Kari Lake projected winner of Arizona governor Republican primary
Mirroring Trump, she claimed victory while the race was still too close to call.
ABC News can report that Kari Lake, a former longtime news anchor in Phoenix who left her career in media last year and received former President Donald Trump's backing, is projected to win the Republican primary in Arizona's race for governor, after suggesting foul play in an election she already claimed victory in.
"Though the results took longer than they should have, Arizonans who have been forgotten by the establishment just delivered a political earthquake," Lake said in a statement after her win was officially projected. "This is more than an election -- it is a beautiful movement by so many people across our beautiful state to finally put Arizona First."
Lake defeats Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy real estate developer and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, who was backed by Trump's, now estranged, Vice President Mike Pence and Arizona's current term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey. Trump and Pence traveled to Arizona on the same day last month to stump for the competing candidates, with Pence warning against "those who want to make this election about the past."
Taylor Robson spent more than $15 million of her own money on the race, but it was Lake's "ultra-MAGA" and "America First" stance, coupled with her repetition of Trump's "Big Lie," that ultimately prevailed, after a campaign season filled with attack ads from all angles, which Democratic nominee for governor Katie Hobbs described as a "primary race to the bottom."
Hobbs released a statement following the projection calling Lake "dangerous for Arizona" and calling the November general election "a choice between sanity and chaos."
"Throughout her campaign, Lake has counted Nazi sympathizers and far-right extremists as part of her coalition," she said. "We know where she stands on the issues that matter most, vowing to ban abortion and reproductive health care, putting cameras in our children's classrooms, and wasting taxpayer money relitigating the 2020 election and manipulating future elections if she doesn't like the results."
Notably, Ducey has not publicly responded to his candidate's loss and Lake's win yet, and although he's chair of the Republican Governors Association, it was his vice-chair, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was quoted in the organization's release congratulating Lake.
"Arizona families want a leader who will fight back against the failed policies of Joe Biden and Democrats and that's exactly what they got with Kari Lake - she's a fighter," Reynolds said. "The RGA congratulates Kari on her primary victory, and we look forward to working to get her elected governor this November."
Despite a handful of hypocrisy scandals, with Pence swiping her as a "convert" to the GOP who donated to Barack Obama, Lake acknowledged her past support for Democratic causes on the campaign trail, but now takes a far-right stance on social issues. She opposes abortion and transgender rights and made election integrity and border security top campaign issues, saying she would declare an invasion at the southern border on day one as governor.
Entering the general election season, Lake has already said that she would not change her tone but continue to talk about the widely disproven conspiracy that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, even as some Republicans are concerned that if Trump's candidates don't moderate their message for the general electorate, it will be harder to win in Arizona in November.
Arizona Republican strategist Barrett Marson, who supported Taylor Robson, told ABC News, "It'll be up to them [the Trump candidates] to moderate, or to at least start to appeal to the broader audience. I just don't get telling your voters that there's fraud in the election that you won and then expect them to continue to come out and vote for you."
Lake dismissed questions Wednesday on how she could declare victory in an election that she doesn't have any confidence in and why voters should trust that she won this election fair and square, claiming to have evidence of irregularities but refusing to provide evidence of wrongdoing to the press.
"We're going with the votes, and we're going with what the people who really understand what's happening [in this] this election now," she said.
A first-time candidate for public office who has said she would not have fulfilled her legal duty to certify it in 2020, Lake said, if elected governor, she would sign legislation to eliminate electronic counting machines and move to "one-day voting" in the state where voting by mail is a popular method. On the night of her election-watch party in Scottsdale, she wielded a wooden sledgehammer she said was intended for electronic voting machines and Hobbs.
With Lake's win official, Trump sees a slate of winning candidates in Arizona, his most primary wins in any state -- and in one that helped deliver the presidency to Joe Biden.
"President Trump went 14-0 in Arizona as the MAGA wave continues to sweep across the nation. America is a nation in decline under Democrat leadership, but President Trump will not stop until America is made great once more through the election of America First fighters," Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said in a statement Wednesday to ABC News.
One strategist told ABC News the wins prove that Arizona, though it has taken on a purple hue in recent years, is "still very much Trump country."
Taylor Robson told "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight" weekend co-anchor Whit Johnson that Lake priming her supporters for a stolen election -- before Lake ultimately won the election herself -- should "disqualify" her from the race, as many voters in Arizona are already mistrusting in the election process.
In a statement late Thursday, Taylor Robson said she accepted the results of the election and congratulated Lake on the win.
"This part of my life's journey has come to an end. Now I need to be with my family and get back to my business," she said.
"The voters of Arizona have spoken, I accept the results, I trust the process and the people who administer it," she continued. "I have spent my life supporting Republican candidates and causes and it is my hope that our Republican nominees are successful in November."
While Trump's endorsed candidates are dominating the Arizona primary races, it was unclear if the MAGA agenda would show the same success in November.
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