On Thursday, The New York Timesreported that Republican strategists in Arizona are increasingly frustrated that their candidates are hitching themselves to former President Donald Trump's election conspiracy theories — and worried that it could blow up in their faces.
"Republicans in many states have grown increasingly tired of the Stop the Steal movement and the push by Mr. Trump to reward election deniers and punish those who accept President Biden’s victory. At a time when Mr. Biden’s approval ratings are sinking, leaders in the party are urging candidates to focus instead on the economy, inflation and other kitchen-table issues," reported Jennifer Medina. "But 12 weeks before its Republican primary in August, Arizona shows just how firm of a grasp Mr. Trump and his election conspiracy theories still have at every level of the party, from local activists to top statewide candidates."
To illustrate this point, the Times quotes Kathy Petsas, a Republican who has served as a precinct captain.
"Anybody who is still re-litigating 2020 will lose the general election," she said bluntly. "I think people at home have caught on, and I don’t think a lot of our candidates have caught on."
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Arizona, a longtime red state that in the span of two years saw Democrats win both Senate seats and its electoral votes, has been an epicenter for the "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen, egged on by a widely watched partisan "audit" by a company appointed by the GOP-controlled state Senate that did not follow proper recount procedures and has resulted in court litigation after the auditors concealed public records.
All recounts have confirmed that President Joe Biden legitimately won the election.
Top proponents of election conspiracy theories among Arizona candidates include gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, who has called for the Arizona secretary of state to be arrested and campaigned with a Nazi sympathizer, and secretary of state hopeful Mark Finchem, who took part in the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally and, ironically, does not live where he is registered to vote.
"Because independent and third-party voters make up roughly 34 percent of the electorate, it is impossible to win the state with Republicans alone. Ms. Lake and other candidates like her may have already hit a ceiling even among primary voters, as polls show many voters remain undecided, and there is evidence of growing support for other candidates," said the report. "'I am concerned that if these people get elected it will make another decade of craziness,' said Bob Worsley, a former state senator who describes himself as a moderate Republican. 'I don’t know who has the stature to say, ‘Let’s bring this party back, bring the establishment base back into power.’ Now we’re a purple state and we don’t have a John McCain to try to crack the whip.'"
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