Why Kari Lake’s GOP victory in Arizona’s governor’s race matters

It was nearly a year ago when Mike Lindell, the notorious conspiracy theorist and pillow salesman, boasted that he’d only endorsed one 2022 candidate: Kari Lake, who’d launched a Republican gubernatorial campaign in Arizona a few months earlier.

“[T]hat says a lot,” Lindell said. “It says a lot about Kari.”

As CNN’s Daniel Dale joked soon after, “It sure does.”

To our democracy’s great detriment, the list of election deniers painful seeking powerful offices this year isly long, but Lake has stood out as a uniquely ridiculous figure. The Arizona Republican — a former local Fox host seeking elected office for the first time — hasn’t just casually peddled nonsensical lies about Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat. Rather, she’s made election conspiracy theories and hostility for democracy the lifeblood of her statewide candidacy.

Lake has said she wants to see her Democratic opponent — Secretary of State Katie Hobbs — prosecuted for election-related crimes that exist only in Republicans’ imaginations. Lake has also suggested some unnamed women should be “locked up.” Lake has not only rejected President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona, she’s said she would’ve refused to certify the election tallies — and suggested she’s still interested in decertifying two-year-old results.

It was against this backdrop that the first-time candidate won the Republicans’ gubernatorial primary — not despite her bizarre ideas, but because of them. NBC News reported:

Kari Lake, a 2020 election denier who was backed by former President Donald Trump, has won the Republican primary for governor in Arizona, beating Karrin Taylor Robson, a candidate endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, NBC News projects.

There is a degree of irony to the circumstances. On election night, as total votes came in, Robson appeared to have a modest advantage, but overnight ballot “dumps” — the kind of Trump and his followers routinely condemn as evidence of something — put Lake back on top.

The nominee had spent weeks insisting that election fraud was a problem in her own primary. But once the race was called, Lake didn’t say that the results shouldn’t be certified until after her fraud claims received thorough scrutiny; she instead embraced her victory.

Imagine that.

To be sure, every gubernatorial race deals with a wide range of issues, but to an unsettling degree, it seems obvious that the democracy itself is on the ballot in Arizona this year. As NBC News’ report added, “Lake’s victory, coupled with primary wins in the state for two other election deniers, Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, and Abraham Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for state attorney general, means Arizona could have election deniers in place in the top positions overseeing elections and certifying and defending results in the important swing state.”

That’s no small detail. If the GOP ticket prevails in Arizona this year, unhinged conspiracy theorists will hold each of the state’s top three offices — governor, attorney general, and secretary of state — ahead of the 2024 cycle.

Indeed, between now and then, Lake, if elected, is eager to change how Arizonans are able to cast ballots. The Washington Post reported last week, “If Lake wins on Tuesday and goes on to take the governorship in this purple state, she has pledged to try to enact election-related policies that could fundamentally upend the way people vote and how their votes are counted . Her stances and comments alarm many current and former election officials and other, more conventional Republicans.”

The proposed changes are the elimination of mail-in voting in Arizona, as well as among all voting machines.

As for what happens in the event of Democratic candidates possibly winning elections in the Grand Canyon State anyway, Lake hasn’t offered any guarantees that she’s prepared to accept results she doesn’t like.

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