Kari Lake began her Arizona Senate campaign after a narrow gubernatorial loss

Popular former local news anchor, “MAGA Mama Bear” and staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, Republican Kari Lake, announced her bid for the U.S. Senate seat at a rally in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday night, the first in nearly a year. After losing the governorship of the state — she refuses to admit one more defeat.

“I’m not going to back down,” Lake told supporters gathered in an open airport hangar. “I’m going to stand at the top of this mountain with each and every one of you — and I know you’ll be by my side as I formally announce my candidacy for the United States.”

“Sometimes when things don’t go the way we expect, we question ourselves and ask why,” he said later, without acknowledging his gubernatorial loss or naming Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs. “I’ve been talking to God about this and I’m like, ‘Why God?’ I think God has big plans for us.”

Former President Donald Trump formally endorsed Lake in a video message that played behind him on stage, and on a second screen outside the event’s entrance, with no crowd to fill the extra space. Still, a few hundred supporters stood for more than an hour, many waving “with us” signs, to hear from the conservative firebrand.

Sen. who left the Democratic Party last year and became an independent. Kirsten Sinema has not yet said whether she will run for re-election, but is running in a three-way race against Lake, Sinema and Rep. Ruben Gallego. D-Ariz., without once mentioning his Republican primary opponent.

ABC News previously reported that Democrats and Republicans alike expect an unpredictable race in a state where a third of voters do not identify with either party. The winner could decide the balance of control in one half of Congress; Democrats currently hold the Senate 51-49.

Before branding herself “the only mom in the race,” Lake at least blamed Biden and former President Barack Obama for “the horror and what’s happened in Israel over the last few days,” adding that she was “really, really worried about the same thing happening here.” .”

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“We pray for Israel. We pray for a quick and decisive victory, and we pray that they put an end to Hamas once and for all,” Lake said, prompting cheers. “I worry about the world at midnight – because I’m a mama bear, and I worry about my babies – but I’m really, really worried about the same thing here. Do you see the same thing happening here?”

“The cartels own Arizona, and until we kick Joe Biden to the curb, Ruben Gallego and Kirsten Cinema, we won’t have a state,” he said.

Lake has occasionally criticized aid to Ukraine while contradicting the likes of Biden, Sinema and Gallego, saying they “care more about Ukraine’s border than ours” and, by contrast, the southern border is his “priority number uno.” Senate.

Concluding his nearly hour-long remarks, Lake told Arizonans to expect their mail-in ballots “exactly a year from now,” like Trump, after he once advised him to reverse the course of popular voting preferences.

“You know how I feel about them, guys,” cried Lake. “But hey, listen, they’re going to come to your mailbox. So if you want to vote that way, vote early. That’s fine. I’m fine with that. If you want to vote on Election Day, vote that way. Vote. Don’t sit at home because you’re mad at the system. Like Trump says.” — as President Trump says, we’ve got to swamp them.”

‘Rough and Tumble and Ugly’

Lake warned supporters Tuesday night to expect “a tough and tumble and ugly” race — against his Republican primary opponent, former Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, whom Lake ran for governor last year.

“I wouldn’t sleep on Mark Lamb,” said Barrett Marson, a GOP strategist in Arizona who has yet to work on a campaign this cycle. “He’s a conservative, but he’s not Gary Lake, and he only wants to talk about electoral disenfranchisement, which the broader Arizona electorate doesn’t care about.”

Rick Gorka, a consultant to the Lamb campaign, compared the lake to a “version of Arizona. [Democrat] Stacey Abrams,” in Georgia — referring to another high-profile but unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate.

“Despite his presence everywhere but Arizona, Sheriff Mark Lamb has been serving the people, fighting to protect the border and reaching out to voters who deserve a proven, conservative winner,” Gorka said in a statement to ABC News.

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Lake filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and the Arizona Secretary of State last week to seek to run on the same day he met with several Republican senators on Capitol Hill.

“We have had constructive conversations with Gary Lake and his team,” National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., told ABC News in a statement. “He’s a skilled campaigner with an impressive ability to fire up the grassroots.”

He is the Texas Senate. John Cornyn and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and the third-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership, Wyoming Sen. John was seen walking across the Capitol with Barasso.

Democrats, meanwhile, are arguing that Lake is the losing candidate, with Michigan’s Gary Peters, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, calling his bid “Senate Republicans’ worst nightmare.”

“Even Republicans don’t want Lake to run because voters have rejected him before and they will do so again in 2024,” Peters said in a statement.

Gallego spokeswoman Hannah Goss said in a statement ahead of Lake’s campaign launch that “her extremism should disqualify her from public office — again. Goss pointed to Lake’s support for abortion restrictions and criticism of her own election loss.”

Lake represents Trump

Lake’s campaign for governor burned his profile among conservatives and drew him widespread attention, including how he adopted the former president’s style and policies, vowing to announce an invasion of the southern border and speaking regularly to the news media. She immediately made herself available to reporters.

Lake often repeated Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Katie Hobbs. (Courts rejected Lake’s claims.)

Lake quickly built a following among the conservative base after defeating Karin Taylor Robson, widely considered the GOP establishment candidate, in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary, but the late Arizona Sen. John also alienated McCain’s supporters. McCain drove a stake in the heart of the machine.”

Republicans have flocked to Arizona to drum up enthusiasm for the political newcomer, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Young, South Dakota Gov. Kristy Nome and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has soured amid a 2024 White House challenge to Trump.

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Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney and former President Barack Obama, who invested in ads against the lake in Arizona, also campaigned against the lake, and former President Barack Obama, speaking to a packed crowd of supporters in Phoenix during the 2022 primary, said elected office is “more than dashing lines and nice lights.” .”

Hobbs ran a comparatively low-key campaign, facing criticism for refusing to debate the lake, which he ultimately won by more than 17,000 votes. Experts said it was an example of how midterm voters in various parts of the country were being turned off by electoral disenfranchisement.

Despite ballot-signature verification efforts and challenges to alleged voter fraud that have failed in court, Lake continues to falsely claim victory. In July, some of his attorneys were also ordered to pay Maricopa County $122,200 in legal fees. After a federal court ruled Lake’s lawsuit against failed secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem “pursued frivolous constitutional claims.”

‘Just getting started’

In the months since Hobbs took office, Lake has traveled the country — to Iowa, Florida, Michigan and several battleground states — hitting the media circuit as a surrogate for Trump’s comeback presidential campaign, but airing his own electoral grievances in his first book. , “Fearless: Getting Started,” in which he mistakenly calls himself “the legitimate governor of Arizona.”

“She could win a primary, but I think she’s going to have the same problem in 2022 as she had if she didn’t get away from her election denials,” said Marson, a Republican strategist. “A normal, conservative Republican could easily take this race. But a Donald Trump acolyte like Gary Lake will find the path forward very difficult.”

Arizona is among the few Democratic-held Senate seats Republicans are targeting in 2024. This is also where President Joe Biden saw his narrowest battlefield victory in 2020.

ABC News’ Tal Axelrod and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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