Arizona Democrat Adrian Fontes defeats Trump-backed candidate in secretary of state race

Democrat Adrian Fontes has won the race to be Arizona’s top election official, defeating Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and has said he would not have certified President Biden’s win in the state.

Fontes, a former election official for Maricopa County, had called his opponent an election denier and “January 6 insurrectionist” because Finchem had attended the Jan. 6, 2021 Trump rally that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

He campaigned on increasing transparency in the secretary of state’s office and making voting easier for registered voters. The Associated Press called the race for Fontes Friday night.

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“I am honored to be presumptively elected Arizona’s next Secretary of State. I will make it my mission to bring us closer together than we have been during these last few years,” Fontes said in a statement.

Adrian Fontes, Democratic candidate for Arizona secretary of state speaks at an election night watch party at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel on Nov. 8, 2022 in Phoenix.
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“I promise to always honor and defend the ideal of fair and honest elections with the voters of Arizona and I will help reignite the flame of unity in our Republic,” he said.

As secretary of state, Fontes will be in charge of overseeing elections and is responsible for certifying voting machines, election results, candidates and ballot measures. Additionally, the secretary of state is first in line to succeed the governor in the event of death resignation, or removal from office, functioning similarly to a lieutenant governor in other states.

The race for governor in Arizona remains too close to call, with current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, leading her Republican opponent Kari Lake. Fox News called the statewide race for U.S. Senate Friday evening, projecting that incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., has won re-election against Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Finchem and Masters were two of the most prominent Republicans to support Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Finchem had said there has been a “decay of public confidence in our elections.”

Arizona Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem speaks during a get out the vote campaign rally on Nov. 7, 2022, in Prescott, Arizona.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Neither candidate has conceded their elections as of Saturday morning. Shortly after midnight, Finchem suggested that outstanding ballots from Maricopa County would break for Republicans.

Arizona election officials said Friday there are fewer than 300,000 ballots left to count after the latest update. The majority of those votes are mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said.

A mandatory hand count of some races will also begin on Saturday to ensure voting machines were working correctly. Gates said the count would include a “statistically significant” number of ballots.

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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – NOVEMBER 11: Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center on November 11, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. Ballots continue to be counted in Maricopa County three days after voters went to the polls for the midterm election in Arizona. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

He added that Republicans and Democrats are “working together” to ensure the ballots are counted “the right way.”

In June, Finchem insisted before winning his August primary that he would not concede the election if he lost.

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“Ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy. I’m going to demand a 100% hand count if there is the slightest hint that there’s an impropriety. And I will urge the next governor to do the same,” he said at the time.

Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.