Lake launched her campaign for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday night at the Scottsdale headquarters of Jetset Magazine, which founder Darrin Austin said “reaches only the 1% of the world’s population who control more than 50% of the world’s wealth" while they are "captive aboard a private jet or luxury yacht."
The irony was lost on Abe Hamadeh, who had trouble with election laws during his losing race last year. He introduced Lake on Tuesday with this: "For too long, our system has benefited the few at the expense of the many.”
Lake is the likely favorite for the Republican nomination, although Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb also is running for the party nod. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego is the leading candidate. U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who currently holds the seat but left the Democratic Party, has not yet announced if she will run as an Independent.
Lake wants to criminalize homelessnessMuch of Lake’s speech focused on post-pandemic economic difficulties that Arizonans have faced, placing the blame on President Joe Biden and Democrats despite inflation being high in many wealthy industrial countries.
“There’s not an inflation rate for Republicans and a separate one for Democrats,” Lake said.
Yet high inflation has hurt low-income and middle-class households more than Jetset subscribers.
While Lake made no mention of affordable housing, she did say she would propose legislation in the U.S. Senate to ban urban camping. That comes as Phoenix struggles with a crisis in the Zone, the city's massive homeless encampment. Other cities in the Valley, including Mesa and Scottsdale, also are finding it difficult to address homelessness. Lake didn't offer any solutions.
"When I am a senator, I will work to make legislation to ban urban camping," she said. "Our streets and neighborhoods are not a suitable place for people who are severely mentally ill, and no citizen should be subjected to drug use in public, walking down the street, watching people shoot up, not being able to use our parks and take our children there. We've got to address the homeless issue. We will do it from Washington, D.C. and put an end to this."
Lake also credited former President Donald Trump with lowering gas prices. Yet gas prices were falling before Trump took office in 2017. Also, U.S. presidents have limited abilities to impact gas prices.
Based on Lake’s speech, border security and drug trafficking also will be major platforms of her campaign. She decried the increase of fentanyl trafficked into the U.S. and brought onto the stage the mother of a young man who died from accidentally taking fentanyl.
“The solution is so darn simple. Go back to President Trump’s border policy and finish the wall,” Lake said. Yet the Trump administration only added 52 new miles of walls on the nearly 3,000 mile southern border. In addition, fentanyl deaths began to soar while Trump was in office.
Trying out new messaging for sizeDuring the governor's race in 2022, Lake leaned into extremist rhetoric. On Tuesday, she tested some slightly more moderate messages about common right-wing grievances, such as election security and abortion.
“I don’t care who you vote for,” Lake said. “If you vote Democrat or if you vote Republican, that’s between you, God and the ballot box.”
A few people clapped, and an audible groan came from the front of the audience.
But Lake hasn’t backed away fully from the idea that recent elections have been deeply flawed. “I am never going to walk away from the fight to restore honest elections,” she said of the phantom issue that has gripped Republican minds since Trump’s loss in 2020. But she did not offer specifics on the problems or what she would work to change.
Lake has filed multiple lawsuits alleging significant fraud in the 2022 election, but courts have rejected her claims because she has failed to present evidence to support her allegations.
During her event on Tuesday, Lake made no mention of her own defeat in the race last year, which she still has not acknowledged.
Lake also walked a political high-wire act on abortion. In an unlikely departure from her own party's rhetoric, she suggested giving more government assistance to women so they don’t feel financial pressure to have an abortion.
“We gotta get our priorities straight. If we’re gonna be for saving babies’ lives, we gotta be for helping women," Lake said.
That assistance would likely mean more government spending, something for which Republicans have little appetite. Lake linked the funding to U.S. aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia and said that money could be better spent on assisting mothers.
"I can't imagine walking into an abortion clinic, thinking I can't afford the baby so I'm gonna take my baby's life," she said. "Can you imagine having an abortion and going home and turning on the news and seeing that Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Biden just sent $10 billion more to Ukraine?"
Lake humbled by Trump endorsementLake stuck to her bread and butter rhetoric when it came to attacking the media, a tactic she used throughout her campaign in 2022.
“Do you notice how they (journalists) like to build up the warmongers and liars and tear down the peacemakers and the truth-tellers,” she said. In the past, Lake has insinuated to her followers to commit violent acts against Trump’s prosecutors and political opponents.
Toward the end of the speech, a comically large "Wizard of Oz"-like projection of Trump appeared behind Lake. As he endorsed her candidacy, she stood directly in front of the image to return the gaze in devotion.
“I’m humbled,” Lake said. “I don’t think he’s ever done that before right out of the gates.”