Nov 21, 2023 - News

U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake pivots back to stolen election rhetoric

Kair Lake in front of a screen with Donald Trump.

Kari Lake announces her bid for U.S. Senate on Oct. 10. Former President Trump gave his endorsement through a pre-recorded video. Photo: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Kari Lake's attempted pivot away from the controversial issues that isolated independents and moderate Republicans in 2022 was short-lived.

Why it matters: Lake lost last year's gubernatorial election to Katie Hobbs 50.3% to 49.7%, a little over 17,000 votes.

Flashback: Lake's gubernatorial campaign focused heavily on former President Trump's talking points — notably, repeated uncorroborated claims of a stolen election in 2020.

  • After her loss, she ramped up claims of voter fraud and repeatedly went to court to try to overturn the results of the 2022 election.

Yes, but: She sidestepped the issue in her Senate announcement speech, only saying she will work to "restore honest elections," which sparked a barrage of speculation that Lake was trying to reinvent herself to appeal to a broader base and establishment fundraising.

The intrigue: At public events since her campaign launch — many of which have been out of state — Lake has appeared with election deniers, including the filmmaker behind the debunked conspiracy documentary "2000 Mules." And she's reverted to more dramatic rhetoric.

What they're saying: "People will say to me, "Oh, you've given up on the election now." And I say … No, I haven't, but I'm a multitasker. I can do more than one thing," Lake said at Walk-A-Con, an event in Florida celebrating "individuals walking away from the Democratic Party."

  • She went on to say that people who question her should be "putting their money where [their] mouth is" by donating to defendants facing charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and to cases that seek to overturn the 2022 election.
  • She name-dropped her legal fundraising arm, Save Arizona Fund, which is footing the bill for her ongoing election lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Lake is still in court asking to be declared the rightful governor of Arizona.

Zoom in: The Lake campaign did not answer specific questions about her election rhetoric but said in a statement: "Kari is laser-focused on meeting with Arizonans and discussing her agenda, which includes securing the border, protecting water for the West and bringing back American energy dominance."

The other side: Lake tried pivot to appeal to a broader base following her primary win in 2022, Lisa James, a longtime Arizona Republican consultant, tells Axios Phoenix. It didn't last long then, either, because she "doesn't seem to be able to help herself," she says.

  • James says most moderates and independents are not persuadable on the topic of election fraud.
  • "If that's her primary message, she needs to reconsider. But that's hard for her to do when her allegiance seems to be with President Trump," she says.

Of note: Trump led Biden in Arizona in recent polling by The New York Times and Siena College, despite his continued discussion of voter fraud and stolen elections.

What we're watching: Sinema still hasn't announced whether she'll seek re-election. It's unclear whether she'll help or hurt Lake by jumping in.

  • D.C. Republicans are "freaking out" after polling showed that Sinema would likely pull more Republican votes than Democrats, the Times reported last month.
  • Lake's team says she will benefit from higher Republican turnout, per a memo obtained by the Times.
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