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Trump holds first rally of 2022 in Arizona as heated GOP Senate primary gets underway

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Former President Donald Trump lands in Arizona on Saturday for his first midterm election year rally, spotlighting a state that will have hotly contested races for governor and U.S. Senate in November.

In the race for governor, Trump has endorsed Kari Lake, a former news anchor who says she would not have certified the 2020 election. He has yet to choose a Senate candidate to face incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly .

Republicans vying to challenge Kelly include Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Solar Director Jim Lamon, venture capitalist Blake Masters and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael “Mick” McGuire.

Democrats have won the last two Senate races in Arizona, including the 2020 special election when Kelly beat former Senator Martha McSally by 2.4 points. Kelly, a retired astronaut, is serving the remainder of late Arizona Senator John McCain’s term and is due to run again this year for a full six-year term.

Trump isn’t expected to endorse anyone on Saturday – Arizona’s primary is Aug. 2, and sources close to the race believe Trump is waiting to see how the race goes before picking a candidate.

Her endorsement is powerful, but it doesn’t always clear the field. North Carolina Congressman Ted Budd, for example, is in a tough race against former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. And in Alabama, Trump-endorsed congressman Mo Brooks is locked in a close fight against Katie Britt, who was retiring as Senator Richard Shelby’s chief of staff.

Trump remains popular with Republicans in Arizona. Although his endorsement failed to carry McSally to victory in 2018 or 2020, he would be influential in the primary.

“If you’re a candidate in this Senate race, you want his endorsement,” said Chris DeRose, attorney and former Brnovich staffer in the state attorney general’s office. “Do you need it to win? No. But you’d be crazy not to.

In November, Trump attended a fundraiser hosted by Masters at Mar-a-Lago. Masters, who is chairman of billionaire Peter Thiel’s foundation and holds a law degree from Stanford, told CBS News that winning the race becomes “much harder” without Trump’s endorsement, but he is sure that the former president will not support any of his opponents.

Brnovich has been the frontrunner in the race and his supporters are counting on his immigration record to help him in the primary. A source familiar with the race said Trump and Brnovich speak regularly and Brnovich may visit Mar-a-Lago soon. Over time, Trump has become less pointed in his criticism of Brnovich over the Arizona election results.

Days after the 2020 election, Brnovich told Fox Business “there is no evidence, there are no facts that would lead anyone to believe the election results are going to change” and said Trump had lost because voters had split their tickets. Months later, Trump still would not concede defeat and attacked Brnovich for not trying to prove the election was stolen from him. In May, he called Brnovich “lackluster” and said he was “nowhere to be found” regarding the 2020 election.

Lamon, a veteran who launched his candidacy in May, drew attention this week after posting an ad this week using the anti-Biden slogan “let’s go Brandon.”

Democrats say Trump is “creating chaos” in the Republican primaries, “elevating deeply flawed GOP candidates, intensifying Republican infighting, and forcing their candidates to grapple over who can suck Trump the most,” said Jazmin Vargas, a spokesperson. for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

“A tightrope of dental floss”

One of the issues Republicans will have to address is the 2020 election review that Arizona Senate Republicans have ordered in Maricopa County. The review, which was widely criticized by election experts, ultimately showed a wider margin of victory for President Joe Biden.

Maricopa County denied the report’s claims about invalid ballot counting and election administration errors, saying the review was plagued with “flawed analysis, inaccurate assertions, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws”.

“The audit issue, especially for Republicans on the ticket this year, is like walking a tightrope of dental floss,” said Mike Noble, head of research at the nonpartisan polling firm OH PredictiveInsights.

Lamon reflects on Maricopa’s review and said it highlighted enough issues “to move this election into President Trump’s column” in Arizona. He and other Republicans sent a document to Congress falsely claiming they were the state’s voters. He told CBS News he doesn’t regret it because voters’ lists have to be submitted by a certain date, and he said Republicans want to be prepared “if in fact this election is called off.”

Masters said in November he believed Trump had won the 2020 election.

“Joe Biden is president right now,” Masters told CBS News. “Do I think he won a free and fair election? I don’t think so. I don’t think we had a free and fair election in 2020. If we had, I strongly suspect that I truly believe that President Trump would still be president.”

He blames mail-in voting practices developed by COVID and social media companies for quashing negative stories about the Bidens.

McGuire, the retired major general, told CBS News that “there is no constitutional complaint or dispute that Joe Biden received more than 270 electoral votes.” Asked if he thinks Biden won the election fairly, McGuire said he looks forward to what comes out of Brnovich’s review of the findings that were delivered to the attorney general’s office. And he’s not the only one in the race to target early favorite Brnovich in the 2020 election.

Lamon rallied outside Brnovich’s office in December, calling for more action. Masters said Brnovich “needs to hold people accountable where laws have been broken” and thinks Brnovich is trying to “push the box past the primary so he can pretend to be tough on integrity elections”.

“It’s always easy to take cheap photos from cheap seats,” a spokesperson for Brnovich’s campaign said in a statement. “Attorney General Brnovich remains focused on his duly elected work and will present the findings when his office concludes the investigation.”

Brnovich’s allies point to his U.S. Supreme Court victory in a case challenging Arizona election laws regarding ballots cast in the wrong precinct and the ban on “ballot harvesting” and his office’s request that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors comply with a subpoena related to the 2020 state Senate-ordered review.

Views on the audit and the 2020 election could impact moderate voters in suburban Arizona who helped Democrats win in 2020, Noble said, but other issues may be more pressing. in November.

“If people are feeling weak spots with the economy, inflation, things of that nature, that’s going to supersede social issues, or an audit is going to feel very distant in voters’ memory,” Noble said.

Immigration

Immigration and the economy were Republicans’ top issues in a November poll by OH Predictive Insights. Migrant encounters in the Tucson area increased 72% in October and November, over the same period in 2020, while encounters in the Yuma increased 2,400%, according to Customs and Human Protection data. borders. Encounters along the southern border have been very low in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s always been an issue of lawlessness and misconduct at the border, but I haven’t seen it like this since January 20,” said McGuire, who served as the National Guard’s adjutant general. Arizona from 2013 to 2021.

Lamon says he supports legal immigration, but worries that Border Patrol agents are struggling to keep up with the spike in border encounters, which he sees as “an invasion.”

“They come from all over the world,” Lamon said. “America really needs to figure this out. It’s about border control.”

Masters, who worked with Thiel, wants to see tougher regulations on big tech companies.

“When they control the flow of information in a free society, when they have a motive and an opportunity to swing the election, I think that’s something we should be looking at. Right now the attitude is just complete laissez-faire,” Masters said.

Lamon was the only candidate to talk about working with his Senate counterpart if he wins, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. “We could be a juggernaut, Republican and Democrat, working together,” he said.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who has been repeatedly attacked by Trump, has said he is not interested in running for the Senate, but some allies are still hoping he will change his mind.

“He will never have my approval or the support of MAGA Nation!” Trump said in a statement Friday after Politico reported that Ducey was still ready to enter the race.

Trump also did not endorse competitive primaries in Missouri or Ohio. And he hasn’t given his endorsement in Pennsylvania since his favorite candidate, Sean Parnell, suspended his campaign.

“Arizona, Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania are all much more complicated states – there is no clear candidate and you might as well let things play out a bit,” said a Trump adviser.

Midterm Elections 2022 More More Adam Brewster

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