The group behind an effort to recall Rep. Mark Finchem has quit three weeks short of its deadline.
A spokesman for Rural Arizonans for Accountability said Tuesday the group, which is active in supporting progressive candidates and causes in its area, had to decide whether it was worth it to keep spending money to gather signatures to recall the Oro Valley Republican at the possible expense of their other efforts.
The group said in a statement Tuesday that the scrutiny due to the recall campaign has drawn more attention to Finchem’s views. Previously, they said, his “extremism went unanswered and in many cases even unnoticed.”
“Over the past four months, volunteers and organizers talked to their friends and neighbors and went door to door, having nearly 30,000 meaningful conversations about Finchem and extremism with District 11 voters,” the group said. “While it isn’t enough to trigger a recall, it is significant that no Arizona state legislator has ever had more of their constituents sign a petition to remove them from office.”
Finchem, who has been in office since 2015, represents Legislative District 11, a largely rural and Republican area covering parts of Pima and Pinal counties north of Tucson. He has been outspoken since the 2020 election about his belief that President Trump really won and in support of attempts to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona. He was in Washington D.C. on January 6, the day Trump supporters broke into the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory. He is now running for Secretary of State and is making election security his main campaign theme.
“For an effort that was rooted in baseless fraudulent claims, and defamatory accusations, I am not surprised,” Finchem said in an email Tuesday. “God wins!”
Tony Cani, a Democratic operative who has been handling public relations for the recall, said the group gathered more than 18,000 signatures, which is the most that has ever been collected for a legislative recall in Arizona history.
The successful effort to recall former Sen. Russell Pearce, the Mesa Republican who sponsored the highly controversial anti-illegal immigration bill SB1070, only needed about 7,000 signatures to get on the ballot in 2011.
A recall effort must get the number of signatures equal to 25% of the number of votes cast in the last election for the office, and with a higher turnout in 2020, the Finchem recall effort needed 24,775 by July 8.
“While it’s really disappointing that voters won’t get a chance sooner rather than later to hold Finchem accountable for his actions, they’re really happy with the amount of attention and research they were able to do,” Cani said. “Finchem is a relatively national name in these circles now and he’s facing scrutiny like he’s never had to face before.”
The recall’s supporters pointed to Finchem’s support for efforts to overturn the results of the election as evidence of his unfitness for office. Finchem has said he didn’t break any laws and wasn’t involved in entering the Capitol and has accused his political opponents of trying to stifle his right to speak about possible election fraud. Democrats have sought to keep a spotlight on what happened, filing an ethics complaint against Finchem that was dismissed and even introducing a resolution that has gone nowhere to expel him from the Legislature.
A right-wing effort to recall Gov. Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, fizzled last week when the organizers didn’t file any petitions by the deadline Friday. That leaves just two recall efforts that have a possibility of making the ballot this November – one coming from the right against House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, for which signatures are due Thursday, and another effort to recall Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, for which the signature deadline is Saturday.