Republican Kari Lake, a far-right former TV information anchor who quickly constructed a nationwide profile as one of the crucial vocal proponents of President Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies, received’t be Arizona’s subsequent governor. However even when she admits that reality — a giant if, given her latest assaults on her state’s electoral course of and that she’s repeatedly refused to say that she’s going to concede the race if she loses — it’s not more likely to be the final we’ll see of her.
The Arizona governor’s race has made Lake a GOP star. She’s been outspoken about her excessive views on election safety, abortion, and immigration. She ran an unconventional marketing campaign, eschewing conventional advert buys for viral marketing campaign movies, filled with controversial statements that grabbed nationwide headlines, together with feedback that appeared to make mild of the violent assault on Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. All of that received her Trump’s admiration (and endorsement) and reward from different outstanding Republicans. She’s even been floated as a potential working mate for Trump in 2024.
The race attracted large outdoors spending and appeared shut till the top, with polls displaying Lake, and her Democratic opponent, present Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, in a lifeless warmth earlier than Election Day. It took days for the outcomes to be referred to as, and Hobbs’s victory got here all the way down to the margins she was capable of drive up in large city facilities in Pima and Maricopa counties.
It’s a giant loss for Republicans on this key battleground the place President Joe Biden received by just a little over 10,000 votes in 2020, and one other blow to Trump’s repute as a kingmaker after his handpicked candidates had a poor displaying throughout the nation this yr. It’s additionally a key win for Democrats, who concurrently picked up a governorship and fended off the rise of one other far-right election denier.
However this may solely be the start of Lake’s political profession — and that’s a worrying prospect for Democrats who’ve seen how formidable she’s been, whilst a political newcomer.
Lake’s views are excessive, even for Republican-leaning Arizona
Lake’s views on the 2020 election are particularly harmful in a spot like Arizona, the place Biden’s margin was extremely skinny and the place the state legislature, which could stay underneath Republican management, may quickly be empowered by an upcoming US Supreme Courtroom ruling to undermine the outcomes of future elections.
Lake has mentioned she wouldn’t have licensed the 2020 vote for Biden, saying that it was “corrupt, rotten.” She even filed a lawsuit, which has since been dismissed by a federal choose, that made false claims about points with vote-counting machines and sought to require Arizona officers to tabulate 2022 ballots by hand.
Not like Lake, most Arizonans are assured within the state’s elections: A Heart for the Way forward for Arizona/HighGround Public Affairs ballot launched in October discovered that 70 % of doubtless voters in Arizona believed the state’s elections had been safe and 77 % believed the 2022 outcomes could be correct.
Forward of Election Day, Lake additionally repeatedly dodged questions about whether or not she would concede the governor’s race if she misplaced, saying that “I’m going to win the election, and I’ll settle for that consequence,” and that she’d solely settle for a “truthful, trustworthy and clear” consequence. In the course of the main, she even preempted her personal win by saying that she would problem the outcomes if she misplaced as a result of it might have indicated “there’s some dishonest happening.” And earlier than the race was referred to as, she recommended that Arizona election officers had been deliberately dragging their ft on releasing the outcomes, whereas nonetheless declaring, “I’m 100% going to win.”
Lake’s election denialism may have been disastrous within the governor’s workplace: She would have had a task to play within the certification of presidential election outcomes and will have sought to make use of her workplace to delay or undermine the certification if she disagrees with the consequence.
Hobbs, however, rose to nationwide prominence after defending the integrity of the 2020 election leads to Arizona towards Trump’s efforts to overturn them, calling a Republican-led audit of the outcomes a method of “chasing conspiracy theories.” She refused to even debate Lake as a result of, as she advised CNN, she “didn’t need to give her an even bigger stage” to unfold her lies in regards to the 2020 election.
Lake’s views on abortion have additionally put her to the correct of many Arizonans.
Lake helps current excessive restrictions on abortion in Arizona. That features laws handed earlier this yr by Arizona’s GOP-controlled state legislature that banned abortions after 15 weeks of being pregnant with no exceptions for rape or incest. The state additionally has a 121-year-old whole abortion ban on the books, which solely has an exception for when the lifetime of the pregnant particular person is in jeopardy. It went into impact instantly after the Supreme Courtroom’s June determination to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Lake has supported the 15-week ban and the pre-Roe ban, which she has referred to as “a fantastic legislation that’s already on the books.” She has additionally referred to as abortion “the final word sin,” mentioned abortion drugs must be unlawful, and mentioned she would help banning abortion round six weeks of being pregnant.
Her positions appear to be out of sync with the Arizona voters: A September OH Predictive insights ballot discovered that 9 in 10 voters agree that abortion must be authorized in at the least some circumstances. That appears to be extra consistent with Hobbs’s calls to each overturn the pre-Roe ban and the 15-week ban.
The cult of persona round Lake
Lake entered politics after retiring from journalism as a result of she didn’t “just like the course that it’s going,” as she mentioned in a video saying her resignation from native TV information. Apart from protecting native and nationwide races for 22 years as a information anchor in Phoenix, she didn’t have any prior expertise in politics or authorities, which is uncommon for gubernatorial candidates.
Democrats initially appeared to jot down off Lake as a fringe candidate. They even revealed a press launch highlighting her main opponent Karrin Taylor Robson’s previous donations to Democrats, which made Lake appear to be the true conservative within the race and extra interesting to GOP main voters. As in different components of the nation, Democrats appeared to imagine that the far-right Lake could be simpler to beat within the normal election.
However Lake had the backing of Trump, whose endorsement appeared to nonetheless carry weight in Republican-leaning Arizona. And he or she additionally had one thing that different 2022 far-right candidates, reminiscent of Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, didn’t have: greater than twenty years of expertise on air for a Fox affiliate. That resume made her perpetually camera-ready and adept at chatting with voters’ issues in a manner that many noticed as genuine and even paying homage to Trump’s rhetorical type.
“I don’t want a pollster or a guide from DC or one other large metropolis to come back into Arizona and inform me what Arizona is about,” Lake advised Politico.
That perspective has been mirrored in her marketing campaign technique. Quite than shopping for TV advertisements, she had her husband, a former videographer at NBC’s Phoenix affiliate and freelance producer, movie her sparring with reporters throughout interviews and posting the footage on-line, usually with viral outcomes.
Distinguished Republicans are starstruck by her. Kenneth L. Khachigian, Ronald Reagan’s former chief speechwriter, waxed poetic within the Wall Avenue Journal final month: “What makes Ms. Lake’s message totally different is its simplicity and fearlessness. It’s unapologetic and honest, not clothed in code phrases.” Trump reportedly sees one thing of himself in Lake. Even the present term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, who accused Lake of “deceptive voters” when he was backing Taylor Robson in the course of the main, has lately warmed to her.
All of the reward from Republicans — and hypothesis that she is likely to be a potential working mate for Trump, despite the fact that she didn’t win the governorship — has Democrats frightened. Regardless of her loss, they assume she has presidential charisma, and her media savvy and temperament may assist Trump mount a troublesome problem to President Joe Biden come 2024.