Five Months Later, Kari Lake and Company Are Still Contesting Their Losses in Court
It’s been 167 days since the November 2022 midterm elections, but a trio of Republican election deniers in Arizona is still fighting in court. Kari Lake, Abe Hamadeh and Mark Finchem — who ran for Arizona governor, attorney general and secretary of state, respectively — filed lawsuits in the days following the certification of the election, contesting their losses. Despite trial courts rejecting the cases in December, all three lawsuits remain open and ongoing.
Lake and company are fighting back in the court of public opinion as well. Last week, Lake joined MAGA personality Kimberly Guilfoyle on a livestream event titled, “What REALLY happened in Maricopa County during the 2022 AZ gubernatorial election?”
While the state’s largest county encountered Election Day problems, election officials stressed that all eligible voters should have been able to cast ballots. A series of technical issues, rather than intentional misconduct as Lake and company claim, caused the problems, according to a recently released report.
Attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh
In the closest statewide election of 2022, now-Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) defeated Hamadeh by just 280 votes out of 2.5 million cast. The race fell well within the 0.5% threshold to trigger an automatic recount under state law, leading to the current tally. Hamadeh filed two lawsuits challenging the results, although the first was dismissed since it was filed before results were certified.
The election contest started by stating that the plaintiffs are not “alleging any fraud, manipulation or other intentional wrongdoing,” but the lawsuit does blame the Election Day issues in Maricopa County as the reason for Hamadeh’s narrow loss. Hamadeh asked for the recount to be paused and for Maricopa County to give voters who were denied the chance to vote on Nov. 8 the opportunity to do so.
This request to allow additional voting a month after Election Day and declare Hamadeh the winner of the attorney general race remained unprecedented. On Dec. 23, 2022, a judge rejected Hamadeh’s contest and Mayes was sworn into office on Jan. 2, 2023.
That should have been the end of the case, but on Jan. 3, a day after Mayes assumed office, Hamadeh requested a new trial, alleging that there is “new and compelling information” that all votes weren’t counted in the race. On May 16, the trial court is scheduled to meet to consider the request for a new trial.
Hamadeh’s initial contest was typical, and maybe even expected, in the context of a close statewide election; what’s unusual is failing to concede five months later and continuing to spread falsehoods on social media.
Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake
In contrast to Hamadeh, Lake and Finchem’s losses were not close at all. The former news anchor lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Katie Hobbs by 17,000 votes. Unlike Hamadeh’s suit, Lake’s lawsuit hinged on allegations of illegal votes. Lake’s initial complaint cited everything from commingling between tabulated and untabulated ballots, long wait times, machine failures, chain of custody issues, Arizona’s signature matching procedures and alleged censorship from then-Secretary of State Hobbs.
Lake — who, to reiterate, lost by over 17,000 votes — asked to undo “Maricopa County’s canvass and Arizona’s certification of the results” and conduct a re-run of the election in Maricopa County. The other option for relief suggested? That Lake should simply be declared the winner.
The trial judge outright dismissed eight out of the 10 claims Lake originally asserted. Two much narrower claims were argued before the judge in a two-day trial where Lake’s attorney called forward a cast of characters to testify, including a Pennsylvania-based investigator who spoke about a phone call from someone named “Betty” and a pollster whose firm is banned from FiveThirtyEight’s analysis.
The contest was rejected by the trial court and then rejected again on appeal before the appellate court. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected all but one of Lake’s claims.
The remaining claim — which alleges that the lower court erred when it dismissed issues over signature verification — will go back to the trial court for further review. At the trial court level, Lake will have to prove that Maricopa County’s use of signature matching on early mail-in ballots did not comply with Arizona law and that this alleged misconduct altered the outcome of the election in a substantive way.
Secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem
The third major election contest came from Finchem, who lost to Adrian Fontes (D) by over 120,000 votes in the race for secretary of state. In the original lawsuit, Finchem was joined by Jeff Zink, a GOP candidate running against Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District. Finchem lost his race by the largest margin of all of the far-right candidates running for statewide positions; Zink lost in a landslide by over 52 percentage points. (Zink soon removed himself from the lawsuit.)
Finchem alleged that widespread failures in Maricopa County “resulted in Arizona becoming a laughingstock among the 50 states.” The lawsuit directly blamed many of Maricopa County’s issues on Hobbs, suggesting that she should have recused herself from overseeing the state’s elections since she was running for governor. Without all of these alleged violations of Arizona law, the lawsuit argued that “201,232 votes would have gone to Finchem, changing the outcome of the election in favor of Plaintiff.” (There is no explanation of how these figures were calculated.)
The contest asked the court to annul the the election at hand, order ballots to be inspected for fraud, require a “state-wide special election, counted by hand, without the use of electronic vote tabulation systems at the precinct level, [and] no mail in ballots” and open an investigation into Hobbs.
A court dismissed the lawsuit in December 2022. Finchem then attempted to skip the intermediate court and appealed the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal. Now, litigation is ongoing at the Arizona Court of Appeals, though the case is currently paused.
The who’s who of legal representation
Notably, Hamadeh’s lawsuit is the only one of the three election contests backed by the Republican National Committee (RNC). Finchem lamented on Twitter: “NO RNC LAWYER IS CALLING ME TO HELP.”
Lake, without the RNC’s backing, turned to the lawyer for the now-defunct Cyber Ninjas that helped run Arizona’s so-called audit of the 2020 election. County election officials released a report rebutting Cyber Ninja’s effort, concluding that nearly all of the claims made were misleading or patently false.
Despite no RNC lawyer calling him, Finchem also managed to find legal representation — the same lawyer who represented Cochise County, Arizona in the county’s last round of litigation over its failed plan to conduct a hand count of midterm election results. During a hearing, the lawyer said that he took Finchem’s case because “someone has to do it” and if he gets disbarred, it’s okay because he wants to retire anyway. Later on, the trial court did in fact impose sanctions on the attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit.
While Hamadeh, Lake and Finchem continue to file court documents and tweet inflammatory claims, Mayes, Hobbs and Fontes are busy governing the Grand Canyon State.