Even GOP operatives fear their nominees may be too extreme to win general election contests this fall.
From governor, to U.S. Senate, to secretary of state, to attorney general, Republicans in Arizona on Tuesday nominated a slate of conspiratorial candidates who falsely believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, and who have vowed to do everything from decertifying the results to jailing those involved in running the previous contest.
Trump threw his endorsement behind all of the nominees. Yet some GOP operatives are worried that by nominating such extreme candidates, the party has squandered opportunities to win in November, even in what’s expected to be a favorable climate for Republican candidates.
The gubernatorial primary has yet to be officially decided. However, experts expect that Trump-backed right-wing conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who already declared victory in the race, will hold on to the slim lead she currently has over her GOP opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson.
Lake has said she would not have certified President Joe Biden’s victory in the state and has even vowed to imprison Arizona’s Secretary of State Katie Hobbs for her role in overseeing the 2020 contest. If Lake wins the Republican nomination, she will face off against Hobbs, who won the Democratic primary for governor, this fall.
Meanwhile, Trump-backed Senate candidate and venture capitalist Blake Masters, who also falsely alleged that Democrats cheated in the 2020 election, won the Republican nomination and will face off against Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) this fall.
The right-wing conspiracy theorist and election-denying state Sen. Mark Finchem won the GOP nomination for secretary of state, a role that would place him in charge of the state’s elections.
In fact, the GOP nominees are so wedded to their lies of voter fraud that some claimed the primaries they just ran in were not fair and were marred by fraud.
“I’ve got people all over the state saying, I’ve gotten ballots that I didn’t ask for,” Finchem told reporters Tuesday night at Lake’s election night watch party.
In the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary, Lake claimed that the race was rife with “irregularities” but refused to provide any evidence for her claims. When asked by a reporter to provide examples of so-called “irregularities,” Lake declined, instead choosing to attack the reporter.
Republican strategists say the slate of candidates GOP voters nominated imperils the party’s chances of holding on to the governor’s mansion or winning the Senate seat currently held by Democrats.
“This is why Democrats have an advantage they really should not have in a state like Arizona,” Republican political operative Liz Mair tweeted. “When you nominate bad candidates, Dems get an advantage. When you nominate complete mentalists, they have a much bigger one.”
Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), said Lake’s nomination is problematic for the party, calling Lake “a fraud, a conspiracy theorist, and not up to the character” of a governor.
“If Lake wins tonight, she is currently polling around 10-12 points behind the Democratic candidate, Katie Hobbs,” McCain added. “That is a LOT of runway to make up. I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to the Arizona GOP that Arizona is filled with independents and free thinkers…”
Other Arizona political observers agree that the slate of Trump-supporting conspiracy theorists Republicans nominated could squander the general election for the GOP this fall.
“There’s a model of what would make this election a slam dunk for Republicans — which is, you don’t run against Trump, but you run independent of Trump,” Arizona columnist Robert Robb told Yahoo News. “But Republicans are not doing that. They’re embracing Trump and Trumpism, comprehensively. Biden and his administration should be on the ballot this election cycle. But these candidates are putting Trump on the ballot — and he does not play well in Arizona.”
Nathan Gonzales, the outlet’s editor and publisher, said the GOP nominees could be a hindrance to Republicans.
“Nominating provocative candidates has made some races more complicated and difficult for Republicans,” Gonzales told the American Independent Foundation.
However, he cautioned against declaring that any candidate is unelectable.
“Electability is not a fixed point on a line. It moves based on other factors in the race,” Gonzales said. “Even though some GOP candidates have staked out positions outside of the mainstream, or even outside reality, some voters will prioritize their current economic struggles and hold the Democrats most responsible because they are in control of Washington.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.