The Republican gubernatorial primary in Arizona was too close to call Wednesday as candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence held the top two spots.
Kari Lake, a former television anchor backed by Trump, held a lead of less than 12,000 votes over Karrin Taylor Robson, a member of the state Board of Regents, with about 81% of the expected vote counted.
Though the race had not yet been called, Lake was expected to increase her lead as more ballots were tallied.
Trump came out last September for Lake, who has endorsed many of the 45th president’s claims that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election, saying “few can take on the Fake News media like Kari.”
“She is strong on Crime, will protect our Border, Second Amendment, Military, and Vets, and will fight to restore Election Integrity (both past and future!),” he said at the time.
Pence, who could wage a potential primary challenge to Trump in the 2024 election, bucked his former boss and endorsed Robson last month, sparking a proxy election war between the two former running mates in the Grand Canyon State.
“As Arizona Democrats pursue the reckless Biden-Harris agenda, Karrin Taylor Robson is the only candidate for Governor that will keep Arizona’s border secure and streets safe, empower parents and create great schools, and promote conservative values,” Pence said.
Lake jumped the gun early Wednesday when she prematurely declared victory as she surged in the polls — even though less than 70% of the vote had been counted — and cast doubt on the integrity of the election.
“I wanted to come out here tonight, I wanted to say, ‘Wow, we already have the final results.’ But we know how our election systems work and they don’t work well. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m standing here,” Lake told a crowd of supporters, according to the Arizona Republic.
Robson — who also was endorsed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and term-limited Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — encouraged her backers not to lose confidence, telling them to “keep calm. Keep the faith and keep us in your prayers. Because at the end of the day, we’re going to win this thing.”
She also made a point to endorse the legitimacy of the vote.
“There are a lot of good people involved in this process and it is vitally important that they take the time necessary to get it right,” Robson said. “Whether you cast a ballot for me or one of my opponents, every legitimate vote counts.”
The winner will face off against Democrat Katie Hobbs, who easily defeated challenger Marco Lopez with more than 73% of the vote.
Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state, was already looking ahead to November.
“We CAN and we WILL win in November, but I can’t do this without you,” she said in a tweet.
Regardless of the gubernatorial result, Trump scored another significant victory in Arizona earlier in the night when Blake Masters — who also received support from billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel — easily won the GOP Senate primary for the right to face off against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelley.
State Rep. Mark Fincham, who pushed election reforms based on Trump’s fraud claims in the 2020 vote, won the Republican primary for secretary of state.
The race on the Democratic side between Adrian Fontes and Reginald Bolding was still too close to call.
And Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who testified before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, was soundly defeated in his bid for the state Senate.
Bowers told lawmakers how he rebuffed Trump’s claims of voter fraud in Arizona, which Biden won in 2020 — becoming just the third Democrat to win the state since the end of World War II.
With Post wires