Can Wealthy Establishment Politician Karrin Taylor Robson Convince Voters She’s an ‘Outsider’ and Become Arizona’s Next Governor?

Arizona Board of Regents Member Karrin Taylor Robson speaking with attendees at an event hosted by the Defend America Foundation at the Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

By Keya Vakil

July 26, 2022

The multi-millionaire has tried to paint herself as an everywoman who understands the pain Arizona families are experiencing with inflation, but that could prove challenging given her family’s financial interests and her plan to give herself a tax cut.

Can you hail from a family of politicians, serve in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, serve on the Arizona Board of Regents, marry a wealthy real-estate developer who owns a private jet, live in a $5.4 million mansion with its own tennis court, be intimately involved in state politics, serve as a lobbyist, and successfully convince voters that you’re an “outsider” who understands the plight of everyday Arizonans? 

On Aug. 2, voters in Arizona’s Republican primary will begin the process of answering that question when they decide whether to choose Karrin Taylor Robson as the party’s nominee for governor. 

Robson has presented a more traditionally conservative posture than her diehard MAGA opponent, Kari Lake, who has held a steady–if narrowing–lead in the polls. Lake has sought to rile up former President Donald Trump’s base by taking hard-line positions on everything from abortion to elections to education. Robson, meanwhile, has taken a slightly more restrained approach and sought to paint herself as a more polished candidate who knows how to get things done. 

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

While Lake’s fanatical devotion to Trump and his lies about the 2020 election has earned her the former president’s support, Robson has consolidated support from the state and national Republican establishments, earning endorsements from outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey, former Gov. Jan Brewer, and former Vice President Mike Pence. 

“There’s only one great candidate for governor this year: Karrin Taylor Robson, and I’m proud to support her,” Ducey said in a video released by the Robson campaign earlier this month. “I urge you to consider the only candidate with a record of conservative results and to vote for Karrin Taylor Robson.”

But just because Robson has not associated with literal white nationalists (as Lake has) does not mean she’s a moderate. And just because a candidate claims to be a “conservative outsider” does not mean they are; after all, there is nothing “outsider” about having access to the amount of power and wealth that Robson does. 

Here are 5 things you need to know about Karrin Taylor Robson:

1. Robson is rich—very rich—and has proposed an economic plan that would help her own family.

Robson’s exact net worth is difficult to pin down, but we know that she’s already personally spent more than $13 million to self-fund her campaign and that she and her husband have many financial interests, according to her personal financial disclosure statement.

This suggests Robson is worth tens—if not hundreds—of millions of dollars, which contradicts her efforts to paint herself as an outsider who understands the pain Arizona families are experiencing with inflation. That could be a problem for Robson, who has made the economy a key focus of her campaign and recently introduced an economic plan

Her plan offers some short-term help for Arizonans in the form of tax credits and rebates—which are awfully similar to plans introduced by state Democrats and supported by Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs. But Robson’s proposals would overwhelmingly benefit corporations and wealthy individuals like herself who are already doing better than ever before.

Robson wants to make further cuts to the state’s low personal income tax—which is set to go even lower after Gov. Ducey and Republican lawmakers last year approved a regressive flat tax system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy

She also wants to cut other taxes, which means corporate income taxes and other fees that the state government relies on to fund crucial services, including public safety, education, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, and public spaces like parks and libraries could be on the chopping block.

The Robson campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about her wealth or her tax plan.

2. Robson and her husband have a lot of lucrative financial interests.

Robson’s proposed tax cuts are especially noteworthy in light of her family’s complicated web of finances. 

According to her personal finance disclosure, Robson owns or holds a financial stake in seven different businesses, trusts, or investment funds—each of which is worth a minimum of $101,001. These interests range from her own company, AZ Strategies LLC, to investments she holds at Fidelity Investments and Northwest Mutual. The state does not require exact dollar amounts, so these holdings are likely to be worth far more than the minimum.

Robson also appears to own a $614,000 vacation home in Forest Lakes in Coconino County through a trust. 

