Arizona’s Kari Lake headlined a Utah fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Trent Staggs Monday night and spoke of their shared affinity for former President Donald Trump and his America first agenda.

In an interview before the event, Lake spoke to the Deseret News about her own potential candidacy for U.S. Senate, whether she thinks she’ll be chosen as Trump’s running mate and her continuing legal battle over the results of the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race.

Around 200 people paid between $250 and $9,900 a plate to hear from Lake and Staggs. The attendees included several state and municipal lawmakers, like Salt Lake City Councilman David Alvord and State School Board member Natalie Cline. Staggs is the current mayor of Riverton.

Staggs and Lake, a former broadcast journalist, both took swipes at Sen. Mitt Romney during their remarks at the fundraiser. Staggs jumped in the Utah Senate race early on, months before Romney announced he was not going to run for reelection, and has staked out a position well to the right of Romney, appearing regularly in conservative media and garnering endorsements from Mark Levin, Charlie Kirk and former ambassador Ric Grenell.

“I’m thrilled he’s an America first Utahn and he loves this country,” Lake said of Staggs. “He wants to make sure that his community is safe for his children to grow up in and he wants to make sure that we have the liberties that Trent grew up with and I grew up with, so that in future generations our kids and grandkids will have them.”

Lake for Senate?

Lake’s name has been floated as a potential Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona for the seat currently held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent, who comes up for reelection in 2024. Sinema has not said whether she’ll run again.

When asked by the Deseret News whether she wants to run for Senate in Arizona, Lake said she is “seriously” considering joining the race.

“We have a chance to get an America first candidate and an America first senator, and I am seriously giving that thought and I’ll probably be making a decision here the next few weeks,” she said.

Kari Lake poses for a portrait at Trent Staggs’ state Senate campaign at Siempre in Draper.
Kari Lake poses for a portrait before speaking at a fundraising event for Trent Staggs’ U.S. Senate campaign at Siempre in Draper on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Kari Lake on VP rumors

Staggs and Lake have both endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican primary, and Lake has frequently acted as a surrogate for Trump at campaign events in Iowa, where she was born and raised, and in other places around the country.

Her regular appearances on the campaign trail have led some to suggest she might be chosen as Trump’s running mate — but Lake called those suggestions a “creation of the media.”

“I don’t know that President Trump’s floating anybody for VP right now,” she said.

“The priority right now is to make sure President Trump gets a second term. I know that he’s going to pick great people in his cabinet, great people to surround him. He’s figured out who’s who by now. And so my goal is to get him in office,” Lake said.

Lake files appeal over 2022 election

Lake continues to question the 2022 election results in her narrow loss to Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs. She announced on social media Monday she had filed another appeal in her so far unsuccessful efforts to overturn the election.

She was also sued for defamation by an Arizona election official over her statements about the election.

She said she would “continue with her cases,” and to fight for “fair elections,” even if she runs for U.S. Senate.

“I’m a mom, I’m a multitasker. I can do more than one thing,” she said.

Staggs an “America first” candidate

Lake said she was backing Staggs for Senate because he is an “America first” candidate — and when asked what policy priorities she sees for an America first candidate, she spoke about immigration — “securing a border that is wide open,” she said — less money spent on foreign policy and on the war in Ukraine, re-shoring American manufacturing jobs and fighting crime.

She also mentioned support for Trump.

“I think it’s pretty obvious what America first is — it’s policies that support the interests of this great country,” she said.

Kari Lake listens as Trent Staggs speaks at a fundraising event for his U.S. Senate campaign at Siempre in Draper on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Lake’s first visit to Utah

Lake said it was her first visit to Utah, besides stopping for layovers at the Salt Lake City airport.

She said she bonded with Staggs over coming from large families — she is one of nine children, Staggs is one of 10 — over their shared dislike of mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and over his decision to run against Romney.

At the fundraiser, Staggs criticized Romney on spending, border security and his vote for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. With Romney out of the race, Staggs also turned some of his criticism toward potential opponents, saying they should have jumped in the race against Romney earlier.

“Where have you been? Have you called him out, ever? We did from Day 1,” he said.

He said Romney and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would find a “favored candidate” to run against him. “Let’s not let it happen.”

When asked after the fundraiser whether he was worried that he was running too far to the right in the Utah Republican primary, Staggs said he compared himself to Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, who won reelection last year.

“I think Utahns are very conservative,” he said. “The majority are, especially of the Republican Party who should be represented. I think I would emulate very closely to a Mike Lee. I don’t think I’ve said anything more radical than what his positions are, frankly, and he’s one I want to be able to go back to the Senate and work with.”

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Contributing: Gitanjali Poonia