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Kari Lake's Election Denial in Arizona Looms Large for 2024 Race

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 11/4/2022 Ryan Teague Beckwith and Jack Gillum

(Bloomberg) -- If Kari Lake becomes Arizona governor as polls suggest, she is likely to keep the critical swing state at the center of a national fight over election denial ahead of the 2024 presidential race, when former President Donald Trump is likely to run again.

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In an unorthodox first-time campaign for political office, Lake embraced Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, saying that she would not have certified Joe Biden’s win in the state, suing in an unsuccessful effort to stop the use of voting machines and declining to say if she would accept the results of the election if she lost.

With days to go until Nov. 8, she’s leading election deniers running for governor in the likely 2024 battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Kari Lake. © Photographer: /Getty Images Kari Lake.

Lake leads Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, by 3.8 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Although she has raised $7.4 million through mid-October, less than Hobbs’ $9.7 million in the same period, outside ad spending from groups like the Republican Governors Association has helped offset the difference. 

Arizona was at the center of Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss and it’s been a hotbed of election denial ever since, ranging from a controversial recount by the private firm CyberNinjas in Maricopa County to the 270 bills filed in the state legislature to change election rules over the last two years. The state’s Republican nominees for US senator, attorney general and secretary of state, who oversees voting, all follow Trump’s false “Stop the Steal” movement. 


Like Trump, Lake has shown a knack for driving the news cycle by going on the attack against Democrats and the media and using social media to fire up the Republican base.

Arizona political consultants say the statehouse would be a natural stepping stone to national attention. Lake would follow a similar path to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose attacks on corporations such as Disney and Meta Platforms Inc., coronavirus vaccine mandates and teaching about race and sexuality in schools have made him a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

“She could live rent-free on Fox News for the next two years,” said Republican consultant Kirk Adams, a former speaker of the state House.

While many Republicans have borrowed Trump’s rhetoric on issues like immigration since his win in 2016, Arizona consultants say that Lake, a Phoenix television anchor for 22 years, has succeeded by being in a similar position: a TV personality with a reputation outside the world of politics. That gives her a high name ID among voters and made it harder for Democratic attack ads that have sought to define her as an extremist.

Read more: The real winner of this year’s GOP primaries was election denial

Jason Rose, a Republican political consultant, said that Lake’s time on local TV and her charisma have made her something of a star in conservative circles, akin to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose rough treatment of detained immigrants made him a conservative star.

“Lake is a once-in-a-generation candidate here,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in Republican circles since Sheriff Arpaio was at the height of his popularity in the 1990s.”

Lake has tweeted dozens of times this year on the 2020 election, including false claims that Trump won “in a landslide.” 

Democrats say that Lake’s steady diet of conservative red meat may be costing her among a key slice of Republican-leaning women voters in the suburbs of cities like Phoenix and Mesa, especially on the issue of abortion in the state, where a near-total ban on abortion dating from 1864 is likely to be reinstated.

Lake has called abortion “murder” and “the ultimate sin” and praised the ban as “a great law that’s already on the books.” She has said that as governor she would end the sale of abortion pills and ban abortions at six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. 

Rose, the Republican consultant, said Lake’s campaign has been led by a “motley crew” that includes her husband, longtime friends and younger staffers who are new to the state’s politics. She also eschewed some of the traditional trappings of a campaign, including hiring pollsters and consultants and running TV ads.

While that may have served her well so far in the campaign, Rose said it could complicate things if she wins and is faced with the more workaday problems of running a politically divided state.

“I think she’s going to have a moment for sure, but her challenge is going to be governing,” he said. “She’s got the box checked for raging against the machine, but what happens when she becomes the machine? Voters want to know that it’s going to keep working.”

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