Kyrsten Sinema’s departure from the Democrats should present the GOP with a good chance. However, two high-profile 2022 election losers in Arizona are considering Senate bids in 2024, causing Republicans to worry that they would blow an increasingly winnable race.
Republican Blake Masters, who narrowly lost his Senate attempt last year by 5 percentage points, is talking to advisors and making calls about a prospective candidature. Some Arizona Republican strategists believe he will run, but a source close to him says he is still undecided and is simply testing the waters.
According to a source close to Kari Lake, the defeated gubernatorial candidate, she is considering a Senate run, but any decision would be made until her legal appeal citing false claims that her 2022 election was stolen is resolved.
The idea of Lake and Masters re-entering the political fray is confounding GOP officials’ renewed optimism about capitalising on Sinema’s recent party move to independent. With Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego already in the race, Republicans believe they have a good chance of winning the election with a plurality of votes.
There are fresh concerns that they would squander the opportunity by nominating a candidate who remains loyal to former President Donald Trump or is obsessed with election denial. Lake’s protests following her gubernatorial defeat by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs have notably raised eyebrows within the party.
“Any candidate in ’24 who has a stolen election as their main campaign topic is likely to have the same challenges that some of the ’22 candidates had,” said Sen. John Thune, the Senate GOP’s No. 2 leader. “I just don’t believe that’s where the American people are. It’s a swing state, so we need a strong Republican candidate. I hope whoever gets in focuses on the future rather than the past.”
Far from being deterred by what happened in 2022, the MAGA crowd in Arizona appears to be empowered to run for office again. Lake’s senior adviser Caroline Wren said that Thune represents “everything wrong with the Republican establishment” and that the “Washington cartel” is “signalling that they’re willing to throw an Arizona Senate seat to the radical left.”
Few, if any, states in the country provide as clear a testing ground for the Republican Party’s future as Arizona. The state, which has been a bulwark of conservatism and libertarianism for decades, is shifting to the left. Democrats have won three consecutive Senate campaigns, the most recent governor’s race, and the presidential election in 2020. Furthermore, primaries in Arizona are often held late, making it difficult for challengers to gather support before the general election.
“Just take a look at the last two elections. “You don’t have to guess what happens when MAGA candidates disregard topics that Arizonans care about,” said Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican strategist. “Governor Kari Lake is not. Blake Masters is not a member of the Senate. Republicans must return to their roots.”
The changes have frightened more mainstream Republicans, who are secretly plotting methods to reverse them. According to a person familiar with the discussions, GOP advisers have gone so far as to persuade Masters to run for the House rather than the Senate owing to his high unfavorability ratings and the excessive amount of money it would take to rebuild his reputation in a statewide election. Republicans believe Lake and Masters will not run against one another.
There are whispers that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) may resign, freeing up a safe red seat and easing what might be a crowded field in the election. “No, I’m not going,” Gosar said in a brief interview with HEADLINESFOREVER. I still believe this majority should go to the White House and the Senate.”
In an interview, Sen. Steve Daines, chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, stated that “it’s early,” but “I want to see a candidate who can win a general election.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) put it this way: “I want to win it to gain the majority, And I’ll let Arizonans pick who the candidate is going to be. And I believe the presiding factor should be someone who can win. They haven’t won before, therefore I believe it will be difficult.”
After spending so much time debating whether to endorse Sinema or Gallego, Democrats are eager to highlight the GOP’s flaws.
“In Arizona, Republicans are stuck with a ragtag collection of unsuccessful candidates,” said Nora Keefe, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson. “We are certain that we will defeat Republicans’ bid for this Senate seat.”
When asked about Lake’s interest in running for Senate, Wren stated, “her emphasis right now is the litigation – that hasn’t changed.” According to a source close to Lake, “the door is not being closed” on a Senate run.
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Rep. Juan Ciscomani, unsuccessful 2022 Senate candidate Jim Lamon, and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost to Lake in last year’s primary, are also potential Senate contenders.
Establishment Republicans have expressed particular interest in bringing Robson and Ciscomani into the contest, hoping to avoid a repetition of 2022, when red wave expectations resulted in a net Democratic gain in Senate races. Robson, a self-funder, contributed millions of dollars to her gubernatorial campaign last year, only to lose in the primary to Lake.
“A lot of people voted for me, and I don’t take that for granted,” a source close to Robson said. Perhaps this is the time.”
Ciscomani, who was recently sworn in after winning a difficult congressional district, was a sought-after GOP recruit in 2022. The CEO of the Republican Senate super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, Steven Law, recently tweeted that Ciscomani is a “[f]antastic new addition to the House,” raising questions among Republicans. However, starting a statewide campaign from his Tucson-based seat could be tough for Ciscomani, especially in a pool of candidates who have recently completed statewide contests.
Former Gov. Doug Ducey is the ultimate fantasy candidate for traditional Republicans, though few believe he would run for Senate after passing on a Senate candidature last year and clashing with Trump over the 2020 presidential election.
“He’s made it clear he’s not interested, but he’d be a fantastic alternative,” Thune added.
Lamb, like Masters, is a Lake supporter. According to insiders, Lamb is meeting with consultants and will make a decision early this year. According to Corey Vale, Lamb’s publicist, he is “seriously considering running for the United States Senate.”
According to Lamon spokeswoman Stephen Puetz, “if a victorious candidate emerges, he will strongly support that person – if not, Jim will run in 2024.”
Kelli Ward, former leader of the Arizona Republican Party, is one contender who has ruled out running. She told HEADLINESFOREVER that she was not considering another Senate candidature (she ran in 2016 and 2018) or a House run. Jeff DeWit, who assisted Trump with his 2020 campaign, now leads the state party. The Arizona Republican Party did not reply to calls for comment.
Though Lake’s advisers believe she is now focused on her lawsuit to overturn the election, she did reference Gallego during a rally on Sunday that was otherwise centred on her legal efforts, referring to him as “the AOC of Arizona.”
Lake is still well-liked among Arizona Republicans. She was greeted with applause at the state party’s convention in Phoenix on Saturday, and she drew a sizable crowd at her rally the next night.
Lake’s followers “showed up on a Sunday night in January of the odd year just to hear her speak,” according to Brady Smith, an Arizona-based GOP strategist and former Lake assistant. “She’s shown that she still has the GOP base’s support; anyone considering running for Senate should keep that in mind.”