Watch: Mark Finchem, Adrian Fontes square off in Arizona secretary of state debate

The two candidates for Arizona secretary of state will face each other in a televised debate Thursday that is expected to highlight stark differences in how elections should be run.

Democrat Adrian Fontes and Republican Mark Finchem will participate in a half-hour debate that will air on Arizona PBS' Channel 8 at 5 p.m. and rebroadcast at 10 p.m. The Arizona Republic and will also stream the debate.

"Arizona Horizon" host Ted Simons and Arizona Republic reporter Richard Ruelas will co-moderate the debate, which is sponsored by the Arizona Clean Elections Commission.

The public can submit debate questions to the commission by emailing Questions are accepted up until noon Thursday.


End early voting? Ban machines? Here's where Arizona's secretary of state candidates stand on elections

The secretary of state oversees election management in Arizona, including testing the accuracy of the voting machines the 15 counties use to tabulate ballots. The office also manages the voter registration database and candidate and campaign filings, along with lobbyist registration, partnership filings, and the address confidentiality registry, among other duties.

The office is next in line for the governorship, should the governor leave office for any reason.

Widely contrasting views on elections

The Finchem vs. Fontes matchup provides contrasting views on key election issues, from the outcome of the 2020 presidential election to how Arizona should run elections in the future.

Finchem claims the 2020 presidential race was stolen from Donald Trump, has convened meetings in Maricopa and Pima counties to argue that the election was flawed and is a consistent voice on social media about what he sees as the failings of the 2020 election. He has maintained this position even as multiple reviews of the election, particularly in Maricopa County, have upheld the results and found no evidence of widespread fraud.

Fontes ran the 2020 election in Maricopa County as county recorder and has defended the work of the office he headed. He disputes the claims that the election was flawed, noting he accepted the results of his own losing bid for reelection in 2020.

What should voting look like?

Finchem, along with GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, sued in federal court to ban the use of electronic voting machines in Maricopa and Pima counties. They lost their case, but are appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Finchem envisions a system where early voting and vote by mail is abolished and voters cast their ballots in person at the polls on Election Day, with limited provisions for absentee voting. He also advocates a hand count of the ballots, which he argues can be done on election night with enough manpower. Election experts have said that is logistically impractical, especially with millions of ballots to count, and would introduce large errors into the final tally.

Fontes is a proponent of mail-in voting and has advocated for a shift to an all-mail system, with provisions for in-person voting at the polls.

The two candidates are vying for an open seat. Current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs did not seek a second term as she is running for governor.

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: AZ secretary of state candidates Mark Finchem, Adrian Fontes debate