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Will Trump Get a Sweep in Arizona’s Primary?

There’s a lot going on in Arizona’s Republican primary. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Five states are holding primaries on August 2, the largest single-day batch left this year. There are gubernatorial primaries in Arizona, Kansas, and Michigan, and Senate primaries in Arizona, Missouri, and Washington. Democratic governors are running for reelection without significant intraparty competition in Kansas and Michigan, and in Arizona, Democratic secretary of State Katie Hobbs is the sure nominee for governor, while incumbent Democratic senators are on the ballot in Arizona and Washington. So much of the action on August 2 will be in the GOP, with Arizona holding the spotlight as a highly competitive state with red-hot contests up and down the ballot.

The Arizona GOP, moreover, has been a hotbed of election denialism, making Donald Trump’s candidate preferences unavoidably central. Trump has endorsed Peter Thiel protégé Blake Masters for the U.S. Senate, former local news anchor Kari Lake for governor, and state legislator Mark Finchem for secretary of State, the office that supervises elections. All three are big-time MAGA extremists and serial 2020 election deniers. If they all win, we’ll know for sure that Arizona is Trump country among Republicans, which in turn may create a good environment for Democratic senator Mark Kelly, Hobbs, and the winner of the democratic secretary of State primary (either state legislator Reginald Bolding or former Maricopa County recorder Adrian Fontes).

Recent polls show Masters in a commanding position going into the primary. Four of five polls taken since mid-July show him leading self-funding Trump fan and solar-energy exec Jim Lamon by double digits (the fifth showed him up by eight points). Masters ascended into the lead after he received Trump’s endorsement in early June, and he has received enough money from Thiel to overcome Lamon’s big spending. Early front-runner Mark Brnovich, the state’s attorney general, has faded after he equivocated over Arizona’s notorious 2020 election “audit” ordered by an extremist faction in the state legislature and subsequently drew fire from Trump.

Sparse polling in the GOP secretary of State primary contest has similarly shown Trump’s guy, Finchem, in the lead, with Establishment Republican business executive Beau Lane his best-funded and most visible rival. Finchem is a true wild man, a repository of the voting-machine conspiracy theories that fed the state’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona’s biggest and recently a Democratic stronghold. He’s also a national figure in the drive to capture state election machinery in time to boost Trump or a successor in 2024, as Politico notes:

Should he win on Tuesday, Finchem will become the latest member of the “America First Secretary of State Coalition” to secure the Republican nomination in a key battleground, putting them a general election win away from running the 2024 presidential vote in their states — four years after working to subvert President Joe Biden’s election win and falsely claiming the vote was marred. The coalition’s founder, Jim Marchant, is the Republican nominee in Nevada, while Kristina Karamo is the de facto GOP pick in Michigan. And in Pennsylvania, where the governor picks the state’s chief election official, coalition member Doug Mastriano is the GOP candidate.

Trump’s earliest Arizona endorsee was gubernatorial candidate Lake, who, like Finchem, is a resolute 2020 election denier. She parleyed Trump’s endorsement and her decades in the public eye as a fixture in local news to take an early and steady lead until opposition to her began consolidating behind the deep pockets and Establishment support of university regent Karrin Taylor Robson. Robson got a big boost when former congressman Matt Salmon, who had been running third in many polls, dropped out and endorsed her. Another assist came when term-limited governor Doug Ducey backed Robson (a more recent endorsement from Mike Pence has been greatly exaggerated in significance by national media types trying to make this primary a mano a mano duel in the desert between the former veep and his former idol, Trump).

Late polls on this race have sharply differed. A final survey from OH Predictive Insights showed Lake maintaining an 18-point lead over Robson. A day later, Emerson College gave Robson a one-point lead.

So while Trump’s undefeated record in Senate primaries won’t be broken in Arizona, his gubernatorial losses in Idaho, Nebraska, and Georgia could be augmented if Robson takes down Lake.

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Will Trump Get a Sweep in Arizona’s Primary?