Carrie Lake, a former news anchor who left her journalism career and was embraced by Donald Trump and his ardent supporters, won the Republican primary for Arizona governor on Thursday.
Lake’s victory was a blow to the GOP establishment that has lined up behind attorney and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson in an effort to push their party through the chaotic Trump era. Lake said she would not have certified President Joe Biden to win in 2020 and made false allegations of voter fraud a centerpiece of her campaign.
“The MAGA movement grew like their lives depended on it,” Lake said as she prematurely declared victory Wednesday afternoon, a day before the race was called, using an acronym for Trump’s Make America Great Again movement. . “And he proved that you can’t buy an election, at least not in Arizona. We the people stood up and spoke.”
Robson, who is married to one of Arizona’s richest men, largely self-funded her campaign. He called the 2020 election “unfair,” but stopped short of calling it fraudulent, and urged the GOP to look to the future.
Republicans now enter the general election sprint with a slate of candidates closely allied with Trump who deny that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. Lake will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the November election.
Early election results showing only mail-in ballots received before Election Day gave Robson a solid lead, but that narrowed as polling station votes were added to the tally. Lake’s victory became clear Thursday when Maricopa County released results from thousands of mail-in ballots dropped at the polls Tuesday.
In a midterm primary season with mixed results for Trump’s favored candidates, the former president came out on top in Arizona, a state central to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and challenge Biden’s victory. In addition to Lake, Trump’s picks for the U.S. Senate, secretary of state, attorney general, U.S. House and state legislature all won GOP primaries.
If they win in November, Trump’s allies will dominate election management in a critical situation as he considers another bid for the White House in 2024. The results also show that Trump remains a powerful figure in the GOP as longtime party strongmen grow and bolder in their efforts to regain control ahead of the next presidential campaign.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned for Robson in the days leading up to the election.
Lake now faces the daunting task of unifying the Republican Party after a tough primary. He sought to reach out to Robson and others he has criticized as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, who do not align with Trump on key issues.
“Frankly, this party needs her to come to her senses and I welcome her,” Lake said of Robson. “And hopefully he’ll come for it.”
Like Trump, Lake courts controversy and confrontation. He criticizes journalists and avoids questions. She burned masks during the summer 2021 COVID-19 outbreak and attacked Republicans like Ducey for allowing restrictions on businesses, though as a news anchor she encouraged people to follow public health guidelines.
Lake spent the days leading up to her own election claiming there were signs of fraud, but refused to provide any evidence. Once her victory is assured, she said voters must trust that her victory is legitimate.
“We outvoted fraud,” Lake said. She pointed to problems in one county, which ran out of ballots in some precincts and needed to print more, but she and her attorney, Tim La Sota, declined to provide evidence to support her claims of fraud.
She said she doesn’t plan to stop talking about voter fraud, even though she needs to broaden her appeal beyond the loyalists who led to her primary victory.
Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was tainted. Trump’s claims of fraud have also been rejected by the courts, including by judges he appointed. A manual count led by Trump supporters in Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, found no evidence of a stolen election and concluded that Biden’s margin of victory was greater than the official count.
Hobbs, Lake’s opponent in November, went after the candidate for her opposition to abortion rights and gun control and a proposal she made to install cameras in every classroom to monitor teachers.
“Quite simply, Lake Cary is dangerous,” Hobbs told supporters Tuesday night after winning by a wide margin in the Democratic primary.
Republicans, heading into November as a divided party in Arizona, must appeal to independent voters who decide close races, said Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican strategist who left the party during the Trump era.
“I see that as a challenge that Republicans will have: How do they tell the story to unaffiliated voters?” Coughlin said.