TUCSON, Ariz. ( Associated Press) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has already helped prevent one of former President Donald Trump’s allies from winning the Republican nomination for governor in a crucial battleground state. He now he hopes to repeat in his own backyard.
Ducey is part of a growing effort among established Republicans to lift little-known real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson against former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who has Trump’s backing. Other prominent Republicans, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have also lined up behind Robson in recent days.
On Monday, Robson’s campaign announced the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence, who will campaign with her on Friday, the same day Trump is scheduled to hold a rally for Lake, creating a split-screen moment that underscores the divide between the Republican establishment and Trump.
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Robson’s push is reminiscent of how many prominent Republicans, including Ducey, supported Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the final stretch of his ultimately successful attempt to fend off a Trump-backed primary challenger.
Few states have been as central to Trump’s election lies as Georgia and Arizona, the two closest 2020 battlegrounds where he aggressively pushed to overturn the results and was furious when Kemp and Ducey refused to go along. Trump has already faced a setback in Georgia, and the Aug. 2 race in Arizona is one of his last chances to settle scores and install allies to lead states that could prove decisive if he decides to run again in 2024.
“In Arizona, people are independent-minded, just like they are in Georgia, and they pick the person they think will be best for the responsibility,” Ducey told The Associated Press. “In Georgia, the voters said Brian Kemp, and I am hopeful that in Arizona they will say Karrin Taylor Robson.”
As the incumbent seeking re-election, Kemp had a lead over his main rival, David Perdue, ultimately beating him by nearly 52 percentage points. Without an incumbent on the ballot Ducey faces term limits, the Republican race in Arizona will likely be much closer.
But what once seemed like an insurmountable advantage for Lake could end up in a more competitive finish. With early voting already underway, Robson is tapping into his family’s vast fortune to stifle Lake, who, despite Trump’s backing, has fallen behind in fundraising. Robson had outspent Lake more than 5 to 1 at the end of June.
The final move by some of the GOP’s leading figures could prove significant in a close race. Beyond Ducey and Christie, Robson has garnered support from former US Rep. Matt Salmon, who has dropped out of the gubernatorial race and endorsed her. Meanwhile, the Border Patrol union has broken with Trump and endorsed Robson, citing in part Lake’s earlier statements supporting a path to citizenship for people living in the country illegally.
Pence, who notably broke away from Trump in Georgia and campaigned alongside Kemp, praised Robson as “the only gubernatorial candidate who will keep Arizona’s border and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote values.” conservatives”. Pence said he was “proud to support her.”
For her part, Lake is an unlikely MAGA champion. Lake, a well-known former local news anchor who donated to Barack Obama and for years hung out with drag queens at a gay bar near the TV station, was once the antithesis of Trump politics.
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Yet he has rocketed to the top of the field since walking away from his three-decade television career, declaring that “journalism is dead” and bashing a stack of TVs with a sledgehammer.
He built on the powerful connection he had formed with viewers over 27 years in the Phoenix media market and created an exceptionally strong bond with the base that propelled Trump to the White House in 2016 and he still doesn’t think he lost in 2020. .
Even Trump seemed impressed by the ovation his name inspired when he mentioned it during a rally in Phoenix last year. He endorsed her a short time later.
She, in turn, has embraced his combative style, his narrative about the 2020 election (he falsely says it was corrupt and stolen), and his hard-nosed approach to border security. She walked away from her close ties to John McCain’s family and is now feuding with the sons of the late US senator.
“Either we go the way of the past, which is the McCain mob running the show, or we go with America first,” Lake told a crowd of hundreds at a country music bar in Tucson last week. Many arrived more than an hour early, waiting in the southern Arizona heat for a chance to get in.
Lake, 52, routinely berates journalists who try to question her and posts the images on social media.
Last year, he said he wants to put cameras in classrooms to monitor teachers, nodding to the backlash against the right to teach race and history in public schools.
If elected, she says, she would immediately invoke an unproven legal theory that illegal immigration constitutes an “invasion” of the United States and gives the governor war powers to remove people from the country without immigration court proceedings.
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Since Robson and his allies began their full-court press campaign, Lake has claimed without evidence that they “might be trying to set the stage for another robbery.”
“They have been such RINOs for so long, and I don’t trust them to make our country a priority,” said Rosa Alfonso, a 60-year-old speech-language pathologist in Tucson. “That’s a big problem”.
Robson, 57, is running for office for the first time, though he has lifelong ties to Republican politics. His father and his brother held elected office as Republicans.
An attorney for real estate developers, she has been at the center of the suburban sprawl that has fueled the prodigious growth of the Phoenix area. Ducey named her to the board that oversees Arizona’s three public universities, her most high-profile public role before she resigned to run for governor.
“These are serious times,” Robson said during a recent debate. “We need a serious candidate with a track record of achievement.”
Her husband, 91-year-old home developer Ed Robson, is one of the state’s wealthiest residents and has amassed a fortune building master-planned retirement communities. She says the 2020 election was “unfair,” but she stopped short of calling it fraudulent. Like Lake, she runs like a borderline hawk.
She calls her rival “Fake Lake,” noting a $350 donation she made to the Obama campaign in 2008, though Robson herself has contributed large sums to Democrats.
“It’s all an act,” Ducey said of Lake. “The campaign that he has been running bears no resemblance to the life he has lived for the last three decades, nor to the interactions he has had with me. She is putting on a show. We’ll see how many people buy it.”
Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin contributed reporting from New York.