Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey blasted Kari Lake on Sunday, an outspoken ex-local journalist who’s running to take over his seat with Donald Trump’s blessing, the latest tear in a growing inter-GOP divide.
He mocked her as ‘Fake Lake’ for casting doubt on the 2020 presidential race.
It comes after Ducey set himself up in a proxy battle with Trump for the Arizona GOP by endorsing Lake’s opponent, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, for governor in the August 2 primary.
‘I think Karrin Taylor Robson will be the best person to be a fresh new leader for the state of Arizona,’ Ducey said on CNN’s State of The Union.
‘Her opponent, on the other hand, bears no resemblance – her campaign or even her personal interactions with me – to anything she’s done over the past 30 years. This is all an act. She’s been putting on a show for some time now. And we will see if the voters of Arizona buy it.’
The term-limited governor’s interview, in which he also refused to commit to backing Trump in 2024, is just the latest example of a Republican Party that is struggling to define its identity.
Allies of the ex-president continue to insist on re-litigating the last election, while Ducey and other members of the GOP warn that such complaints would only alienate voters.
Ducey met Trump’s wrath after he refused to overturn his state’s presidential results when Arizona narrowly went to President Joe Biden in November 2020.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was attacked by Trump for refusing to overturn his state’s 2020 presidential election results
Though he’s thus far refrained from attacking the former president over his election lies, Ducey criticized Lake on Sunday for helping to promote them.
‘Kari Lake is misleading voters with no evidence,’ he charged.
‘She’s been tagged by her opponents with a nickname, Fake Lake, which seems to be sticking and actually doing some damage.’
In another shot at the former local news anchor, Ducey insisted Arizonians would be ‘better served’ by a governor who promoted Republican values going forward rather than someone who looked back at 2020.
‘I think that the people of any state would be better served by a governor who believes in the people, believes that small businesses should be allowed to operate, and believes that children should be in classrooms,’ he said.
Ducey told CNN’s State of the Union that he hopes he has ‘options’ in 2024 but did not rule out supporting Trump altogether
‘I also think this election should be about the future. I don’t think we should think for one more moment about 2020. This is about the 2022 election cycle.’
However, as head of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), Ducey was hesitant to write off a future Lake endorsement in the event that she does win her primary and continues to November’s midterms – though hinted she’d be a ‘lost cause.’
‘All post-August 2 roles are to be determined. Now, the Republican Governors Association is in the business of electing Republican governors. And we happen to be very good at it,’ he said.
‘We’re on offense. But we don’t support lost causes. We certainly don’t support landslides. We go into states where the races are competitive, and we get the good candidate over the finish line.’
It’s a reflection of a wider concern among mainstream Republicans, who fear they could hand Democrats easy victories by allowing extremist or fringe candidates backed by Trump to advance to November’s general races.
But he declined to name what other Trump-backed candidates would be ‘lost causes’ and which ones the RGA could support.
‘November 8 is a long way off. So we will be looking at this map. We will be looking at the resources we have. And we don’t know what September and October are going to hold,’ Ducey said.
Pressed on whether he would support Trump in the following election cycle, the governor was noticeably hesitant – but would not commit to shutting the door on the ex-president altogether.
‘I think we will have options in the 2024 primary race. I am hopeful we will have options,’ Ducey said.
He also left the door open to the Republican Governors Association supporting Trump-backed Kari Lake (pictured) if she wins the Arizona gubernatorial primary, though he hinted she may be a ‘lost cause’
‘And I want somebody who can win that general election, because I believe, with success in 2022, the general election is the Republican Party’s for the taking.’
For his own part, Trump has steadily been inching closer to formally deciding whether he’ll run for the White House a third time after dropping numerous hints over the last year.
The former president said he’s ‘already made that decision’ in a New Yorker interview published on Thursday.
Trump added that he wasn’t sure whether to announce ‘before or after’ the midterm elections.
In her own race, Trump-backed Lake has seen her lead narrowing in the polls over the last several months while Robson gains ground.
Lake has the support of 40 percent of Republican voters in Arizona, according to a survey from Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights released earlier this month.
Robson follows behind with 35 percent of support, while the remaining two candidates fail to break even 5 percent.
Twenty-one percent of Arizona Republicans said they were still undecided – potentially a decisive number at the ballot box in August.