Two conservative Republicans—one endorsed by former president Donald Trump, the other by his erstwhile political ally and vice president Mike Pence—will battle it out in a hotly contested race for Arizona governor in the Aug. 2 primary.
Former television anchor and Trump-endorsed Kari Lake faces her most substantial direct challenge from Pence-endorsed Karrin Taylor Robson.
Scott Neely and Paola Tulliani Zen also are vying for the state’s top position soon to be vacated by current Gov. Doug Ducey in 2023 due to state term limits.
The winner will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
In the runup to the August primary, Lake continues to enjoy significant support from staunch Trump Republican voters and a campaign war chest of more than $1.5 million.
“Arizona is facing a number of significant challenges—rampant inflation, an uncontrolled border, explosive growth fueling a housing crisis, water, education, and more,” Lake told The Epoch Times in an email.
“It’s time for a transformative, visionary leader who won’t settle for the status quo. That’s why I’m running.”
Lake, 52, entered the race for governor after she left her job as an anchor at Fox 10 in Phoenix in March 2021 amid claims of unbalanced reporting.
With a celebrity-like status, Lake has been a vocal candidate throughout her campaign, addressing issues of election integrity, the southern border crisis, “cancel culture,” and progressive politics.
“For 27 years as the anchor for the leading nightly news program in our state, I have seen our problems grow bigger, and the proposed ‘solutions’ grow smaller,” Lake said.
Independent Voter Appeal
“Arizona, once the home of visionary leaders like Barry Goldwater, has become trapped in bureaucratic inertia and never-ending spending increases. We throw money at problems, achieve nothing, then throw more money down the same rabbit holes.”
Decidedly the favorite among Trump supporters, Lake’s conservative political views have come under fire in local media since she entered the race.
Lake believes Democrats stole the 2020 election from Trump, a view shared by many conservative voters in Arizona.
However, her staunch support for a secure southern border in Arizona and opposition to outside progressive influences, such as Critcal Race Theory and open borders, could prove key to swinging independent voters to her cause.
“We don’t want to be some homogenized, unrecognizable state, a second California,” Lake said on her campaign website. “California is the ‘Progressive Dream’ realized in full after decades of one-party Democrat control.
“And what does that dream look like? It’s a deliberate, unmoving traffic jam next to a homeless encampment where people are using the sidewalk as a toilet and shooting up in front of a cop who isn’t allowed to do anything about it.”
Pence Backs Taylor Robson
Pence’s endorsement of Taylor Robson seems to have energized her candidacy as Lake’s closest rival in the Republican primary.
“As Arizona Democrats pursue the reckless Biden-Harris agenda, Karrin Taylor Robson is the only candidate for Governor [to] keep Arizona’s border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values,” Pence said in his official endorsement.
“Karrin is the best choice for Arizona’s future, and I am proud to support her.”
Taylor Robson responded that Pence has been “a warrior for the conservative values” on law and order issues, firearms ownership, and limited government.
“Modern politics is full of charlatans and fakes,” said Taylor Robson, a small business owner whose husband is billionaire developer Ed Robson, “but [former] vice-president Pence is the genuine article.”
Gov. Ducey also has endorsed Taylor Robson, while some observers question whether the political rift between Trump and Pence regarding the Jan. 6 Capitol protest could spill into Arizona gubernatorial race.
Their respective endorsements of Lake and Taylor Robson seem to mirror that observation.
Lake said she opposes vaccine and COVID-19 mandates, and wants to tackle the state’s growing homeless problem.
On the surface, both candidates appear as solid conservative Republicans, strong on border security, election integrity, and support for education reform, police, and veterans.
Their campaign rhetoric reflects their rivalry and the contentiousness of the governor’s race in a state mired in the partisan divide over the 2020 election results and encroachment of “woke” culture and politics.
In an online ad, Lake characterizes Taylor Robson as “Arizona’s most liberal ‘Republican,” a RINO (Republican In Name Only), pro-abortion, anti-second amendment, and cozy with Democrats.
On her campaign website, Taylor Robson cites her endorsement by the National Border Patrol Council blasting Lake for being “all talk” and “empty promises” on border security.
“Inflation, gas prices, a border invasion, Arizona is under attack from the radical Biden agenda. As governor, I’ll secure the border, create jobs, and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket,” Taylor Robson said.
No Endorsements Wanted
Though considered long shots in their bid for governor, Neely and Tulliani Zen are two more conservative Republican voices in the race.
As an “America First Conservative,” Tulliani Zen said she refuses to accept political endorsements, feeling they carry the price of obligation.
Through Z for Arizona, a political action committee, she’s directed nearly $1.2 million toward her candidacy.
“As your governor, I will embrace bold traditional American values of ingenuity and common sense,” Tulliani Zen said on her website.
“I will work toward swift solutions and stop this excessive ineffective leadership type we have experienced. I will uphold our Constitution, honor, and be worthy of the duty given to me by the people of Arizona.”
Born in Italy, Tulliani Zen is the former owner of La Dolce Vita Biscotti in Glendale, Arizona.
I will create great opportunities to succeed. Revolutionized Education will prepare all our children for success. As I audit spending, tax relief and affordable housing will become available. I will source companies that are good for our state. Arizona’s safety and prosperity is job #1. I will work hard always for the people. I am the candidate Arizona needs – a worker, not a celebrity or career politician,” Tulliani Zen said.
Neely, a small business owner and Trump supporter said he’s running for Governor to promote greater prosperity for Arizona working families.
“I know hard work just like you; whether you wear a hard hat, uniform, apron, scrubs, or a suit, I will lead the charge for all workers and small business people from the dirt to the boardroom.
“I promise to represent everyone, acting as your voice in government, advocating for you, and defending your interests and values,” Neely said on his campaign website.
“As a conservative, a laborer, and multiple small business owner, I will work tirelessly to set Arizona on a sustainable fiscal path.
“I will spearhead efforts to diversify all sectors of Arizona’s economy further, creating more jobs in technology, manufacturing, agriculture, finance, energy, research, education, and tourism.”
Democrats Vying for Governor
On the Democratic side, Katie Hobbs, 52, a gubernatorial front-runner for her party’s nomination, is also a former state lawmaker and the current secretary of state.
She will battle it out with Marco Lopez in the August primary.
With more than $1.6. million in campaign financing, Hobbs has the endorsement of the Arizona Education Association and other labor unions, including former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Arizona).
As secretary of state, Hobbs opposed Arizona’s Senate Republican-led “fake election audit” and hand-ballot recount in Maricopa County following the 2020 election.
However, as revealed in the audit report, an independent company found many irregularities.
Central to Hobb’s campaign platform is making government more “inclusive” for women and people of color.
“I’ve never seen our nation so divided, and I’ve seen it up close here in Arizona.
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and start healing–physically healing from the COVID crisis, healing our economy from a year of shutdown, and bringing our state back together after the incendiary and divisive politics of the last few years.
“I’m ready. I hope you’ll join me,” Hobbs said on her campaign website.
Her opponent, Marco Lopez, 44, said he’s running for governor, believing the “promise of Arizona is still possible, but for too many people in our state today, it’s out of reach.”
Lopez’s political endorsement includes numerous local labor unions and state and city officials.
He has served as mayor of Nogales, Arizona, as director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, and as executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, including his role as a policy adviser to Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for Mexico and Latin America.
His campaign’s critical issues are climate change, reproductive freedom, gun safety, anti-discrimination, and workers’ rights.