Politics

Kari Lake’s lonely and deeply absurd quest to challenge the Arizona election results

Kari Lake, the defeated Republican nominee for Arizona governor who was the most prominent 2022 candidate running on former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election lies, still refuses to concede a race the Associated Press called for her opponent weeks ago.

Most other election-denier candidates, who lost up and down the ballot and across the country in 2022, have conceded their races with little fanfare. But Lake is an almost singular voice calling her state’s contests one of the “most dishonest elections in the history of Arizona” in a video posted on Trump’s social media network Truth Social on Monday.

“This botched election should not be certified,” she added.

Monday was the county-level deadline to certify the results. All did, with the exception of Cochise County, where the Republican majority on the Board of Supervisors delayed certification until Friday, citing concerns about voting machines. Current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democrat who won the gubernatorial race, consequently sued the county, arguing that its decision could “potentially disenfranchise” some 47,000 voters.

The AP called the race on November 14, and the results weren’t within the half a percentage point margin required to trigger a recount. In the now complete vote count, Hobbs won the gubernatorial election by 17,116 votes.

That hasn’t stopped Lake from questioning the results. She has boosted accounts from supporters who claim they had trouble voting, argued that Hobbs cannot certify her own election as governor due to conflicts of interest, and filed a lawsuit asking Maricopa County, the largest county in Arizona, to hand over various election records before the statewide canvass of the results, which is scheduled to happen on December 5.

Those documents include ones that could help identify people who may have not been able to cast a ballot, including those who checked in at more than one polling location or who submitted a mail ballot and sought to vote in person. Lake also is seeking details on counted and uncounted ballots that were mistakenly mixed. It’s unlikely that these ballots affected the results — mixing up counted and uncounted ballots is a routine problem in elections that county officials have confirmed happened at a few vote centers this year, but that they can rectify.

Lake is getting help in her quest from Trump, who posted on Truth Social Monday that Lake “should be installed as governor of Arizona” and baselessly claimed that she was the victim of a “criminal voting operation” involving broken voting machines in Republican districts, drawing a parallel to his false claims about his own 2020 loss. Lake became a key Trump ally during her campaign, and she has been floated as a potential 2024 running mate for Trump, who announced his candidacy just weeks ago.

“This is almost as bad as the 2020 Presidential Election, which the Unselect Committee refuses to touch because they know it was Fraudulent!” he wrote.

As to whether she’s planning on abandoning her claims anytime soon, Lake seemed to suggest she won’t. She wrote Monday that “the Fake News ignores our Fake Elections and expects us to just ‘move on.’ We won’t.”

Lake has long suggested she would challenge her loss

It was obvious well before Election Day that Lake intended to challenge the results if she lost.

Ahead of Election Day, Lake repeatedly dodged questions about whether she would concede the governor’s race if she lost, saying, “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result,” and that she’d only accept a “fair, honest and transparent” result. During the primary, she said she would challenge the results if she lost because it would have indicated “there’s some cheating going on.” And before the race was called, she suggested that Arizona election officials were intentionally dragging their feet on releasing the results while still declaring, “I am 100% going to win.”

Her comments were in line with her history of election denialism. Lake has said that, had she been governor at the time, she wouldn’t have certified the 2020 vote for Biden, saying that it was “Corrupt, Rotten & Rigged.” She even filed a lawsuit, which has since been dismissed by a federal judge, that made false claims about issues with vote-counting machines, and sought to require Arizona officials to tabulate 2022 ballots by hand.

Other election-denying candidates, such as the Arizona GOP’s secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem, similarly set up the expectation that they would challenge the election results. Almost all of them ended up losing. Abraham Hamadeh, the GOP nominee for Arizona attorney general, has argued that the election was “afflicted with certain errors and inaccuracies,” but his race is heading to a recount. Finchem has also yet to concede, arguing as recently as Monday that the election should be recalled and that there should be a “new election.”

Lake’s refusal to concede could be strategic

The Arizona governor’s race made Lake a GOP star. It’s possible that her attempts to prolong the certification of the election in Arizona are just a ploy to maintain her national profile and create a launching pad for the next phase of her career, political or otherwise.

She ran an unconventional campaign, eschewing traditional ad buys for viral campaign videos full of controversial statements that grabbed national headlines, including comments that appeared to make light of the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. All of that won her Trump’s admiration (and endorsement) and praise from other prominent Republicans, though she still proved a divisive figure within the party and might be even more so now that she’s lost what seemed to be a winnable race.

Kenneth L. Khachigian, Ronald Reagan’s former chief speechwriter, waxed poetic in the Wall Street Journal last month: “What makes Ms. Lake’s message different is its simplicity and fearlessness. It’s unapologetic and sincere, not clothed in code words.” Trump reportedly sees something of himself in Lake. Even the current term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, who accused Lake of “misleading voters” when he was backing Taylor Robson during the primary, eventually warmed to her, though he hasn’t entertained her refusal to concede and called Hobbs to offer his congratulations.

All the adulation from Republicans — and speculation that she might be a potential running mate for Trump, even though she didn’t win the governorship — suggests a future in the GOP. By keeping her supporters, and Trump’s, engaged, she puts herself in a strong position to help Trump mount a tough challenge to Biden come 2024, and to attempt to fulfill any other political aspirations, whatever they may be.


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