Where things get more interesting, though, are Robson’s disclosures regarding her husband, Edward J. Robson, the 91-year-old Arizona real estate magnate and Republican donor. Her disclosure statement reveals that Edward J. Robson:

  • is the chairman emeritus of Arlington Aircraft Leasing Corporation, which, through a holding company, owns a private jet that sells for up to $13.5 million and costs more than $3,000 per hour to operate. Recent photos of the jet can be found on a Robson family member’s facebook page and Robson appears to have used the plane to fly to a campaign event with former Vice President Mike Pence last week.
  • manages Arlington Yacht, LLC, a company that has owned several yachts over the years, according to records from the Federal Communications Commission and the US Coast Guard.
  • chaired 23 other companies—including several utility, water, construction, and development companies—all of which are registered at the same address in Sun Lakes. 

According to public records, this Robson trust owns another property in Phoenix valued at $623,800. The real estate mogul also appears to have a stake in a Paradise Valley property worth more than $2.1 million and another Phoenix property worth roughly $300,000. 

Robson’s family trust is furthermore registered as a principal member for multiple businesses—including a brewery and another yacht company—all of which are registered at the same Sun Lakes address as the other companies Robson chaired.

Needless to say, the sort of wealth the Robsons have is not typical in Arizona, where the median household income is $61,529, the median property value is $242,000, and a typical household owns two cars, zero private jets, and zero yachts. 

But Robson’s complicated web of finances isn’t illegal or even unusual among the very wealthy.

“It’s very common, especially in real estate,” said Lee-Ford Tritt, a professor of law at the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. “Real estate people have a different type of wealth.”

By putting their assets into trusts, individuals like Robson can lower their tax burdens, get protection from creditors, avoid liability if something goes wrong with one of their entities, and avoid the probate process after a family member passes.

The elder Robson also appears to have additional interests in a dozen other residential and retail properties, a parcel of land, and a commercial property that are collectively valued at roughly $60 million. These properties are owned by RNS Center LP, a limited partnership company that is located at 9532 E. Riggs Road in Sun Lakes—the same address listed for the 25 companies Robson has chaired, according to his wife’s disclosure documents. 

Put another way, Robson has served as chairman for at least 25 companies that are all registered at an office building that appears to be owned by another company Robson has a stake in, which also owns several other pieces of valuable real estate.

Again, none of this is illegal, but Edward Robson’s complex web of financial entanglements could raise questions about conflicts of interest, especially since his wife supports cutting taxes that would all but certainly benefit him and his businesses.

3. Karrin Taylor Robson wants to ban abortions and compared abortion to murder.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion, Karrin Taylor Robson celebrated the loss of personal rights and freedoms for tens of millions of Americans as a “victory.”

In the weeks since, Robson has said she also supports Arizona’s 1901 abortion ban, which makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and would criminalize and imprison doctors who perform abortions in the state. The law was blocked by a court in 1973, but Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has asked a Pima County court to remove the injunction and allow the law to go back into effect.

Arizona also has a newer, 15-week abortion ban passed this year that was set to go into effect in September, but is likely to be negated by the pre-Roe ban. Robson has described the 15-week ban—which makes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest—as “appropriate.”

Robson has also praised Texas’ draconian abortion ban, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest and effectively empowers citizens to act as vigilantes by suing anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after the six-week mark, whether it’s the doctor who performed the procedure or the person who drove the patient to the clinic. 

The Robson campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about her stances on abortion, but they’ve previously tried to clean up her position, telling the Arizona Republic that Robson supports exceptions for rape or incest, but that contradicts multiple prior statements from Robson.

In fact, during a recent interview with KTAR, Robson downplayed the need for exceptions for rape and incest. 

“Let’s say there’s a 14-year-old girl who’s being raped by her stepfather and is now pregnant,” said KTAR host Barry Markson. “In an Arizona where abortion is generally illegal, would that be an exception where an abortion is permitted in that circumstance?”

Robson could have said she would support such an exception. She did not. Instead, she dodged and promoted the right-wing lie that rapes are somehow unlikely to result in unwanted pregnancy:

“I believe that life begins at conception and, quite frankly, the instance of pregnancies occurring in violent situations are extremely rare. In fact, it’s estimated that in less than 2% of those situations did pregnancy occur. I would go back to making sure that every woman, regardless of their age or circumstance, knows that there are non-violent choices available to them.”

Robson also compared abortion to murder and seemed to suggest it should be punishable by imprisonment.

“In Arizona, if you kill a pregnant woman, you get charged with a double homicide. We already give that baby rights,” Robson said during the KTAR interview. “We need to protect every single life and we need to foster a culture of life. We need to let women know that they have alternatives to abortion.”

