Gage Skidmore Rep. Mark Finchem
Gage Skidmore

Republicans state representatives Mark Finchem and Walt Blackman want to run for the Arizona Secretary of State and a US Representative, respectively. 

This story has been updated with comments from Rep. Walt Blackman.

Arizona representatives Mark Finchem and Walt Blackman were two of the most prominent voices behind baseless allegations of election fraud in the 2020 election.

Their words and actions helped shape the culture and heightened the tensions that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection that led to five deaths and hundreds of arrests. They asked Congress to ignore the will of Arizona voters and instead accept “alternate” votes for Trump, who lost the election by more than 10,000 votes in the state.

Now, Blackman is running to represent Arizona’s first district in the US House of Representatives and Finchem for Secretary of State.

The Copper Courier reached out to both Blackman and Finchem for comment. Finchem didn’t respond, but Blackman later confirmed his campaign to The Copper Courier.

Filing Indicates Intent to Collect Signatures

Blackman filed his Statement of Interest on January 31, and Finchem filed weeks later on March 29, according to the Secretary of State’s website

Blackman is after Democrat US Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s seat representing District 1, which covers portions of Apache, Coconino, Graham, Greenlee, and Navajo Counties. O’Halleran hasn’t indicated whether he’ll run again. 

Finchem is vying for the Secretary of State position, which is currently held by Democrat Katie Hobbs. She hasn’t filed yet, either. 

Simply filing aren’t formal declarations of candidacy. It just indicates that the individual will now collect signatures for a possible nomination.

In Arizona, candidates must get signatures from between 1% to 3% of all qualified voters to qualify for the ballot.

During an interview with The Copper Courier, Blackman laid out his list of priorities, ranging from improving education funding criminal justice reform and improving border security to augmenting infrastructure in rural areas of northern Arizona and reforming police departments by providing resources for more advocates and trained mental health experts. He also emphasized that he wants to restore voter’s faith in elections.

“I feel like I can help more people in this capacity in Congress,” Blackman said.

Rep. Walter Blackman, R-Snowflake, is sworn in during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Phoenix.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool

Finchem Attended Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection

Finchem’s filing comes in the shadow of repeated questions about and investigations into his role in the Capitol insurrection.

The Oro Valley Republican is openly a member of multiple extremist organizations, including the far-right, anti-government group known as the Oath Keepers, and the Coalition of Western States, which supported the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

He publicly advocated for the overturning of the November election and repeatedly argued that the US Constitution gives lawmakers the power to determine who gets the state’s electoral votes. 

Finchem was actually in Washington, D.C. to speak at the event that preceded the riot. Finchem’s text messages from the weeks leading up to the insurrection reportedly show him coordinating with Ali Alexander, a prominent conservative activist who openly admitted to organizing the event preceding the riot. 

It’s not clear whether Finchem actually assisted with organizing the event or was simply planning to speak. He didn’t end up speaking and claims he did not participate in the riot, did not enter the Capitol building, wasn’t involved in directing the crowd, and left the area before witnessing any violence.

In the following days, he defended the mob and repeatedly cited debunked conspiracy theories, including claims that antifa was responsible for the breach and violence, in his newsletter. 

“What about the claims that the crow[d] was a mob? Were they loud? Yes. Were they hostile? No. Did they attack the police? No, in fact I heard many [protesters] say ‘thank you,’ and ‘bless you’ as they walked by officers,” Finchem wrote in his Jan. 10 newsletter. 

The FBI has said there’s no evidence to back up such claims.

Finchem was ultimately cleared of 82 additional ethics complaints filed against him in centering around the events at the Capitol following a review by the House Ethics Committee.

Blackman Behind Multiple Bills That Would Make Voting Harder for Arizonans 

Blackman sent an email to constituents suggesting that the Arizona Legislature might step in to change the state’s 11 Electoral College votes to then-President Donald Trump despite Joe Biden’s win. 

“Under the U.S. Constitution, our Arizona court system has no authority to make any determinations about the manner the Presidential election shall be conducted. I will work with my legislative colleagues to ensure a fair and true outcome to this very contentious election and I stand ready to reconvene the House and Senate to do the people’s work,” Blackman wrote, repeating unsubstantiated claims about the election results.

Blackman told a local radio station he believed Black Lives Matter, a movement advocating for an end to police brutality against Black communities, was a terrorist organization and criticized Arizona Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman for her support of the group, saying that it was like “a governor writing and supporting and endorsing the KKK or an extremist right group and putting it on their letterhead.”

During the current legislative session, Blackman introduced a controversial bill in January that would force county prosecutors to charge women who receive abortions and the doctor who performed the procedure with murder. 

He was also behind several bills that would make voting harder for Arizonans in the current legislative session. One sought to repeal Arizona’s early-voting list following the 2020 general election, while another would require voters to present a photo ID to be placed on the permanent absentee voting list.