Mar 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Kari Lake targets Ruben Gallego on crime and immigration

U.S. Helsinki Commission member Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) listens to testimony during a hearing about the recent rise in antisemitism and its threat to democracy in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Kari Lake and her Republican allies are planning an advertising and messaging offensive against Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) on crime and the southern border in the Arizona Senate race, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Lake's strategy is part of an intensified GOP focus on crime after the killing last month of University of Georgia student Laken Riley.

  • Lake's campaign will make Gallego's record on crime and border security a central theme of the campaign, multiple sources familiar with the plans told Axios.
  • Democrats have blasted Republicans for rejecting a bipartisan border deal last month that would have tightened restrictions on asylum in the U.S.

Between the lines: The Lake campaign plans to bash Gallego on his previous support for ending cash bail and criticisms of law enforcement during the summer of protests following George Floyd's death in 2020.

  • Democrats have pushed to end the cash bail system, arguing it discriminates against people from low income backgrounds. Republicans argue ending cash bail would put potential repeat offenders back on the streets.
  • Gallego criticized police who tear gassed protestors in D.C. in 2020 after Floyd's death.
  • "The bad guys were the ones behind the police line not in front of them," Gallego said on X at the time.

The big picture: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other top GOP leaders have shined a light this week on Riley's death.

  • Federal authorities said the alleged killer is an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela who illegally crossed the border into Texas in 2022.
  • "That story has been repeated across the country, in communities all across the country and, sadly, tragically, unnecessarily will continue we fear," Johnson said at a press conference last week.
  • Recent incidents in Arizona have elevated the issue. Officials said last month that a string of home break-ins in Scottsdale were tied to a South American crime ring.

What they're saying: Lake framed Gallego as a "pro-crime" candidate, she told Axios.

  • "Arizona deserves a Senator who will secure the border, be tough on crime, and make our communities safer," Lake said.
  • "Arizona is under siege from a border crisis created by Joe Biden and Ruben Gallego is busy demonizing law enforcement officers and advocating for criminals to roam free without posting bail," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who has endorsed Lake, told Axios.

The other side: The Gallego campaign brushed off the attacks by Lake, saying the Marine veteran has a long history of voting to support law enforcement.

  • The Gallego camp also pointed to Lake's support for January 6 rioters as a point of hypocrisy by the Republican candidate.
  • "Kari Lake will say or do anything to get elected, but no amount of lies can erase her record of prioritizing her power-hungry political ambitions ahead of Arizonans," a Gallego campaign spokesperson told Axios.
  • Gallego voted for the American Rescue Plan, which Arizona cities have used to invest in public safety initiatives.
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