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Trump-backed candidate leading in Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary

Former President Donald Trump endorsed former Phoenix-area TV anchor Kari Lake for governor.

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, took a slim lead over her opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson, in the state's Republican primary early Wednesday morning.

With 80% of counties reporting, Robson's early nine-point lead quickly shrank. Robson now trails Lake, 44.4% to 46.2%.

An OH Predictive Analytics poll on July 3 anticipated a close race between Lake and Robson. Later, opinions broke heavily in favor of Lake, after Trump held a Save America rally in support of Lake and other candidates on July 22 in Prescott, Ariz.

According to another recent OH Predictive Analytics poll, Trump’s support and fundraising efforts likely contributed to the increase in support for Lake.

Despite Robson's lead as the votes were counted Tuesday, Lake hadn't given up hope. She alluded to the incoming late push by retweeting claims that she may be winning votes cast on Election Day at a mark of 58% to 33%. 

Lake, a former Phoenix-area TV anchor, campaigned on hardline GOP issues like militarizing the U.S.–Mexico border, closing abortion clinics and banning voting machines. Like Trump, Lake has strong election-denying tendencies.

During a debate in June, Lake told the moderator that President Joe Biden wasn’t legitimately elected. Only one of the four candidates offered a different opinion. Robson, who is the runner-up, stopped short of perpetuating fraud claims, instead opting to say the election was “unfair” for the former president.

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, Robson raised $18 million in funds this year compared to Lake’s $3.8 million.

Blake Masters speaks at a debate in Phoenix, June 23, 2022. (Michael McDaniel/Courthouse News)
Blake Masters speaks at a debate in Phoenix, June 23, 2022. (Michael McDaniel/Courthouse News)

U.S. Senate race

A Trump-endorsed political outsider clinched the race to be the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate. Venture capitalist Blake Masters garnered 39% of the vote, eclipsing Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (18.3%), by nearly 21 points, and the runner-up Jim Lamon (28.8%) by almost 10 points.

The lead comes on the heels of a Trump endorsement that eroded Brnovich’s glide path to Washington.

According to an OH Predictive Insights poll in January, Brnovich had a comfortable 14-point lead in the polls. After Trump questioned Brnovich’s inaction on election fraud concerns, his lead whittled away.

In June, Trump endorsed Masters for the Senate seat, catapulting Masters to a 14-point advantage. Masters, an understudy of Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire with anti-regulation free-market ideologies — has seen his share of controversy. 

In April, Masters criticized Democrats and blamed Black communities for gun violence while appearing on "The Jeff Oravits Show." 

“It’s gangs. It’s people in Chicago, St. Louis shooting each other," Masters said. "Very often, you know, Black people, frankly. And the Democrats don’t want to do anything about that.”

For some policy issues, Masters has suggested some provocative actions. For example, he advocated privatizing traditional public services like social security and public schooling.

"We need fresh and innovative thinking. Maybe we should privatize Social Security," he said at a June FreedomWorks rally. "Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."

“It was my first time voting, I found myself registering as a Republican only a few years ago,” said Brad R., a Phoenix Republican, who asked that his last name not be used. “I felt compelled to do so because of left-leaning policies finding their way into the state. Issues important to me are border security, being tough on crime, education rankings compared to other states, power grid and water shortages as the state’s population and average high temperatures rise. I voted for leadership that I felt most confident in trusting to make good decisions on our behalf.”

Brnovich raised $3.1 million compared to Masters’ $4.9 million. The current runner-up, Jim Lamon, raised $15 million, eclipsing both Brnovich and Masters.

Mark Finchem, a Republican candidate for Arizona Secretary of State, waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona secretary of state race

State lawmaker Mark Finchem won the Republican primary for Arizona secretary of state over Beau Lane. With 73% of districts reporting in, Finchem led over Lane 41% to 24.5%. The state legislator is an unabashed pro-Trump election denier, a fact that is particularly troubling to some because of Finchem’s alleged ties to Jan. 6 fake elector schemes.

Analysts fear Finchem may be able to sway a significant amount of influence over the election cycle as the state’s chief election officer. Like Lake, he believes, without evidence, that the election was stolen from Trump in 2020.

Finchem has been highly visible in conservative circles. In 2014, the lawmaker identified himself as a member of the Oath Keepers.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as one of the largest far-right antigovernmental groups in the U.S. At least 20 members of the Oath Keepers have been arrested and face criminal charges for their activities on Jan. 6.

“I was born and raised in Phoenix, I have watched our progress and it’s encouraging, but we also have a very dangerous slate of GOP candidates running this year,” said Megan Kepler, a Democrat from Glendale.  “[They] are actively trying to take our rights and personal freedoms as Arizonans. Voting at a local level is the most impactful action we have.”

According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, Finchem has raised $1.2 million in campaign funds.  The GOP runner-up Beau Lane raised $1.1 million.

U.S. 2nd Congressional District Race

In Arizona's 2nd Congressional District, one of the largest in the country spanning northern and central Arizona, a former Navy Seal, Eli Crane, was dominating in an under-publicized race for the GOP congressional nod. Crane was leading with a 7,700-vote advantage.

According to a co/efficient poll from June, Walt Blackman led the pack with 26% support. Ron Watkins, who has denied claims he is the architect of the QAnon movement, polled at 1%.

Blackman seemed to be on a glide path to the GOP nod until former-president Trump endorsed his competitor Crane at the July 22 rally in Prescott.

The endorsement came less than two weeks before the primary Election Day and weeks after mail-in ballots were already sent out.

“A highly respected man — just endorsed by me today — future congressman for the 2nd District, Eli Crane,” Trump said at the Save America rally.

The GOP crowd met his announcement with groans and boos, which led to confusion from the former president.

“Thank you — but you like me, right,” asked Trump.

Crane raised $2 million in funds for his campaign, compared to Blackman's $1 million. Watkins raised a paltry $257,526 in cash.

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