Republicans bet on extremism, courting the potential for violence from supporters – and backlash from voters.
In primaries on August 2, Arizona Republicans selected the candidates to represent their party in November, and it is a ticket filled from top to bottom with dangerous extremists. Arizona Republicans have put forward one of the most radical and extreme slate of candidates in the country, many of whom have made white nationalist conspiracy theories and attacks on democracy the heart of their electoral message.
The late primary in this battleground state was a race to the bottom, with almost all the statewide candidates embracing the white nationalist lie that when non-white migrants make an asylum claim at the border it constitutes an “invasion” aimed at “replacing” white people in America. They go on to claim this “invasion” needs to be repelled with state-controlled military intervention. Now, Arizona Republicans are looking to further normalize this fiction. They ignore the fact that “invasion” rhetoric and “replacement theory” are conspiracy that have inspired multiple terrorist attacks. Many of these same candidates promote the lie that President Trump won Arizona in 2020 and was reelected President.
The zealous competition to mobilize a radicalized MAGA base may backfire on Republicans. As Mike Madrid, a veteran Republican political strategist, told the New York Times, “Arizona has been moving left because of a convergence of a growing number of polarized Latino voters and a loss of highly educated voters,” he said. And the embrace of ‘replacement’ and ‘invasion’ by the likes of Blake Masters and others “will alienate both those groups.” In his column for the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne recently warned that Republicans’ tendency to select “very far-right” candidates is weighing down the GOP’s chances to retake Congress. And as Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post: “Right now the GOP is gripped by two forces that are distinct but operate in concert: an ideological extremism born of backlash politics, and an opposition to democracy that increasingly manifests in outright lunacy. While that’s just what many Republicans want, it also could alienate voters in the middle and motivate Democrats to vote.”
Below is a brief overview of the extremist Republicans on the November ballot.
Senate – Blake Masters
Blake Masters has the zeal of a convert, in his case, to an illiberal nationalism. Hostile to democracy and friendly to white nationalism, Masters won his primary denying the results of the 2020 election, peddling transphobic and racist dog-whistles, normalizing political violence, and echoing white nationalist conspiracies about immigrants that have inspired multiple terrorist attacks. Masters is backed by Donald Trump and the extremely deep pockets of Peter Thiel, the immigrant venture capitalist and co-founder of Pay-Pal. Masters will face off against Sen. Mark Kelly in a contest Republicans view as critical to winning a majority in the Senate.
Last September, Masters began claiming asylum-seeking migrants constituted an “invasion.” In October, Masters recorded a video pushing a version of the replacement theory, falsely claiming Democrats were trying to “flood the nation with millions of immigrants ‘to change the demographics of our country.” Later he made assertions that “what the left really wants to do is change the demographics of this country … They want to do that so they can consolidate power so they can never lose another election.” The terrorist who murdered ten people in Buffalo seven months later cited these same racist fictions as the motivation for his attack. Far from being chastened by the horrific attack, Masters appeared on the Ben Shapiro Show parroting the same replacement theory lies.
A month later, in June, Masters aired a television ad with clips from the most prominent replacement theory promoter, Tucker Carlson, and Masters falsely warns about “a small group of elites” who are “importing 20 million illegals and giving them amnesty.” In the ads, he calls to “militarize this border” and “end this invasion.” He followed up with another ad titled “INVASION!” where he rehashed more of the same white nationalist conspiracy theories.
Committed white nationalists see a fellow traveler in Masters. Andrew Anglin, a leading white nationalist and founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, was exuberant about Masters’ campaign and endorsed him. Master publicly repudiated the endorsement, but has not shifted the language or themes that attracted Anglin.
Masters also spent $670,000 on an ad buy proudly calling himself a “nationalist.” Masters’ defense of nationalism cannot be divorced from his nativism as he, in the next breath, says, “like President Trump, I want to secure our borders.” The racist nativism drives their nationalism. For now, the assertion of “nationalism” is explicit while “white” is just implied.
He also ran an ad arguing that the “Second Amendment isn’t about duck hunting” and showed off a short-barrelled rifle saying it was “designed to kill people,” saying he would defend your right to own it.
Blake Masters is unlikely to moderate his campaign as he orients to the general election as his primary night victory speech rehashed all the conspiracies and fear-mongering that have shaped his campaign. Masters is running a dangerous strategic racist campaign that courts political violence and threatens the fragile promise of our multi-racial democracy.
Governor – Kari Lake
As of this writing, they are still counting votes in the gubernatorial race, with Kari Lake in the lead and the likely winner. However, Lake herself was less concerned about the vote count, claiming victory early Tuesday night, even as she was behind. A newscaster turned MAGA Republican, Lake ran a bombastic campaign modeled on the purposefully offensive, lying, and racist fear-mongering style of Donald Trump. An aggressive promoter of the 2020 election lies, Lake made these attacks on our democracy central to her campaign; a selfish and dangerous strategy that won an early endorsement from Donald Trump last September.
Lake has also been among the loudest proponents of the white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy. In February, she took to Twitter to defend her “invasion” rhetoric because AZ Central refused to reprint her op-ed unless she removed the “invasion” reference. Lake enthusiastically refused.
After the attack in Buffalo that echoed this same language, Lake promised to take action as if the invasion were, in fact, real. By June, Lake was promising to “declare an invasion” on day one of her administration. She was making it clear that echoing the racist “invasion” language was not hyperbole, but that a state led military action was the appropriate response to handle migrants seeking refuge at the border. In July, she doubled down on the promise and began running television ads that led with her commitment to an invasion declaration.
