Trump-endorsed candidates won in Arizona. Here’s what it could mean in the general election.
Trump-backed candidates came out ahead in races that could determine who runs the 2024 election
The 2020 election is back on the ballot in Arizona.
Republicans endorsed by former President Donald Trump performed well in the state’s Tuesday primary, putting candidates who deny the results of the 2020 election one step closer to controlling the state’s elections by 2024.
Trump-endorsed candidates for U.S. House and Senate, Secretary of State, and state senate all won their races, and his pick for governor currently leads in a contest that remains too close to call.
After narrowly loosing the swing state in the 2020 election, Trump targeted Arizona as part of his efforts to overturn the election, and his slate of endorsed candidates have echoed his false claim about widespread fraud. But not all Republicans in the state are on board.
“I believe the Republican Party in Arizona is more extreme than Republican voters in Arizona,” Arizona State University professor Kim Fridkin said.
It’s common for primary voters to be more ideologically extreme than general election voters, she said, but the state party has long been all in for Trump, as evidenced by the additional 2020 Republican audit and the censure of Republicans Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake, and state House speaker Rusty Bowers.
Trump-backed candidates have made election denialism part of their message, particularly gubernatorial candidate and former TV news host Kari Lake. Lake even alleged fraud occurred already in 2022 before Election Day without offering evidence and promised to “reform” the election system if she took office.
“When we get into office, we are going to reform our elections for once and for all,” Lake said at her election night rally Tuesday.
Lake is running slightly ahead of fellow Republican Karrin Taylor Robson, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence. She called Lake’s remarks suggesting fraud disqualifying. The race remains too close to call.
For Secretary of State, Arizona’s No. 2 elected official behind the governor and the state’s top election official, Republicans handily voted for Mark Finchem. Endorsed by Trump, Finchem has affiliations with the QAnon conspiracy theory and once said he was a member of the far-right group the Oath Keepers.
Trump also made rare endorsements in state legislator races, including for state Senate candidate David Farnsworth, who beat Bowers. Bowers was censured by the Arizona Republican Party last month for testifying before the Jan. 6 committee about Trump White House efforts pressuring him to go along with efforts to overturn the election.
Republicans are generally in a stronger position nationally as the party out of power running against an unpopular president’s party. In Arizona, however, Republicans’ primary picks could prove to be a problem.
“The Republicans nominated now are more extreme,” than former Sen. Martha McSally, Fridkin said. McSally was the state’s most recent Republican Senator but lost to Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
“Republicans have lost to Democrats statewide in Arizona primarily because the Republican candidates have not been as effective campaigners as their Democratic opponents,” she said.