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Arizona showdown: Trump and Pence endorse opposing candidates in governor’s race

Former Vice President Mike Pence has thrown his support behind Republican Karrin Taylor Robson against Trump-backed Kari Lake

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Kari Lake, former TV anchor, greets supporters as she campaigns for governor of Arizona.

Kari Lake, a well-known former television news anchor now running for governor of Arizona, greets supporters at a country western bar in Tucson, Ariz., Tuesday, July 12, 2022. Lake has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, while her opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson, is supported by former Vice President Mike Pence.

Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump and his former vice president, Mike Pence, are facing off in Arizona, where they’ve endorsed competing Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Pence endorsed developer Karrin Taylor Robson on Monday, while Trump endorsed former TV news anchor Kari Lake.

“Robson is the only candidate for governor that will keep Arizona’s border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values,” Pence said in a statement. “Karrin is the best choice for Arizona’s future, and I am proud to support her.”

Trump endorsed Lake last year, calling her “strong on crime” and saying she would protect the border, Second Amendment and veterans.

Pence and Trump are both heading to Arizona for events Friday. Trump will hold a rally in Prescott Valley in northern Arizona after postponing last week, following the death of his first wife Ivana. Pence will hold events in Phoenix and southern Arizona, according to the Arizona Republic.

Like many of the candidates Trump has endorsed this year, Lake refutes the results of the 2020 election and said she wouldn’t have certified the results if she was in office then. At a debate last month, Lake said the election was stolen and asked fellow candidates to raise their hands if they agreed. Each candidate raised a hand except Robson, who said, “I’m not going to play your stunt.”

Lake has led the race, but Robson surged this summer as the field thinned, and she has poured millions into advertising. Robson also earned the endorsement of the man she hopes to replace, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

“Karrin Taylor Robson is the real conservative. She’s the real deal,” Ducey said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He called Lake “an act.”

“She’s been putting on a show for some time now and we’ll see if the voters of Arizona buy it,” he said.

Lake has cast Robson as a RINO, or “Republican in name only,” criticized her for self-funding her campaign and accused her of predatory fundraising.

Robson’s campaign has called Lake “fake Kari Lake,” pointing to her past donations to former President Barack Obama and support for amnesty for people who are in the U.S. illegally.

Robson also has donated to Democrats before, a point the state Democratic Party was happy to highlight earlier this month. “(T)hey’re trying desperately to boost Kari Lake in Arizona because they prefer to run against her in November,” Robson spokesperson Matthew Benson told NBC News in response. “The Democrats aren’t dumb; they’ve seen the polling and know Karrin Taylor Robson’s conservative record and broad coalition will be unbeatable in the general election.”

Arizona’s Trump vs. Pence proxy battle isn’t the first gubernatorial primary this year in which opposing candidates backed by the former Republican presidential ticket have squared off. In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won Pence’s endorsement and reelection against Trump-backed former Sen David Perdue.

Arizona’s primary is Aug. 2.