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Kari Lake raises unfounded doubts about election results in Arizona governor race that’s too early to call

<i>Mario Tama/Getty Images</i><br/>Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake
Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake

By Maeve Reston, CNN

Democrat Katie Hobbs is leading Republican Kari Lake in Arizona governor’s race with a little more than half of precincts reporting, and though much could change as ballots are counted, the GOP nominee is already casting doubt about the election results.

Lake won the GOP primary after amplifying former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election, falsely insisting that the election was rigged and stolen. And though the current margins could change dramatically as votes are counted, Lake is suggesting without any evidence that there could be problems with Tuesday’s results. (Hobbs, as secretary of state, rebuffed GOP efforts to overturn the results in the 2020 election).

In a speech Tuesday night at her election night headquarters, Lake said she felt like it is “groundhog day.”

“We had November 3, 2020, that was called incompetency 101,” Lake said. She went on to suggest there was “incompetency” at play in both the August primary and in Tuesday’s election — a not-so-subtle critique of her opponent’s oversight over elections. It was not immediately clear what she was referring to, but there has been no evidence of any widespread fraud.

“We need honest elections and we’re going to bring them to you, Arizona, I assure you of that. The system we have right now does not work,” Lake said. She later told her supporters to be patient and said she was confident that she would win.

Hobbs also addressed her backers on Tuesday night, stating that the campaign was feeling good about what they were seeing.

“I know we’re all eager to find out who won each of these incredibly important races, but we will need to be patient and wait for every vote to be counted,” she said in remarks as prepared for delivery. “We know my opponent and her allies have been sowing doubt and confusion throughout this campaign, and it’s unacceptable that they were spreading misinformation today while people were exercising their right to vote.”

All four GOP nominees at the top of the ticket in Arizona have echoed Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. And right-wing media seized on tabulator problems in Maricopa County earlier on Tuesday to raise the idea of fraud — despite assurances to the contrary from county officials — in a clear echo of some conservatives’ repeated attempts to cast doubt on Maricopa’s results in 2020.

Arizona is a key battleground this year for governor and Senate and likely will be again for president in 2024, sparking warnings from leading Democratic figures, including former President Barack Obama, that the GOP’s embrace of Trump’s election falsehoods and conspiracy theories could put democracy at risk if they were to sweep to power.

Charlie Kirk, the founder and president of right-wing group Turning Point USA, tweeted a false claim about two-hour wait times in Maricopa County, which was the site of repeated partisan “audits” in 2020. A Maricopa County judge on Tuesday night denied a bid by Republicans to extend polling hours by three hours, saying there was no evidence that any voters were precluded from exercising their right to vote.

Lake has repeatedly said she would not have certified Joe Biden’s win in Arizona in 2020.

The former news anchor at Fox 10 in Phoenix ascended quickly to become one of the most prominent candidates in the 2022 cycle as she and Hobbs vied to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Lake hewed closely to the Trump playbook on more than just the 2020 election. She promised to declare an “invasion” at the border — in what she described as an effort to amass greater power for the governor’s office to address the migrant crisis — and she called for the arrest of both of Dr. Anthony Fauci and her Democratic opponent.

Before announcing her bid, Lake left her anchor job in 2021 — stating that she didn’t like the direction that journalism was going — after becoming a household name in Phoenix. In one of her campaign videos, she said she was taking a sledgehammer to “leftist lies and propaganda,” as she destroyed television sets with the tool in stiletto boots.

She dispatched her primary opponents with her forceful denunciations of Democratic leaders’ handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — blasting restrictions like masking as unnecessary and harmful to children. She welcomed comparisons to Trump all the way through the end of the campaign — professing at one event that she was delighted when one admirer called her “Trump in a dress.”

Hobbs, a former social worker who worked with victims of domestic violence before becoming a state lawmaker, ran a far more low-key and understated campaign, limiting her access to reporters and holding small, intimate events with supporters.

She made democracy and abortion rights her central focus, portraying Lake as an “extreme” and “dangerous” figure who could jeopardize the sanctity of the 2024 presidential election by refusing to certify the results.

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