Wed. Dec 7th, 2022

The former Phoenix TV news anchor has emerged as a Republican phenom by amplifying Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen and embracing the hard-right politics of abortion and immigration

Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake speaks at a campaign event at San Tan Flat in Queen Creek, Ariz., on Oct. 5.
Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake speaks at a campaign event at San Tan Flat in Queen Creek, Ariz., on Oct. 5. (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)

PHOENIX — If you’d like to speak with Kari Lake, there are some things you should know first.

One is that Kari Lake does not say “um.” Kari Lake’s words are crisp and clean and, when needed, they can be warm or they can be harsh. The more confrontational you are, the more composed Kari Lake will become. People have said Kari Lake is “Donald Trump in heels,” but really, she is Donald Trump with media training and polish. Her sentences are perfectly complete. Her hair is cropped into a familiar pixie cut, left over from 22 years on the anchor desk at Channel 10, the Fox affiliate in Phoenix, where she entered living rooms every weeknight at 5 and 9. The name Kari Lake, first and last, is known by virtually everyone in Arizona. It has power. When Kari Lake walks into a room, all eyes turn to Kari Lake. She is one of those people.

The other thing you should know is this: When Kari Lake walks into a room, there will be a small lavalier microphone clipped to the collar of her dress or the lapel of her shirt.

The microphone is the operational heart of Lake’s Republican campaign to become governor of Arizona. It is not the one she holds onstage, amplifying her voice to a crowd of supporters. Rather, it is connected to a camera operated by her husband, Jeff Halperin, a former videographer for the NBC affiliate in Phoenix who has run his own production company for the past 20 years. He is a constant presence, tall and bearded, at every Kari Lake rally, on the edge of every Kari Lake news conference, inside the room for every Kari Lake interview with a reporter. His lens is always trained in position, which is to say on his wife — and on you, the person on the other side of the exchange. When Kari Lake campaigns, she is also making television.

The microphone is there whenever Stacey Barchenger, the Arizona Republic reporter assigned to cover Lake, tries to ask a question. “Not you,” the candidate tells Barchenger, looking her in the eye before calling on another journalist, in what has become a familiar bit on the trail. It is there when a CNN reporter tries to ask for an interview: “I’ll do an interview,” Lake says, “as long as it airs on CNN+. Does that still exist? I didn’t think so.” It is there when Dennis Welch, political editor for Phoenix’s 3TV and CBS 5, tries to question Lake, only to have Lake question the questioner: “I don’t even know: Do you guys have any viewers left?” The interactions are packaged into videos, content for her campaign to release and weaponize on social media: “Kari Lake Exposes Bias” … “Kari Lake Goes Mega Viral After Exposing Fake News” … “Watch Kari Lake Put The AZ Republic In Its Place.”

Lake’s microphone captures the magnetism she brings to a stage. It also amplifies the existential danger Democrats see in her candidacy, from her election denialism to her restrictive abortion agenda to the national platform she could assume. But more than that, it is wielded as a weapon and a threat. On a recent Wednesday evening, after a Hispanic forum in the Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix, a campaign staffer pulls me into a small backroom. The lights are bright fluorescents. Live Latin music from the stage comes booming through the walls. The night before, a campaign aide texted to say Lake would grant a short interview. “Please don’t wear jeans and we ask that you stay away from purple tops. Thank you!” the aide wrote, clarifying the next morning that they were “kidding” about the jeans.

Inside the room, a chair is waiting for me. Lake is wearing royal blue, not purple. Seeing Halperin point his camera in the direction of our faces, as well as the large boom mic hanging inches overhead, I ask if I’m being recorded.

“You are being recorded,” Lake confirms.

She asks if it’s okay. I tell her it’s not my favorite thing.

“It’s not my favorite either,” the candidate says. “But we feel we have to because the media has been so unfair that we feel we have to record everything.” She explains that the campaign releases the recording only “if we feel that we’ve been misrepresented.” If everything “goes great,” Lake says, it’s nothing to worry about.

