PHOENIX — Adrian Fontes, who is running for Arizona Secretary of State, faced scrutiny and controversies as a county election official but says those experiences helped prepare him for the future pressure of managing elections.
Fontes, a Democrat, is one of six candidates running for Secretary of State in 2022. He'll face state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding in the August 2 Democratic Primary Election.
The four other candidates are Republicans. The winner in the November General Election will replace Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who running for governor.
When protesters packed the parking lot of the Maricopa County Election Office in the days after the November 2020 election, they tried to poke holes in the integrity of the vote, which didn't go then-President Donald Trump's way.
Inside, then-County Recorder Adrian Fontes, led his team who was counting votes. Two years later, Fontes says he is proud of the work he did in preparing for the election and facing the political firestorm.
"It's the single most highly scrutinized election in American history," Fontes said. "People make accusations and stuff, but there's no evidence that we had any real issues."
Fontes failed to win re-election in 2020, but he says that one term as Recorder makes him best qualified for Secretary of State.
Four of the five other candidates running are state legislators. The other is a local businessman.
"None of them have ever actually registered voters," Fontes said. "None of them have had to apply the law to the practice of administering elections."
Fontes is a lawyer and a former marine.
He faced several other controversies as the Recorder. In the 2018 primary, problems with a contractor delayed the opening of some polling places. He opened emergency voting centers and faced a lawsuit over signature verification in fall 2018.
Fontes also faced criticism when he planned to send mail-in ballots to all registered Democrats in the 2020 Presidential Preference Election, so more people could vote without going to a polling place early in the pandemic.
Fontes says no system is perfect, but he says his track record shows he puts voters' needs first.
"A lot of people inside the system didn't like that; to this day, they don't like that, but tough," Fontes told ABC15.
To ward off future attacks on election integrity, Fontes says he has several plans if he's elected as Secretary of State.
"Make sure everybody is very well trained; make sure that their certifications are up to date; make sure that our systems are fully funded and very secure," Fontes said. He added he will also continue to put out the truth.