A to Z

Trump endorses Masters in Arizona GOP primary for U.S. Senate

By: - June 2, 2022 2:42 pm
Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters

Blake Masters in January 2022. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Former President Donald Trump has thrown his weight behind Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.

Masters has pushed many of Trump’s talking points during his campaign and hopes the endorsement could be the difference in a Republican primary that had no clear-cut front runner until now.

Trump endorsed Masters, a Tucson-based venture capitalist, on Thursday, just weeks after the former president was supposedly on an endorsement hiatus after several of his endorsed candidates lost around the country. In Pennsylvania, Trump-favorite Dr. Mehmet Oz is likely headed for a recount in his Senate primary bid.

Masters was widely expected to receive Trump’s blessing to take on Democrat Mark Kelly in November, given he was on Trump’s transition team in 2016. Trump held a fundraiser for Masters at the former president’s home, Mar-A-Lago, and Trump called into a recent Masters campaign event touting his bona fides.

But more importantly, the move was widely expected because Trump was never going to endorse Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the candidate who poses the biggest challenge to Masters. Brnovich carries high name recognition and a lot of free media coverage on Fox News and affiliated channels, averaging at least one appearance per week.

But Brnovich has earned the former president’s wrath because he has not brought any charges based on Trump’s false allegations of election fraud in 2020.

Trump said Masters “knows that the ‘Crime of the Century’ took place, he will expose it and also, never let it happen again.”

“Mark Brnovich is such a disappointment to me,” Trump said. “While he understands what took place in the 2020 Presidential Election, and that it was Rigged and Stolen, he only views it as something he would like not to see happen again.”

Masters also comes with the backing of Peter Thiel, his former boss and mentor who is also a major Trump supporter. Thiel initially put in $10 million to support Masters through his PAC, Saving Arizona. Thiel recently boosted that committee with another $3.5 million.

Even while taking swipes at Brnovich, Trump praised Masters for his position on issues.

“Blake is Strong on Border Security, in particular, the disastrous Southern Border where people are pouring into the U.S. by the millions, and destroying our Country,” Trump said in a statement through his Save America PAC. “Just two years ago, with the help of the Wall, we had the Strongest Border in the history of our Country, and now we have the weakest — Blake will turn that around quickly.”

It’s still unclear how much a Trump endorsement can really do for a Republican campaign. While it worked in Ohio for Senate candidate J.D. Vance, another candidate with Thiel’s financial backing, it’s been less clear in other races.

Trump has also endorsed Kari Lake for Arizona governor and Mark Finchem for secretary of state, but it appears not to have had a major effect. Lake has remained around the 30-35% support in polls and Finchem doesn’t appear to have wide support among Republicans. Most polling for that race has an inordinately high undecided number.

Masters, however, told Politico in a recent profile that he didn’t think he would win the race without Trump’s support.

One thing that is clear is Trump’s backing does come with a boost financially, as Lake and Finchem lead in their races in contributions from individuals. Masters also leads (not including self-funded candidates) in the GOP Senate primary field, but his total pales in comparison to Kelly, who is well on his way to raise at least $100 million this cycle, like he did in 2020.

Masters had $2.25 million on hand coming into the second quarter compared to Kelly’s $23 million.

Then there’s Jim Lamon, the former solar executive, who had promised to self-fund his campaign to the tune of $1 million per month. He sits on a war chest of at least $7 million, but has largely used his campaign to appeal to Trump. He will likely see Trump’s endorsement of Masters as a negative sign much more than Brnovich would.

Lamon even put out an ad attacking Masters recently by calling him a “puppet” of Big Tech.

Regardless of who ends up winning the GOP primary, it’s likely going to be a tight race to unseat Kelly in a year that’s supposed to favor Republicans. In 2020, where Democrats largely won on the top of the ticket, Kelly still only narrowly defeated Martha McSally by 2.4 percentage points.

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.

Dillon Rosenblatt
Dillon Rosenblatt

Dillon Rosenblatt is a Phoenix-based political reporter with previous bylines in Arizona Capitol Times and Phoenix New Times. When he’s not getting under the skin of politicians, he’s usually found at local coffee shops or the movie theater. He’s originally from New Jersey and graduated from Arizona State University.