Venture capitalist-turned-novice Senate candidate Blake Masters easily won Arizona’s Republican primary on Tuesday, marking another victory for candidates backed by former President Donald Trump and tech billionaire Peter Thiel.
Masters, a 35-year-old Bitcoin hawk with no political experience, led Trump’s late-game support to a come-from-behind victory after failing for months to attract swing state conservatives with a steady stream of radicals and dystopian at times right-wing rhetorical thread with anti-immigrant and racist tropes.
In the end, Masters edged out Arizona’s second-ranked energy tycoon, Jim Lamon. Masters will now face incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in the general election.
For months, the Arizona race showed no clear front-runner, but then escalating his electoral denial to win Trump’s endorsement in June, Masters stepped up. By the initial hour, he was resting on one double digit lead.
By contrast, JD Vance—another Trump-Thiel pick—was endorsed by less than one in three Ohio Republicans in May. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt, a Senate candidate who received money from Thiel and a dubious endorsement from Trump, also won his GOP Senate nomination Tuesday night, though Trump was not at all clear about who he was actually supporting in the race.
Masters, who grew up in Arizona, had recently returned to the state after years in the Bay Area, where he worked under Thiel’s wing as COO of Thiel Capital. He entered the race relatively low on name recognition, especially compared to Arizona Attorney General turned Trump nemesis Mark Brnovich. But Masters took a native advertising approach to publicity and quickly began to garner earned media as a polarizing provocateur.
But his success was a surprise to many. At first, the Masters’ underdog platform seemed like an odd fit for Arizona. He leaned heavily on the abstract Political theory of the “new right”., anti-immigrant fear bait, longform podcast interviewsand specialized, largely untested policy proposals (eg a “strategic reserve” of Bitcoin)—an odd match for the typical swing state voter profile.
However, thanks in large part to Trump, the tech investor was able to garner enough votes to offset, or potentially win, his toughest competition: Arizona’s large population of moderates and retirees in the suburbs.
While Masters—a thirty-something Bitcoin millionaire and Silicon Valley transplant who has been dogged throughout his campaign by allegations of racism, hypocritical corporate and technocratic cronyism, and veiled anti-Semitism— may seem an unlikely flag bearer for this all-important demographic, these voters will become more critical as the general election nears. There, Teacher must overcome a popular Democratic moderate in Kelly, an effort that may force Teacher to tone down his rhetoric.
He’ll have to balance that with the Trump brand if he wants to energize the base, because if fundraising is any measure of enthusiasm, Masters has a steep hill to climb. Almost all of his financial power comes from a group entirely separate from his campaign — a super PAC fueled primarily by Thiel’s massive $15 million investment. The bulk of the super PAC’s other high-dollar contributions come from tech and finance executives, most of whom have some connection to the cryptocurrency world.
But Arizonans simply haven’t opened their wallets. Exactly four of the super PAC’s fifty-plus donors hail from Arizona, according to FEC data. And of his campaign’s $5 million, more than 90 percent has come from outside the state, with Californians accounting for about one in five dollars. In fact, Masters has given more money to his campaign than the citizens of Arizona — his $680,000 in personal loans exceeds his total contributions to the state by about $200,000. His latest loan, from July — more than four months after he claimed to have resigned from Thiel’s company — still lists his employer as Thiel Capital.
But Masters got plenty of free airtime from another powerful ally—the most important media personality in conservative politics, Fox News entertainer Tucker Carlson. The late-night host was quick to recognize a fellow traveler in the Masters’ nationalistic agenda, the bid full support and numerous appearances on his program, o most were tracked show in cable news history. (Brnovich, by contrast, had the support of Carlson’s late-night colleague Sean Hannity.)
But the same nationalist rhetoric who addressed the Carlson crowd-resonant with the false “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory embraced by white defenders—attracted more controversial supporters, including Andrew Anglin, founder of neo-nazi edition The Daily Stormer.
Anglin gave the Masters his “Strong Endorsement” in June, following a viral incident at a campaign event where the Masters appeared to grab a 73-year-old protester by the throat and push him out of the room. Last month, Masters turned down Supporting Anglin, saying he had “never heard” of Anglin and dismissing news of the ratification as part of an effort “to smear anyone who believes in common sense border security as some kind of ‘Nazi’.”
Ultimately, Masters’ media clout outweighed the substantial support that top immigration officials threw behind his top challenger, Lamon, who received endorsements from former Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, along with former deputy director of the Immigration Service and Customs and the former Chief of the Border Patrol.
Masters won endorsements from TV officials including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).
But despite having positions on immigration, guns, abortion and gay marriage that are well off the polls, the tech entrepreneur has He made a “guarantee” to beat Kelly, a former Navy pilot and astronaut, by “five points.”
“Oh, I’m an astronaut. You have got heard Am I an astronaut?’ Masters said at an event in April, as mentionted by Mother Jones. “You know, when I’m on the space station and I look at the big blue ball, I realize we’re all in this together.” And he’s like, “Shut up, Mark.”
But Masters will also have to overcome his own unfounded theory that Democrats are using immigration policy to stack the electoral deck.
“Obviously, the Democrats are just hoping to change the demographics of our country,” he said he said in a podcast interview in April. “They hope to introduce a whole new electorate. Then they call you a racist and a bigot.”