Kari Lake, a former news anchor who stepped away from her journalism career and was embraced by Donald Trump and his staunch supporters, won the Republican primary for Arizona governor on Thursday.
Lake’s victory was a blow to the GOP establishment that stood behind attorney and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson in an effort to push their party beyond the chaotic Trump era. Lake said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 and would put false claims of voter fraud at the center of her campaign.
“The MAGA movement revolted as if their lives depended on it,” Lake said as she prematurely proclaimed victory Wednesday afternoon, a day before the race was declared, using an acronym for Trump’s Make America Great Again movement. “And it proved you can’t buy an election, at least not in Arizona. We, the people, stood up and spoke.”
Robson, who is married to one of Arizona’s richest men, largely self-funded her campaign. She called the 2020 election “unfair”, but did not call it fraudulent and urged the GOP to look to the future.
Republicans now enter the general election sprint with a list of nominees closely associated with Trump who deny that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Lake will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the November election.
Early election results showing only mailed ballots received before Election Day gave Robson a solid lead, but it narrowed as votes from polling stations were added to the tally. Lake’s victory became clear on Thursday when Maricopa County released the results of the thousands of ballots delivered to the polls on Tuesday.
In a midseason of mixed results for Trump’s favorite candidates, the former president came out on top in Arizona, a state central to his efforts to nullify the 2020 presidential election and cast doubt on Biden’s victory. . In addition to Lake, Trump’s picks for the U.S. Senate, Secretary of State, Attorney General, the U.S. House and the state legislature all won their GOP primaries.
If they win in November, Trump’s allies will hold sway over electoral governance in a pivotal battleground as he considers another bid for the White House in 2024. The results also show Trump remains a powerful figure in the GOP as the old party steadfastly becomes increasingly bold in their efforts to reassert control ahead of the next presidential campaign.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie all campaigned for Robson in the days leading up to the election.
Lake now faces the daunting task of uniting the Republican Party after a heart-pounding primary. She tried to reach out to Robson and others she harshly criticized as RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only, who disagree with Trump on important issues.
“Frankly, this party needs her to get together, and I welcome her,” Lake said of Robson. “And I hope she comes for this.”
Like Trump, Lake Courts controversy and confrontation. She berates journalists and dodges questions. She burned masks during the COVID-19 wave in the summer of 2021 and attacked Republicans like Ducey who allowed restrictions on businesses, though as a news anchor, she encouraged people to follow public health guidelines.
Lake spent the days leading up to her own election claiming signs of fraud, but she declined to provide any evidence. Once her victory was assured, she said voters should have confidence that her victory is legitimate.
“We voted out the fraud,” Lake said. She pointed to problems in one county, which had run out of and had to print ballots in some counties, but she and her attorney, Tim La Sota, declined to provide evidence to support her fraud claims.
She said she has no intention of stopping talking about voter fraud, even if she needs to expand her appeal beyond the loyalists who sparked her primary win.
Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was tainted. Trump’s fraud charges were also outright rejected by courts, including judges he appointed. A manual recount led by Trump supporters in Arizona’s largest Maricopa County found no evidence of a stolen election and concluded Biden’s margin of victory was greater than the official count.
Hobbs, Lake’s opponent in November, went after the candidate for her opposition to abortion rights and gun control and a proposal she made to put cameras in every classroom to monitor teachers.
“Simply, Kari Lake is dangerous,” Hobbs told supporters Tuesday night after winning the Democratic primary by a wide margin.
Republicans, going to November as a divided party in Arizona, must appeal to TBEN voters who decide closed races, said Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican strategist who left the party during the Trump era.
“I see it as a challenge Republicans will have: how do they tell unaffiliated voters?” said Coughlin.