U.S. House Candidates
Eli Crane is hoping to flip the expansive 2nd District covering the north-eastern corner of the state that was redrawn this year with more favorable conditions for Republicans. Crane wil face off against Rep. Tom O’Halleran in November. Crane, a first-time candidate, has campaigned as a MAGA Republican and received an endorsement from Donald Trump, the Border Patrol union, and white nationalist State Senator Wendy Rodgers. For his part, Crane promoted the racist “invasion” conspiracy on his campaign website. And in a video promoting the Border Patrol union, Crane wrote, “we must secure the border and stop the invasion.” Crane has also pushed the Big Lie and sought to undermine the 2020 election.
Far-right incumbents in safe, deeply red districts, Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), and. Paul Gosar (AZ-09), will be on the ballot in November and are expected to return to Congress in January. All three have been active promoters of the white nationalist “invasion” theory. Biggs and Gosar were active in the planning of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and have ties to the Oath Keepers, whose members are facing seditious conspiracy charges for their involvement in the attack. Gosar has also repeatedly attended white nationalist events, was photographed with a Proud Boy, and shared a video depicting an animated assassination of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, to name a few of Gosar’s recent disturbing activities.
Juan Ciscomani, the Republican candidate in the battleground Arizona’s 6th district, which runs along the border with Mexico and New Mexico, easily won his primary with the support of third-ranking House Republican Elise Stefanik and the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF). Ciscomani has embraced Stefanik’s support and has not raised criticisms of her ‘replacement’ theory ads or that she has doubled down of the rhetoric shared with terrorists who attacked Buffalo, El Paso, and Pittsburgh. The CLF began running anti-immigrant TV ads on behalf of Ciscomani in late July, while running fundraising ads on Facebook that employed the “invasion” conspiracy, and Ciscomani has offered no criticism. And when asked by the New York Times to comment on Biggs and Gosar’s 2020 election subversion and white nationalism, Ciscomani refused to raise objections. Ciscomani’s silence as his party embraces white nationalist lies should raise serious concerns.
Attorney General – Abraham Hamadeh
Abraham Hamadeh is the Republican candidate for Attorney General. Hamadeh was endorsed by Donald Trump for his commitment to the 2020 election lies. Hamadeh also accepted the endorsement of white nationalist State Senator Wendy Rodgers.
He campaigned with Kari Lake and ran several ads that peddled the racist “invasion” lies. In July, after the attack in Buffalo where the white nationalist mass murder cited the “invasion” conspiracy theory over ten times in the outline of his twisted motivation, Hamadeh ran another television ad parroting the “invasion” rhetoric. Hamadeh’s ad also featured a photo from 2013 taken in El Salvador of inmates in a Salvadoran prison to try to illustrate his fear-mongering attack about immigrants in the United States.
Hamadeh’s commitment to the “invasion” portends a disturbing follow-up to the current AG, his possible predecessor, Mark Brnovich (who lost to Masters in the Senate primary), who issued a legal opinion from the AG’s office that claimed the Governor had the authority to declare war on an alleged “invasion” of migrants. This indicates that Hamadeh is likely to give a similar legal veneer to Lake if she becomes governor and follows through on her invasion declaration. Given the promises and similar developments in Texas, if Hamadeh wins in November, he could likely be using the state’s resources to argue the legality of Arizona going to war against mothers and their children looking to claim asylum.
Secretary of State – Mark Finchem
Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate for the office that manages elections in the state handily won his election. Mark Finchem has been one of the most vocal supporters of the 2020 election lies. Mark Finchem is also a QAnon conspiracy adherent, a member of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, and actively participated in the Jan. 6 riot.
Finchem’s commitment to the Big Lie is of imminent concern as Arizona will most likely be a key battleground state whose electoral college votes will be critical to determining the 2024 presidential race.
White nationalist State Senator Wendy Rogers (SD-07) looks like she will win her contested primary over her far-right opponent. In February, Rodgers attended a white nationalist conference where she called for the “gallows” for her political opponents. Rogers refused to repudiate the racists she addressed. Then, just hours after the Buffalo attack in May, Rogers pushed an absurd conspiracy theory that the federal government was responsible for the mass shooting. In July, Rogers also ran an ad that peddled the “invasion” lie.
David Farnsworth beat Arizona State House President Rusty Bowers for the 10th District Senate seat. Bowers was a central witness in the January 6th Select Committee, where he testified to the pressure campaign to participate in the plot to subvert the 2020 election. Farnsworth is a Trump-endorsed extremist who claims the devil stole the 2020 election away from Trump. He is also a firm believer in the QAnon conspiracy theories that have led to multiple violent incidents.
Sonny Borrelli, who is a member of several far-right Facebook groups, ran unopposed in the primary and general election and will return to the State Senate representing District 30. One of those groups aligns with the militia group the III%, which Canada has designated as a terrorist organization. Borrelli was also an active participant in the election lie schemes and endorsed the extremists on the Republican ticket, including Kari Lake, Eli Crane, and Mark Finchem.
The far-right Arizona Free Enterprise Club ran Google ads targeting Republican incumbents they thought were insufficiently nativist. The ads targeted Republicans Joanne Osborne (SD-29), Joel John (HD-25), and Justin Wilmeth (HD-02) and claimed they “incentivized the illegal invasion.” Wilmeth may be the only candidate who will win their primary.