Former gubernatorial candidate and television host Kari Lake announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, immediately becoming the front-runner for the Republican nomination in a historic three-way race.
If she wins the nomination, Lake will likely face Congressman Ruben Gallego, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Those two could then face off against independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who hasn’t said whether she will run but has a large campaign fund.
Arizona is considered an important swing state with an electorate of around 35 percent independents, 35 percent Republicans and 30 percent Democrats. After Sinema ousted a Republican seat in 2018 and the state rejected former President Donald Trump in 2020 and Lake in 2022, centrism has become a focus of Arizona elections.
“I’m really tired of watching our politicians retreat from every single important battle. They are cowards. That’s how we got into the mess we’re in right now because they gave up way too many hills,” Lake said at her rally announcement. “I won’t back down. I will stand with each and every one of you on this hill and I know you will be at my side as I formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate.”
With Lake, a MAGA hotshot and Trump supporter, entering the race, the former president’s influence on the Republican Party will likely have a major impact on Arizona and its GOP lawmakers who represent the districts represented by President Joe Biden in 2020 represent.
The Cook Political Report ranks two Arizona Republicans who won both Biden-held districts among the 16 most at-risk GOP lawmakers in the country.
Congressman David Schweikert, who represents Arizona’s 1st Congressional District northeast of Phoenix, holds a seat that Cook rates Republican +2 (the most conservative, Alabama’s 4th District, gets Republican +33). Congressman Juan Ciscomani represents the other target district, Arizona’s 6th, east of Tucson, which is +3 Republican.
“Make no mistake: The so-called moderates agree with Kari Lake’s extreme positions on the 2020 election conspiracy theory and the nationwide abortion ban,” said Justin Chermol, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Newsweek. “With Lake now in the race and taking these dangerous positions to the forefront, Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert will not be able to hide their own extreme records from Arizonans.”
Lake’s 2022 opponent, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, outperformed the former news anchor in highly populated areas of Ciscomani and Schweikert counties. After losing the election, Lake repeated the former president’s baseless claims that the election was stolen and unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results.
While her campaign website states that she does not support a federal abortion ban, Lake has previously expressed support for a ban on abortions after the presence of a fetal heartbeat. Ciscomani’s website expresses its opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger. Schweikert’s website doesn’t address the issue, but he has spoken positively about a coup Roe v. Wade and expressed other anti-abortion sentiments.
Schweikert, however, voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election The Washington Post identified Ciscomani as the only GOP candidate in Arizona in 2022 who was not an election denier. Newsweek contacted both campaigns for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Samara Klar, a professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, said Lake’s presence in the race could hurt candidates like these two men, who likely need the support of moderates to win their races. Klar said Lake could bring more national attention to Arizona and put additional pressure on Republicans to distance themselves from Trump and the MAGA brand.
“Having Kari Lake’s name on the ballot is certainly not what they would have wanted,” Klar said Newsweek. “Arizona voters tend to be fairly moderate, both Democrats and Republicans, and both consider national politicians to be too ideologically extreme. So to win in Arizona, this is the best strategy, and this isn’t new, this is like, “I’ve been in Arizona for a long time to present myself as a nonpartisan, post-partisan candidate.”