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Youngkin’s trip to stump for Kari Lake unpacked by Arizona politics reporter

Kari Lake gestures during a speaking appearence.
LM Otero/AP
Kari Lake — Republican candidate for Arizona governor who will be campaigning with Gov. Glenn Youngkin next month — speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas in August. (File photo: LM Otero/The Associated Press)

As a candidate in a crowded Republican nomination fight, Glenn Youngkin initially refused to say whether he believed the 2020 election was legitimate. Days after securing the nomination, he acknowledged that President Joe Biden had won a free and fair vote. 

Next month, Youngkin will campaign for Kari Lake, who has become a proponent of former President Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories as a candidate in the Arizona governor's race. She’s called for decertifying the vote in Arizona and Wisconsin, and even questioned the legitimacy of the GOP primary before she won it last month. 

“If we don't win, there's some cheating going on,” Lake said, hours before polls closed. 

Youngkin’s decision to campaign alongside Lake drew swift reaction from the Democratic Party of Virginia, which in a press release, called Lake “one of the most far-right gubernatorial candidates in the country.” 

VPM News’ state politics reporter Ben Paviour spoke with his counterpart at KJZZ in Phoenix, Ben Giles, about the governor’s race there and Youngkin’s visit. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity. 

Paviour: Tell me a little bit about Kari Lake — her political career and how she won the Republican primary in Arizona.   

Giles: Well, her political career is a bit of a career change. Before she decided to run for governor, she spent about two decades in local news in the Phoenix metro area. She worked for the local Fox affiliate as an anchor for much of that time. 

She likes to talk about how she was invited into people's homes for years and years, and how people are comfortable and familiar with her now that she's decided to make a career change and run for governor as a Trump-endorsed, Trump loving-Republican. 

Can you tell me a little bit about Kari Lake’s political positions or platform? 

She is very much aligned with the Trump Republican style of the day: She is anti-critical race theory; she is anti-mask mandates; she is of the mind that the 2020 election was stolen from [former] President Trump and that specifically, there were a lot of shenanigans going on in Maricopa County in Arizona. That's the county that the Phoenix metro region is in. 

If you think of a Trump policy, Kari Lake is probably on board with it. 

We have a slightly different kind of Republican in Glenn Younkin here in Virginia. His message heading into last year's election was keeping Trump sort of at arm's length. It seems to me that Kari Lake is a very different kind of candidate, as you just mentioned. I'm wondering what your theory is on why he might come stump for her. What does she get out of that? 

I think she gets to look a little bit more official. She gets to look a little bit more the part of the Republican candidate, the candidate for mainstream Republicans in Arizona. Glenn Youngkin is a winner, a proven winner. He's the governor of Virginia. Glenn Youngkin is also a relative newcomer at politics, much like Kari Lake. They have that in common, which I think helps her because it shows that Republicans in other states can trust a kind of new convert to Republican causes. 

And one thing we've been tracking is sort of like how other Republicans are borrowing or not from Youngkin’s win in Virginia. This is a state that Biden won by 10 points, so it was surprising to a lot of people. And are you seeing any of the kind of rhetoric that he deployed about parent’s rights and critical race theory? To what extent are those drivers in this election? 

Oh, those are definitely talking points on the Kari Lake campaign. And broadly, that is a talking point that appeals to a large swath of the Republican base in Arizona. I would say it's not just Lake that has been talking about parental rights and school choice in Arizona. It is the Republican establishment. 

Do we have a sense of where the wind is blowing at this point? 

I think it's going to be a down-to-the-wire race. Most of the polls that we've seen that seem to be trustworthy have things within the margin of error between Kari Lake and her Democratic opponent, the current Secretary of State of Arizona, Katie Hobbs. This is going to be possibly the most closely-contested race on the ballot. 


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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