Former US President Donald Trump made waves in the Arizona GOP Senate race last month when he announced that he will be endorsing candidate Blake Masters, a self-described nationalist and “true MAGA candidate,” in his campaign to unseat incumbent US Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona.
The race for the GOP nomination to face Kelly has pitted Masters against current Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, as well as Jim Lamon, a wealthy solar energy executive. Trump’s endorsement, more than anything, will set Masters apart from his competitors in the Aug. 2 primary.
“It’s something I was hoping for for a while,” Masters said in a KFYI radio interview on June 3. “I think I’ve been out there working hard on the campaign trail, proving that I’m the most capable candidate, the one who’s going to beat Mark Kelly in November. And so I was thrilled to get the call [from Trump] … He said if I can get a fair election, then I’m gonna win big.”
Blake Masters is one of several political candidates across the US backed by tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel, one of the biggest donors of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has more recently pulled out of his board membership of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to fund GOP candidates in House and Senate races across the country.
Masters has close ties to Thiel: he studied under Thiel during his student years, later co-wrote the book “Zero to One” with him, and is currently president of the Thiel Foundation. Now, he seems to be one of Thiel’s star candidates too. Last year, Thiel made a $10 million contribution to a political action committee supporting Masters’ campaign.
“The way we’re going to defeat the left, the way we’re going to roll them back, it’s going to start in the Republican Party, that’s where we have some problems, we’ve got to clean house there first,” Thiel reportedly said at a fundraiser he hosted in January for candidate Harriet Hageman, R-Wyoming.
Thiel and the candidates he backs seem intent on pushing the GOP further to the right. Masters is no exception. From the start of his campaign, Masters has taken stances that are extreme even among his fellow Republicans. Here are the ones you should know about:
In November, Masters posted a video to Twitter saying that “I think Trump won in 2020,” and that he thinks election integrity is “the most important issue.” He talked about states allowing a “flood” of mail-in ballots.
Experts say that mail-in ballots are safe and secure. Beyond that, they are overwhelmingly popular in Arizona, accounting for around 89% of votes cast in the 2020 election.
Masters has also taken aim at tech companies, claiming that they directly influenced the election. He claims Google altered its search algorithm to change voter behavior in the weeks leading up to November 2020. And in a February candidate forum, Masters claimed that Facebook “threw the election for Biden weeks before anyone even voted.”
Masters has also claimed that claimed voting rights legislation is “crazy:” “Every American adult already has the right to vote. When the left pushes new ‘voting rights,’ laws, really they just want to make it easier to cheat.”
Contrary to this, a Brennan Center report, which analyzed multiple studies, found that restrictions on voting access disproportionately impacted people of color.
Inflammatory Border Rhetoric
It seems natural that a GOP candidate for statewide office would take a hard stance on border control. But Masters’ rhetoric seems extreme even in comparison to his primary opponents. Previously, he has said that the Biden administration’s open border policy is “literally just criminal.”
Masters bases this on the rise in fentanyl deaths in recent years, which he attributes to cartels taking advantage of the open border to smuggle illegal drugs.
However, the facts indicate that Biden’s border policies are not to blame. Statistics from US Customs and Border Protection show that fentanyl seized while crossing the border first spiked towards current rates in June 2020. This was towards the end of the Trump administration. As of December 2021, the number of fentanyl seizures has not exceeded that of October 2020, during the last days of Trump’s presidency.
Masters has claimed that Biden is “governing the country as if he wants to destroy it.”
Furthermore, he has frequently claimed that this is the Democrats’ “electoral strategy” to shore up political power and gain more Democratic votes.
“The Biden administration is willfully violating federal law. This is not mere incompetence,” Masters said in a Twitter video last month. “The Democrats want to bring in millions of people and grant them amnesty.”
These claims echo the “Great Replacement theory” — a conspiracy theory that claims certain powerful groups are deliberately using immigration to make people of color outnumber white people, thereby forcibly shifting voter demographics and gaining political power.
These ideas have been pushed into the GOP mainstream, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson facing criticism after repeatedly promoting them on national TV.
Downplaying Right-Wing Extremism
CNN reports that in a meeting with political supporters in March, Masters supported the claim that the Jan. 6 Insurrection was a false flag by the FBI.
“Don’t we suspect that like one-third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on January 6 were actual FBI agents hanging out?” Masters reportedly asked. “What did people know and when did they know it? We’ve got to get to the bottom of this.”
What we know is that Jan. 6 was overwhelmingly attended and carried out by groups that were either explicitly white supremacist or support white supremacist beliefs. According to recent reports, leaders of two groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, collaborated to plan violent action if then-Vice President Mike Pence followed through with his legal duty to certify the election results.
But Masters seemingly disagrees that white supremacy is a credible threat. In an interview on KFYI-AM talk show “The Morning Ritual” in April, Masters claimed that Democrats have overblown the impact of white supremacy.
“There’s like 500 white supremacists in the US and they have no power and they’re pathetic,” Masters told radio host Garrett Lewis in a KNST interview in April. “What the left wants to do is redefine anyone who’s right of center, right?”
As early as 2006, white supremacists have gained enough of a foothold within law enforcement that the FBI considered them a potential security threat. This has not diminished with time, either: a Reuters investigation earlier this year identified several police instructors with ties to white supremacist hate groups — consequently lending these ideologies credibility in trainees’ eyes.
Also, several Arizona lawmakers are known to have ties with the aforementioned Oath Keepers.
Masters takes the stance that Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut—which prevents states from restricting the purchase and use of contraceptives—and Planned Parenthood v. Casey—which upheld the ruling in Roe—were all wrongly decided.
He also supports a hypothetical amendment to the Constitution that would give the same legal protections to fetuses as US citizens and thus turn the procedure of abortion into murder.
In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed a “right to privacy” that should allow women to choose to have an abortion without government interference.
Additionally, Masters wants to completely defund Planned Parenthood and any research using embryonic stem cells.
A spokesperson for Masters’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.