An effort to recall state Rep. Mark Finchem has been filed by a group upset with the Oro Valley Republican’s involvement in stoking voter fraud conspiracies and his connections to the organizers of the “Stop the Steal” movement.
Rural Arizonans for Accountability will need to collect nearly 25,000 valid signatures by July 2 in order to trigger a recall. The group filed its paperwork with the Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday morning, which officially starts the 120-day window to collect signatures.
Finchem has drawn criticism from Democratic lawmakers and others for his role in the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, his ties to extremist groups and for spreading misinformation about the election. All of those things are reasons for a recall and a reason for voters in legislative District 11 to reconsider their vote, Rural Arizonans for Accountability said.
“Representative Finchem is not my enemy. Representative Finchem is not our enemy. But Representative Finchem’s actions have shown to undermine some of the most sacred institutions of our democracy” said Pablo Correra a Marine Corps veteran and co-executive director of the recall group said at a press conference on Friday.
Jim Hill, a retired Army colonel and co-chair of the organization, said he couldn’t wait another “two to four years” to vote Finchem out and that voters in District 11 need a chance to “re-look” at who is representing them.
Recall campaigns are difficult and successful efforts to remove lawmakers are extremely rare. Former Senate President Russell Pearce, who was removed from office via recall in 2011, is the only Arizona legislator to face a recall election in the state’s 109-year history.
The group has 50 canvassers and multiple field directors, and has already obtained legal counsel, Correra said. It’s unclear how much funding the group has or whether it’s hired paid signature gatherers.
When asked what makes the group hopeful a recall effort will be successful, Correra said many people have reacted negatively differently to the events of Jan. 6, and Rural Arizonans for Accountability is hoping that will persuade people to remove Finchem from office.change people’s minds.
“We have seen the consequences of those actions,” Correra said.
Recall elections work differently than traditional elections. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, go on the same ballot without having to go through a primary election.
Legislative District 11, which encompasses a large swath of Pinal County and northern Pima County, is a consistent Republican stronghold. All three lawmakers who represent the district are Republicans, and it has never elected a Democrat to the legislature. There are about 65,000 registered Republicans in the district, compared to nearly 49,000 Democrats and 53,000 independents.
Since Jan. 6, the GOP has seen a nationwide drop in voter registrations as Republican. In Arizona, over 10,000 Republicans have changed their party affiliation since the election.
Finchem recently set up the Guardian Defense Fund, which aims to take legal action against people who he claims have defamed and smeared him and other elected Republicans from Arizona who attended the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., as well as pursuing legislation and “conducting research.”
The fund’s first target has been Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, who Finchem is suing for defamation in Yuma County Superior Court, alleging that she intended to “smear” and defame him when she signed a letter along with other Democratic lawmakers asking the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate Finchem’s potential role in the violence that erupted on Jan. 6.
Finchem was at the Capitol when Trump supporters invaded the building in the hopes of stopping Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory. The attack left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. On his Twitter page, Finchem posted a photo he took of the Capitol after rioters and protesters had breached the inner areas of grounds.
“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” he wrote, praising the rioters.
Finchem has since deleted his Twitter account. He did not respond to a request for comment about the recall effort.
Finchem has told conservative news outlets that he intends to use the Guardian Defense Fund to sue every Democratic lawmaker that signed onto the letter, as well as news outlets and social media platforms.