Former news anchor and Trump-backed candidate Kari Lake has won the Republican nomination for Arizona governor, elevating a candidate who has embraced the former president’s false election claims in a key swing state.
Kari Lake wins GOP primary for Arizona governor
“We out-voted the fraud, we didn’t listen to what the fake news had to say,” Lake told reporters, according to the Arizona Mirror. “The MAGA movement rose up and voted like their lives depended on it.”
Lake’s victory was one of several for prominent election deniers in Arizona. If these Republicans win in November, they will be empowered to dramatically upend the election process in a key state in 2024 and beyond. Arizona became ground zero for unfounded 2020 election conspiracy theories after Joe Biden narrowly beat Donald Trump there — the first time a Democrat has taken the state since 1996.
Lake will face Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) in the general election. Hobbs defended the election process in Arizona as the person in charge of certifying Biden’s victory in 2020.
“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 chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party.
Other election deniers who prevailed in Tuesday’s Arizona GOP primary were venture capitalist Blake Masters, now set to face Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, and secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem.
Masters ran an ad saying “I think Trump won” and Finchem, a state lawmaker, was outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, before rioters stormed the building in a deadly attack. He has self-identified with the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group and self-styled militia, and said he would decertify Arizona’s 2020 election results if he had the power to do so.
Endorsed by prominent election conspiracy theorists MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, Lake has said she doesn’t recognize Biden as the country’s legitimate president. She has said if she had been governor in 2020, she wouldn’t have certified Biden’s victory. And if she wins in November, Lake’s most dramatic election-related proposals would eliminate machines that tabulate votes, like electronic equipment from Dominion Voting Systems used by Maricopa County, where more than half of Arizona residents live, and replace them with people to hand count millions of ballots from individual precincts where voters would be required to cast their ballots in person.
State officials, many of them Republicans, have warned that counting all ballots by hand would make it impossible to meet statutory deadlines.
Lake, if elected, also wants to terminate mail voting, exchanging it for a one-day election, and strengthen voter identification and auditing requirements, which already exist in Arizona.
The 52-year-old mother of two began her career in Iowa after studying journalism at the University of Iowa. After many years in the industry that ended with her frequently being criticized for sharing misinformation on her social media accounts, Lake left her anchor position at Phoenix’s local Fox station in March 2021. Three months later, she announced her campaign for governor.
Lake won the endorsement of Donald Trump that September and has in many ways modeled her campaign after that of the former president. Even before the primary, Lake was telling her supporters not to trust the results of Tuesday’s primary — unless she wins.
If Lake wins in the fall, her leadership would move the state further to the right after Biden won Arizona in the 2020 presidential election — a possible shift that has alarmed many more conventional Republicans in the Grand Canyon State. Lake has pledged to try to enact election-related policies that could fundamentally upend the way Arizonans vote — and how their votes are counted.
Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez contributed to this report.