Voices: The Arizona Republicans fighting off Trumpism

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Arizona Voting Bill (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Arizona Voting Bill (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Arizona Republicans have had a heavy news cycle in the last 48 hours.

On Wednesday evening, The New York Times reported that Blake Masters, Donald Trump’s preferred candidate in the Senate race, had written numerous inflammatory statements on a CrossFit chat room. He’d also written an article which he concluded with a “poignant quotation” from Nazi military leader Hermann Goering.

In response, one of his primary challengers, Jim Lamon, released a quick-turnaround ad citing Masters’ writings and pointing out that the venture capitalist also once praised so-called Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Underlying these ads is a general fear that Masters could fail to unseat Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.

Kelly rose to prominence both for his career as an astronaut and by virtue of being the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head during a constituent event in 2011. The couple have since become two of the US’s most outspoken advocates against gun violence. (On Thursday, Joe Biden awarded Giffords the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award a president can give.)

Trump got behind Masters largely because of his parroting of Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election. By the same token, Attorney General Mark Brnovich was spurned mainly because he did not push the Big Lie hard enough.

Term-limited Governor Doug Ducey also doomed himself to pariah status among Republicans by refusing to go along with Trump’s lies, effectively killing his chances to run for Senate. But now, Ducey is prepared to lock horns with the former president one last time on his way out of office: On Thursday, he endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson to succeed him, touting her as “pro-life, pro-gun and pro-wall”.

The endorsement pits him against the former president, who has backed former news anchor Kari Lake, a hardcore Trumpist who has regularly peddled 2020 election lies. Ducey said in his ad that there would be “no surprises” with Taylor Robson – possibly an allusion to the fact that for all Lake has been criticizing drag queens for “grooming” children, one drag performer alleged that Lake was once such a fan that he performed at her birthday party.

Ducey’s efforts are also an effort to salvage the state GOP from total obliteration. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is running for governor and is considered a viable candidate. If she were to win, it would be the third statewide race in as many election years: In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democratic Senator Arizona elected in 30 years, and in 2020, Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1996. Kelly, it should be noted, outran Biden.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the last Republican to win a Senate race in Arizona: his late friend, Senator John McCain, who won his last Senate race in 2016 and died of brain cancer in 2018.

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