropriation of campaign funds.

Schweikert, like the rest of the entire Republican delegation to Congress from Arizona, would not acknowledge that President Joe Biden had won the election in December after the electoral college finalized its results.

Another action Schweikert has in common with the rest of his GOP colleagues is that he also voted Jan. 6 against certifying some 2020 election results after the Capitol had been secured from the rioting.

Schweikert parted from the rest of the pack by voting to certify Arizona's election results, instead objecting to Pennsylvania's.  

Eli Crane, candidate for House 

Eli Crane is a former U.S. Navy SEAL and an America First candidate for Arizona's 2nd Congressional District.

Bio: 42 years old, small business owner and former Navy Seal.

Political newbie Eli Crane defeated well-known state legislator Walt Blackman in a crowded primary to be the GOP nominee for Congress in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District. Crane's path to victory was lit with the late Trump endorsement in a district that largely favors Republicans. 

The primarily rural district contains Apache, Coconino, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo counties and portions of of six additional counties. He will face incumbent Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., who some consider one of the most endangered representatives in the country.

Actions: Crane is an election denier who was vocal in his support for the 2020 Maricopa County "audit," conducted post-election after some Republicans claimed there was widespread voter fraud. No evidence of such a claim has been found.  

Jeff Zink, candidate for House 

Trump supporter Jeff Zink, who visited a rally at the U.S. State capitol in Washington D.C., arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport on Jan. 8, 2021.

Bio: 59 years old, retired. His work history includes managing and creating the curriculum at the for-profit Grand Canyon University and a church deacon. 

The first-time candidate is trying to defeat incumbent Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in the 3th Congressional District, which incorporates sections of Phoenix.

Actions: Zink told The Arizona Republic he was outside the Capitol building on Jan. 6 when the mob broke in, but that he did not breach the Capitol. Zink later wrote about his legal ordeals on his LinkedIn page:  "I was cleared but my son is now facing 47 years in federal prison. He was with me 100% of the time. He is a political prisoner because the democratic party is completely out of control." 

Zink acted as a witness to the Maricopa County "audit."

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs

Rep. Andy Biggs speaks during an Arizona Freedom Caucus news conference on July 22, 2022, in the historic Senate Chamber at Arizona state Capitol.

Bio: 63 years old, three-term member of Congress, former state legislator.

Biggs is the incumbent in Arizona's 5th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Maricopa and Pinal Counties, including sections of Gilbert and Chandler, Queen Creek and Apache Junction.

Actions: In November 2020, Biggs, Shweikert, and Rep. Paul Gosar asked the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in writing to audit the voting count by hand, citing the narrow win by Biden and "anomalies and potential errors."

On Dec. 21, 2021, Biggs, Gosar, and Finchem tried to persuade Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, that there was proof that voting in Maricopa County was riddled with massive voting fraud. 

On Jan. 6, 2021, Biggs voted to overturn the results of the election after the Capitol was breached. He was also one of 120 House Republicans who signed onto the Texas amicus brief to overturn election results in four states

"Stop the Steal" movement founder Ali Alexander has claimed that Biggs, Gosar and Republican Mel Brooks, R-Ala., helped plan the rally that led to the insurrection. Biggs, however, has denied taking part in the planning of the Jan. 6 protests.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko

Representative Debbie Lesko speaks during a press conference on Nov. 5, 2020, at Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix.

Bio: 63 years old, former state lawmaker.

Lesko has been in Congress since winning a special election in 2018 and, running unopposed, will almost certainly serve a third full term in Congress. She would  represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Maricopa and Yavapai Counties Peoria and Surprise.  

Actions: Lesko has taken an active role in the "Stop the Steal" movement. She, along with Gosar, was one of the speakers at a Phoenix news conference the day after 2020 election, despite the fact the final election results were not yet known.

Lesko, like Biggs, was also a part of a 120-member GOP House lawsuit filed to the Supreme Court to nullify the election results in four states. 

There is conflicting testimony given to the House Jan. 6 Special Committee over whether Lesko went to a Republican get-together at the White House at the end of 2020, in which the former president and his allies discussed ways for Trump to overcome the election results. Lesko's office denies her attendance. However, Biggs and and Gosar were present at the gathering.  

Lesko voted to overturn the election results after the Capitol riot.  

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., takes the stage to help out Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., at an America First event in Mesa on March 22, 2021.

Bio: Gosar, 63, is a six-term member of Congress who is a former dentist. 

He handedly defeated his three primary opponents and is running unopposed in the new 9th Congressional District, which includes Yuma, Mohave and La Paz counties and western Maricopa County, including Buckeye, Surprise, Goodyear, Avondale and parts of Glendale.

Actions: Gosar has been a controversial figure in Congress long before the events of Jan. 6. Gosar was censured and stripped of his committee assignments last year after posting a video on Twitter of him slaying Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Gosar was called the "spirit animal"  of the "Stop the Steal" movement by Alexander in a video that has since been taken down.  

Gosar advocated for not certifying the election results Jan 6. at the time the Capitol was breached by the MAGA mob and voted to overturn the election results.

In April, Gosar reacted to an ethics complaint filed in the House Ethics Committee against him and other legislators by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., over his actions surrounding the insurrection. 

"Know this: I have never instigated violence," Gosar wrote. "I have no criminal record of any type. I have never aided or abetted violence. I have not urged or supported violence..."

In an exclusive video obtained in June by The Arizona Republic, Gosar connected himself to the riot at the Capitol.    

"On January 6th, 2021, I was the one who started the revolution in regards to accountability of elections," he said at an event at a Republican club in Bullhead City.

Abe Hamadeh, candidate for attorney general

Attorney General candidate Republican Abe Hamadeh on Arizona PBS where he debated Democrat Kris Mayes on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

Bio: A former Maricopa County prosecutor, Hamadeh is a U.S. Army intelligence officer who returned last year from a tour in the Middle East. He is backed by Trump. 

Actions: He has claimed repeatedly that Biden's win in 2020 was due only to rampant election fraud.

Hamadeh said on Twitter he would "prosecute the election fraud of 2020" if elected. 

In a debate this month, he said he would not have helped certify the 2020 election in Arizona because of concerns over possible fraud. 

The attorney general is one of three elected officials who participate in certifying election results in Arizona.