During the gubernatorial debate last month, Robson furthermore said she would ban medication abortion, a two-drug regimen that allows many women to have safe abortions at home.

To sum it up: Robson is committed to making Arizona one of the most anti-abortion states in the country, even as polls show a majority of Arizona voters support abortion rights.

4. Robson has spread lies and misinformation about the 2020 election.

Robson may not be the full-fledged election denier that Lake is, but she has still flirted with the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. When she launched her campaign last year, she refused to answer whether she believed that Joe Biden was legitimately elected. 

Robson has since acknowledged that Biden is president, but she said the election “wasn’t fair” and embraced conspiracy theories that have eroded trust in Arizona’s system of elections.

“States across the country changed their voting rules in the weeks and months before the election; the mainstream media generally refused to cover stories harmful to Joe Biden; and Big Tech actively suppressed conservative voices,” her campaign said in a statement in May. “No wonder a sizable percentage of Arizona Republicans still feel the way they do about 2020.”

Robson didn’t address the fact that these Arizona Republicans believe the election was stolen because Trump and his allies have spread baseless lies about it for nearly two years.

During the GOP gubernatorial debate in late June, Robson refused to answer if she would have certified the 2020 election. She’s also refused to commit to certifying the results of the 2024 election, as Arizona’s next governor will be tasked to do. When asked by 12 News reporter Brahm Resnick whether she would “allow conspiracy theories” to influence her decision of whether to certify the election, Robson dodged

“What I can assure every voter and every citizen of Arizona is that I will look at the evidence presented to me as a lawyer. That’s what I do,” she said. “I look at the evidence. I don’t answer hypothetical questions. I look at the evidence presented to me, and I will make a judgment call as to whether or not that evidence is sufficient to certify an election or not.” 

The Robson campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about her stance on the 2020 election.

5. Robson’s education plan suggests she will force public schools to teach a conservative curriculum or face a loss of funding.

Robson’s education plan makes for some whiplash-inducing reading. In her plan, Robson embraces the lie that Arizona’s K-12 schools have been teaching “[Critical Race Theory]-style racialized instruction and grievance-heavy lesson plans designed to stir resentment between classmates and against our country.”

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not taught in Arizona K-12 schools, but Robson and other Republican politicians continue to spread this lie and exploit it—as well as anger over COVID-19 health guidelines—to attack public education, limit how and what educators can teach, and, ironically, stir resentment among parents, teachers, and school administrators. 

On the same page of her plan that Robson falsely attacks Arizona’s schools for teaching CRT, she laments that “quality teachers continue to flee the profession,” which she says leads to suffering among students. She does not connect the dots that part of the reason some teachers—and other school officials—might be quitting in droves is they have faced intense abuse from conservative politicians and activists for two years. 

Poor pay is a driving factor in this exodus too, as Arizona teachers are among the worst-paid in the nation. 

Robson wants to increase teacher pay, but she also supports a “universal school choice” program that would further defund public education in Arizona. In fact, Robson’s school choice agenda is very similar to the one Ducey recently signed into law that she heaped praise upon.

That law—which will take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from already-underfunded public schools and direct them to for-profit private, charter, and online schools—effectively encourages families to pull students from public schools. Under this policy, any family that chooses not to send their child to public school will receive $7,000 for educational expenses. Opponents of the plan contend it will drain the state’s education fund, furthering the cycle of neglect of public schools that most Arizona families rely on.

“The Republican universal voucher system is designed to kill public education,” former Arizona House Rep. Diego Rodriguez tweeted last month. “OUR nation’s greatness is built on free Public schools. The GOP goal is to recreate segregation, expand the opportunity gap, and destroy the foundation of our democracy.”

Robson would further support these efforts to defund public schools and has said she would increase state funding for private transportation for students who attend schools outside of their districts, giving more taxpayer dollars to private companies.  

The Robson campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about her education agenda, but when you get down to it, Robson—like many other Republicans—is falsely accusing public schools of indoctrinating students with a left-wing agenda, stirring up anger and mistrust among parents, and then planning to exploit that mistrust to direct public education funding to for-profit schools.

Robson all but admits in her plan that her effort is designed to weaken public education—unless these schools get on board with a more conservative curriculum.

“Universal school choice is also the strongest weapon Arizona parents could ask for in combating left-wing indoctrination in the classroom,” Robson said, reiterating her lie. “Let families vote with their feet and you’ll see schools reform their curriculum or close their doors.”

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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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