Trump Ally and 2020 Election Denier Kari Lake Wins GOP First for Arizona Governor

Kari Lake, Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, waves to supporters before speaking at a post-election news conference on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Kari Lake, Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, waves to supporters before a press conference on Wednesday. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Kari Lake, a former news anchor who walked away from her journalism career and embraced by former President Trump and his staunch supporters, won the Republican primary for Arizona governor on Thursday.

Lake’s victory was a blow to GOP incumbents who stood behind lawyer 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 Biden’s victory in 2020 and false claims of election fraud central to its campaign.

“Arizonas forgotten by the establishment have just caused a political earthquake,” Lake said in a statement after the race was called.

Republicans now enter the general election sprint with a list of nominees closely associated with Trump who deny Biden was legitimately elected president. Lake will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the November election.

“This race for governor is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s a choice between common sense and chaos,” Hobbs said in a statement Thursday evening about Lake’s victory.

Early election results only show ballots received before Election Day Robson would have given a solid lead, but that was reduced when 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 issued in the polls on Tuesday.

“Arizona voters have spoken,” Robson said in a statement admitting to Lake on Thursday. “I accept the results, I trust the process and the people running it.”

In a midterm primary season with mixed results for Trump’s favorite candidates, the former president came out on top in Arizona, a state central to his efforts to undo the 2020 presidential election and cast doubt on Biden’s victory. In addition to Lake, Trump’s picks for the U.S. Senate, the House, the Arizona Secretary of State, the Attorney General, 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’s steadfastness become increasingly bold in their efforts to regain 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.

Robson, who is married to one of Arizona’s richest men, largely self-funded her campaign. She called the 2020 elections ‘unfair’, but dropped out call it fraudulent and urged the GOP to look to the future.

Lake now faces the daunting task of uniting the Republican Party after a heart-pounding primary. On Wednesday, as Lake prematurely declared victory, she tried to contact Robson and others whom she vehemently 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.”

Robson said she has supported Republicans all her life, “and I hope our Republican nominees are successful in November.”

Like Trump, Lake Courts controversy and confrontation. She berates journalists and dodges questions. She burned masks during the COVID-19 peak in summer 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 faith that her victory was legitimate.

“We voted out the fraud,” Lake said. She pointed to problems in Pinal County, where some counties had run out of ballots and had more to be printed, 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 propelled her primary win.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said: there is no credible evidence the 2020 elections were 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 actually 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 that drove her to put cameras in every classroom to monitor teachers.

Republicans should appeal to the independent voters who decide close races, said Chuck Coughlin, a longtime GOP 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.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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