Lake leans right, Masters pivoting in early stages of general election campaign

Lake leans right, Masters pivoting in early stages of general election campaign

Arizona Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, gives a thumbs up to the crowd as former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America rally July 22 in Prescott. Lake, the Trump-endorsed GOP gubernatorial nominee and former Fox 10 news anchor, has shown no signs of moderating her message in recent days ahead of the general election. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

With the primary election in the rearview mirror, candidates and potential boosters are beginning to show the positions they’ll stake out heading into November. On the Republican ticket, some prominent statewide candidates appear to be taking different tacks in the first full week of the general election campaign. 

Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee and former Fox 10 news anchor, has shown no signs of moderating her message in recent days.  

In a news conference last week in which she claimed victory in the primary, she said she won’t stop insisting the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and that there was fraud in the 2022 primary. On Saturday, at a Conservative Political Action Conference event in Texas, she bragged that “we drove a stake through the heart of the McCain machine” with the primary win. 

By contrast, GOP Senate nominee and tech executive Blake Masters seems to be tacking back towards the center. After the primary win, he released a new ad that features his wife and a shot of Masters with his young children on a swing set. (One of his primary campaign spots included Masters with Trump; in another spot he brandished an assault rifle while saying: “It wasn’t designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people.”) 

Masters also offered some more tempered positions in a post-primary interview with The Arizona Republic than he pushed during the primary campaign: He backtracked comments from earlier this summer about potentially privatizing social security, and said he thought the 15-week abortion law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey earlier this year was “reasonable.” 

Masters has also alleged, baselessly, that the 2020 election was fraudulent, but he broke from Lake over this month’s primary, saying in the interview that he hadn’t “seen any evidence that suggests” that there were issues with the election that gave him the GOP nomination. 

On Monday, the FBI search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence provided more evidence of the rhetorical path candidates are carving out. 

Lake quickly posted a lengthy statement with apocalyptic language, saying, “This one of the darkest days in American history.” 

“This is an incredible and horrendous abuse of power. If we accept it, America is dead. We will not accept it,” the statement continued. “The 10th amendment can and will save our republic and the road to stripping the feds of power travels right through Arizona. We must fire the federal government.” 

Abe Hamadeh, the Trump-endorsed GOP candidate for attorney general, also responded quickly, tweeting on Monday afternoon: “Our justice system has been HIJACKED. Our FBI has been CORRUPTED. It’s time to restore LAW & ORDER.” 

Masters took longer to post than some other Republicans, and when he did, he condemned the FBI’s action, but chose somewhat more restrained language. “Everyone knows this was politically motivated. And that should terrify us all,” Masters tweeted. “When street crimes go unsolved but opposition leaders are hounded by federal police, you’re living in a third world country.” 

Lake’s choice to continue leaning into her most controversial positions could make some of her more moderate backers uncomfortable. 

The Republican Governors Association, which is chaired by Ducey, has bought $11 million of ad time in Arizona and is already running spots to support Lake – although the two ads that are running now feature attacks on Democratic nominee Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, rather than positive messages about Lake. 

But Ducey, who harshly criticized Lake during the primary campaign, saying she was “misleading voters” and “making things up,” isn’t walking back his earlier comments. While he congratulated Lake on her primary win in a message posted over the weekend, the governor didn’t offer much of an olive branch to the candidate who once called him “do-nothing Ducey.” 

“It’s important for Arizona Republicans to unite behind our slate of candidates… Congratulations to Kari on a hard-fought victory and to all the candidates who will be carrying the GOP banner in November,” Ducey wrote in a tweet thread. 

CJ Karamargin, a spokesman for Ducey, declined to say if the governor’s view of Lake had changed, or how Ducey felt about the candidates comprising the Republican ticket this year. “The statement said what the governor wants it to say,” he said. 

Ducey and his aspiring replacement might settle into a sort of tense peace. In response to an emailed question about the Ducey’s comments towards Lake, Ross Trumble, a spokesman for the Lake campaign, didn’t pick a fight. 

“Kari Lake is fully committed to uniting the Republican Party in Arizona,” he wrote. “As Governor Ducey said last weekend, it is important that we come together to ensure that Arizona elects Republicans up and down the ballot in November.”