Oct 18, 2023 - News

Kari Lake's changing rhetoric on abortion and stolen elections

Kari Lake at a podium.

Kari Lake announces her bid for Senate on Oct. 10. Photo: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

A familiar face announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Arizona last week.

  • She looked like the hard-right, Trump-backed Kari Lake who lost last year's gubernatorial election. But she sure didn't sound like her.

What she's saying: "I may disagree with Arizonans who voted for Joe Biden. I do. But I don't think you are a threat to democracy. You are a citizen just like me," Lake said at her campaign launch last week.

  • That's a far cry from her 2022 campaign cries, telling "John McCain Republicans" to "get the hell out" of her events.

Why it matters: Lake lost last year's gubernatorial election to Katie Hobbs 49.7% to 50.3%. To win this go-round, she needs to cater to a larger share of independents and moderate Republicans, and her apparent pivot seems designed to do just that.

The intrigue: Lake has maintained that both the 2020 presidential and 2022 Arizona gubernatorial elections were "stolen" and has not conceded in the latter. She's still in court contesting the 2022 results and has asked a judge to name her the rightful Arizona governor.

  • But she sidestepped the issue in her Senate announcement speech, only saying she will work to "restore honest elections," which is "not a Republican issue. It's not a Democrat issue. It's an American issue."

Between the lines: Lake has also softened her rhetoric on abortion, which she called the "ultimate sin" in 2022.

  • She instead told supporters last week that the government needs to provide more support to women so they have "real options" other than abortion.
  • In a statement to The New York Times, Lake said: "Republicans allowed Democrats to define them on abortion. … Just like President Trump, I believe this issue of abortion should be left to the states."

The big picture: Lake is courting more establishment Republican support this time around, fielding meetings with allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and representatives from the Senate Leadership Fund and National Republican Senatorial Committee, Politico reports.

Reality check: While Lake may be trying to expand her appeal, she's certainly not abandoning her allegiance to Trump. She played a filmed endorsement from him at her campaign launch.

What we're watching: There are two people who won't let voters forget Lake's former positions on hot-button issues: Her likely opponents, incumbent independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego.

  • Already, the Arizona Democratic Party is circulating videos they call "The Lake Tapes" to remind voters of her 2022 commentary.

The bottom line: Time will tell whether Lake has the discipline to not revert to talking points that isolate moderate voters when Sinema and Gallego try to lure her there.

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