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Arizona Republicans aren’t accepting election defeats gracefully

Many election deniers who lost this year accepted the results and conceded. Arizona's Kari Lake has embraced a more unsettling approach.


Ahead of the midterm elections, far too many Republicans hedged when asked whether they’d accept the legitimacy of the results. It led to widespread concerns about replays of the events surrounding Jan. 6, with defeated GOP candidates refusing to honor the will of voters, a proliferation of right-wing conspiracy theories, a new wave of threats, and assorted Republican officials rejecting the idea of certifying results they don’t like.

With this in mind, there was quite a bit of relief when many far-right election deniers in key races conceded their defeats. It was discouraging that such relief was necessary — ideally, our political system would be stable enough that we’d have higher expectations — but the responsible reactions offered hints of possible progress.

On the other hand, there’s Arizona.

By most measures, Republicans in the Grand Canyon State had another difficult year. Two years after Arizonans narrowly backed the Democratic presidential ticket, the state’s voters elected Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs as the next governor and re-elected Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. For the first time in four decades, Arizona will have a Democratic governor and two Democratic U.S. senators.

Kari Lake isn’t handling the results well. The Republican election denier, whose bizarre conspiracy theories made her something of a national punchline, came up short in her gubernatorial race, but instead of conceding, the former local news anchor reportedly told the Daily Mail, a British outlet, that she still thinks she might take office next year.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said, “I believe at the end of the day that this will be turned around and I don’t know what the solution will be but I still believe I will become governor.”

To that end, Lake has publicly insisted that some of her supporters in Maricopa County were “disenfranchised” and has helped promote testimonials to bolster the claims. The New York Times reported over the weekend, however, that “a crucial element has been missing so far in all of these accounts: clear claims that any eligible voters in Maricopa County were actually denied the chance to vote.”

The Washington Post had an even more unsettling article about developments that reportedly unfolded in private.

Hours before Kari Lake was projected to lose her race for Arizona governor, attorneys for her campaign and for the Republican National Committee spoke by phone Monday to a lawyer for Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and more than half the state’s voters. The Lake representatives posed a series of questions about voting problems on Election Day, nearly a week earlier. Then, toward the end of the phone call, an attorney for the RNC stressed the importance of rapid answers, according to the Maricopa attorney, Tom Liddy, a lifelong Republican who heads the county’s office for civil litigation.

According to the reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, Liddy recalled that the RNC attorney, whom he and others identified as Benjamin Mehr, told him that there were “a lot of irate people out there” and that the campaign “can’t control them.”

Not surprisingly, the Maricopa County lawyer considered the comments threatening.

It’s against this backdrop that Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates confirmed to the local Fox affiliate in Phoenix that he’s “moved to an undisclosed location for his safety” in response to security concerns related to the midterm elections. The same local report added that sheriff’s deputies are providing Gates with a security detail.

There are also reports out of Arizona about local Republican officials balking at certifying results they don’t like.

The relief that Democrats — and democrats — felt two weeks ago was understandable, but it may have been a bit premature.