4 Arizona politicians at heart of Jan. 6 events continue on same path

Robert Anglen
Arizona Republic

The Jan. 6 insurrection could be a boon for Arizona elected officials who rallied to "Stop the Steal" and sought to decertify the state's election results.

The four Republicans who also circulated baseless conspiracy theories about a 2020 Donald Trump presidential victory in Arizona and pushed for the Senate's partisan audit of Maricopa County's election results are continuing on the same path more than a year later.

They are riding similar rhetoric to tout election integrity measures, saying voting systems need to be strengthened. It's a message that GOP political consultants say resonates with voters.

"For the overwhelming majority of voters, Jan. 6 wasn't a thing," Republican political consultant Constantin Querard said. "Election integrity is a good issue ... Being able to say you are fighting for election integrity is a plus."

U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and former Representative Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, encouraging the overturn of election results.

As rioters fought past police and breached the interior of the Capitol, Biggs and Gosar were in the House calling to set aside electors chosen by voters in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Finchem and Kern were outside, mingling with crowds amassed on the Capitol steps, photos, texts and social media accounts show. 

“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” Finchem wrote on Twitter. 

A screenshot of Mark Finchem's tweet before Finchem deleted his account.

Kern, who spoke at a December "Stop the Steal" rally said Jan. 6 would be a "big day." He was pictured among a throng of people dressed in MAGA hats and holding Trump flags. Behind him, at the top of the Capitol steps, a woman in red has her fist raised.

Kern was still in office on Jan. 6 and is now running for Arizona Senate. He said what happened at the Capitol was a partisan "hoax." 

"It is a lie, a hoax, a political tool set up by Democrats," he told The Arizona Republic in a recent interview. "I believe there were plants in there (the crowd)."

He blamed the media for politicizing Jan. 6. He pivoted to his platform of restoring faith in the state's electoral process, maintaining that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump in favor of Joe Biden.

"I do think there were major problems with the election, enough to to decertify the election and do it again," Kern said.

Kern didn't just play a part in "Stop the Steal." He also helped to count and inspect ballots during the monthslong audit led by Cyber Ninjas. Contractors ousted Kern after several days because of "optics."

Kern, who in December swore an oath of fealty to Trump and said he was done with politics, maintains he is not in the Senate race for the party, but for the people.

"I'm honest. I have integrity," he said. "The American people need to know their vote counts ... Everybody in this country should want free and fair elections."

Promoter of conspiracies running for secretary of state

Finchem also has set his sights on election reform — by taking over as administrator of Arizona's election process.

Finchem, a former public safety officer in Michigan, refers to himself as "the Honey Badger." This year, he launched a bid for secretary of state.

"Demand secure elections now!" Finchem's campaign website says in all block letters. "It's time for integrity without compromise."

Finchem did not respond to multiple interview requests.

The four-term state lawmaker was key supporter of the Senate audit. A fund established to help him defend against charges that he was involved in the Capitol riots helped pay for security costs at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where ballots were counted.

Although the audit found Biden won and the ballot count closely matched the county's official results, Finchem has continued to push election fraud conspiracies. He has called for audits of other Arizona counties, including Pinal, Coconino and, most recently, Pima.

At an Oct. 9 Trump rally in Des Moines, Finchem claimed without evidence that up to 35,000 fictitious voters were registered in Pima County. The Arizona Attorney General's Office said in an Oct. 14 letter it had investigated based on Finchem's televised claims and was unable to find evidence to support them.

Finchem for months after the election promised a state investigation into voter fraud. But he never requested a meeting with state authorities. Nor did he provide evidence that he said would spark a criminal investigation and a grand jury probe, according to the Attorney General's Office.

On his campaign website, Finchem says "major defects" in the election process such as problems with "chain-of-custody of ballots, hidden contributions, and expensive unnecessary technology" have undermined public confidence in elections.

"Since my very first election, I knew something was very wrong with our elections process," Finchem says. "Then on November 3rd, 2020, the unthinkable happened: Americans witnessed real-time reallocation of votes from one candidate to another, broadcast on national television."

Kern, Finchem endorsed by Trump

Their insistence on election fraud, calls for audits and campaigns on election integrity have earned Kern and Finchem endorsements from Trump.

"Always a great time when Trump endorsed candidates are at a Christmas party!!" Kern said in a Twitter post Sunday.

Trump on Nov. 29 called Kern an "incredible fighter" who would bring back honesty to the voting system.  

"He supportsdecertifying the fraudulent 2020 Presidential Election results," Trump said in a statement.

Finchem got a similar nod from the former president in September. Trump lauded Finchem's "incredibly powerful stance on the Voter Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election Scam."

Republican political consultants say the endorsements only help cement the candidates in their 2022 election bids. 

