The Republican nominee for Arizona governor has a long and controversial list of endorsements.
Kari Lake, who won the Republican nomination for Arizona governor after a hotly contested race earlier this month, has received a number of high-profile endorsements, including one from Donald Trump. Among those endorsements is Brandon Straka, a conservative activist who was arrested over his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.
“I am honored to be endorsed by Brandon Straka,” Lake announced on Facebook last month. “A grassroots activist, Brandon woke up to the evils of the radical left and founded the #WalkAway campaign to encourage people to leave the Democratic Party. Brandon is living proof that our America First movement welcomes all.”
Who is Brandon Straka?
In 2018, Straka publicly denounced his affiliation with the Democratic Party and founded the #WalkAway movement, an idea centered around convincing Democrats—especially those from marginalized groups—to flee their party and become Republicans. In a viral video, he accused Democrats of becoming “un-American, hypocritical, menacing, callous, ignorant, narrow-minded and, at times, blatantly fascistic.”
He also decried what he saw as anti-white racism, saying that “formerly sensible people who claim to reject racism have come to embrace the principles of universally hating and blaming all of society’s problems on all people who have white skin.” He cited this as one of the principal reasons he left the Democratic party.
Straka’s views on Democratic ideology have not changed much since then. In a recent tweet, he said the mainstream left is “more unhinged and deranged than even the most fringe and detached QAnon base on the right.”
Straka did not respond to a request for comment on why he decided to endorse Lake.
A Campaign Built on the Far-Right
Lake, who has frequently rubbed elbows with fringe right-wingers including QAnon adherents and Nazi sympathizers, is also a former Democrat. After a few years as an Independent voter, she registered as a Democrat in 2008, before leaving the party to return to the Republicans in 2012. Like Straka, she aims to draw Democratic voters across the aisle to her campaign.
“I know that we will bring this party together,” Lake said in an August 8 interview on “The Jeff Oravits Show.” “And frankly, I want to go beyond that, Jeff. I’m going to bring independents. We are already bringing independents in. We’re going to bring Democrats over to the America First Republican Party by the time November rolls around, because the policies that my opponent is putting forward are dead-end dangerous policies.”
Lake has made election fraud the core issue of her campaign. She frequently repeats the Big Lie that fraud took place in the 2020 presidential election. In the leadup to the Arizona primary election this month, she accused establishment Republicans of planning to rig the election against her, and publicly stated that she would refuse to concede the race. At no point did she provide evidence for these claims of fraud.
Lake has also downplayed the severity of Jan. 6: She once claimed, without evidence, that defendants from the riot were “being held in prison without being charged.”
Firmly Embedded in Trump’s MAGA Movement
Straka was a fervent supporter of Trump throughout the 2020 election. After Biden’s victory, he tweeted to more than 500,000 followers: “We can not allow a transition to Biden under these circumstances,” according to prosecutors. He would later add, “Make peace right now w the fact that we are in a civil war.”
Straka later recorded video of the Capitol riot in which he cheered for the rioters. He reportedly shouted, “go go go” to the mob as they reached the Capitol, and later encouraged rioters who were struggling against Capitol Police officers to wrestle away officers’ shields. In a tweet afterward, he reportedly posted messages comparing Jan. 6 to 1776.
In spite of this, Straka would later claim he was unaware that a riot was taking place, and that he left shortly after making the video.
Straka pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct and said that he is “deeply sorry and ashamed” for his participation. He was sentenced to three years probation.
More recently, it was revealed that Straka provided information to the FBI regarding the identities of several other rioters, including rally organizers, as part of a plea deal to avoid a felony charge of civil disorder. Unsealed court documents say that he provided “significant information.”
Following the recent FBI raid on Trump’s estate at Mar-a-Lago, Lake has called for the FBI to be dismantled. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Straka’s collaboration with the FBI.
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