After spending her life in TV news, Lake, 53, propelled herself to the top of the GOP ticket in Arizona by claiming falsely that President Biden’s election was stolen from Trump, by embracing the hard-right politics of abortion, immigration, pandemic-era mandates and critical race theory and by casting her television career and her former colleagues, journalists who were once her friends, as part of what she calls the corrupt and immoral “fake news media.” As a candidate, Lake has sought to use her TV news credentials to her advantage — “I know Arizona,” she often says — while simultaneously discrediting the entire enterprise.

Friends from Channel 10 knew Lake as more free-spirited than Bible-loving. They say she was into Buddhism, loved her regular vacations to Jamaica, became swept up in the energy around President Barack Obama, threw big parties at her house, went out to gay bars, and thrived on cultivating a television audience with the same instinct they see in her new life as a candidate for governor. In the years after Trump’s 2016 election, her politics shifted to the right in ways her colleagues found unpredictable and bewildering. On March 2, 2021, she left journalism altogether, and within three months, she launched her first campaign for office. Now she is weeks from a possible victory, driven by the energy of voters young and old — and by a Democratic opponent, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who not only refuses to debate Lake but has struggled to communicate in the most basic ways.

Arizona is both a foundational home for hard-right politics — it gave rise to Barry Goldwater in the 1960s — and an increasingly viable target for Democrats. The state will help determine future presidents, as it did in 2020, and if Lake wins, she will help oversee the management of its elections, possibly in partnership with Arizona’s Republican candidate for secretary of state, Mark Finchem, who has led the conspiracy that mass fraud was at work in 2020. Lake has claimed falsely that Trump was the “real winner” of Arizona, repeating the lie with a frequency and conviction that thrills the former president and his supporters. “It’s funny,” Lake told an audience this summer, “I talk to President Trump. He goes, ‘I love it. No matter what I ask you, you always bring it right back to the election. I can ask you what the weather’s like in Arizona, and you’ll say, ‘Well, it’s nice, but how do I enjoy it when our elections are stolen and we don’t have a country?’ ”

The Kari Lake campaign has become a phenomenon in Arizona. It spans multiple demographics. It draws huge crowds on a day’s notice. People arrive in Lake gear, in Trump T-shirts, in cowboy hats. Lake works the crowd, and an eddy of staff and security circles the woman at its center. Before she faces the press, a posse of supporters appear as if out of nowhere, lining up behind the candidate to form a human backdrop. When the cameras roll, they grip their Kari Lake signs and smile. And here, Lake takes over. She picks public fights with the press at almost every opportunity, to the delight of her followers and her staff, a collection of 20-somethings who snicker as she tees off, their mouths agape in admiration.

It’s a show they’ve all seen before but never grow tired of watching. And it’s on display from the moment I introduce myself to Lake.

“Is this paper owned by — who is it owned by?” she asks.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.

“Oh, I thought so,” she says, her voice turning hard.

“You don’t give anybody fair coverage, unfortunately.”

She walks away, and a gaggle of Lake staffers are waiting, laughing.

“That was gonna happen. That was gonna happen,” one of them says.

“She’s actually like that all the time. She’s real!” says another.

“It’s not staged,” he added. “It’s real.”

On a Tuesday morning in October, Lake is preparing to take the stage with Kristi L. Noem, the 50-year-old Republican governor of South Dakota who could be Lake’s closest political contemporary should she win in November. The event is a “Coffee with Kristi & Kari,” but behind a rack of makeshift curtains, in a small holding room backstage, staffers instead drink tallboy cans of Monster Energy as they monitor a playlist of “JAMZ” coming through the loudspeakers. Vape plumes fill the air.

