Baltimore Sun

Trump powers allies to primary wins

Ariz., Mich. figures’ fates reflect loyalty to former president

- By Shane Goldmacher

PHOENIX — Primary victories in Arizona and Michigan for allies of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed his continued influence over the Republican Party, as he has sought to cleanse the party of his critics, install loyalists in key swing-state offices and scare off potential 2024 rivals with a show of brute political force.

In Arizona, Trump’s choice for Senate, Blake Masters, won a crowded primary as did his pick for secretary of state, Mark Finchem, an election denier who has publicly acknowledg­ed his affiliatio­n with the far-right Oath Keepers militia group. And with votes still being counted Wednesday in the GOP primary for governor, Kari Lake — who has said she would not have certified Biden’s victory in her state — had a slight lead over Karrin Taylor Robson, the candidate backed by Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president.

And in a symbolic victory for Trump, Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House who gained national attention after testifying against Trump at the Jan. 6, 2021, congressio­nal hearings, lost his bid for state Senate.

In Michigan, a House Republican who voted to impeach Trump, Rep. Peter Meijer, was defeated by a former Trump administra­tion official, John Gibbs, and Trump’s last-minute choice for governor, the conservati­ve commentato­r Tudor Dixon, who has echoed his false claims of election fraud, easily won her primary.

Trump and his allies have been focused on the vote-counting and certificat­ion process in Arizona and Michigan, seeking to oust those who stood in the way of their attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The victory of Finchem, who marched on the U.S. Capitol

on Jan. 6, was a key sign of how the “Stop the Steal” movement that was formed on a falsehood about 2020 has morphed into a widespread campaign to try to take control of the levers of democracy before the coming elections.

Tuesday’s primaries in five states — Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Washington — kicked off a final six-week stretch of races that will provide the fullest picture of the Republican Party’s priorities in 2022, how tight Trump’s hold remains on the base and the extent to which his falsehoods about a stolen election in 2020 have infected the electorate.

In Washington state, Trump had backed challenger­s to two Republican House members who voted

for his impeachmen­t. But both incumbents appeared to be in strong positions to advance over Trump’s preferred candidates — benefiting from the state’s top-two primary system, though neither race had been called early Wednesday.

Many Republican strategist­s are eager to move beyond the primaries and this period of infighting to focus fully on defeating the Democrats this fall and to take advantage of President Joe Biden’s slipping support and growing voter frustratio­ns about inflation and the state of the economy.

In a relief for national party strategist­s, Missouri Republican­s rejected the political comeback attempt of Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former gover

nor who ran for Senate. Party leaders had worried that Greitens would have jeopardize­d an otherwise safe Senate seat for Republican­s. Trump had stayed out of that race until a bizarre last-minute dual endorsemen­t Monday of “Eric” — with no last name — a blessing that covered both Greitens, who finished in distant third, and Eric Schmitt, the state attorney general, who won the Senate nomination.

In the GOP contest for Arizona governor, Trump endorsed Lake, a former television newscaster who had become an unabashed champion of Trumpism. Trump is seeking some redemption after struggling earlier this year in other governor’s races, most notably failing in his attempt to oust

the Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp.

Unlike Kemp, the Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, who earned Trump’s ire by backing the results of the 2020 election, was term-limited and not on the ballot. Ducey put his support behind Robson, a wealthy real estate developer who spent over $18 million on her run.

Lake, who has made voter fraud a centerpiec­e of her candidacy, declared victory at a moment when she was actually behind in the vote counting. “We won this race,” Lake said at her election-night party. “Period.” She later took a narrow lead, but that contest remained too close to call Wednesday.

The Democratic primaries Tuesday for statewide

offices were less dramafille­d. In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the Democratic nomination for governor, and in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formally became her party’s nominee for a second term.

But the highest-profile race in Michigan was Meijer’s reelection bid. His primary rival received a surprise late boost from the political arm of House Democrats, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads because Gibbs was seen as easier to defeat this fall in a swing seat.

“I’m proud to have remained true to my principles, even when doing so came at a significan­t political cost,” Meijer said in a statement conceding defeat.

 ?? ADRIANA ZEHBRAUSKA­S/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Abraham Hamadeh, from left, Kari Lake and Blake Masters, Republican­s running for Arizona attorney general, governor and Senate respective­ly, have all disputed the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
ADRIANA ZEHBRAUSKA­S/THE NEW YORK TIMES Abraham Hamadeh, from left, Kari Lake and Blake Masters, Republican­s running for Arizona attorney general, governor and Senate respective­ly, have all disputed the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

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