Kari Lake has a charismatic personality that reflects her years as an Arizona media personality. She talks rapidly, much like carnival barkers Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz in the House of Representatives. And much like the Congressmen above, she lies with impunity. And she does it with self-confidence that ranks right up there with her hero, the disgraced 45th President of the United States.
And, if things do not change fast, Kari Lake will be the new governor of Arizona.
If you care about democracy, and I’m not sure how many Americans do at this point, Kari Lake must be defeated in the November election. If Arizona falls for this demagogue, the rest of us will have to pick up the pieces of what might be left of a democracy in tatters.
Kari Lake is an election denier and blind sycophant to Donald Trump. He’s proudly campaigned for her and is one of her most ardent supporters. At last count, Lake is but one of nearly 300 GOP candidates for office around the country this year who share Lake’s view on the 2020 election. They still say there was rampant fraud (hint: there was not), and many are still fighting for investigations into Trump’s loss.
What makes Lake’s possible win so dangerous, though, is that were Trump to run in 2024 and lose Arizona again, we cannot think for a minute that she would not resort to the kinds of shenanigans we were lucky to avoid in 2020. Republican governors like Georgia’s Brian Kemp and her state’s present governor, Doug Ducey, did what they were constitutionally required to do by signing off and certifying their state’s election of Joe Biden.
Judging by Lake’s performance on Sunday during her interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union, we cannot have confidence that she will follow in Ducey and Kemp’s footsteps. While both are solidly conservative guys who will never be confused with being moderates, they did the right thing.
When Bash asked Lake if she would concede to her opponent, current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, her answer should send a chill up and down all Americans’ spines. After repeatedly changing the subject and failing to answer the question, Lake said, “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result.” When Bash asked if she would accept Hobbs winning, again, she doubled down, “I’m going to win the election and will accept that result.”
She then called Hobbs a racist and said there was no way Arizona would vote for such a person. The bottom line is that it was a straightforward question to answer. A simple yes was all that was required. And Kari Lake could not do it. It’s the same as when Trump was asked the same thing leading up to the 2020 election. He was non-committal to the very same question then, just as Lake is now.
Unfortunately, an extremist candidate like Lake should be ripe for defeat. Yes, she’s a polished candidate because of the reasons mentioned above. But it would help if you had a strong Democrat to defeat her. We’re not seeing that kind of vigor from Katie Hobbs. She’s in danger of losing this race, and it might be too late to reverse Lake’s momentum.
To confront a candidate like Lake, you cannot be afraid to go toe to toe with her. And it appears that Hobbs is hesitant to do so. She’s currently dodging debates and offering lame excuses in the process.
Being called a coward, and a racist, as she was Sunday by Kari Lake, cannot be answered with Twitter responses and interviews alone. People need to see them on stage together, with Hobbs calling her opponent out for her extremist views and dangerous candidacy. Not debating gives the other side a ton of ammunition to smear and tag her as weak.
Recent polling suggests a very close race. FiveThirtyEight has Lake ahead by only 1 percent when averaging several different polls. However, the momentum is clearly with Lake at this point.
Look, it’s understandable why Hobbs would be wary of debating her opponent. She’ll interrupt, lie, talk rapidly, and make it extremely hard for Hobbs to make her points. In an interview with CNN following the one with Lake, she alluded to that fact. She’s decided it’s better to sit out a debate than let Lake dominate the conversation, much like Trump and other MAGA politicians do with gusto and bravado.
In many ways, though, Lake is a smoother and more polished version of Trump, which, as civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill pointed out on Twitter, makes her candidacy even more dangerous: “The soft focus lens, the closeness to the camera, the falsehoods, and outrages offered with preternatural calm and sincerity, really chill me.” Indeed.
Hobbs is naturally soft-spoken and risks being run over like a tractor-trailer. But at this point, she’s up against a rapidly approaching election day, wasting precious time responding to reporters continuously asking her why she won’t debate. She believes voters will not punish her for failing to debate because they’re worried about many other issues. That take, unfortunately, threatens to hand the seat to Kari Lake.
When you have an extreme opponent like Lake, you must show the people of Arizona the contrast in plain sight. Let them see her for what she is: A card-carrying MAGA extremist who will not abide by any norms or laws if she loses.
We have many Senate races across the country that will likely be tossups on election day. And Kari Lake has a lot of company as far as who can be the most extreme. And some of them may win. But in the Senate, at least, they will still have Joe Biden as president, and he can veto any radical legislation that comes his way. The same holds if Democrats lose the House.
So in that sense, checks and balances will thwart any GOP overreach for the next two years. But a governor like Kari Lake, in 2024, can throw the presidential election into the type of chaos that will make 2020 look like a student council race. Much like her failure to affirm that she’d accept a loss in her race, she also refused to say she’d certify a GOP loss in the 2024 presidential election.
Extremist GOP governors in swing states, especially those who refuse to say they’d accept losses, statewide or national, would be a clear and present danger to our democracy. We got lucky in 2020. Every Republican governor did right by the American people, despite Trump and his cronies attempt to coerce and threaten those same governors to do otherwise.
It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the 2024 presidential election hinges upon whether the governor of Arizona will certify a Trump (or other GOP candidate) loss or collude with the State Legislature to offer up their own set of phony electors.
There’s much at stake in the Arizona race for governor in a few weeks. It seems at this point that things are slipping away from Katie Hobbs. There’s still a chance she could change her mind and agree to at least one debate with Kari Lake. But it’s not looking likely that will be the case. Let’s hope the Hobbs campaign has a change of heart.
Otherwise, she must hope that the people of Arizona give her a pass for not debating. But the stakes are way too high to take that chance. Waking up the day after the election this year to a Kari Lake victory will undoubtedly add fuel to an already smoldering fire of our democracy in peril.
We can only hope that Katie Hobbs has a change of heart.