LURCHING RIGHT — Even before Donald Trump, Arizona Republicans had a soft spot for hard-liners. Think Evan Mecham and Joe Arpaio, or the party’s pre-Trump censorship of the late Sen. John McCain.
But what may soon be different after Tuesday’s elections is that with Kari Lake poised to win the gubernatorial primary alongside a stable of fellow election conspiracy theorists, there is no longer any traditionalist wing of the Republican Party in Arizona holding the line.
Not McCain or Doug Ducey, the outgoing Republican governor who went in for Lake’s more establishment-minded opponent, Karrin Taylor Robson. Not former Vice President Mike Pence, whose own trip to the state to help Robson — and oppose Trump — fell flat.
In some states where Trump’s endorsed candidates have lost primaries this year, including in Georgia, Nebraska and Idaho, institutionalists held on. But in one of the most critical swing states in the country — and in a place where Trump’s brand may be especially damaging in the general election and in 2024 — the old Republican establishment has been replaced with election deniers from the top to the bottom of the statewide ticket.
“I will call in a bit to talk about the doomsday ticket,” Barrett Marson, a Republican political strategist in the state, said today, when Nightly reached out to him to talk about the results. “Let me wake up and finish crying.”
A prominent Republican in the state had texted him a GIF of Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff.
Marson’s concerns are shared by mainstream Republicans in other states. But Arizona has an especially toxic relationship with Trump. The GOP during his tenure de el lost two Senate seats and a presidential election in the state for the first time since 1996. Trump-ism, as was painfully obvious to the GOP in Arizona in 2020, is a hard sell in Phoenix and its heavily populated suburbs.
Yet if Trump-y politics are difficult for the GOP in Arizona, that’s about all the state party has going now.
As of this evening, Lake, a former TV anchor who has said she would not have certified the 2020 election, had pulled ahead in the gubernatorial race. If her lead de ella holds, as Republicans in Arizona expect, she will now be the party’s standard bearer.
Then there’s state Rep. Mark Finchem, a celebrity in election conspiracy circles, who won his primary for secretary of state. Republican speaker of Arizona’s House Rusty Bowers, who was censored by the state Republican Party for testifying to the Jan. 6 committee about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, got shellacked by a Trump-backed challenger who thinks the devil was at work in the 2020 outcome.
In the primary for state attorney general, Trump-endorsed Abe Hamadeh, another election denier — and a critic of “weak-kneed Republicans” — prevailed. And in the US Senate primary, Blake Masters, who maintains Trump won in 2020also won.
“The Trump-endorsed candidates ran the table,” said Stan Barnes, a former state lawmaker and longtime Republican consultant.
For Democrats, this was all good news.
Instead of inflation or education any of the other “traditional campaign issues that candidates normally discuss,” Barnes said, Democrats in Arizona this fall “get to talk about the Trump candidates. They get to talk about running against Donald Trump.”
It might be enough to keep Trump’s class of Arizona Republicans from ever taking office. On the other hand, the environment is so good for the GOP nationally this year that some or all of them may win.
For Republicans hoping for a post-Trump reform, that outcome may be even worse.
“I think the only way back is by humiliation at the ballot box, and the problem is the Democrats aren’t strong enough to do that,” said Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor.
Of the Republicans, he said, “I think they are electable, which is frightening.”
“The election last night was a catastrophe for the Arizona Republican Party,” Gates said, “and, I would argue, our democracy.”
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— Indiana GOP Rep. Walorski, 3 others die in auto accident: The Indiana Republican was a senior House member, her party’s top member on the House Ethics Committee and a member of the Ways and Means Committee. Her communications director de ella, Emma Thomson, and Zachary Potts of the St. Joseph County Republican Party were also killed in the accident, the sheriff’s office announced, as was the driver of the vehicle that collided with theirs. Walorski’s death is a shock to the Capitol community, where two other sitting House members have died this year: Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) died within a month of each other earlier this year.
