Reginald Bolding, leader of House Democrats who opposed election law changes, to run for secretary of state

Andrew Oxford
Arizona Republic
State Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, speaks to the crowd during the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster rally at Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix on May 20, 2021.

The Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives said Monday that he is running for secretary of state, launching a campaign to become Arizona’s top election official after emerging as one of the most prominent opponents of Republican-backed changes to Arizona’s election laws this year.

The announcement from House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, comes a couple of weeks after incumbent Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced she would seek the Democratic Party's nomination for governor in 2022.

Bolding enters the race at the tail end of a legislative session that has turned the state Capitol into one of the country's most consequential battlegrounds in the fight over voting rights. The session also has unfolded against the backdrop of an unprecedented effort by the Senate to seize and recount every ballot cast by Maricopa County voters cast in last year's general election after many Republican lawmakers pushed to throw out President Joe Biden's victory altogether.

“Clearly, what we’re seeing right now is that democracy is under attack, our election systems are under attack. And I’ve been fighting to protect our elections and make sure everyone that has a legal right to vote, that they get to vote and make it easier for them to actually do so,” Bolding said in an interview.

While the Legislature writes election laws, the secretary of state has broad oversight of the democratic process in Arizona, from registering lobbyists to drafting specific procedures for each election.

Bolding said he would support expanding voting hours and measures such as automatic voter registration as well as same-day voter registration.

Bolding is co-executive director of Arizona Coalition for Change, which was one of the advocacy groups that successfully sued last year to extend Arizona’s voter registration deadline, leading to about 35,000 additional Arizonans signing up to participate in the general election.

Bolding also said if he is elected secretary of state, he would make it a priority to improve election security, particularly cybersecurity.

“I think there is a balance between creating legislation that would make it more difficult for people to vote versus fixing a system or improving a system and allowing it to get better,” he said.

With Bolding's announcement, the Democratic primary for secretary of state is beginning to take shape. Former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said last week he is getting ready to run for the Democratic Party's nomination, too.

A graduate of the University of Cincinnati and Arizona State University, Bolding is married and has two daughters. He previously worked as a special education elementary math teacher. Elected to the House in 2014, he won the post of minority leader this year.

Bolding opposed voting list change

Bolding gained particular prominence in opposing a bill that Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law that will remove some voters from the permanent early voting list and rename the list the “active early voting list.”

While Republican lawmakers have argued the measure is meant to ensure the list is accurate and up-to-date, Democrats have argued it is merely a means of suppressing voter turnout.

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The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, also is running for secretary of state.

Running for the post, too, is Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who is one of the most ardent proponents of the Senate's efforts to seize and recount Maricopa County's ballots. He signed a letter along with nearly half of the Republicans currently in the Legislature calling on Congress to throw out the presidential election results from Arizona.

Contact Andrew Oxford at or on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

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