When the first votes in Arizona started rolling in Tuesday night and Kari Lake was left behind, she and her MAGA peers resorted to a well-known election night tactic: they cried wrong.
But overnight, Lake made up for the ground she’d lost to Karrin Taylor Robson, her main rival for Arizona’s GOP nomination for governor. Now, on the cusp of winning the hotly contested primary, Lake and her allies had to squirm to explain how the election she was on track to win was somehow still so corrupt and fraudulent. as they had claimed.
“There is no way to victory for my opponent, and we won this race, period,” Lake proudly declared to a group of supporters, but that didn’t stop her from warning them that fraud was taking place.
“But there are a lot of problems with the system,” the candidate warned, before immediately predicting victory again.
“We’re going to win this when the votes are counted,” the candidate said. “We’re not going to argue that our election systems are so messed up.”
Before Lake even spoke, MAGAworld pundits were already at work spreading rumors, with no evidence, that election abuses were going on.
The far-right blog, The Gateway Pundit, wrote that something “suspicious” had happened in the race, adding that it was “another [Brad] Raffensperger special.”
While Lake Robson followed late into the evening, others brought to life a series of November 2020 conspiracy theories.
One involved an allegation that pollsters deliberately handed out Sharpies to voters that would invalidate their ballots. A second, alleged election officials printed ballots on thinner-than-normal paper, leading to potential MAGA-loyal ballots being thrown out due to ink bleeding. Both were debunked shortly after it was raised after the 2020 election when it ruled Arizona’s Pima County tweeted“No ballots are thrown away because of the method used to color the ovals,” referring to “Sharpiegate.”
But that didn’t stop pro-Trump brand Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA contributor Drew Hernandez from launching “Sharpiegate 2.0.”
“I was furious today when my family called me and told them to repeat their vote multiple times,” said pro-Trump firebrand Charlie Kirk, “because the Sharpie was bleeding through the vote.”
Similarly, far-right Real America Voice correspondent Ben Berquam, citing an alleged voter he spoke to, claimed that this time the ballots were printed on “thicker paper.”
“Sharpiegate 2.0, here we are!” repeated Turning Point USA contributor Drew Hernandez.
Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow, an early and outspoken Lake advocate, tried to reconcile the ideas of voter fraud and the belief in a decisive Lake victory.
‘She won, what are you talking about? Of course there was electoral fraud,” he told The Daily Beast in an interview on Wednesday. “She won despite the algorithm,” he added, trying to explain the apparent dissonance between the two ideas. “So much corruption in Arizona!”
The Lake campaign did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment and the race had still not taken place by Wednesday night.
As befits one of the most talked-about culture warriors of the far right and the election conspirators of 2020, Lake is now a crucial step closer to the top office of a major battlefield state.
In a contest that turned into an expensive and nasty proxy war between factions of the GOP, Lake’s victory amounts to a triumph for the MAGA wing – and a blow to Republicans who became optimistic the party could get past. Trump’s personality cult and his 2020 election obsession.
Lake, a well-known local news anchor turned political brand, was endorsed by Trump and a number of Trumpworld celebrities and supporters. In turn, she endorsed baseless claims and narratives about the 2020 election, reinforcing the disorderly efforts of Arizona Republicans to prove that Trump actually won the state.
Robson, meanwhile, had the support of much of the state’s GOP branch — including incumbent Doug Ducey, a Trump nemesis — along with former Vice President Mike Pence. While she took tough conservative stances on hot-button issues, Robson notably stayed away from Trump’s 2020 rhetoric, saying Republicans needed to move on.
Robson’s camp went all out on a strategy to portray Lake as a fake, emphasizing her formerly liberal views and past support for Barack Obama. At one point, Robson’s allies ran an ad, narrated by a drag queen, in which they attacked Lake for hanging out with drag queens before turning against them as part of the MAGA culture wars.
Though Lake led in the early polls of the race, Robson spent a whopping $15 million of her own money on her campaign, which funded an ad blitz that helped catapult her into striking distance of Lake.
While some Republican voters in Arizona were baffled that Trump approved Lake, some found her story — a member of the media turned anti-media crusader — poignant, not contradictory, given her history.
Beyond that, many GOP voters in Arizona are clearly still craving red meat over the 2020 election.
The podium is now in Arizona for one of the most competitive and consistent governor races in recent memory. On Tuesday, Democrats nominated Katie Hobbs, the incumbent Secretary of State who called Lake to jail over baseless charges of fraud.