PHOENIX (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed former television broadcaster Kari Lake in the Republican race for Arizona governor.
Trump retains a strong following among many Republicans and his endorsement catapults the former news anchor into clear frontrunner status in the crowded GOP primary field.
Lake is a political newcomer who left her job in March and launched her bid for the Republican nomination for Arizona governor in 2022 in June. She had been widely seen as a possible candidate and has criticized a media landscape that she contends needs more balance.
Trump announced his endorsement via email because he remains banned from Twitter and other social media sites following his actions during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. He said Lake is strong on crime, the border and supports gun rights. He also took a shot at Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term limited. Using the expression for “Republican in name only,” Trump said “she will do a far better job than RINO Governor Doug Ducey.”
Ducey certified President Joe Biden’s win in Arizona over Trump last year despite pressure from the then-president to overturn the actual election results.
“Kari will make her wonderful family, and the MAGA movement, very proud,” Trump said in announcing his endorsement. “Kari Lake has my Complete and Total Endorsement. She will be a great Governor for the incredible people of Arizona!”
Arizona Democrats are looking to a changing electorate that rejected Trump in 2020 and consecutive Democratic U.S. Senate wins as signs that their chances in the state are improving. Republican candidates must curry favor with Trump if they want to win a primary, but that comes with a risk that moderate voters will reject them in the 2022 general election.
Lake has publicly embraced conservative ideals, retweeting the account of the state Senate’s unprecedented audit of former President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona and other border states and tweeting about the lack of border security and her opposition to mask mandates. She also consistently criticizes the media.
She thanked Trump for his endorsement via Twitter.
“This means so much to me because I know how much you love America and how much the people of this country love you!” she wrote.
Four other prominent Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for governor are state Treasurer Kimberly Yee, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, former Congressman Matt Salmon and businessman Steve Gaynor.
Salmon said in a statement that while he respects Trump, Lake “isn’t a conservative or even a Republican, and she certainly isn’t the MAGA candidate in this race.” He noted Lake is a former Democrat.
MAGA is short for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Three well-known Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination: Marco Lopez, who was one of the youngest people ever elected mayor of a U.S. city and rose rapidly to a senior position in President Barack Obama’s administration; Aaron Lieberman, who resigned his state House seat this month to focus on his gubernatorial bid; and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
“Arizonans are sick and tired of our government being run by conspiracy theorists — like Kari Lake — who wasted our taxpayer dollars and breached voters’ trust in their effort to discredit the 2020 election,” Hobbs said in a statement after Trump endorsed Lake.