Arizona Republicans Chose the Big Lie
Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, blows a kiss to supporters in Scottsdale on Tuesday.Ross D. Franklin/AP
Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Arizona Republicans are building a big tent. Under it sit a Mormon fundamentalist, a former journalist who once voted for Barack Obama, a Michigander who styles himself as a Western lawman, and the Stanford-educated protégé of the billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. There really is only one criteria for getting in the tent: Claiming Donald Trump won in 2020.
On Tuesday, these candidates—all of whom were endorsed by Trump—defeated Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and a January 6 Committee star witness, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a frequent Fox News guest who made the mistake of admitting Biden won, and Beau Lane, a secretary of state candidate who also acknowledged Biden’s victory.
Kari Lake, a former news anchor, is in the lead to be the Republican nominee for governor, although the race has not yet been decided. She has called for locking up Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state who certified the results of the 2020 election. If Lake prevails, she will run against Hobbs, the secretary of state she thinks should be imprisoned.
Below is a bit more about the Arizona Republicans.
Farnsworth, a former Arizona state senator, left retirement to exact revenge on Bowers for turning against Trump.
In September, the Arizona Mirror reported that Farnsworth’s sympathy for QAnon conspiracy theories had deeply concerned his friend Ethan Watkins. “The viewpoint that there’s a secret cabal of Satantic pedophile Democrats operating sex trafficking rings and that Trump is apart [sic] of an effort to dismantle the Deep State,” Watkins texted Farnsworth. “At least that’s what QAnon is spreading to be true.”
“I don’t think it’s just Democrats there’s Republicans involved also,” Farnsworth replied.
Farnsworth believes the “devil himself” intervened in the 2020 election and has “no doubt” that it was stolen from Trump, although he admits to having no evidence to support that claim.
As Business Insider has reported, his world view tilts toward the conspiratorial generally:
By the time our conversation reached the one-hour mark, Farnsworth had produced a large, well-worn, marked-up copy of the Book of Mormon from his shelf, and was reciting passages from it while explaining how scripture influenced his way of thinking…
He later moved on to a section detailing “secret combinations” that “will seek to destroy the freedom of all lands,” which he likened to “the insiders, One World Government people, the socialists” of the modern day. At one point during that discussion, he made a passing reference to the “Clinton Body Count” conspiracy theory.
On Tuesday, Farnsworth defeated Bowers, a fellow Mormon, by a nearly 30-point margin.
Finchem, a state representative since 2015, spent the first half of his professional life as a firefighter and paramedic in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “What a great career,” he declares on his LinkedIn. His former employer apparently felt differently. “Retired, poor rating, would not rehire,” states a note in his personnel file obtained by the New York Times.
Finchem’s efforts to present himself as a family man were also complicated by the Times‘ reporting:
When asked about his family life by one interviewer, he said his “kids are all grown and gone” and added that nowadays, “I’m thinking about my grandkids” in battles he takes on.
But his family life has been rocky. He has been married four times and estranged for more than two decades from two adult children, and he does not know their children, family members said. (He also has two stepchildren.)
In February, a Twitter page that appears to belong to one of his estranged children commented on the fact that Finchem was subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee because of his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. On Tuesday, the same account posted an image of Smokey the Bear calling on voters to “Resist Fascist Liars.” It did not specify which ones.
Finchem, who said in 2014 that he was a member of The Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia, was photographed outside the Capitol during the January 6 riot. He has called for decertifying the results of the 2020 election, wants to ban early voting in Arizona and require mandatory hand-counting of ballots, and has co-sponsored legislation that would allow state legislators to overturn election results. He has told supporters that if he’d been secretary of state in 2020 “we would have won. Plain and simple.”
A former colleague interviewed by Phoenix magazine remembered the former local TV news anchor as an “Obama-supporting Buddhist.” These days, Lake accuses Democrats of having a “demonic agenda.”
At a March campaign event, a Times journalist reported that Lake claimed nearly a dozen times in one hour that the election was stolen. She has said that she would not have certified the 2020 election if she’d been governor.
Like Finchem, she wants to eliminate early voting and get rid of counting ballots by machine. Both candidates implied during a joint appearance in June that they were prepared to blame primary losses on fraud. “Ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy,” Finchem said. “I’m going to demand a 100 percent hand count if there’s the slightest hint that there’s an impropriety.” Now, with a primary victory assured, Finchem has not requested a hand count.
The efforts by Masters, the former Thiel employee who attended Stanford for undergrad and law school, to claim that Trump won in 2020 are, predictably, more high brow. Masters has blamed Trump’s loss on expanded mail-in voting, Big Tech censorship, and media bias. He’s avoided the claims of outright fraud that it’s hard to imagine him believing.
That’s not to say Masters and Thiel, who declared long ago that freedom and democracy are incompatible, have much affinity for our current democratic order. As I’ve written about Masters:
[A]fter spending much of his youth as a libertarian purist, Masters now positions himself as an America First ally of Tucker Carlson. Ever the venture capitalist, Masters sees the United States as another bloated company that could be turned around with the right investments. If the system most Americans call democracy ends up being disrupted in the process, that might just be the cost of doing business.
For Masters, winning a crowded primary with Trump’s blessing and $15 million from Thiel was the easy part. In the general election, he will take on Mark Kelly, the former astronaut and husband of former Congress member Gabby Giffords, in one of the few races expected to determine which party controls the Senate.