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Arizona Republicans gave Donald Trump the gubernatorial nominee he wanted. Now comes the hard part: convincing unaffiliated voters that former news anchor Kari Lake isn’t as extreme as her detractors warn.
GOP voters gave Lake the nomination with 46% of the vote in a five-candidate race. Runner-up Karrin Taylor Robson, with 44% of the vote, had the backing of former Vice President Mike Pence and term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey (R).
Lake, who has repeatedly claimed without proof that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, will face Democrat Katie Hobbs in November.
“That’s an absolute fight to the finish,” Phoenix-based pollster Paul Bentz said ahead of the primary.
Lake’s focus on election fraud won’t play well with unaffiliated voters, who make up roughly a third of registered voters statewide, Bentz predicted.
With midterm elections historically favorable to the party that isn’t in the White House, some political professionals expect out-of-state groups to spend big on the seat left open by term-limited Ducey.
“I believe the spigot will get turned on,” said Jaime Molera, a lobbyist and former Republican office-holder.
Both parties are gearing up for other volatile contests on the November ballot, as well, including the races for US Senate, attorney general, and secretary of state.
Lake won a bruising GOP primary that stoked division within the party and raised personal attacks that Democrats hope will help them in the general election. Taylor Robson’s campaign had spent more than $18 million through mid-July—most of it her own money—compared to Lake’s roughly $3.6 million.
Lake alleged election fraud in the primary without proof ahead of the Aug. 2 election. The state Republican Party offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who proved “vote buying,” or inducing someone to change their vote on a mail-in ballot.
In the Democratic primary, Hobbs won against Marco Lopez, the former mayor of the border city Nogales.
Hobbs, the current secretary of state, gained national recognition fighting against election fraud claims in 2020 but faces criticism over a racial discrimination case that occurred under her leadership in the Arizona Senate.
Hobbs has been trying make the case that she’s the best choice to protect abortion rights. Her campaign is selling “pro-choice” merchandise, while Hobbs has shared her story of a medical procedure needed after a miscarriage.
Arizona’s abortion law is in limbo, with a 15-week ban set to take effect in September. Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) is asking a state court to put into effect a territorial-era law banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother.
Hobbs called her Republican challengers “an enormous danger to the health and stability of our state” ahead of the primary.
Lake could tone down the rhetoric on election and abortion issues, predicted Molera before the primary, noting that a focus on inflation and the economy is a safer bet.
“It’s fairly easy to be a Republican this year,” Molera said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at firstname.lastname@example.org