Could Anti-Abortion, Election-Denying Conspiracy Theorist Kari Lake Be Arizona’s Next Governor? We’ll Find Out Soon.

Kari Lake speaking with supporters at a "Stand for Freedom" rally at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By Keya Vakil

July 15, 2022

Former TV News Anchor Kari Lake has led the Republican gubernatorial primary field in every single public poll so far. But as part of her sprint to the right, Lake has staked out truly some radical positions on a host of different issues—ones that would have significant consequences for Arizona families. 

Can you support an attempted coup to override the will of Arizona’s voters; embrace a near-total ban on abortion; associate with dangerous conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, and Nazi sympathizers; campaign with an ex-felon who plotted to kill an FBI informant; say it’s “child abuse” to make children wear masks to protect them from COVID-19; falsely accuse the president of “grooming our children” and Democrats of having a “demonic agenda”; call for cameras to be put in classrooms to spy on teachers and students; refuse to enforce federal gun safety laws; threaten to imprison journalists and your political opponents; and still become Arizona’s next governor?

On Aug. 2, voters in Arizona’s Republican primary will begin the process of answering that question when they decide whether to nominate Kari Lake as their party’s nominee. 

Lake, a former TV news anchor-turned-MAGA Republican diehard, is betting that staking out the most extreme views on virtually every position will endear her to the Republican base. Whether she turns out to be right remains to be seen, but her efforts have already earned her former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.

Fact Check: Kari Lake Repeats Election Lies, Proposes Voter Laws That Already Exist

“She will do a far better job than RINO Governor Doug Ducey—won’t even be a contest! Kari will make her wonderful family, and the MAGA movement, very proud,” Trump said in September. “Kari Lake has my Complete and Total Endorsement. She will be a great Governor for the incredible people of Arizona!”

Lake, who has also been endorsed by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, has consistently tried to out-MAGA her leading challenger—attorney and former Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who earned outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey’s endorsement. 

This strategy appears to have worked for Lake, who has led the field in every single public poll so far. But as part of her sprint to the right, Lake has staked out truly some radical positions on a host of different issues—ones that would have significant consequences for Arizona families. 

Here are 5 things you need to know about Lake:

1. Lake is deeply committed to the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen

Nearly two years after President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Arizona, Lake continues to spread lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Lake has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, citing the Arizona GOP’s sham forensic audit that actually confirmed Biden’s victory in Maricopa County.

Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that the 2020 election was not stolen and that Trump’s actions and rhetoric led directly to the violent assault on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, Lake remains committed to the “Big Lie” and has even preemptively made claims about voter fraud in her own race. 

During a recent speech, Lake suggested that the only way Robson could beat her was if she had “dead people voting” on her side. 

“My opponent, the RINO [Republican in name only], is trying to tell people that she’s doing well and she’s up in the polls, which I guess if you’re counting people who are dead people, she might be,” Lake said. “But she’s not up in the polls, but it makes me think they might be trying to set the stage for another steal.”

RELATED: Drag Queen Blasts Republican Candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake for Hypocrisy

“We don’t have the luxury, nor would we want dead people voting on our side, but as long as they’ve got dead people voting on their side, that means we’ve got to go out and vote like our lives depend on it,” Lake added, riling up her supporters.

Dead people quite obviously cannot vote and there has been zero evidence of widespread voter fraud in Arizona involving dead voters or any other voters in recent years. 

But by sowing distrust in elections, Lake has set the stage to enact severe changes to voting in Arizona.

Lake wants to end the use of electronic voting machines, permanently end mail-in voting, and end ballot collection practices that are especially beneficial to Tribal and rural voters.

2. She holds radical, anti-abortion views that are out of step with most Arizonans

Lake has said she would support and enforce Arizona’s 1901 pre-Roe ban on abortion, which would ban the procedure in nearly all cases and criminalize doctors who perform it. 

She has also said she believes abortion is the “ultimate sin” and that she would sign a “carbon copy” of Texas’ draconian abortion ban, which bans the procedure after six weeks–before most women even know they’re pregnant.

Lake also wants to ban medication abortion altogether. “I would very much support banning those types of abortion pills,” Lake told Fox News’ Bret Baier last month.

3. The former TV News anchor uses dangerous rhetoric and has openly associated with conspiracy theorists and extremists

After decades of reading audience-friendly scripts from the teleprompter, Lake has opted to take her campaign in another direction, embracing dangerous and extreme rhetoric.  

