A leading Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, continues to put lies about the 2020 presidential election at the center of her campaign – this week calling it “disqualifying” and “sickening” for a rival candidate not to say that the election was stolen, though it wasn’t stolen.
Lake’s strong performance in the Republican primary so far means that an aggressively dishonest promoter of conspiracy theories about the 2020 election could potentially have a prominent role in the 2024 presidential election in a key swing state.
Lake said at a televised Republican debate on Wednesday that she would not have certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona, which was certified by term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as required by law. Lake, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, falsely said of Biden: “He lost the election, and he shouldn’t be in the White House.”
The Arizona governor’s certification of presidential results “traditionally has been, and should be, uneventful,” Joshua Sellers, an expert on election law and an Arizona State University associate professor of law, said in an email on Friday – a necessary but “perfunctory” act confirming the result of the state’s popular vote. Sellers said “it would be deeply disruptive for a Governor to impede certification based solely on her own views or disappointment about a presidential election result.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top elections official, is the overwhelming favorite in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Arizona has elected a Republican governor in three straight elections dating back to 2010. Biden’s 2020 victory in the state was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.
A barrage of false election claims from Lake
Lake, a former news anchor at a local Fox station, repeatedly and falsely claimed at the Wednesday debate that the 2020 election was “stolen” and “corrupt.”
As supposed proof, Lake cited a “forensic audit.” A shambolic Republican-initiated partisan review, described by supporters as an audit but marred by problems, confirmed that Biden beat Trump in Arizona’s most populous county.
Lake also defended a right-wing film about the 2020 election that is filled with holes of logic and evidence, even after the debate moderator noted that Trump-appointed former Attorney General William Barr had scoffed at the film. And Lake falsely said that 34,000 Arizona ballots “were counted two, three and four times,” though this simply did not happen. (It wasn’t clear if Lake was referring to a long-circulating false claim about duplicate images of ballot envelopes, which have an entirely benign explanation, or talking about something else.)
Lake asked the three other candidates on stage to raise their hands if they agreed that the election was corrupt and stolen. When her top competitor, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, was the only one not to do so – Robson said she wouldn’t participate in Lake’s “stunt” – Lake’s Twitter account called Robson’s refusal “disqualifying.” Lake’s account posted video of the exchange again on Friday, this time calling Robson’s refusal “sickening.”
In other words, one leading candidate for a major office is bashing another leading candidate for declining to join her in championing a lie.
Lake’s campaign declined to make a substantive comment for this article. When asked for supporting information about Lake’s false claim that ballots were counted up to four times, an adviser replied only by mocking CNN.
Robson wouldn’t say whether she would have certified the 2020 election
Robson appears to have gained ground with party voters, narrowing Lake’s lead in recent polls. Robson got a boost this week when the third-place candidate, former congressman Matt Salmon, dropped out and endorsed her.
Unlike Lake, who said at the debate that the 2020 election is “the number-one issue” today, Robson has not made the 2020 election a top point of emphasis in this one. And Robson has not gone nearly as far as Lake in disparaging the 2020 election.
Robson, though, has also disputed its legitimacy. She said at the debate: “I believe our election was absolutely not fair.”
Robson cited supposed media suppression of news damaging to Biden and supposed anti-conservative bias by “big tech,” “liberal judges” having permitted the imposition of new policies shortly before the election (which was held during the Covid-19 pandemic), and Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg having donated a total of hundreds of millions of dollars to local elections offices around the country.
Robson did not answer directly when asked if she would have certified Arizona’s 2020 results as governor, saying she “was not privy” to the information Ducey had at the time. She was the only candidate at the debate to unequivocally say she would accept the outcome of this primary.
Hobbs campaign manager Nicole DeMont criticized both Lake and Robson for spending time complaining about the 2020 election even though “Arizonans are tired of being made fun of on late-night TV.”
“The Trump-endorsed frontrunner Kari Lake has been the biggest proponent of the Big Lie from day one, but now Karrin Taylor Robson is also peddling those conspiracy theories in an effort to catch up in the polls,” DeMont said in an email. She said Hobbs is committed to fighting for policies “Arizonans actually care about” on issues like schools, water and affordability.
Election Day in the primary is August 2. Early voting begins on Wednesday.