Arizona Republicans Worry They Might Mess Up Again


The possibility of Lake and Masters entering the political waters once again is complicating the newfound optimism GOP officials felt about capitalizing on Sinema’s recent party switch to independent. With the Democratic Republic ruben galego already in the race, the Republicans see an excellent opportunity to win the election with the most votes.

Now, there are new fears that they would miss out on running a candidate who remains either aligned with former President Donald Trump or obsessed with election denialism. Lake’s protests over her loss for governor caused an outcry in the party after she was defeated by Democratic governor Katie Hobbs.

“Any candidate in ’24 who has a stolen election as their main campaign issue is likely to have the same problems that some of the candidates in ’22 had,” the senator said. John Thune, the second leader of the Republican Party in the Senate. “I just don’t think that’s where the American public is. It’s a swing state – we need a good Republican candidate, obviously. You know, whoever comes in, I hope they focus on the future, not the past.”

Far from bowing to what happened in 2022, MAGA set in Arizona seems even more encouraged to try for the position. Caroline Wren, a senior adviser to Lake, responded that Thune is “all wrong with the Republican establishment” and that the “Washington cartel” is “signaling that it is willing to cede an Arizona Senate seat to the radical left.”

Few, if any, states in the country present as clear a testing ground for the future of the Republican Party as Arizona. For decades a bastion of conservatism and libertarianism, the state is drifting to the left. The Democrats have won three consecutive Senate races, the latest gubernatorial race and the 2020 presidential race. Also, primaries are typically held late in Arizona, making it harder for opponents to consolidate support ahead of the general election.

“Just look at what happened in the last two elections. You don’t have to guess what happens when MAGA candidates ignore the basic issues Arizonans care about,” said Barrett Marson, Republican Arizona strategist. “Kari Lake is not governor. Blake Masters is not a senator. Republicans need to get back to basics.”

The trends have most alarmed establishment Republicans, who are privately discussing ways to avoid them. GOP advisers went so far as to encourage Masters to run for the House instead of the Senate because of his high unfavorable ratings and the exorbitant amount of money needed to rehabilitate his reputation in a statewide race, according to a person familiar with the matter. subject matter. conversations. Republicans believe Lake and Masters are unlikely to run against each other.

There are rumors that the deputy. Paulo Gosar (R-Ariz.) could retire, opening a safe red seat and helping to alleviate what could be a packed field in competition. Gosar countered this speculation in a brief interview with POLITICO: “No, I’m not leaving. I still think I would like to see that majority go to the White House and the Senate.”

Sen. Steve Dainespresident of the Republicans’ campaign arm in the Senate, said in an interview that “it’s early”, but “I want to see a candidate who can win a general election”.

Sen. Shelley Moore Captain (RW.Va.) put it this way: “I want to win to get a majority, and I’ll let the Arizonans decide who gets the nomination. And I think someone who can win should be the deciding factor. They haven’t won before, so I think that makes it difficult.

After so much focus on whether they will support synema or Gallego, Democrats are happy to talk about the problems of the Republican Party.

“In Arizona, Republicans are stuck with a bunch of failed candidates,” said Nora Keefe, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. “We are confident that we will stop the Republicans in their efforts to fill this Senate seat.”

Asked about Lake’s interest in running for the Senate, Wren said “his focus right now is on the process – that hasn’t changed.” One person close to Lake characterized his position as “the door is not being closed” to a Senate campaign.

Other potential Senate candidates include Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Deputy. Juan Ciscomaniunsuccessful 2022 Senate candidate Jim Lamon; and businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost to Lake in last year’s primary.

Established Republicans have shown particular interest in trying to get Robson and Ciscomani into the race, eager to avoid a repeat of 2022, when expectations of a red wave ended in a net gain for the Democrats in the Senate races. Robson, a self-funder, contributed millions of dollars from her own bank account to her gubernatorial campaign last year, only to lose to Lake in the primary.

A person close to Robson said she hasn’t ruled out running for the Senate, describing her mindset as: “A lot of people voted for me and I don’t take that for granted. Maybe this is the time.”

Ciscomani, who just took office after winning a competitive seat in Congress, was a prized 2022 GOP recruit. Steven Law, CEO of the GOP Senate Super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, recently tweeted that Ciscomani is a “[f]a fantastic new addition to the House,” raising GOP eyebrows. But launching a statewide candidacy from his Tucson-based district can be difficult for Ciscomani, especially in a field of candidates that have just wrapped up state races.

Mainstream Republicans’ dream candidate is former Gov. Doug Ducey, though few think that’s a possibility after he passed a Senate campaign last year and clashed with Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

“He’s made it very clear that he’s not interested, but he would be a great fit,” Thune said.

Lamb, like Masters, is an ally of Lake. Lamb is in talks with advisers, the sources said, and is expected to make a decision early this year. Lamb’s spokesman, Corey Vale, said he is “seriously considering running for the United States Senate.”

Lamon spokesman Stephen Puetz said that “[i]If a winning candidate emerges, he will strongly support that person – otherwise, Jim will run in 2024.

One candidate who has ruled out running is Kelli Ward, former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. She told POLITICO that she wasn’t looking at another Senate run—she ran in 2016 and 2018—or for the House. The state party is now led by Jeff DeWit, who helped Trump in his 2020 run. The Arizona GOP did not respond to requests for comment.

Though Lake’s advisers insist she is currently linked in her process to overturn the election, she found time to mention Gallego at a rally on Sunday that was otherwise focused on her legal efforts, referring to him as ” the Arizona AOC”.

Lake remains popular with members of the Republican Party in Arizona. She appeared to applause at the state party convention in Phoenix on Saturday and drew a large crowd at her rally the following night.

Lake had “supporters showing up on a Sunday night in January of the odd year just to hear her speak,” said Brady Smith, a Republican strategist from Arizona and a former aide to Lake. “She has demonstrated that she still exercises the loyalty of the Republican Party base; anyone eyeing the Senate race should factor that into her calculations.

David Siders contributed to this report.

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