As dusk fell over the Arizona desert, thousands of Kari Lake’s supporters gathered on a stage next to a rodeo ring between a barbecue joint and a petting zoo. They began to pray for Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, for “the army of patriots that you are raising up in this hour” and, ultimately, for a “divine turnaround” in Arizona.
After the supporter who led the prayer at the Lake gathering, Austin Smith, a Republican candidate for state house, told the crowd they were “chosen”—a state of “pioneers, ranchers, and working-class families” fighting against the powers of a “global world system.”
He questioned, “We want to make sure Arizona is the Wild West, right?”
The audience surged with their Lake flags and beer buckets. Lake entered the stage as “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC began to play in the background.
The incumbent of the position Lake is running for, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, had infuriated then-President Donald Trump and his supporters two years prior by certifying Joe Biden’s victory, the first for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since 1996. Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the state House, testified before the committee on January 6 about how he defied Trump’s campaign of pressure. The election had been managed by Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state who is currently Lake’s rival for governor.
If there is a centre to American politics, it was evident in Arizona in 2020. But it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it would as I watched Lake ascend the stage.
Contrary to Ducey, Lake, a former TV host and one of the most renowned election sceptics in the GOP, has stated that she would not have certified the 2020 election. She responded, “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that conclusion,” when asked earlier this month if she would accept the outcomes of her own impending contest. She also stated separately that she would accept the outcome “provided we have a fair, honest, and transparent election,” as though the election’s credibility were in question.
She has edged Hobbs little in recent surveys.
While state Rep. Mark Finchem, a well-known figure in election conspiracy circles, and Abe Hamadeh, a fellow election sceptic, have real chances of winning the positions of secretary of state and attorney general, respectively, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, who recently called Biden the “legitimate president,” has been making gains in his race against Sen. Mark Kelly.
It is simple to understand what that would imply for the 2024 presidential election. Looking across the state, I can see that the current election has already been tainted by rumours about the previous one. Two armed, masked men wearing tactical gear were spotted last week in Mesa, outside of Phoenix, watching a ballot drop box as early voting in Arizona was taking place. Elections officials started receiving complaints about alleged voter intimidation, and law enforcement officials announced that they were beefing up security at drop-box locations.
There is no question, he declared. “Those next two years are going to be long.”
The campaign had a different meaning for Lake. She referred to the rally last Saturday night and her ascent in Arizona as the beginning of a “big red wave.” And the sense of anticipation in the throng, the bellicose language, and the graphic visuals all suggested that a genuine war was about to break out.
Tony Boulos, who was hawking T-shirts in the palo verde-lined parking lot of the ranch northwest of Phoenix where Lake addressed the crowd, showed me one of his best-selling items. Its message said, “It’s Time to Take Biden to the Train Station,” making allusion to the isolated spot where corpses are buried in the television series “Yellowstone.”
He pointed to the crowd coming in and remarked, “The conservatives, they aren’t troublemakers. “They’ve had enough,”
Additionally, he was selling ammo. Man, it’s Arizona, said Boulos.
Our state is currently a hot topic, according to a colleague of his, while Lake said within the microphone that she felt “like I’m on the road like a rock star, performing.” While referring to Hobbs as a “coward,” she dubbed her own effort a “national movement” that started in Arizona. Shaking her finger, she vowed that “we’re not letting them take this election like [Biden] did” as she criticised the status of immigration, homelessness, and the economy under Democratic administration. No way.” As “those lying, propaganda bastards who are attempting to pull our country down,” she slammed “radical leftists” and the media.
We’ve got your six, Kari,” a man in the audience yelled at one point.
Lake gave a “Thank you, sir” response. I appreciate it, cowboy.
She said, “We have God on our side,” and urged her supporters to cast their ballots “like your life depend on it” by raising their hands.
When I questioned Barrett Marson, a Republican political consultant in the region, about the mask-wearing drop box observers, he responded, “Craaaaazies.”