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Arizona election official sues Kari Lake for defamation

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A top Republican election official in Arizona filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday, June 22, 2023, against Kari Lake.

Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. A top Republican election official in Arizona filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday, June 22, against Lake, who falsely claims she lost the 2022 race for governor because of fraud.

Alex Brando, Associated Press

An Arizona election official filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

The lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court by county recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican. He is suing Lake, her campaign and the nonprofit Save Arizona Fund Inc., over allegations that Lake blamed him for her narrow election loss to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs in 2022.

Richer’s lawsuit alleges that since Lake’s loss, she has “repeatedly and falsely” accused him of trying to sabotage the election, related to how the ballots were printed and over claims he inserted 300,000 “bogus” ballots into the vote count. In the complaint, he says Lake made the claims at in-person rallies and speeches, on podcasts and on social media.

In a Deseret News article in September 2022, before Lake’s election loss, Richer called himself a “conservative” and “proud Trump voter.” He ran for his position as recorder on a platform of making “Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Boring Again.”

But almost immediately after he took office in 2021 he had to handle a state audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. And then, after the 2022 election, the spotlight was again on Richer and the county’s other election officials after Lake said there were irregularities in voting in the county.

In an opinion piece in The Arizona Republic published Thursday after Richer filed his lawsuit, he wrote that Lake’s allegations against him “have unleashed violent vitriol and other dire consequences.”

He said Lake’s “words have provoked death threats” from her followers. “I’ve been forced to increase my personal and professional security while still watching over my shoulder.”

“I’ve even lost friends and lifelong relationships because Lake has falsely painted me as a criminal,” he said.

On Twitter Thursday, Lake said she was “exposing the massive corruption in our elections” and Richer “is suing me.”

She also said, “They want to stop President Trump. They want to stop me. They want to stop you. Not. Going. To. Happen.”

Since narrowly losing to Hobbs in November, Lake has fought to overturn the election results in court, alleging there were irregularities. But a judge dismissed her last remaining challenge in May. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter A. Thompson wrote in his decision the court did not find evidence of misconduct.

At the time, Lake said the decision “will not deter me, not at all.”