Pettiness is not pretty and does not play well in Arizona. Bashing our beloved Senator John McCain did not work for President Trump in the 2020 election, where he helped turn the state blue for the first time in decades. It’s challenging to understand why Republicans such as gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake thought it would be appealing in 2022.
Lake, a seasoned television news anchor, followed the Trump playbook during her gubernatorial campaign. She referred to the 2020 presidential election as “a corrupt, stolen election” on multiple occasions. It didn’t go down well.
Republican strategist Barrett Marson explained, “Kari Lake scolded John McCain Republicans and told them to go somewhere else. And they did. They voted for Katie Hobbs. Even from his grave at Annapolis, Senator John McCain is still shaping Arizona politics.”
Lake bet on appealing to a pro-Trump base that she was convinced existed. And she is still playing by his rules. Around 90 minutes after NBC News called the race for Hobbs, Lake tweeted: “Arizonans know BS when they see it.” She did not concede when democratic results were announced. And earlier today, she posted a video on Twitter vowing to “fight on”, in which she bizarrely claimed: “For two years I have been sounding the alarm about our election system in Arizona. And this past week has confirmed everything we’ve been saying. Our election officials failed us miserably. What happened to Arizonans on election day is unforgivable.”
Arizona, we are still in the fight. pic.twitter.com/ytaGvqG5J0
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) November 17, 2022
“There’s nothing worse in Trumpland than admitting defeat. Lake would rather spout faux election denialism than admit defeat and do the rational thing of conceding to the winner,” Marson explained.
The evidence that Lake is the final nail in the coffin for Trumpian politics is in the rest of the Arizona vote. The GOP won six of the nine House districts in Arizona — and this is in addition to the fact that Democrats failed to flip the state legislature. In the key district of Maricopa County — considered a purple area that leans Republican — the vote was divided. Many registered Republicans specifically said no to Trump candidates, voting for Democrats instead, but said yes to other, more moderate Republicans on the ticket. Arizonans don’t dislike Republicans; but they don’t have time for Trumpian extremists.
In the race for Maricopa County Attorney, Rachel Mitchell held on against Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who ran an excellent campaign based on a much-needed pro-choice platform. Yet Mitchell still won the race at 53 percent. Elsewhere, Republican state Treasurer Kimberly Yee was also re-elected, 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent. This is not the sign of a state becoming “less red”. It’s the sign of a state sick and tired of the MAGA agenda.
It is evident now that Republican voters split their ticket and instead of voting all red down the ballot, made some pointed exceptions. They tended to vote blue for Senator Mark Kelly, Governor Katie Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes. All three of these candidates’ platforms focused on the needs of Arizona voters in 2022, rather than national-level grievances.
None of this surprised me, as someone who’s reported from Arizona throughout the year and during the midterm elections. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm about the candidates among voters throughout the campaign period, especially ones who focused on past presidential grievances. People professed to be tired of politics in general. Most voters right now in Arizona are relieved the election is over, and that the signs have come down, the political commercials have stopped, and there is space to have other conversations.
Washington DC is a long way off from Phoenix and we have our unique set of problems here in the desert that need to be solved, one of which is water.
Meredith Ryan, an independent voter and native Arizonan whose family ties with the state go back six generations, told me, “I am more interested in the water issue in Arizona. Will we have enough for my grandchildren to live here? I don’t vote for a party — I vote for ideas, plans and for someone who is a problem-solver and is looking to the future.” One thing’s for sure: 2020 isn’t in the future. Lake — and Trump, who’s now standing for president again in 2024 — might do well to remember that.