Elections

Kari Lake is the GOP Nominee. Here's What She Wants to Do to Arizona

Kari Lake declares her own victory on Tuesday at an election night party in Paradise Valley. Late Thursday, the Associated Press projected her to win the Republican nomination for governor of Arizona.
Kari Lake declares her own victory on Tuesday at an election night party in Paradise Valley. Late Thursday, the Associated Press projected her to win the Republican nomination for governor of Arizona. Elias Weiss
After three long days tallying ballots and one very nutty election night jubilee, Trump-backed Kari Lake is the Republican nominee for governor of Arizona.

Her opponent’s early lead in Maricopa County wasn’t enough to survive Lake’s midnight comeback on Tuesday, when she pulled ahead by 10,000 votes. By Thursday morning, the Associated Press called the primary race for Lake. By the next morning, her lead grew to more than 19,000 votes.

"Though the results took longer than they should have, Arizonans who have been forgotten by the establishment just delivered a political earthquake," Lake said in a statement. "This is more than an election — it is a beautiful movement by so many people across our beautiful state to finally put Arizona First."

Lake joined Republicans Blake Masters, who ran for U.S. Senate, and Mark Finchem, who ran for Arizona secretary of state, to complete the sweep of Trump-endorsed America First candidates in Arizona.

Lake dispatched Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy real estate developer and one-time member of the Arizona Board of Regents who was endorsed by Trump's now-estranged vice president, Mike Pence, and Arizona's sitting term-limited governor, Doug Ducey. Taylor Robson ceded the race on Thursday evening. Lake will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the November 8 general election.

Hobbs didn't mince words once the fall race was set.

"Throughout her campaign, Lake has counted Nazi sympathizers and far-right extremists as part of her coalition," Hobbs said in a statement. "We know where she stands on the issues that matter most, vowing to ban abortion and reproductive health care, putting cameras in our children's classrooms, and wasting taxpayer money relitigating the 2020 election and manipulating future elections if she doesn't like the results."

Lake, a longtime local news anchor for Fox 10 Phoenix, found success in politics by smearing the industry that made her famous and condemning it as “the corrupt liberal media.”

As governor, the political newcomer would eye finishing the “big, beautiful wall” at Arizona’s southern border, she told Phoenix New Times on Tuesday. She also wants to eradicate homelessness and end a “culture of abortion” in the Grand Canyon State.

She promised "gun freedom" to Arizonans and marketed herself as a bullish Second Amendment advocate despite deliberately misleading Arizonans about being a “lifetime” member of the National Rifle Association. She also donated to former Democratic President Barack Obama's winning campaign in 2008.

Lake and campaign officials said Tuesday that they smelled fraud in the primary election and cited unsubstantiated election fraud in Pima County, ballot stuffing, and tampering with the pens used to fill out ballots. Allegations such as that will make it more difficult for Lake to broaden her appeal in the general election.

"It'll be up to the [Trump-backed candidates] to moderate, or to at least start to appeal to the broader audience,” Barrett Marson, a Phoenix-based political consultant who supported Taylor Robson, told New Times on Friday. “I just don't get telling your voters that there's fraud in the election that you won and then expect them to continue to come out and vote for you."

After declaring victory on Wednesday, Lake said her supporters "out-voted the fraud."

Lake also said she hoped Taylor Robson, who “put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this battle," would back her bid for governor.

In a statement, Taylor Robson congratulated Lake.

“I have spent my life supporting Republican candidates and conservative causes, and it is my hope that our Republican nominees are successful in November," Taylor Robson said. "I’m blessed to remember what I learned from my mom and dad and through athletic competition: Win with grace, lose with dignity."
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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs criticized her Republican opponent for governor for courting "far-right extremists."
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Choosing 'Between Sanity and Chaos'

By nominating Lake, along with Masters and Finchem, Arizona's GOP voters pledged their enduring allegiance to former President Donald Trump, who energized Lake’s fan base at a rally in Prescott last month.

Hobbs said choosing Lake means picking chaos.

"This race for governor isn’t about Democrats or Republicans," she said in a statement. "It’s a choice between sanity and chaos. And it’s about electing a leader who will govern with vision and strength. I’m confident Arizonans will reject Lake and her embarrassing sideshow, and we will win in November.”

Democrats and traditional Republicans such as Congressman David Schweikert, who Lake booed at her election night party, are steeling themselves for the possibility that Lake will spend four years in the governor's office.

“This bitter primary race that fractured the Republican Party on a local and national level has finally come to an end, and the result is a nominee who has taken an extreme position on abortion, elections, guns, and more,” Raquel Terán, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, said in an email to New Times.

“Arizona is at a crossroads with this election, and the next governor needs to be ready on day one to tackle serious issues like rising cost of living, our drought, addressing our school funding crisis and teacher shortage, and more," Terán continued. "It’s clear from this primary that Kari Lake utterly and completely fails to meet this moment. We need a governor with a vision and one who will fight for Arizona, and Lake is not that governor.”

Lake, who was suspended from Twitter last month after an attack on Taylor Robson, laughed off questions on Wednesday about why voters should trust the result of an election she claimed was rigged, and how she could declare victory in an election that she had no confidence in.

Her supporters have faith that her win was legit.

“I like Kari Lake’s chances in November,” Show Low voter Kyle Conklin told New Times. “I’m just in disbelief that Katie Hobbs can be an active secretary of state and also be a candidate in this election cycle. That position makes her the chief election officer. Katie Hobbs is failing at her current job based on the numerous ballot issues in the 2022 primary. How does she have the audacity to expect a promotion? The people of Arizona deserve better.”

Voters ousted Trump from political office, but a GOP full of conspiracy theorists will be his legacy.

"President Trump went 14-0 in Arizona as the MAGA wave continues to sweep across the nation,” Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said in a statement on Wednesday. “America is a nation in decline under Democrat leadership, but President Trump will not stop until America is made great once more through the election of America First fighters.”

Questions of whether the coronavirus vaccine-denying Lake will appeal to moderate Republicans and Arizona's largest voter base, independents, linger.

“Kari Lake is coming out of this primary battered, bruised, and with so much MAGA baggage that it’s nearly impossible for her to appeal to the moderate and independent voters she’ll need to win,” Josselyn Berry, spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Party, said in an email to New Times.

“In the last several months, Lake has shown how extreme and out-of-step her agenda for Arizona is, from banning abortion to pushing election lies, all while ignoring the real issues that Arizona voters care about, like rising cost of living, our drought, teacher shortages and more. We need a governor who will fight for Arizona, not an extreme, right-wing agenda," Berry added.
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss