Incoming Secretary of State Katie Hobbs took former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean to task on Twitter after he made a baseless suggestion that GOP “cheating” kept Maricopa County a Republican stronghold until a Democrat became county recorder in 2016.
Dean, a former Vermont governor who rose to national prominence during his 2004 presidential campaign, made his claim on Twitter in response to a Talking Points Memo article about the criticism Republicans have leveled against Recorder Adrian Fontes since the general election, which saw several Democrats in statewide offices after winning Maricopa County.
“One plausible theory about the change in voting patterns in Maricopa county is that under GOP supervision a variety of cheating went on which was stopped when a Democrat took the reins,” Dean wrote, presenting no evidence to back up his claim of malfeasance.
Hobbs rebuked her fellow Democrat in response, writing, “This is not a plausible theory at all and all statements like this do is undermine the public’s confidence in our elections and completely disparage the hardworking election staff committed to running professional and fair elections.”
She also retweeted a comment from Joel Edman, the executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, a progressive organization, that “Unfounded conspiracy theories erode trust in our democracy, no matter the source or intention.”
Some Republicans also admonished Dean for his comment. Among them was Amy Chan, who served as Arizona’s State Election Director from 2009 to 2013.
Chan, who is currently an Arizona Clean Elections Commissioner, wrote that anyone who had ever worked with Helen Purcell, the former county recorder, knew such allegations were “categorically false.”
“@GovHowardDean shame on you for small-minded cynical partisan allegations smearing the decades of nationally-recognized leadership of her tenure. U know nothing,” Chan wrote.
Numerous claims of election fraud have surfaced since the election, though most have been spread by Republicans, who have lobbed allegations without evidence. Even President Donald Trump tweeted unfounded allegations that U.S. Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema and other statewide Democratic candidates won because of fraud.
The Arizona Republican Party and others in the GOP have also criticized Fontes for opening five emergency voting centers on the Saturday and Monday before the general election, and for implementing a new policy to verify early ballots that voters drop off at polling places on Election Day if the signatures on the envelopes are deemed mismatches with the signatures on file for those voters, among other issues.
The Arizona Republican Party is also conducting what it calls an “independent audit” of how Fontes performed his duties overseeing Maricopa County’s elections.
Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, earlier this month refused to say if he had confidence that votes in Maricopa County were counted fairly and legally.