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Why far-right Republicans came up short in Arizona’s elections

Arizona's Kari Lake is blaming conspiracy theories for her gubernatorial defeat. The truth that explains the outcome is much simpler.


At face value, Arizona’s political machinery is working largely as it should. The day after the state’s gubernatorial race was called, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey called Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs to congratulate her, and the day before Thanksgiving, the incumbent welcomed Hobbs to his office, assuring the public that there would be an orderly transition between administrations.

“All of us have waited patiently for the democratic process to play out,” Ducey said in a statement. “The people of Arizona have spoken; their votes have been counted; and we respect their decision.”

But just outside the spotlight, Kari Lake, the Republican who lost to the incoming governor, isn’t responding to the results with grace and humility.

In fact, the far-right election denier, whose bizarre conspiracy theories made her something of a national punchline, has said more than once recently that she thinks she might prevail and become governor next year.

To that end, Lake has pushed a new round of election-related conspiracy theories, which have something important in common with her old election-related conspiracy theories: There’s simply no evidence to substantiate any of them.

Undeterred, Lake added last week, “[T]hey better think really hard before Ducey and Hobbs sign their John Hancock to that certification. They better think long and hard about what they know about this election.” Donald Trump has pushed related rhetoric, accusing Arizona of having a “criminal voting operation,” and insisting, “Kari Lake should be installed Governor of Arizona.”

But cutting through the nonsense, simple truths come into focus. The Arizona Republic reported:

Kari Lake has suggested incompetence by election officials or cheating against Republicans by election officials hampered her failed gubernatorial bid. Other top GOP candidates have offered similar explanations for Democratic wins in Arizona’s statewide U.S. Senate and secretary of state races. But an Arizona Republic analysis of voting patterns, especially in Maricopa County, shows a simpler reason: Many Republicans just didn’t vote for the Republican candidates.

To be sure, many of the top-of-the-ballot contests in the Grand Canyon State were highly competitive. The results of the state attorney general race were so close, the outcome is facing an automatic recount.

But as the Arizona Republican’s analysis found, far-right election deniers, including Lake, simply turned off enough voters from their own party to deliver key victories to Democrats: Key Republicans candidates “running in a Republican-leaning environment in a traditionally Republican-friendly state fell flat in Republican areas.”

The newspaper spoke to Fred Solop, a politics professor at Northern Arizona University, who agreed that the party ended up with nominees who were too much even for a swath of the GOP electorate.

“When democracy was on the ballot,” he said, “a significant number of Republicans were rejecting Republican candidates.”

As part of her candidacy, Lake told supporters of the late Sen. John McCain that she didn’t want their support. As it turns out, they listened and followed her guidance.