Trump is Pushing for a Slate of Election-Denying Loyalists to Win Arizona’s GOP Primaries: A Guide
Donald Trump’s political prowess will be put to the test on Tuesday, when gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Senate candidate Blake Masters, and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem will take part in the Republican primaries. The former president has focused an inordinate amount of energy on the three races to ensure that the highest offices in Arizona––a state he has singled out in his “stolen election” claims––are filled by Trump loyalists ahead of the next presidential election. Lake, Finchem, and Masters have all made Trump’s election lies a central component of their campaigns.
In the packed GOP Senate primary, the latest opinion polls show Masters, a Peter Thiel–backed venture capitalist with no political experience, sitting on a strong lead––largely thanks to Trump’s endorsement and a super PAC that Thiel has reportedly pumped roughly $15 million into. “Arizona is a State where the 2020 Election was Rigged and Stolen, and a very thorough audit proved it,” Trump stated in June. “Blake knows that the ‘Crime of the Century’ took place, he will expose it and also, never let it happen again.” In November, shortly before meeting with Trump for the first time, Masters released an ad stating, “If we’d had a free and fair election, Donald Trump would still be president today.”
An Emerson College poll this week found that 40% of likely primary voters expressed support for Masters, while his closest competitors, energy executive Jim Lamon and Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich, are at 22% and 14% support, respectively. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will go on to face Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat vying for his first full term after winning a special election in 2020. Another recent poll from OH Predictive Insights found Masters up 36% to Lamon’s 21%.
In the state’s gubernatorial contest, Lake, a former local TV anchor, and Karrin Taylor Robson, a former Arizona Board of Regents member, are battling to take up the mantle from outgoing Republican governor Doug Ducey. With Trump endorsing Lake and Mike Pence backing Robson, the race has turned into an interesting clash between the former president and his old veep. Robson has also received support from Ducey, a more traditional Arizona Republican who faced harsh criticisms from Trump for not doing enough to contest Biden’s 2020 victory in the state.
Despite leading the race for much of the primary, Lake’s advantage has dwindled in recent months after former representative Matt Salmon dropped out and endorsed Robson. Lake has also struggled to keep pace with her rival’s massive war chest, as Robson has reportedly spent $15 million in her own money on the race and outspent the Lake campaign four-to-one, according to The Kingman Daily Miner. Lake, meanwhile, has largely relied on Trumpworld for free P.R. help. She appeared at a Trump rally in Prescott Valley last month and has been endorsed by Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Gosar, Dinesh D’Souza, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. As for her platform, Lake has called for issuing a “declaration of invasion” against undocumented migrants, claimed that Biden “lost the election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House,” and demanded that massive changes be made to Arizona’s election rules, including the elimination of mail-in ballots and electronic machines that tally votes, per The Washington Post. (Robson has also flirted with election denialism, saying at a debate, “I believe our election was absolutely not fair.”) The GOP victor will likely go on to face Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, the race’s leading Democrat.
Hobbs’s decision to run for governor means that Arizona’s secretary of state position is up for grabs, which could have major repercussions on the 2024 presidential race in the event that a Trump-backed election denier, like Finchem, a state legislator, fills the post. Finchem, a “Stop the Steal” supporter and QAnon conspiracy theorist who attended the Capitol rally, has repeatedly portrayed Biden’s 2020 victory as illegitimate. If elected, he has promised to abolish early voting and adopt “counter fraud” paper ballots that will be counted by hand. In perhaps his most consequential proposal, Finchem has suggested that state legislators have the option to overrule presidential election results if they suspect that voting fraud took place, according to the Arizona Republic. Finchem’s top rival represents a stark contrast: Beau Lane, a Ducey-backed advertising executive, has acknowledged Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election and expressed support for early ballot systems.
As was the case in 2020, Arizona, which is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S., will be a key battleground contest in 2024 and beyond, meaning that the stakes for these statewide races could not be higher. Come November, if an ascendant Trump loyalist like Lake or Finchem comes out on top, there is a chance that democratic elections in Arizona––and thus, the entire country––may be fundamentally altered.