With less than 12 weeks left before the state's Republican primaries, more than three dozen GOP candidates—including six running statewide—have built their campaigns around Trump's stolen-election lie. That was the finding of two groups tracking candidates, the nonpartisan States United Action and Pro-Democracy Republicans, an organization started last year by Maricopa County’s top election official, a Republican.
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Chief among them is GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, a former Fox News anchor and Trump endorsee, who crisscrosses the state peddling Trump's lie. At a recent campaign stop at the Cochise County Republican headquarters, Lake stuffed nearly a dozen mentions of the stolen-election lie into an hour-long speech, according to a New York Times treatment of Arizona's far-right fanaticism,
In one TV ad played amid newscasts, Lake tells viewers they're watching "fake news."
“You know how to know it’s fake?” Lake says, “Because they won’t even cover the biggest story out there: the rigged election of 2020.”
Lake's main Republican opponent is Phoenix-based self-funder Karrin Taylor Robson, a businesswoman who has generally steered her focus away from Trump’s 2020 lies. But when asked if President Biden was fairly elected, she told the Times in a statement, “Joe Biden may be the president, but the election definitely wasn’t fair.”
Robson, however, is very much an outlier amid a GOP field that's teeming with extremists.
The Times writes:
Representative Paul Gosar and State Senator Wendy Rogers both spoke at the America First Political Action Conference, a group with strong ties to white nationalists, and both were censured by their legislative bodies for their violent rhetoric and antics. Ms. Rogers and State Representative Mark Finchem, a Republican who is running for secretary of state, have acknowledged ties to the Oath Keepers militia group. Ron Watkins, who is widely believed to have played a major role in writing the anonymous posts that helped spur the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon, is running for Congress. Jim Lamon, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, falsely claimed to be an elector for Arizona last year.
Former GOP state senator Bob Worsley fears that the state is facing "another decade of craziness" if these extremists are elected.
“I don’t know who has the stature to say, ‘Let’s bring this party back, bring the establishment base back into power," Worsley lamented. "Now we’re a purple state and we don’t have a John McCain to try to crack the whip."
In fact, many Arizona Republicans now view McCain with particular disdain.
But it will be a particularly interesting state to watch both in the primary and the general election. Since voters who identify as something "other" than Democrat or Republican account for roughly 45% of the Arizona electorate, no candidate can rely on their party alone to win an election. And if a slew of Arizona’s GOP extremists prevail in their primaries, there won’t be any chance at moderating for the general election.