A supporter takes video of Kari Lake speaking on Aug. 2, 2022. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
After widening her lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary Thursday, Kari Lake is certain to be the GOP nominee in November.
Nearly 44,000 Republican ballots were counted Thursday in Maricopa County, and Lake’s lead over Karrin Taylor Robson increased to more than 19,000 votes from about 12,000 the day earlier. In the day’s tally, Lake captured more than 52% of ballots counted to Robson’s almost 41%.
Shortly after Maricopa County announced the day’s counts, Decision Desk HQ and The Associated Press called the race in Lake’s favor.
Lake, a longtime television newscaster in Phoenix, will face Democrat Katie Hobbs in the November general election. At a press conference on Wednesday, Lake reiterated her baseless claim that Hobbs, the secretary of state, committed crimes related to the 2020 election and should be imprisoned.
Lake has been a outsized voice for unfounded claims and accusations of election fraud in the 2020 election, which she falsely claims was stolen from Donald Trump. Her devotion to Trump’s Big Lie, and her insistence that she would not have certified the election had she been governor, earned her the former president’s endorsement, solidifying her as the face of the MAGA movement in Arizona. There is no evidence of fraud in the 2020 elections, but there is ample evidence that Trump attempted to overthrow the election with the help of Republicans in swing states, including Arizona.
And, like Trump, Lake is combative and prone to bombastic statements that are often unmoored to facts. She aggressively castigates journalists in place of answering their questions. And she made evidence-free claims of fraud in her contest against Robson, proclaiming that a Robson victory would be evidence of malfeasance. Lake calls her political enemies names: She called Gov. Doug Ducey a “swamp creature” and accused Robson of being a “globalist,” a slur among some conservatives that has antisemitic connotations.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
On Wednesday, when she declared victory before many of the outstanding ballots were counted, Lake attempted to smooth things over and appealed to Robson and other Republicans who backed other candidates — Lake only won about 47% of the Republican vote in her victory. Whether Lake can unify the party will be one of her biggest tests in the next three months.
“Arizonans who have been forgotten by the establishment just delivered a political earthquake,” Lake said in a statement after Thursday’s ballot counts were released. “This is more than an election – it is a beautiful movement by so many people across our beautiful state to finally put Arizona First.”
Robson, who said the 2020 election was “unfair” to Trump but stopped short of embracing the Big Lie, started the race virtually unknown except by political insiders. The developer and former university regent, who is married to one of Arizona’s richest men, largely used her family’s money to fund her campaign. She spent nearly $19 million — including $15.2 million she loaned her campaign — through mid-July.
The spending allowed Robson to cut into the lead Lake built early in the race, but ultimately came up short. On election night, she surged to a wide lead when early ballots that arrived in July were counted and reported. But Lake was heavily favored by voters who showed up at polling places on Tuesday, as well as by those who dropped off their early ballots at voting sites on Election Day. Shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, Robson’s 41,000-vote lead had evaporated and Lake was leading by about 2,000 votes.
Hobbs said Thursday that Lake is “dangerous” and an extremist who will ban abortion in Arizona, put video cameras in classrooms and overturn future elections if she doesn’t like the results.
““This race for governor isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s a choice between sanity and chaos. And it’s about electing a leader who will govern with vision and strength,” Hobbs said in a written statement. “I’m confident Arizonans will reject Lake and her embarrassing sideshow, and we will win in November.”
In an ad that began airing Wednesday, Hobbs took aim at Lake’s “radical” positions, including criminalizing abortion and wanting to legalize rocket launchers
Arizona Democrats, who had openly rooted for Lake to win because they view her as the weaker GOP candidate, said Thursday night that the Republican nominee is unprepared to address the challenges facing Arizona.
“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,” said Raquel Terán, the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. “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.”
Secretary of state
Ballots counted Thursday also decided the Democratic contest for secretary of state in favor of Adrian Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder. Fontes held a slim lead over state Rep. Reginald Bolding, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, and expanded it enough Thursday to be declared the winner.
In a speech posted on YouTube after the Associated Press called the race in his favor, Fontes appealed to a sense of American unity and pride that he said “has been discarded by some who now worship at the foot of the golden calf of Trumpism, demagoguery, and authoritarianism.”
“We saw the coup attempt on January 6th, the recent evisceration of reproductive rights by an extreme, untrustworthy, vendetta-driven Supreme Court, and we have seen the rise of violent extremism in our country. We no longer see each other as fellow countrymen,” he said.
Fontes will face Republican Mark Finchem in November. Finchem, a fringe state legislator, is a staunch believer in the Big Lie and was at the U.S. Capitol for the Jan. 6 insurrection. He’s one of Arizona’s most vocal Republicans claiming the 2020 election was stolen and that the results should have been decertified in Arizona. He’s called for Fontes’ arrest for allegedly rigging the 2020 election. Fontes, who was county recorder at the time, lost his own re-election that year to Stephen Richer.
Fontes said that no less than the future of democracy in Arizona is at state in November: Finchem will make it harder to register to vote, harder to vote by mail and he will undermine elections whose results he doesn’t like.
“We cannot afford to surrender this office to an insurrectionist traitor in a cowboy hat, a Trump sycophant who cares more about his dear leader than our democracy,” he said.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.