Secretary of state: Adrian Fontes wants to restore faith in elections, protect choices

Adrian Fontes (Photo courtesy of the Adrian Fontes campaign)

Candidate name: Adrian Fontes
Political affiliation: Democrat
Position sought: Secretary of state
Age: 52
Career: Marine; prosecutor in Denver and with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office; Maricopa County recorder

Adrian Fontes, Democratic candidate for Arizona’s secretary of state and self-proclaimed “election hawk,” has been a public servant for nearly 30 years. His experiences as a Marine, prosecutor and county recorder inspired him to protect Arizona’s democracy and restore faith in the electoral process.

Fontes, a native of Nogales, has three teenage daughters who are the driving force behind his campaign. He said he wants to improve elections and the political environment of Arizona so his daughters can have a better future here.

He has spoken out against election deniers and the political volatility that increased since the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016. Fontes said democracy is under attack, and administering fair elections at a local level is more important than ever. In an election debate that aired on Arizona PBS, he stressed the importance of salvaging America’s democracy.

“If the last six years have taught us anything, it’s that democracy is a decision,” Fontes said. “A decision between building community or conspiracies that lead to corruption. A decision between laws and lies. Democracy is a decision between voting and violence.”

If elected, Fontes would be Arizona’s 15th Democratic secretary of state, succeeding Democrat Katie Hobbs, who’s running for governor.

Q: Why are you interested in this job?

He wants to give his daughters choices. The choice of voting by mail. The choice of what to do with their own bodies. He’s also concerned about the future of America’s democracy.

Q: What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you the best candidate?

Fontes said there’s never been a more qualified person running for Arizona secretary of state.

“I’m the former county recorder. Never had that. I’m a former election administrator. We’ve never had that. I’m a lawyer and a United States Marine Corps veteran. And all of those combinations of skills and experience make me uniquely qualified.”

Q: What are the major issues facing Arizona?

The first major issue he said is to rebuild trust in the election system – a system Fontes believes already is adequate. He also said Arizona has to fight against the misinformation and lies spread by his Trump-endorsed opponent, Republican Mark Finchem.

Another issue Fontes wants to fix is the library and archival system in Arizona.

“It’s critical to preserve the lessons of yesterday, or we’re doomed to repeat them tomorrow.”

Q: What will be your top priorities if elected?

Fontes said he wants to ensure the success of future elections by starting with a survey of Arizona’s counties to make sure each county has what’s needed for a successful 2024 election.

“You know, it takes a long time to plan and execute elections and 2024 is going to need every ‘t’ crossed and every ‘i’ dotted. And those 15 counties are going to need a secretary who knows which questions to ask and what direction to move in when making the case for resources at the Arizona Legislature.”

Q: How will you work to improve bipartisanship in politics?

Fontes said he will reach out with an open heart and open mind. He also said partisans forget they’re human beings and Americans first; they can be partisans later.

Q: Do you have any concerns regarding the security of our elections?

His concerns regard election officials, not the election system. He said the election system is threatened by disloyal Americans, including Finchem.

Fontes has called for state and federal election safeguards for more than a year.

“I asked Congress to do something about it when I testified before the House Committee on the Administration last year, and I continue to hope that we will be able to strengthen the protections that election officials should have in place.”

Q: What is a personal challenge that you need to overcome?

Fontes, an avid guitar player who used to play in a band with neighborhood friends, said he needs to play more lead guitar instead of rhythm – he feels left out playing backup.

Q: Please share a quote or advice that you live by.

“Pay attention to what’s going on around you,” Fontes said, because it’s important in all facets of life, including finance, politics, personal safety and social settings.

“Too many people are just wandering around with tunnel vision, and they’re not paying attention. So I think if more people were paying attention to what was going on around them, they would actually take a look and see humanity. We would actually see each other and maybe we’d get a chance to interact and actually get along and build community. That would be nice.”

Q: Do you trust the current election system in the state?

“Yes, unequivocally.”

Q: How can the office of secretary of state ensure both access for voters and voting security?

Ensure voting access and security by taking the same pro-voter approach that he took when he was the Maricopa County recorder.

He also said access and security can co-exist.

“There’s a false dichotomy built where some people think that access and security are competing interests. That’s just wrong. It’s wrongheaded. And it comes from people who don’t understand elections or election administration. You can have both and we need to build both.”

Sydnee Wilson sid-nee wil-sun (she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Sydnee Wilson expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. Wilson has interned with Phoenix Magazine and written for the Peoria Times and HerCampus ASU.