She has helped sow a baseless, right-wing moral panic over sex, LGBTQ individuals, and “child grooming,” a term used to describe the act of getting close to and building trust with a child or young person with the intent of sexually abusing them. Lake even accused—without evidence— President Joe Biden of promoting a “perverted sexual agenda of grooming our children.” 

Needless to say, this is nonsense. So too are Lake’s attacks on drag queens. Lake has criticized drag queens as being dangerous to children and also labeled them “groomers,” even though she spent more than two decades attending drag shows and was herself friends with a local drag queen.

Lake has also campaigned with and paid a convicted felon who schemed to kill an FBI informant. According to campaign finance reports, Lake’s campaign paid Kenneth Ulibari $2,000. Ulibarri, who appeared at multiple Lake campaign events over the past year, pled guilty after the Department of Justice accused him of trying to hire a hitman to kill an FBI informant in 2015. In 2019, he also pled guilty to a separate 2014 charge of battery upon a police officer, according to New Mexico court records. 

RELATED: Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Kari Lake Backs Trump’s Dangerous Lies During Rally

At a campaign event last August, Lake posed for a photo and video with Greyson Arnold—who has a history of racist, anti-Semitic, and pro-Nazi statements—and far-right conspiracy theorist Ethan Schmid-Crockett, who last year harassed the operators of a store that created wigs for cancer patients over its COVID masking policy. Lake has also posed for photos with Ron Watkins, who spread and amplified the violent QAnon conspiracy theory, and she’s affiliated with multiple other proponents of QAnon. 

Other conspiracy theorists embraced by the Lake campaign include state Sen. Wendy Rogers and former Trump aide Michael Flynn. 

The MAGA acolyte has also attacked the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and said that the likely Democratic nominee for governor, current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, should be locked up.

4. Lake’s education agenda could be harmful for Arizonans

One of Lake’s first controversies occurred before she became a political candidate. In 2018, Lake faced backlash after she falsely claimed that the “Red for Ed” educators movement—which advocated for fair pay and more school funding—was “nothing more than a push to legalize pot.”

Lake’s relationship with public education has not improved in the years since. In 2021, she called for schools to institute cameras in classrooms to monitor teachers. Earlier this year, she supported Republican lawmakers who voted to cut public school funding by 16%—a potentially devastating outcome that was only narrowly avoided.

Instead of offering solutions to improve the state’s public schools, Lake has attacked them as “government schools” that have “stifled” educational attainment of students. Instead, Lake wants to direct even more taxpayer funding to charter schools, even as Arizona is already home to the possibly most permissive school voucher program in the country. 

RELATED: Life After Ducey: Here’s Who Is on the Ballot for Arizona Governor in 2022

Lake supports a “100% Backpack Funding” program that would use state funding to allow parents to send their kid to private schools, charter schools, and neighborhood pods using state funding. Effectively, this would divert more taxpayer dollars to for-profit schools.

Lake also wants to limit teachers’ ability to teach about racism in American history, give parents far more control over curriculums, and align state educational standards with a radically conservative education agenda, known as the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum, which is conservative propaganda

Lake claims the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is “factually accurate” and “balanced,” but it falsely depicts America’s founding fathers—even those who owned slaves—as secret abolitionists while depicting actual reformers, including those who sought to end child labor, as anti-American promoters of “group rights.” The curriculum also argues that systemic racism was defeated by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and that the movement’s ideals were “turned [into] programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the Founders.”

The curriculum rails against diversity policies, suggests that civil rights sit-ins at Southern lunch counters were unconstitutional, and misrepresents Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideology.  

5. Lake has embraced ideas that could put Arizonans in danger of gun violence

Amid a surge in gun violence and countless horrifying mass shootings, Lake not only opposes modest gun safety proposals, but has also said she would flat out refuse to enforce any federal gun safety laws. 

“When I’m Governor, Arizona will not recognize unconstitutional Gun Laws in our state. We just won’t do it,” Lake wrote in a June tweet. “What are the Feds going to do? Fly down here and arrest a sitting Governor? Call my bluff.”
Arizona has among the loosest gun laws in the nation, and in 2020, it had the 20th-highest gun death rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aug. 2 Could Decide the Future of Arizona

This round-up only touches the surface of Lake’s agenda. She has also embraced extreme ideas and rhetoric on other issues, including immigration and public health. On Aug. 2, voters in Arizona’s Republican primary will decide whether these ideas are too much for them. 

If Lake advances to November, the state’s entire electorate would be asked to decide whether they trust Lake to lead them despite her support of the “Big Lie” and other extreme proposals affecting Arizonans’ healthcare, education, and safety. 

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  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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