Kari Lake, a former news anchor who left her journalism career and was endorsed by Donald Trump and his staunch supporters, won the Republican primary for governor in the state of Arizona on Thursday.
Ms Lake’s victory was a blow to GOP leaders who backed lawyer and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson in a bid to push the party away from the chaotic era of former President Trump. Ms. Lake said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 and would have made the false allegations of election fraud the centerpiece of her campaign.
“Arizonans who have been forgotten by the establishment just caused a political earthquake,” Ms. Lake said in a statement after winning the race.
Republicans now enter the general election sprint with a slate of candidates closely aligned with Mr. Trump who deny that President Biden was legitimately elected president. Ms. Lake will face Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in the November election.
“This race for governor is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s a choice between sanity and chaos,” Ms. Hobbs said Thursday night in a statement after Ms. Lake’s victory.
Preliminary election results showing only postal ballots received before election day gave Ms Robson a strong lead, but that changed after votes from polling stations were added to the count. Ms. Lake’s victory became clear on Thursday when Maricopa County released the results from thousands of mail-in ballots dropped off at polling places on Tuesday.
“The voters of Arizona have spoken,” Ms. Robson said in a statement. “I accept the results, I trust the process and the people who administer it.”
In a primary election season with mixed results for candidates favored by Mr. Trump, the former president emerged victorious in Arizona, a state that has been at the center of his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and cast doubt on Mr. Biden’s victory. In addition to Ms. Lake, former President Trump’s nominees for the US Senate, Secretary of State, Attorney General, US House of Representatives and state legislature all won their GOP primaries.
If they win in November, Mr. Trump’s allies will have influence over the election administration in a crucial battleground state as he considers another run for the White House in 2024. The results also show that Mr. Trump remains a powerful figure in the republican party.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie campaigned for Ms Robson in the days leading up to the election.
Robson, who is married to one of Arizona’s richest men, largely financed her campaign herself. She called the 2020 election “unfair,” but stopped short of calling it rigged, and urged the Republican party to look to the future.
Ms. Lake now faces the difficult task of unifying the Republican Party after a fierce primary race. On Wednesday, as Ms. Lake declared victory, she sought to reach out to Ms. Robson and others she has criticized, or even Republicans who disagree with Mr. Trump on key issues.
“Honestly, this party needs to come together and I welcome that,” Ms Lake said
Ms Robson said she has spent her life supporting Republicans, “and I hope our Republican candidates are successful in November.”
Like Mr. Trump, Ms. Lake enjoys controversy and confrontation. She burned masks during a spike in the number of people affected by COVID-19 in the summer of 2021 and attacked Republicans who allowed restrictions on businesses, although as a news anchor she encouraged people to follow public health guidelines.
In the days leading up to the election, Ms Lake repeated claims that there were signs of fraud but refused to provide any evidence. After her victory was assured, she said that voters should believe that her victory is legitimate.
“We got over the scam,” Ms. Lake said. She pointed to problems in Pinal County, where ballots ran out in some precincts and more needed to be printed, but she and her attorney, Tim La Sota, declined to provide evidence supporting claims of fraud.
She said she has no plans to stop speaking out about election fraud, although she needs to broaden her appeal beyond the loyalists who gave her victory in the election.
Federal and state election officials and former President Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence that the 2020 election was rigged. Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud were also rejected by the court, including by judges he appointed.