State Rep. and Old-West cosplay aficionado Mark Finchem has always been one of the nuttier lawmakers at the Capitol, what with his bills to make gold legal tender, his links to far-right organizations such as the Oath Keepers and the Coalition of Western States, and his peculiar fashion choices.
But Donald Trump's loss in the presidential race last November has led the Oro Valley Republican to buy a first-class ticket on the crazy train. He led the day-long meeting at a hotel near the Capitol in December that featured Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani laying out numerous crazy theories that were unsuitable for actual courtrooms, including the notion that Biden's win was illegitimate because Arizona is home to 5 million undocumented immigrants (which would mean 5 out of 7 Arizonans are undocumented, but OK, sure.)
Finchem, who was on hand for the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally in D.C., cheered on the storming of the U.S. Capitol by his fellow travelers in conspiracy theories. He tweeted a photo of the rampage with the comment: "What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud." Of course, Finchem later started blaming Antifa for the disgraceful display of Trump supporters during the D.C. rampage.
Finchem's D.C. adventures have led to an ethics complaint at the House (which won't go anywhere) as well as a call for him to be investigated for any role he might have had in planning the insurrection at the Capitol.
But you won't read any more tweets from Finchem. This week, in solidarity with the now-banned Trump, Finchem deleted his Twitter account after getting some media attention for a tweet promising to boycott Lowe's after the Loew's hotel chain canceled a fundraising event for Sen. Josh Hawley. "This is what Hitler and Stalin did, what next camps? Ovens?" Yes, it's a slippery slope from canceling an event reservation to the Holocaust.
Giving up his 55K or so followers, Finchem has moved over the right-wing Twitter knock-off Gab, where his new handle is AZHoneyBadger, presumably because he considers the fierce African carnivorous mammal to be his spirit totem or something. (In case you're not familiar, a hysterical YouTube clip of a narrator goofing on honey badger footage with lines about how "honey badger doesn't give a shit" went viral about a decade ago.)
On Gab, Finchem doesn't have to give a shit about moderators slapping warnings on his tweets about how his deranged claims are disputed.
Finchem fans don't have to worry. The state lawmaker continues to deliver tall glasses of crazy on Gab about Trump's comeback, including a prediction that Trump will run for the House of Representatives, depose Speaker Nancy Pelosi, impeach Biden and Harris and then reclaim the White House.
Finchem is also facing a nascent recall effort, led by Ralph Atchue, a Democrat who lost two races for the Arizona Senate in 2016 and 2018. (See FinchemRecall.com for details.) LD11 isn't exactly friendly territory to Democrats, but we've seen some unexpected turns in Arizona politics in recent years. If Atchue can get the signatures, we could have a barn-burner of a special election.
But even if the recall fails to get off the ground or Finchem survives an election, his antics have also put him on the wrong side of Gov. Doug Ducey, who is known to hold grudges. Hope Finchem isn't counting on any of his bills—should they make it through both chambers—getting signed this year.
Here's the sad thing: The rest of the Arizona Republican Party is marching in Finchem's untethered direction. Last weekend, the party reelected Kelli Ward as the chair of the state party. Ward has gleefully declared the AZ GOP is now the Party of Trump, who delivered a full-throated endorsement of her via a voicemail Ward played during the organizational convention.
In recent months, Ward has spearheaded numerous frivolous lawsuits designed to overturn the election in Arizona, all of which went nowhere in the courts. She regularly delivers a stream of bullshit designed to confabulate an alternate reality wherein GOP leaders including Gov. Doug Ducey and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger conspired with the Deep State or the Chinese government or SPECTRE or whatever to rig the election for President Joe Biden.
Under Ward's leadership in the last two years or so, Republicans managed to lose the 2020 presidential race, two U.S. Senate races and statewide positions such as Arizona Secretary of State, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and a couple of seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission. But (in what sounds like the answer to the question "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?") Ward has proudly claimed that Republicans managed to hold onto majorities in the Arizona House and Senate by one seat each and won other down-ballot races—or, in other words, managed to win the races where they had a voter-registration advantage.
At last week's convention, the AZ GOP also censured Ducey, Cindy McCain and Jeff Flake.
McCain, the widow of longtime Arizona Sen. John McCain, earned the enmity of the party faithful with her endorsement of Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
She brushed off the censure with a tweet: "It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well ... and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I'll wear this as a badge of honor."
Flake, who served one term as a U.S. senator from Arizona before getting crosswise with Trump and retiring in 2018, also responded on Twitter with a pic of him, Cindy McCain and Ducey at Biden's inaugural: "If condoning President Trump's behavior is required to stay in the AZGOP's good graces, I'm just fine being on the outs."
The politician who still has something left to lose at this point is Ducey, who is taking a lot of incoming fire from the GOP base over two things: Republican activists are unhappy about his minor steps to slow the spread of COVID, which is hysterical because Ducey could have done so much more to prevent Arizona from becoming the nation's No. 1 hotspot twice in the last year.
And they are unhappy that Ducey, who supported Trump last year, followed the law and acknowledged reality by certifying that Biden had won Arizona's electoral votes.
Ducey still has the suits in the biz community at this back, but party activists are out for his head, which will make winning another primary a challenge. It's little wonder that Ducey told the New York Times this weekend that he's not planning on running against Democrat Mark Kelly next year when Arizona's newest senator will have to defend his seat. (Kelly only gets two years to start with because he is completing McCain's term.) We would not at all be surprised if Ducey changed his mind down the road if polling showed he had a shot against Kelly, but for now, he's eager to end speculation that he has his eye on the race.
Besides, we always figured Ducey had his eye on the White House, not the U.S. Senate. But with the Trump wing of the party seeing him as a quisling and Democrats unlikely to cross party lines to support, Ducey is damaged goods no matter where he tries to go next.Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that Gov. Doug Ducey has said he is not intending to run against Sen. Mark Kelly next year. Also, Ralph Atchue ran for state Senate, not the state House of Representatives.