Last month, GOP nominee for governor of Arizona Kari Lake suggested it would be impossible for her to lose without Democrats cheating. Today, with 70 percent of the vote counted, Lake trails in the polls by less than a percentage point, but she points to printer errors in Maricopa County that delayed the tabulating of votes as evidence of a potentially nefarious plot to stymie her win.
“We had a big day today,” Lake told a room full of her supporters late Tuesday night. “And don’t let those cheaters and crooks think anything different. Don’t let them doubt. Don’t let them put doubt in you.”
Such claims by Lake, and other Arizona Republican candidates, harken back to the so-called Stop the Steal movement, a disinformation campaign aimed at overturning the 2020 presidential election and which had a strong foothold in Arizona. Like then, Lake has lashed out at election officials over the conduct of this week’s elections.
“The fake media back there tried to tell us we were wrong for asking questions about our elections,” Lake said on election night. “We needed another stark reminder that we have incompetent people running the show in Arizona.”
“When we win, the first line of action is to return honestly to Arizona elections. Are you willing for incompetency to play its self out and for the victory to come at us?” Lake asked to her supporters’ cheers. “When we win, and I think it will be within hours, we will declare victory, and we will get to work turning this around, no more incompetency, no more corruption in Arizona elections.”
Chants of “Kari!” broke out in the crowd.
Lake continued railing against Maricopa County on Thursday. Speaking to Charlie Kirk on “The Charlie Kirk Show,” Lake pointed the finger at election officials in the county and Democrats.
“I think there could be some intentional actions here to slow roll this. They always intentionally have the early ballots ready to go, they favor the Democrats, they want to bring down the excitement for Republicans.” Lake said. “But they wanted to throw cold water on our movement, they want to take that victory, they want to make it look like America First isn’t thriving, when in fact it is.”
“I believe it was a traffic jam by design. I really do,” Kirk said.
Other election-denying Arizona Republican candidates trailing their Democratic opponents joined in on this messaging. Blake Masters, who has perpetuated a version of the racist replacement theory, and who found himself behind Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, tweeted on Election Day, “Hard to know if we’re seeing incompetence or something worse. All we know right now is that the Democrats are hoping you will get discouraged and go home.” In another, he wrote that “We can win — we *will* win — despite all this nonsense in Maricopa.”
Speaking to voters at one Maricopa County voting center on Election Day, Masters thanked them for waiting in line despite “tabulation issues,” he said, using air quotes. Turning to address Politico reporters, Masters said, “I guess 10 to 20 percent of the tabulation machines don’t work, which, hey, is absolutely inexcusable. That’s either gross incompetence or something worse. But hey, I don’t want to jump to conclusions.” Masters added that he was “lawyered up” if need be.
Later that day, we saw what Masters meant. The Republican National Committee, along with Masters and Lake’s campaigns, sued Maricopa County, seeking to keep the polls open longer, claiming that voters were denied their right to cast ballots. A lawyer with the RNC also asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Tim Ryan to “push back reporting the results of the election by the same amount of time.”
The court rejected their arguments. “The court doesn’t have any evidence that any voter was precluded from their right to vote,” Ryan said.
Abe Hamadeh, the Republican nominee for attorney general of Arizona who has denied the 2020 election results, trails Democrat Kris Mayes by less than a percentage point. Speaking to supporters Tuesday night, he suggested “incompetent” election officials were threatening American democracy.
“We didn’t go through all this hard work to only get here; we came to finish what we started,” Hamadeh said. “And it started with securing our elections. If you see what we just witnessed in the past 24 hours is incompetence, and you know what, for so long, I keep hearing what is the biggest threat to democracy? They keep saying it is us. The biggest threat to democracy is incompetent elected officials.”
And Mark Finchem, the self-declared member of the far-right extremist Oath Keepers, is falling short of expectations in his bid to become secretary of state in Arizona. Deeply involved in the so-called “Stop the Steal” campaign, the state lawmaker was credited with bringing the campaign to Arizona. Finchem, along with Lake, is part of the America First Secretary of State Coalition—a group of QAnon-affiliated election-deniers who are eager to “fix” U.S. elections by eliminating mail-in ballots, getting rid of early voting, and requiring voter ID.
On Thursday, Finchem lashed out at Democrat Katie Hobbs and his opponent Adrian Fontes, suggesting they had something to do with the delay in counting.
“Quick, check Katie Hobbs’ and Adrian Fontes’ location. Make sure they aren’t in the back room with ballots in Pima or Maricopa. I hope our GOP lawyers are following them everywhere,” Finchem tweeted. When Fontes’ replied that he was just having coffee with a friend, Finchem replied, “You sound guilty.”
These candidates’ claims were bolstered by right-wing activists. During his discussion with Lake, Kirk pointed the finger at the election officials in Maricopa County, saying that poll workers were being manipulated. “These poor people are being manipulated by Bill Gates and Steven Richer,” Kirk said. On Twitter, far-right political operative Jack Posobiec claimed that Maricopa Country was “fortifying the election,” and he called for jail time for Maricopa County election officials Gates and Richer in a tweet that received thousands of likes.
Such messaging took over right-wing social media. On Election Day and the following day, Maricopa County was mentioned nearly 654,000 times on Twitter, with many alleging that the issues with tabulating the votes was fishy, according to research by the nonprofit Advance Democracy Inc. Users on far-right and conservative platforms—including Gab, Getter, Truth Social, 4chan, and the .win forums—suggested that broken tabulators were being used to “steal” the election. A few users on Patriots.win took it a step further, calling for violence against the perceived perpetrators in popular posts on that platform.
Lake insists she will win her bid to become Arizona’s governor. She says that the votes that are being counted now favor her because, she says, those Arizonans who dropped off their ballots in drop boxes on Election Day are mostly Republican voters who didn’t trust mailing them in. Kirk agreed, “You’re gonna win, these drop boxes are our people.” At one point in the show, he took it a step further. “Every ballot from this point forward is gonna be a bloodbath for the Katie Hobbs campaign.”
Results for these tight races in Arizona aren’t expected until Monday.
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