Trump will campaign for Arizona deniers in a state that will test his power in 2022 and beyond



CNN

There may be nowhere in the country where former President Donald Trump has had more success in elevating his “Make American Great Again” slate of candidates into formidable 2022 contenders than Arizona, a state that narrowly lost in 2020 where he relentlessly sought to overthrow the presidential election. results.

With less than a month to go until Election Day, Trump campaigns in Mesa on Sunday with these hand-picked GOP candidates vying for the state’s highest office: gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, gubernatorial nominee US Senate Blake Masters and candidate for Secretary of State Mark Finchem.

All three have risen to the top of their charts in the primaries — in a state where Trump cronies have asserted control over the Republican Party — by echoing to varying degrees Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election.

It has made Arizona the most watched laboratory for democracy in midterm contests, as Trump weighs another presidential race in 2024, setting up a new test of the country’s electoral apparatus and the strength of democratic institutions.

In the short term, the Senate race could be key to controlling the chamber in 2023. But looking ahead, Arizona’s status as a battleground state means it could determine the next occupant of the White House, which is why Democratic opponents to Lake and Finchem — along with Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, the deputy chair of the House Select Committee probing Jan. 6, 2021 — have warned that their rise to the highest offices of the state could lead to meddling in the 2024 election results, creating what Cheney recently touted as a test of “the future functioning of our constitutional republic.” In Arizona, the secretary of state is second in line to the governorship.

Lake, Masters and Finchem are all in tight competition for the seats they seek, according to a new CNN poll in the Grand Canyon State.

They benefit in part from the fact that a plurality of Arizona voters are registered as Republicans, but also from the fact that voter denial does not rank as the top concern of voters in the state as they are grappling with the impact of inflation, high gas prices and economic turbulence in a climate that should favor the GOP.

There is no clear leader in the gubernatorial race between Lake and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who gained national notoriety opposing efforts by Trump-aligned GOP lawmakers in Arizona to repeatedly conducting partisan audits and challenging the 2020 election results. (There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the so-called audit confirmed Biden’s victory.) About 49% of likely voters voted backed Hobbs, while 46% backed Lake in CNN’s new poll.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly narrowly leads the Masters 51% to 45% among likely voters in the Senate race; and there is no clear leader in the race between Finchem and Democrat Adrian Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder who was defeated in his 2020 re-election bid after coming under fire for some of the changes he has brought to county voting systems.

Trump, who has repeatedly targeted Arizona’s term-limited GOP Governor Doug Ducey for pushing back on his pleas to overturn Biden’s victory in Arizona, warmly welcomed Lake’s candidacy. The former Arizona news anchor, who has repeatedly called the 2020 election “stolen” and “corrupt,” raised funds at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. During a GOP primary debate this year, she said she would not have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona as Ducey did (and as required by law).

Ducey has turned down efforts by National Republicans to get him to run for the Senate this year, leaving a crowded field of candidates vying for Trump’s support. Trump eventually backed Masters, who had the backing of conservative tech billionaire Peter Thiel in the primary, and released a campaign video stating he believed Trump had won the 2020 election.

But during an Arizona Senate debate last week where Kelly warned that the “wheels” could “break away from our democracy” if candidates like his opponent are elected, Masters modulated his tone on the results of the 2020 election – part of a clear venture capitalist game to appeal to a wider swath of the Arizona electorate. When questioned by the moderator, he acknowledged that he had not seen evidence of fraud in the vote count or the results of the 2020 elections in a way that would have changed the result.

After his primary win in August, he also cleaned up his website of language that included the false claim that the election was stolen.

Lake, who is running a Trump playbook by focusing his efforts on increasing grassroots GOP turnout in Arizona, hasn’t attempted to polish his stance on the 2020 election the way some other endorsed candidates have done. by Trump.

In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning after Maj. Garrett noted that Masters said he hadn’t seen evidence of issues that would have changed the 2020 outcome, Lake did not respond. directly when asked if Biden was the legitimate president.

“I think we have major problems in our electoral system. And… it goes back to 2000. We had Democrats saying the 2000 election wasn’t fair,” Lake replied, adding that Democrats had raised questions about several subsequent elections. “No one called them election deniers. And now, all of a sudden in 2020, Garrett, we don’t have free speech. We can’t denounce our own elections. All I ask is that “is the ability to speak up. When our government does something wrong, we should be able to speak out.”

Finchem is one of at least 11 Republican candidates vying for state election chief who have questioned, rejected or attempted to overturn the 2020 election results.

The state representative co-sponsored legislation with other Arizona Republican lawmakers that would allow them to reject election results and require poll workers to count ballots by hand instead of using equipment electronics to compile the results.

He also called for the 2020 election results in three Arizona counties to be decertified – even though legal experts say there is no legal mechanism to do so.

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