Querard, who has worked on campaigns with Kern and Finchem, said Republican and independent voters have moved past Jan. 6. The pivot to election integrity is a way to capitalize on something that makes sense to those voters.

And it's not something that Democrat contenders can intuitively fight against, he said. "It wouldn't behoove them" to speak out against voter integrity efforts. 

"Overall, it's an advantage for Republicans," Querard said, adding that the anxiety over the threat of Russian interference in the election and the concern over irregularities still makes people anxious. "They still like the idea of election integrity ... Election integrity is a good issue."

Tucson political consultant Christine Bauserman said Biggs and Gosar have little to fear when it comes to Jan. 6. She said they have represented the state well and were in Washington D.C. "to do their jobs."

The actions of Biggs and Gosar are different from Kern and Finchem, who had no legitimate legislative business at the Capitol on Jan. 6, she said.

"You are Arizona legislators ... Why aren't you in Arizona?" she said. "Go to Arizona and fix our laws there."

Finchem's plan to turn over data to Vice President Mike Pence in an effort to sway him to reject electoral votes has nothing to do with legislating in Arizona, she said.

"That's Mark Finchem," Bauserman said. "He never gives up on idea, no matter how bad it is."

Bauserman is a two-time Trump appointee and was ousted from the administration in 2018 for sharing conspiracy theories and making anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT posts on social media. 

She said Biggs and Gosar represent sanity and clarity in a divisive political atmosphere. 

"Biggs has always distanced himself from crazy," Bauserman said. "Gosar is a solid American first ... a great guy. He represents us."

Biggs, Gosar still dispute who won

Biggs and Gosar have continued to challenge Biden's electoral victory.

Biggs in October said he could not even be sure Biden won the popular vote in Arizona, even after the conclusion of the partisan election review. 

"We don't know because as the audit demonstrates ... there are a lot of issues with this election that took place," Biggs said when asked during a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing on the audit.

The two Arizona congressmen are among the architects of Jan. 6 Capitol protest, according to "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander.

"I was the person who came up with the Jan. 6 idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and then Congressman Andy Biggs," Alexander said in a video that went viral after Jan. 6.

"We four schemed up of putting max pressure on Congress while they were voting so that who we couldn’t lobby, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body hearing our loud roar from outside," he said.

 Biggs has repeatedly denied the claim. Gosar for months has refused to address it with The Arizona Republic. 

But on a Dec. 22, 2020, broadcast of Sean Hannity's radio show, Biggs, Gosar and Brooks discussed the approaching Jan. 6 as "the Alamo" and "D-Day." These were references to bloody battles — one to a massacre that became a rallying cry for Texas independence, the other to the invasion of France by Allied forces during World War II.

"There is no reason why that voters out here in Arizona or in Michigan or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Georgia shouldn't have an accounting," Gosar told guest host U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Biggs echoed calls for a forensic audit of election results in Maricopa Count and said the state should replace Arizona's electors.

"The serious thing I would tell you is ... send up an alternative electors," Biggs said.

The radio broadcast came a day after Biggs, Gosar and Finchem participated in a Zoom call aimed at convincing Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, to reject the election results. 

The call featured a host of Trump allies and a presentation from a newly formed "Data Integrity Group" highlighting perceived election anomalies and vague claims of fraudulent ballots.

Gosar criticized the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Dominion voting machines used by the county. He said the public cannot trust the results of the election.

"My whole point is something is amiss here," Gosar said. "At this point in time, if I'm Joe Q. Public, I'm not taking an answer from the Board of Supervisors. I'm not taking an answer from Katie Hobbs ... With the amount of evidence out there with Dominion software and the stuff behind it, that ain't enough."

Congressional investigators looking into the riot at the U.S. Capitol have questioned at least a half-dozen Arizonans in recent weeks as they probe the state’s connections to the insurrection.

Gosar challenger: 'They are part of the Big Lie'

Delina DiSanto, who is running as a Democrat against Gosar in 2022, says his actions prove he is a "traitor" to the country.

Gosar and Biggs attempted to undermine democracy by throwing out votes and putting politics ahead of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold, she said.

"I totally believe they were all in on it," said DiSanto, who is a registered nurse from Cave Creek. "They are part of the Big Lie."

The plot to restore Trump to the White House appears to be driving people away from the Republican party in Arizona, she said.

"To be honest, we've seen it here in Arizona that many people have changed their voter registration from Republican to independent," she said. "They look at the facts, not at the garbage, the spewing that goes out from Biggs and Gosar."

DiSanto said by chipping away at honest and fair elections, Biggs and Gosar are inciting hatred and division when the country needs to find a way to heal from the events of Jan. 6.

"They are traitors to our country," she said, adding they need to be confronted, not ignored. "We have to discuss what is happening in our own country, in our own state."

Robert Anglen is an investigative reporter for The Republic. Reach him at robert.anglen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8694. Follow him on Twitter @robertanglen

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