The day before the Arizona state primaries, two Republican candidates who built their campaigns on discredited conspiracy theories about the 2020 election appeared with far-right host Steve Bannon, a key figure implicated by the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Their appearance with Bannon underscores the degree to which the 2024 elections are also at stake in this year’s midterms.
Former local news anchor Kari Lake, who is running for governor, and state Rep. Mark Finchem, who is running for secretary of state, were both endorsed by former President Donald Trump after they promoted the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Both candidates are part of the disgraced former president’s strategy to put allies in place to administer elections in swing states ahead of the 2024 elections, following his failed coup attempt after losing in 2020.
The two appeared Monday on Bannon’s show, which Bannon is still hosting following his conviction for contempt of Congress after refusing to provide documents or speak with the House select committee that’s investigating Trump’s coup attempt. Bannon also publicly fomented that failed coup, and he has waged a long campaign since then to undermine American democracy and have his followers take over local and state election administration.
Lake, who has promoted election lies during her previous appearances with Bannon, argued on Monday that Arizona was “at ground zero here when it comes to our border and our rotten elections” and falsely claimed that as governor she would be “restoring honesty to our election.” (Arizona’s 2020 elections were honest, a fact confirmed by a so-called “audit” of the presidential election results by a Trump-aligned firm.)
During the same appearance, Finchem told Bannon that the secretary of state is “perhaps the most meaningful of offices in all of state government” at regulating the supervision of elections. In addition to offering regular get-out-the-vote messaging, Finchem also urged Bannon’s audience to go to the website of VotifyNow, which is affiliated with the far-right precinct strategy to take over Republican Party elections at the local level and empower election deniers.
“And if you spot something that you think is nefarious, if you think that there’s something going on in your particular area, whether it’s extra ballots or questionable behavior, if you see somebody stuffing ballots into a ballot box that just doesn’t look right, take a picture, create an incident report, and submit it,” Finchem said. “It goes into a national database of basically evidence for any causes of action.”
Lake has insisted that Biden did not really receive 81 million votes in the election, personally ridiculing reporters who have acknowledged Biden’s victory. In one of her many previous interviews with Bannon, Lake suggested that likely Democratic nominee and current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs should be “behind bars” for presiding over and certifying the 2020 election.
Finchem was part of the insurrectionist crowd outside the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and tweeted in support of the insurrectionists’ false claims about a stolen election. He has also appeared with Bannon before, promoting far-right efforts to take over secretary of state offices in swing states across the country.
The two candidates are also closely allied with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. Lake has appeared with QAnon influencers in just the last week to promote her campaign, while Finchem has a history of sharing QAnon content on the white nationalist social media site Gab.