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Former President Donald Trump has put his clout on the line in Arizona’s Aug. 2 Republican primary.
By picking favorites for the nominations for governor, US Senate, secretary of state, and attorney general, “he’s doubled, tripled, quadrupled down on Arizona,” said Phoenix-based pollster Paul Bentz, who has done work for groups across the political spectrum.
At stake for Trump is the chance to show political dominance in a state he lost to President Joe Biden (D) by 10,457 votes in 2020, though there’ll be a risk that traditional conservative messages could overcome what Bentz terms “blind loyalty” to the former president.
Trump headlined a July 22 Arizona rally that drew attention to the GOP’s internal divide; former Vice President Mike Pence was in the state on the same day, campaigning for a rival gubernatorial candidate.
Democrats, who have fewer contested primaries, will be watching the GOP outcome closely as they map a strategy to try to gain the governorship and maintain control of the US Senate.
Four Republicans are campaigning for the seat that will be left open by Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who is term-limited.
Trump’s endorsement made an early frontrunner of former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who has parroted many of his unproven claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Ducey, who co-chairs the Republican Governors Association, and Pence are countering Trump by backing businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson.
Support from the GOP establishment could help Taylor Robson reach undecided Republicans, but “the question is whether they can get them out to vote,” said Jaime Molera, a government affairs consultant in Phoenix. Trump’s base is typically consistent and motivated, he said.
Taylor Robson’s campaign was buoyed by $15.2 million of her own money and had spent more than $18.3 million—about five times more than Lake—through July 16, according to campaign finance reports. Lake’s campaign had $261,481 on hand, while Taylor Robson reported $267,028.
Paola Tulliani Zen had spent about $1.14 million over the same time period; Scott Neely trailed with about $135,791 spent.
The GOP winner of a five-candidate primary will face US Sen. Mark Kelly, who’s running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Blake Masters, a former Thiel Capital executive, benefited from a Trump bump following his June endorsement, according to recent polling data. Trump is definitely “creating stronger primary candidates,” Bentz said.
Solar company founder Jim Lamon also is trying to appeal to Trump loyalists. One of his ads features Trump supporters saying the former president “made a mistake in Arizona” and that voters should choose Lamon.
Lamon and Masters are focusing on the same type of voter, Molera said. Lamon’s mostly self-funded campaign spent about $14.6 million through July 13 compared with Masters’ roughly $3.4 million. Masters, though, has benefited from ads run by Saving Arizona PAC, whose funders include tech billionaires Peter Thiel and Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.
Mark Brnovich and Mick McGuire had each spent more than $2 million, while Justin Olson spent about $195,000.
Secretary of State
Four Republicans are fighting for the nomination to replace Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who is running for governor.
Trump’s pick, state Rep. Mark Finchem, was subpoenaed over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, and continues to dispute the results of the 2020 election. Ducey is supporting political outsider Beau Lane and said the advertising executive will help restore confidence in the election system.
The Finchem and Lane cammpaigns were nearly tied in spending through July 16 at over $1 million each, according to reports filed with the state. Shawnna Bolick had spent about $275,000 and Michelle Ugenti-Rita nearly $112,000.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is running for US Senate, so there’s no incumbent in that race. Six Republicans want the job, with Trump backing a first-time candidate.
Trump’s endorsement in a down-ticket race is “almost an oversized piece of information for voters” when candidates have little name recognition and not a lot of money to spend on their messaging, said Constantin Querard, a GOP consultant in the Phoenix metro area.
The gubernatorial and US Senate races “are just about the only big wallets in the state,” he said.
Rodney Glassman had spent the most—about $2.4 million—through July 16. Andrew Gould and Dawn Grove had each spent about $1.3 million.
The other three candidates each spent less than $1 million, with Trump’s pick, Abraham Hamadeh, at roughly $951,000, Tiffany Shedd at about $433,000, and Lacy Cooper at nearly $141,000.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at email@example.com