When the first votes in Arizona started rolling Tuesday night and Kari Lake was trailing behind, she and her fellow MAGA allies resorted to a familiar election night tactic: They cried foul.
But overnight, Lake made up for the ground she lost to Karrin Taylor Robson, her main rival for the Arizona GOP gubernatorial nomination. Now, on the cusp of winning the hotly contested primary, Lake and her allies found themselves wrestling with how the election she was poised to win was still, one way or another, as corrupt and fraudulent as they had previously claimed.
“There is no way to victory for my opponent, and we won this race, period,” Lake proudly told a group of supporters, but that didn’t stop her from warning them that fraud was in progress.
“But there are a ton of problems with the system,” warned the candidate, before immediately predicting victory again.
“We’re going to win this when the votes are counted,” the candidate said. “We are not going to accept that our electoral systems are so messed up.”
Even before Lake spoke, MAGAworld experts were already hard at work spreading rumors, without evidence, that electoral wrongdoing was taking place.
The far-right blog The Gateway Pundit wrote that something “suspicious” had happened in the race, adding that it was “another [Brad] Special Raffensperger.
As Lake followed Robson late into the evening, others resurrected a set of conspiracy theories from November 2020.
One involved an allegation that election officials deliberately handed out Sharpies to voters, rendering their ballots invalid. In a second step, alleged election officials printed ballots on thinner than usual paper, resulting in ballots loyal to MAGA being rejected due to leaking ink. The two were debunked shortly after coming up after the 2020 election when Pima County in Arizona tweeted: “No ballot will be rejected because of the method used to color the ovals”, referring to “Sharpiegate”.
But that didn’t stop pro-Trump firebrand Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA contributor Drew Hernandez from launching “Sharpiegate 2.0.”
‘I had a primal rage today when my family called me and said they had to repeat their ballot multiple times,’ said pro-Trump Charlie Kirk, ‘because the Sharpie bled through the ballot.
Similarly, far-right Real America Voice correspondent Ben Berquam, quoting a suspected voter he spoke to, claimed that this time around the ballots were printed on “thicker paper”.
“Sharpiegate 2.0, here we are!” echoed Turning Point USA contributor Drew Hernandez.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a precocious and outspoken supporter of Lake, attempted to reconcile ideas of voter fraud with belief in Lake’s decisive victory.
“She won, what are you talking about? Of course there was voter fraud,” he told The Daily Beast in an interview on Wednesday. “She won despite the algorithm,” he added, trying to reason out the obvious dissonance between the two ideas. “So much corruption in Arizona!”
The Lake campaign did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment and the race had still not been called as of Wednesday night.
Like one of the far-right’s most prominent culture warriors and 2020 election conspirators, Lake is now a crucial step toward senior office in a key battleground state.
In a contest that has become a costly and nasty proxy war between GOP factions, Lake’s victory amounts to a triumph for the MAGA wing — and a blow to Republicans who were growing optimistic about the fact. that the party could outgrow Trump’s personality cult and his 2020 election nightmare.
A well-known local news anchor turned political firebrand, Lake has been endorsed by Trump and a number of Trumpworld luminaries and parasites. She, in turn, endorsed unsubstantiated claims and narratives about the 2020 election, and amplified Republicans’ chaotic attempts in Arizona to prove that Trump had actually won the state.
Robson, meanwhile, had the support of much of the state’s GOP establishment, including incumbent Governor Doug Ducey, a Trump foe, as well as former Vice President Mike Pence. Although she has championed hardline conservative positions on burning issues, Robson has notably steered clear of Trump’s 2020 rhetoric and said Republicans need to move on.
Robson’s camp has relied on a strategy to portray Lake as an impostor, highlighting his previously liberal views and past support for Barack Obama. At one point, Robson’s allies aired a commercial, narrated by a drag queen, attacking Lake for hanging out with drag queens before turning on them in the MAGA Culture Wars.
Although Lake led early polls in the race, Robson spent $15 million of her own money on her campaign, which funded a publicity blitz that helped catapult her within striking distance of Lake.
While some Republican voters in Arizona were puzzled that Trump endorsed Lake, given his story, some found his story — a media worker turned anti-media crusader — compelling, not contradictory.
Beyond that, many GOP voters in Arizona clearly still have an appetite for red meat about the 2020 election.
The stage is now set in Arizona for one of the most competitive and important gubernatorial races in recent memory. On Tuesday, Democrats nominated Katie Hobbs, the outgoing secretary of state whom Lake called for throwing in jail over baseless fraud allegations.