When the two women arrive, a man in the crowd, intrigued, pulls out his phone and types “Kristi Noem” into Google Images, scrolling through photos. Onstage beside her, Lake repeatedly identifies Noem as one of the country’s “two strong governors,” the other being Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, leaving out the other 26 currently serving from her party, including Arizona’s own, the term-limited Doug Ducey. She makes only passing reference to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is scheduled to visit Phoenix on Wednesday to campaign on behalf of Lake at two rallies and two fundraisers, according to a campaign aide.

A day after appearing with Noem, at a saloon-style restaurant in Queen Creek, Lake speaks at a rally with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who watches from an outdoor pagoda beneath a sign that reads, “If there are idiots in power: It is because those who elected them are well represented.” During her speech, Lake calls for Cruz to replace “that old bat” Mitch McConnell as the top Republican in the U.S. Senate. The crowd roars. “You know what sounds really good? Senate Majority Leader Ted Cruz,” Lake says. Cruz gives an awkward smile and clenches his plastic water bottle.

Four days later, Lake is the star warm-up speaker at a Trump rally in Mesa. Waiting in a hold room for the former president to arrive, a young staffer retrieves a vacuum to clean the red carpet laid out before a backdrop reserved for taking pictures with Trump. Lake walks over and asks to finish the job herself, the vacuum chord snaking around the heel of her black stiletto. She is on camera, of course, and the following day, photos spread on Twitter and Instagram.

Watching Lake campaign across Arizona is an exercise in observing the new Republican Party at work. Lake is not unlike the 20-somethings on her campaign: They are people who crafted an identity in Republican politics not by studying the arc of conservatism in America, but by watching Trump.

Lake shares Trump’s understanding of performance and theater. Former colleagues and friends say Lake was not the most academically minded of the anchors at Channel 10, but she was certainly the savviest. When the pandemic arrived, Lake’s husband, Halperin, helped design a home studio with perfect depth and smooth sepia tones — soft and glossy, like an Instagram filter. “The way to a woman’s heart is through lighting and photography!” she wrote in a post on Facebook.

When station managers asked on-air talent to expand their presence on social media, maintaining a screen in the newsroom to track journalists’ likes and follows, Lake quickly rose to the top of the leader board. The staff called it “the Hunger Games,” but Lake took the exercise seriously, former colleagues said, showing off the activity on her accounts. Instinctively, she understood that including questions in her posts — things like “What do you guys think?” — helped create a more lively and committed following, according to one former colleague. Twelve people who knew Lake from Phoenix’s TV market agreed to interviews for this story, some speaking only on the condition of anonymity to reflect candidly on the candidate.

In 2019, Lake got in trouble at Channel 10 for joining the far-right social media site Parler and promoting the account on her professional Twitter page. “This is my FIRST post on Parler,” she posted that June. “Sounds like this is the only social media site that is actually putting the First Amendment first. Bravo!” By July, someone had leaked hot-mic video footage from the Channel 10 newsroom showing Lake and her longtime co-anchor, John Hook, discussing the controversy. “I think they just think it’s been branded as a far-right kind of place,” Hook told her as they prepared to go live, warning that the station could get blowback from places like the Phoenix New Times, an alt-weekly that covered local media. “F— them,” Lake said. “That’s a rag for selling marijuana.”

“I know,” Hook replied. “But then they’re in a position where they’ve got to explain it, or you’ve got to explain it.”

The exchange blew up because of Lake’s coarse language, but what stands out now is her rationale for joining Parler in the first place: “I’m reaching people,” Lake told Hook.

As a first-time candidate for office, Lake has an intuitive sense for a crowd and the staging of an event. In January, she spoke at her first Trump rally, her first encounter with an audience of that scale. As she walked to the lectern before thousands of people, Lake knew exactly what to do. She threw out her arms and stared in awe at the scene before her, giving the photographers the shot they wanted.

Republicans in the state had tried to persuade Lake to run for Congress. But no, she told them, she wanted to be governor.

One of the people Lake consulted after leaving Channel 10 was Sal DiCiccio, a Phoenix city councilman and outspoken conservative who became a friend after Lake interviewed him years prior. “I said, ‘Congress would be a slam dunk for you, Kari,’ ” DiCiccio recalled. “But she was very clear: Her heart was in Arizona. She goes, ‘This is where I think—’” DiCiccio cut himself off. “No, not ‘think,’ ” he said. “She never says, ‘I think.’ She said, ‘This is where I believe I can make the greatest impact.’ ”

DiCiccio supported Lake’s Republican primary opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson, a well-funded, establishment-friendly candidate to whom he had made a prior commitment to endorse. When he told Lake he couldn’t stand beside her in the primary, DiCiccio said, she didn’t hold it against him. “Of all the politicians I’ve worked with, she understood that the most,” he said. “She’s very assured of herself.”

Last spring, as she prepared to enter the race, Lake worked with Blake Wilson, a Phoenix-based Republican political brand designer, to create her first campaign logo. She told Wilson she wanted something that would “project confidence,” he recalled. She also asked to see an option that closely resembled Trump’s aesthetic. The mock-up Wilson produced mimicked his big-block, san-serif lettering, with “KARI LAKE” printed beneath a row of five stars, but Lake decided against it. She liked another option better: a distinctive maroon, with a font and cactus icon styled after Arizona’s 1980s license plate. Lake carries Trump’s “America First” banner aggressively and without apology, but she has also made this campaign her own. When you ask people who Kari Lake’s campaign manager is, they tell you that it’s Kari Lake.

The staff below her is an unlikely assortment: There is Colton Duncan, a 27-year-old operative from Texas who met Lake at a dinner last spring and moved to Arizona the following day, where he can now be seen running around campaign events, harried, an iPhone pressed to his ear. There is field director Matthew Martinez, just 21 years old. There is senior adviser Caroline Wren, 35, a longtime Republican fundraiser who served as Trump’s 2020 national finance director and helped fundraise for the Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the Ellipse, where Trump called on his supporters to march on the Capitol. (Wren’s lawyer has said she was not present at the Capitol or the Capitol grounds that day.) And then there is Lake’s best friend, Lisa Dale, a 51-year-old former news anchor who is running campaign operations and is a constant by the candidate’s side. In September, the team asked Jared Small, a longtime Republican advance staffer, to help professionalize the campaign’s events, working hand-in-hand with Lake’s husband to make sure the visuals are just so.

It is easy to view Katie Hobbs as Lake’s opposite. The Democrat oversaw the contentious 2020 election in Arizona as secretary of state and served as minority leader in the state Senate, but struggles as a messenger on the trail. At the Arizona Capitol, reporters would often ask her to repeat her answers because sentences would trail off, making her meaning difficult to decipher, one reporter said. During the primary, Hobbs declined to debate her Democratic opponent, despite the fact that he posed little threat to her campaign. (She won with 72 percent of the vote.) She has since refused to share a stage with Lake, producing a weeks-long saga over debate rules and an uncomfortable running contrast. When Hobbs didn’t show at a voter forum earlier this month, Lake stood for more than an hour next to an empty podium labeled “KATIE HOBBS,” in case there was confusion about her absence. “I have no desire to be a part of the spectacle that she’s looking to create,” Hobbs said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” a few days later.

It’s the same worry you hear from reporters on the campaign trail: If you engage, you risk starring in Lake’s next video.

When Lake was nearing her 20th anniversary at Channel 10, she granted an interview to the Arizona Republic about the pressures women face over their public appearance. She said she got feedback from viewers about how she looked. The criticism didn’t bother her, she told the paper, because she held the experience of being on-air at a certain remove.

“You really become that character when you are in costume,” she said. “Every role we play has a uniform.”

Tracking Lake’s journey to her current role has been an exasperating prospect for many who knew her as an anchor in Phoenix — a spiral of questions with no end.

Lake grew up in eastern Iowa, the youngest of nine kids, eight girls and one boy. Her mother was a nurse. Her father taught government and history at North Scott High, in Eldridge, Iowa, where Lake was a student. When her parents divorced, Lake lived with her father in a country town called Donahue, population 289. “Everything starts with her being the ninth of nine kids,” one former colleague said, describing her as a person who sought attention in the newsroom. She studied mass communications at the University of Iowa, and was still in college when she married her high school sweetheart, Tracy Finnegan, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

After school, Lake started as a production assistant at a TV station in town. It took only a few months before she was on the air: A local affiliate in Rock Island, Ill., just over the Mississippi River, picked her up as a weekend weather anchor. In the summer of 1994, the day after Lake turned 25, the Arizona Republic printed a two-sentence blurb: Kari Lake was coming to Phoenix, the new face of weekend weather at NBC’s Channel 12. By the time she moved, her marriage was ending. It was a new city, a new life and a big TV market. The first friend she made in Arizona was Dale.

Back then, the most comfortable couch in the Channel 12 newsroom was in the weather office. Dale was the morning anchor, and after the show ended, she would walk to the weather office, exhausted, flopping on the couch for a nap. One morning, she woke up and saw Lake, “just bright-eyed and bushy and couldn’t be happier,” Dale recalled. “It’s always funny to me when people say, ‘Oh, Kari’s changed.’ I’m like, ‘I’ve known her for 30 years. She didn’t change. You just didn’t really know her.’ ”

It was Dale who set up Lake and Halperin on their first date. In 1998, the couple got married in Sedona and together, they took jobs at the NBC affiliate in Albany, N.Y., driving across the country with their three dogs. Lake stayed for a little more than a year. The following winter, they moved back to Phoenix, where Lake settled in for a 22-year stay at Fox Channel 10.

Inside the newsroom, Lake was well liked. She could be thoughtful and warm, sending handwritten notes to colleagues in times of hardship, or asking after spouses and children. She was “tough but fair” as a mentor to younger staff, said Mindee Padilla Arritt, who worked at the station in her mid-20s, writing scripts for Lake’s evening newscasts. “She never made me feel less than, and I was at the bottom of the totem pole.” Outside the office, she and Halperin threw big parties at their house. She was not an early riser. The couple took regular trips to Jamaica with their two kids, now ages 18 and 19. Lake never seemed particularly religious, former colleagues said. One remembered her wearing the Kabbalah red string around her wrist, popularized by Madonna in the early 2000s. They balk at campaign ads in which Lake recalls summoning God’s advice or consulting Bible verses. Dale knew her friend to be a “very spiritual person,” she said. “Every day it grows even deeper and deeper, because that’s how heavily she leans on God right now to get her through these times.” Lake was raised Catholic and now identifies as evangelical. If people at Channel 10 didn’t know about her faith, she says now, it’s because she “didn’t wear that on my sleeve at work.”

Former colleagues said Lake could be demanding and difficult, particularly toward the engineers and technicians on set. She got along well with Hook, her Channel 10 co-anchor, but was known to be competitive about the stories they were each assigned. In the newsroom, people recalled, Lake always had something going on — a life change, a new interest — which she would talk about at length. Being around Lake, multiple people said, was like living in “Kari’s world.”

“Everything revolves around Kari Lake,” said Diana Pike, the former human resources director at Channel 10 who worked with Lake for more than 20 years.

Lake believes these people never really knew her. They are going to say “nasty things about me because of politics, and that’s unfortunate,” she says. “I’ve lived my life treating people well.”

Lake’s politics before leaving Channel 10 are difficult to pin down. In 2008, the day after Obama won the Iowa caucuses, Lake changed her party registration to Democrat. She has said she believed the GOP had “lost its way with the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” In 2012, she switched back to Republican. And three years later, when she saw Trump come down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his presidential campaign, she “just had a really good feeling that this guy was going to do some things that she completely aligned with,” said Dale. On her personal Facebook account, which she kept separate from her professional page, Lake made comments that registered as liberal one day and conservative the next. In January 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration, she posted pictures from a 2016 trip to the White House to interview Obama as a “timely (and indulgent) #ThrowbackThursday moment that seems entirely appropriate right now.” After Trump’s election, she urged tolerance toward people who voted against Hillary Clinton, pushing back on comments that attempted to “lump everybody who voted for one candidate” as being racist or misogynistic actors. On yet another post, she left likes on comments such as “Trumpuppetts without a clue.”

Lake’s interview with Obama took place in May 2016, six months before the election. She was one of the anchors given five minutes with the former president, part of the round-robin interviews he would do with reporters from swing-state markets. With 15 seconds remaining in the interview, Lake had time for one last question: “Fill in the blank,” she asked. “Donald Trump will make America (blank) if he’s elected.” She waited for Obama to offer a response. “I haven’t thought too much about it because I don’t think Donald Trump’s gonna end up being president,” he said.

“And you still stand by that?” Lake asked quickly.

In 2017, Lake met a conservative operative named Sam Stone, then working as DiCiccio’s chief of staff, when she called the councilman’s office to report a pothole at 24th Street and Indian School Road. They didn’t talk politics then, but Stone, who would later join her campaign as policy director, said he considered Lake and Hook to be the only television reporters in Phoenix “who would call our office to see if there was a different side to a story.”

Lake’s relationship with the station didn’t sour until the end of the 2010s, when some of her comments on social media drew local headlines. In 2016, she defended Trump’s comments on a secret Access Hollywood tape, where he bragged about sexually assaulting women. “I think DT is talking ‘big’ to fit in with the guys,” she wrote on her Fox 10 Facebook page, “but I do see how it could offend many people.” In 2018, Lake described a movement to increase pay for teachers as “nothing more than a push to legalize pot.” And in 2019, she joined Parler, initiating what would become a protracted back-and-forth with Channel 10. When station leaders told her, “ ‘Hey, you can’t do this. You’re Kari Lake, Fox,’ ” according to Pike, who said she witnessed the exchange, Lake replied that she could because of her First Amendment right to free speech. “That’s when all of this started going downhill,” Pike said. Channel 10 received complaints. Lawyers got involved. Lake was off the air and viewers didn’t know why. It was around that time, “after I got canceled,” Lake tells me, that her daughter asked her to wear a cross “for protection.” On the campaign trail, the silver necklace is visible daily. “I started wearing it from that moment on. I’ve never taken it off,” she says.

By the end of 2020, Lake was thinking about leaving Channel 10. She reached out to Andrea Robinson, a former morning anchor who had left the station two years earlier. “We prayed a lot,” Robinson said. “We just talked about where our identity is found: It’s not found in a job.” That December, Lake called Dale to say she wanted to quit. Dale was shocked. She said they needed to talk it through in person. The next morning, she picked up Lake and drove to Scottsdale Bible, a nondenominational megachurch Dale had started visiting before the pandemic. In the car, she tried to talk Lake out of leaving.

“You cannot quit,” she told her. “You make way too much money.” (Pike, the former HR director, said Lake earned more than $400,000 a year at the station; Dale said that Lake made “more than that.” In a five-minute biographical video released this summer, Lake said her “hang-up” about deciding to exit journalism “was walking away from a big salary.”)

At Scottsdale Bible, Dale recalled, the pastor talked about how nothing, including money, was “more important than essentially doing the right thing in life and by your God.” Dale said she and Lake exchanged looks in the pews. “It was as if the pastor was talking directly to us,” she said. “We got in the car and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, you do need to quit.’ ” After that, according to Dale, Lake continued to go to church, sometimes twice a day. On the trail, they regularly tune in to Scottsdale Bible’s live streams.

In March 2021, Lake resigned from Channel 10.

Reached by text message, Hook declined an interview about his longtime partner on the air: “I’ve made it my policy not to speak about Kari Lake on or off the record.” Doing so, Hook said, would be “unethical.”

In the final months of the race, one of her former colleagues, Steve Krafft, has been releasing homemade cellphone videos of Republicans supporting Hobbs in an attempt to stop Lake from reaching office. Others are on multiple group chats, trading memories and agitated text messages about what they see as Lake’s “hypocrisy.” Some have tried reaching the Hobbs campaign to offer help. Each has their own theory about Lake’s transformation. “The only thing I can come up with in watching this is that her conservative views, little by little, brought her power and recognition that she had never felt before,” said Marlene Galán-Woods, a former Channel 10 anchor whose late husband, Grant Woods, served as a Republican attorney general in Arizona and helped negotiate some of Lake’s contracts. “It’s intoxicating. The Kool-Aid is the power and all these people fawning over you — you forget what the truth is anymore.”

In the background of this campaign, said Galán-Woods, “there are people all over town who are like, ‘Who is this person?’ ”

After the forum in Maryvale, outside the small hold room where Lake sits for our interview, a woman steps forward with a red flat-cap hat that reads, “MAKE CNN GREAT AGAIN.”

“I don’t think it’s possible,” Lake says as she passes by.

Here, former colleagues might rush to point out that this is the same Lake who used to watch CNN all the time in the Channel 10 newsroom. They come back around, again and again, to the question people are left with after seeing Lake transform: Are they witnessing a genuine belief in Trump’s politics or politically calculated performance art? Conviction or opportunism? Four weeks from Election Day, some Republicans in the state have their own answer: “Does it matter?” one operative asked.

Lake has been clear about how she would govern. She wants to remake voting in Arizona on the premise of a baseless claim about 2020. She has spoken well of the 1800s-era abortion ban still on the state books. She has pledged to treat immigration as a crisis and declare an “invasion” along the southern border. You may see her talk less about this in the days leading up to Nov. 8. “You’re not hearing as much election stuff,” said Stone, the policy director. She didn’t mention it when Trump held his rally in Arizona on Oct. 9. “And you’re hearing a little bit less on the border stuff,” Stone said. But if asked, she will happily tell you she wants to lead the country on hard-line immigration policy and is “always worried about voter fraud,” including, potentially, in her own race. Now that she’s the Republican nominee, some of her supporters have urged her to broaden her appeal. DiCiccio, the Phoenix councilman, is one of them. He’d like it if Lake’s message was “maybe softer,” he said. But largely, Kari Lake is still campaigning as Kari Lake — whatever that name means to you.

“She’s changed course less than almost any general-election candidate I can remember,” Stone said. “The only difference is, frankly, which parts of it we’re highlighting.”

When we sit down for our brief interview, Lake has more to say about The Washington Post. She has more to say about the media falling “to a new low.” She repeats, as she often does on the road for voters, that she is not afraid of the press. “I’m not going to sit here and allow the media to tell the story,” she said.

Lake’s campaign is set to one mode, and that is “offense,” as one aide said. When you ask Republicans in the state to name a time they saw her hard exterior crack, a time she appeared vulnerable, they struggle to think of a single example from the 16 months she’s spent as a candidate.

In the hold room, there is one moment when a flash of sadness crosses Lake’s face. I ask if she is still in touch with Hook, the man she sat next to every weeknight for 22 years, or with anyone still at Channel 10. “Not as much as I wish I were.” She works on getting elected from 6 a.m. to midnight, she says, and doesn’t have the time. She no longer watches Channel 10, unless she knows it is running a story on her campaign.

“I harbor nothing but just a wonderful font of memories with them — no ill will,” she says.

Then Lake’s voice falls, as if she feels sorry, maybe for lost friendships, or maybe for them, the people still in news.

“I love them. I really do. I had 22 great years there,” she says. “But God has put me on a different pathway. I used to say it’s a different chapter — we’re in a different book now.”





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