Politics Kari Lake announces Arizona Senate run

Kari Lake announces Arizona Senate run

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Kari Lake launched a U.S. Senate campaign for an Arizona seat in a splashy Scottsdale rally on Tuesday, having never conceded that she lost last year’s race for Arizona governor.

She is trying out new messages and courting the support of national Republicans she’s insulted in the past. But the former television news host isn’t backing down on the things that made her a star on the far right — her combativeness with perceived enemies, her fealty to Donald Trump and her willingness to defend his election lies.

National Republican leaders think a GOP candidate could take advantage of what could be a three-way race if Sen. Kyrsten Sinema seeks reelection. Sinema, a former Democrat who became an independent last year, is preparing for a campaign but has not said whether she will seek a second term. U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego is likely to have the Democratic nomination locked up.

At her rally Tuesday, Lake didn’t concede she lost the last election to now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, but didn’t say it was stolen and made only a brief mention of it during a nearly 50-minute-long speech. She said she’s “never going to walk away from the fight to restore honest elections.”

“We did everything right, and we saw the disaster of election day in Arizona,” Lake said. “Sometimes when things don’t go the way we expect, we find ourselves questioning and asking why … I think God has bigger plans for us.”

She heaped praise on former President Donald Trump, who recorded a video endorsement that was played at the rally, and repeatedly attacked the media, calling journalists covering her event “fake news fools.”

“When I’m back in the White House, I need strong fighters like Kari in the Senate,” Trump said.

A change in tone

Lake also offered conciliatory words for voters who disagree with her, a sharp contrast with her last campaign, when she didn’t want support from establishment Republicans, even after she defeated them in the GOP primary.

“I may disagree with Arizonans who voted for Joe Biden,” Lake said. “But I don’t think you’re a threat to democracy. You are a citizen just like me.”

After once calling Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky an “old bat” and saying he needed to be replaced as Republican leader, Lake now says she would support him if she’s elected. Last year, she called abortion “the ultimate sin” and supported a near-total ban on abortion in Arizona. Now, she says she wouldn’t endorse a federal abortion ban.

Lake met recently with Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who leads the GOP’s Senate campaign work as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and saw several other GOP senators during a trip to Washington. Daines has publicly urged Lake to focus on the future instead of relitigating past elections.

A former television news anchor for nearly three decades in the Phoenix market, Lake was already known locally but had no national profile when she walked away from her career in 2021, declared “journalism is dead,” and took a sledgehammer to televisions showing cable newscasts.

Right up to Election Day, she embraced Trump, appeared with right-wing figures like Steve Bannon and blasted establishment Republicans, including the late Sen. John McCain.

She lost the governor’s race by less than 1 point. About four in 10 Arizona voters in the 2022 election said they were “very concerned” that Lake’s views were too extreme, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of U.S. voters. She lost 11% of Republicans. About 63% of independents and 96% of Democrats backed the winner, Democrat Katie Hobbs.

But Lake became a national figure on the far right with her television appearances and her defense of Trump’s election falsehoods.

Lake’s legal battles over her fraudulent election claims

In the months since, Lake has traveled extensively to speak to Republican groups around the country, her remarks focused largely on her fraudulent election claims. Her frequent trips to Iowa, the state where she was born but also the host of the leadoff presidential caucuses, have raised eyebrows in political circles. Some have floated her as a running mate for Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

She sued Maricopa County, claiming election officials deliberately created printer malfunctions to cause her to lose. She lost, and her unsuccessful appeals have bounced through the court system, all the way up to the Arizona Supreme Court.

She also was sued for defamation by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican official who says he has faced death threats because she lied about how he conducted the election.

Last month she was back in court for her third election-related case, where she watched as her lawyer argued that Arizona’s public records law entitles her to see copies of signed vote-by-mail envelopes. She claims reviewing the signatures would allow her to prove that ballots were counted that should not have been, drawing parallels to an unprecedented partisan recount of ballots conducted by Trump supporters on behalf of state Senate Republicans following the 2020 election.

Her fights over the 2020 and 2022 elections have only further endeared her to Arizona Republicans, who nominated a slate of Trump-backed candidates who spread election lies and went on to lose in the midterms. She enters the Senate race as an immediate front-runner in the GOP primary, where she’ll face Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

The NRSC has not ruled out endorsing Lake in the primary, according to a person familiar with the organization’s strategy who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Support from the NRSC would potentially open up a lucrative funding stream and signal to donors that Lake has the support of key GOP senators.

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