President Donald Trump on Monday formally endorsed Mark Finchem for Arizona's Secretary of State, which would make him the chief elections official in the state.
Finchem is a particularly controversial endorsement, as he was a member of the Oath Keepers militia, which had many members who participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In May, Politico reported on a list of Republican officials, like Finchem, who attempted to overturn the 2020 election and help the former president in a hostile takeover of the country. Now, those Republican officials are running to take over the administration of elections -- and could ensure Trump will prevail if he runs in 2024.
"Someone who is running for an election administration position, whose focus is not the rule of law but instead 'the ends justifies the means,' that's very dangerous in a democracy," said Bill Gates, the GOP vice-chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. "This is someone who is trying to tear at the foundations of democracy."
Finchem openly admitted he was an Oath Keeper in a candidate questionnaire posted to InMaricopa.com ahead of a 2014 election for the House of Representatives.
Responding to the question, "What differentiates you from your opponents," Finchem said he's not backed by big money, and it's "unacceptable influence over government."
"I'm an Oath Keeper committed to the exercise of limited, constitutional governance. I stand against policies that expand the role of government in our lives which include Common Core, Medicaid expansion, extinguishment of long-standing water and land-use rights," he also wrote. "I have offered up a solution for the funding of critical functions like education, infrastructure and public safety. My opponents (both Republican and Democrat) have not."
But Finchem has worried Republican leaders in the state, who think that his alliances will doom any chances they'd have in a general election. Arizonans are already furious at the GOP for embarrassing the state because of the fiasco of the Trump-backed state "audit," and some Republicans are even humiliated by the behavior of their own party leaders. There's a fear that there will be a backlash in 2022, wrote the Arizona Republic. It could even cost the GOP's campaign take back Sen. Mark Kelly's (D-AZ) senate seat.
"If he wins the primary, we're done," one conservative Arizona GOP strategist told VICE News in April. The strategist said that Democrats and the media would make Finchem into the "gross uncle" of the Republican Party.
See Trump's endorsement below: