More than a month after the Associated Press called the results, Republican Kari Lake is still trying to challenge her loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs in the 2022 Arizona governor’s race.
Though she ultimately lost by more than 17,000 votes, Lake has refused to concede, accused Arizona election officials of misconduct, and sought a court declaration that she won the governor’s race or an entire do-over of the election.
On Monday, a judge allowed her to proceed to a two-day trial starting Wednesday in which she will get a chance to prove that there was a deliberate scheme to sabotage her. While it’s unlikely she will be able to do so, she will get a chance to air her grievances yet again in a way that could help advance her once-ascendant career in GOP politics.
Lake has contended in legal filings that she only lost because “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election in Maricopa County” and that there were “widespread tabulator or printer failures” that stemmed from election officials’ misconduct.
There isn’t currently any evidence to suggest Lake’s claims are factual. There were widespread printer malfunctions in Maricopa County on Election Day: At about a third of the county’s polling places, ballots were printed with ink that was too faint to be processed by vote-counting machines that then rejected them. It’s not clear how many ballots were affected.
But county officials have said that the problems did not prevent anyone from voting, and a Washington Post analysis found that Republican ballots weren’t any more likely to be affected by those problems. And the county ballot contractor has said it complied with applicable law and its own policies.
“This case is about restoring trust in the election process — a trust that Maricopa County election officials and Hobbs have shattered,” Lake wrote in her December 9 complaint before the Arizona Superior Court.
Maricopa County and Hobbs, in her capacity as governor-elect and as the current Secretary of State, asked the court to dismiss Lake’s complaint. They argued that it was full of “unwarranted speculation,” failing to “show even a single illegal vote, any erroneous count of votes, or that the [election officials] engaged in any misconduct in the administration of the election.”
Judge Peter Thompson did dismiss most of Lake’s allegations Monday but will allow her to proceed to trial on two counts. For one, she will have the opportunity to prove that election officials intentionally tampered with ballot-on-demand printers, which print out dedicated ballots when each voter checks in, with the aim of swaying the election and ultimately did change the outcome. She will also have a chance to prove that Maricopa County’s ballot contractor intentionally and improperly added votes from their family members to the total and that it materially impacted the result.
Lake has heralded the decision on Twitter as a “massive Legal WIN!”
“Christmas came early yesterday,” she told the crowd at an event hosted by the right-wing activist organization Turning Point USA on Tuesday. “We have a chance to show the world that our elections are truly corrupt and we won’t take it anymore.”
But proving the kind of malfeasance she’s alleging is another matter entirely, and Thompson could still slap her with monetary sanctions for making frivolous claims.
But even if Lake doesn’t succeed in her lawsuit, she has been able to use this legal battle to maintain her national profile. Though election deniers lost up and down the ballot in 2022, their movement is still very much alive, and Lake is at its helm.
Lake’s legal fight could be strategic
The Arizona governor’s race made Lake a GOP star. Her attempts to fight the results have allowed her to maintain her national profile, even though the election is over. She has continued to be the subject of national headlines, and she was among the featured speakers at Turning Point USA’s America Fest convention, alongside the likes of Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and Trump-world figures including Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr. And her legal battle could eventually serve as a launching pad for the next phase of her career, political or otherwise.
She ran an unconventional campaign, eschewing traditional ad buys for viral campaign videos full of controversial statements that grabbed national headlines, including comments that appeared to make light of the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. All of that won her Trump’s admiration (and endorsement) and praise from other prominent Republicans, though she still proved a divisive figure within the party and might be even more so now that she’s lost what seemed to be a winnable race.
Kenneth L. Khachigian, Ronald Reagan’s former chief speechwriter, waxed poetic in the Wall Street Journal ahead of the election: “What makes Ms. Lake’s message different is its simplicity and fearlessness. It’s unapologetic and sincere, not clothed in code words.” Trump reportedly sees something of himself in Lake, and they are now alike in the way they handled their electoral losses.
All the adulation from Republicans — and speculation that she might be a potential running mate for Trump, even though she didn’t win the governorship — suggests a future in the GOP. By keeping her supporters, and Trump’s, engaged, she puts herself in a strong position to help Trump mount a tough challenge to Biden come 2024, and to attempt to fulfill any other political aspirations, whatever they may be.