Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona, has enthusiastically championed a number of conspiracy theories—none more so than the conspiracy of a stolen 2020 election, which is the animating force behind his campaign to run Arizona’s elections.
But in a recent campaign speech, Finchem pushed the envelope, even by his own standards.
Just days before he won the August primary, Finchem was caught on tape blaming former Vice President Mike Pence for everything from orchestrating a “coup” to unseat Donald Trump after Jan. 6, to allegedly spying on the Trump campaign in 2016, to scheming to “steal” the presidency in 2024.
Finchem delivered the incendiary remarks on July 27 during a meeting of the far-right group United Patriots in Mesa. Video showing a portion of Finchem’s speech was quietly posted on YouTube on Monday and had racked up just 16 views as of Wednesday morning.
Wearing a cowboy hat and a red shirt that said “#ProveIt”—a reference to his demand that Maricopa County “prove” that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen—Finchem unspooled to a friendly crowd his unfounded allegations of a grand conspiracy involving the former vice president and a number of other supposedly nefarious actors.
First came the theory that Pence “seized power over an existing president”—Trump—following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Finchem claimed he had usurped the authority to give orders to the Department of Defense and Department of Justice.
“How long has he been ordering those folks around?” Finchem said. “Apparently from January 6 to January 20. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a coup.”
Then, Finchem claimed “it is now believed” that Pence was responsible for any federal law enforcement surveillance of Trump’s campaign in 2016, amid concerns about his team’s contact with Russian officials.
Although he did not elaborate on who believes this or why, Finchem linked the spying allegation to former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Speaker Paul Ryan, who he said “foisted Pence into the VP position to represent the interests of the establishment.”
Finally, Finchem accused Pence of a conspiracy to steal the 2024 nomination for president, and the presidency, by endorsing supporters of his for governors’ offices in key states. This year, Pence endorsed Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused Trump’s calls to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, as well as Karin Taylor Robson, who ran for governor in Arizona against Kari Lake, a staunch election denier herself.
Rattling off the number of electoral votes in each state where Pence endorsed a governor candidate, Finchem charged that Pence had “his people placed to steal 2024,” even though governors—famously—have no legal power to change the election results or the party nominating process.
Finchem returned to Ryan, noting he was on the board of Fox News—which Finchem pronounced first as “Faux News,” a reflection of the MAGA base’s increasing distaste and distrust of the right-wing media giant.
Bizarrely, Finchem noted the planned site of the 2024 GOP convention—in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin—to somehow drive home the nefarious extent of the former Speaker’s plot to install Pence as president.
“Could it be that this is the coverup of the coup that happened in the first place?” Finchem said. “Especially since the RNC committee is going to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Ladies and gentlemen, this is an indictment against the individuals who betrayed a president at the very moment they should have stood beside him.”
The Finchem campaign did not respond to a request for comment and to supply more information backing up his claims. A spokesperson for Pence did not respond to a request for comment.
While Pence has teased potential plans to run for president in 2024, public polls routinely show he has dramatically less GOP support than his former boss, Trump, or MAGA figures like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. And of the Pence-endorsed candidates Finchem warned about, only Kemp ended up winning their primary.
Still, conspiracies about an all-powerful Pence have seized the right-wing fever swamps ever since the former veep became MAGA persona non grata, thanks to his refusal to illegally derail the process of certifying the 2020 election results.
Increasingly, these kinds of outlandish theories are being propagated not just by rank-and-file Trump supporters but by aspirants for powerful offices in key states, like Finchem.
A state legislator who is a member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, Finchem has made his campaign for Arizona secretary of state a vehicle to relitigate debunked claims of election fraud.
In August, Finchem comfortably won a crowded primary. He is now competing against Democrat Adrian Fontes for the chance to oversee elections—including the 2024 presidential contest—in Arizona, which has become one of the nation’s premier battleground states.
If he loses in November, Finchem has already promised not to concede.