As Arizona candidates prepare for next year’s gubernatorial election, many are dancing around the results of last year’s presidential race.
President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona in 2020, the first Democrat to do so in 24 years, but not all Republicans in the state believe it. Without evidence of widespread fraud, most Republican gubernatorial candidates don’t come out and say last year’s election was stolen, but they’re also hesitant to criticize the contested and controversial audit of election results in Maricopa County, according to recent interviews and statements made to The Arizona Republic.
Biden won Arizona by just more than 10,000 votes. The close margin triggered an automatic hand recount of randomly elected precincts mandated by state law last November. The recount found no discrepancies or evidence of election fraud, and results were certified by the majority-Republican board of supervisors in Maricopa County. Still, Republicans in the Arizona state Senate filed subpoenas requesting ballots from Maricopa County for a full recount.
A spokesperson for the audit told the Washington Examiner a draft report will be submitted to the Arizona Senate next week, but the audit has faced delays before. The firm behind the audit, Cyber Ninjas, has no prior experience with elections, and Maricopa County is planning to spend $3 million on new voting machines to replace ones believed to be compromised during the recount.
The recount has faced bipartisan criticism in the state, with Republican supervisors in Maricopa County going as far as to call it “grift disguised as an audit.” A poll by HighGround, Inc., a Phoenix public affairs firm, found a 55% majority of likely Arizona voters oppose the audit.
Here’s what Arizona’s governor and gubernatorial candidates have said about it:
Gov. Doug Ducey, Republican: Ducey certified Arizona’s election results back in Dec. 2020, and his position on the audit might be best described as impatiently putting up with it. Over the past six months he’s said “let’s stick to facts” and “I don’t think we should spend any more time thinking about 2020.”
Ducey took office in 2015, won reelection in 2018 and is term-limited. His term is scheduled to end in January 2023.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Democrat: Hobbs, the state’s chief election officer, told Time in June the Senate Republican-led audit was “not a valid audit,” and a report released by her office in August found that the “partisan review” lacked security procedures, transparency and consistent quality control policies. The report concluded that the results of the so-called audit would be unreliable. She’s called it the “fraudit.”
Hobbs is using her defense of 2020’s election as a selling point for voters, tweeting Friday that her Republican opponents refused to say that Biden won the Arizona election and their lies threatened democracy.
“If one of them wins, they’ll continue to undermine our elections and the will of Arizonans,” Hobbs tweeted. “That’s why this election is so important.”
Hobbs has a 63% approval rating among registered Arizona Democrats, according to a poll by Phoenix market research firm OH Predictive, more than any other Democratic candidate.
Former Fox 10 Phoenix anchor Kari Lake, Republican: Lake is an enthusiastic supporter of the audit, telling Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to Donald Trump, in a recent interview she feels that Biden didn’t win and she’s open to decertifying the state’s election results. In a campaign ad this summer, Lake claimed Arizona’s “election integrity is wrecked.”
Lake has a 60% approval among registered Arizona Republicans, according to the OH Predictive poll, more than any other Republican candidate.
Former Congressman Matt Salmon, Republican: Salmon listed “election integrity” among his campaign focuses in an announcement video in June, but he declined to tell the Republic whether he believes Biden didn’t win. It’s a both sides approach others are taking: don’t make outright claims of widespread fraud, because there is no evidence of it, but still play up “election integrity” to appease the party’s far-right base.
“We need to identify shortcomings in previous elections and then find solutions to correct those issues,” Salmon told the Republic.
Salmon has a 51% approval among registered Arizona Republicans, per OH Predictive’s poll. He served five terms in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2017, and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002.
Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee, Republican: Yee declined to tell the Republic whether she believes Biden didn’t win, but said she supports the audit.
“It is essential in our democracy that voters have faith in the process and can trust that they will continue to have their voices heard,” Yee said in a statement.
Yee has a 49% approval among registered Arizona Republicans, per OH Predictive’s poll. She was elected treasurer in 2018 and previously served in the Arizona House from 2013 to 2019.
Former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez, Democrat: Lopez told the Republic, “Republicans need to quit whining that there were abnormalities with the election. President Biden won the election.”
Lopez has a 44% approval among registered Arizona Democrats, per OH Predictive’s poll. He served as chief of staff of Customs and Border Protection during the Obama administration.
Developer and former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, Republican: Robson said she supports the goal of the audit and looks forward to the results. “As governor, my focus will be to further tighten Arizona election procedures to eliminate opportunities for fraud,” Robson told the Republic.
Robson has a 37% approval among registered Arizona Republicans, per OH Predictive’s poll. As a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, she was one of eight members who oversaw the state’s public universities.
Businessman Steve Gaynor, Republican: Gaynor told the Republic it was “appropriate and necessary to conduct an audit of the election.”
“For the sake of the whole country, allegations of election fraud that could have affected the outcome of the presidential election should be thoroughly investigated,” he said.
Gaynor has a 34% approval among registered Arizona Republicans, per OH Predictive’s poll. Gaynor ran against Hobbs for Secretary of State in 2018 and lost.