— Justice Department sues Peter Navarro for Trump White House emails: The Justice Department today sued the former Trump trade adviser in an effort to force him to turn over emails from his tenure in the White House. Navarro, who worked for the White House during the entirety of Trump’s presidency, had used “at least one non-official email account … to send and receive messages constituting Presidential records,” the Justice Department said in a court filing. Attorneys also accused him of “wrongfully retaining them” in violation of federal record-keeping laws, as Navarro did not copy the messages into an official government account, nor did he respond to the National Archivist’s initial request for the emails.
— Sinema requests changes to party-line climate, health care and tax bill: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz), who has not weighed in on whether she will vote for the legislation, wants to nix language narrowing the so-called carried interest loophole, which would change the way some investment income is taxed, according to three people familiar with the matter. Cutting that provision would ax $14 billion of the bill’s $739 billion in projected revenue. Sinema also wants roughly $5 billion in drought resilience funding added to the legislation, a key request for Arizona given the state’s problems with water supply.
— Biden and Harris praise Kansas voters for defeating anti-abortion amendment: President Joe Biden today lauded voters in Kansas for rejecting a constitutional measure that would have stripped abortion protections from the state’s constitution. The failed Kansas amendment comes as the Biden administration makes a move to protect pregnant people who travel for access to reproductive care. Biden signed an executive order at today’s meeting that would examine ways to protect pregnant people who have to travel out of state for an abortion if their state bans it.
— Senate overwhelmingly backs NATO membership for Finland, Sweden: The Senate today voted overwhelmingly to admit Finland and Sweden to NATO, putting the military alliance on track for a historic expansion in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. With 95 senators voting in favor, the defense treaty heads to President Joe Biden’s desk where he is expected to ratify it in the coming days, making the US the 22nd NATO nation to give its approval. All 30 NATO members are expected to complete the ratification process before the end of the year, in a signal to Moscow that the alliance will not shirk from deterring future Russian aggression. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the only senator to vote against the treaty.
DOWN TO THE WIRE — The European Union is making a final push to save the Iran nuclear deal, agreeing all negotiators for an unexpected and sudden resumption of talks on Thursday, three sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO.
The goal — as it has been for months — is to restore a 2015 deal that saw Iran agree to limit its nuclear ambitions in exchange for heavy sanctions relief, writes Stephanie Lichtenstein. The agreement has been all but dead since the US pulled out in 2018. Talks to revive it ran aground earlier this year.
Negotiators are now descending on Vienna to see if there’s any sliver of hope left. Diplomats will be present from the US, Iran, China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France, as well as the EU, which is acting as a mediator since Iran refuses to talk directly to the US
It is not yet clear how senior the present officials will be and how long the talks will last. Sources familiar with the negotiations played down expectations and cautioned that it was far too early to say whether the talks will be successful.
PERMISSION FOR FLYBY — Washington is on edge as China readies a series of provocative military drills set to kick off on Thursday in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, writes Lara Seligmann and Paul McLeary. Beijing has threatened incursions into the island’s territory, and for the first time, conventional missile launches over the island.
The Chinese navy is positioning warships around the island, including its two aircraft carriers that have left port in recent days, in what officials described as a blockade. The Chinese defense ministry released a map of six zones surrounding the island where it plans to conduct the drills, some of which potentially overlap with Taiwan’s territorial waters. The live-fire exercises will begin at noon local time on Thursday and last three days.
Officials say they see China’s moves thus far as mostly bluster. But there are signs Beijing is planning more provocative military actions during the upcoming exercise. China has never before flown aircraft or launched missiles into Taiwan’s territorial waters — something that could happen during the drills, said Bonnie Glaser, an East Asia analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
WALKING BACK — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified today that he now understands it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% real,” according to the Associated Press.
Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 attack testified about the suffering, death threats and harassment they’ve endured because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told a Texas courtroom that he definitely thinks the attack happened.
“Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said at his trial to determine how much he and his media company, Free Speech Systems, owe for defaming Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Their son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 students and six educators who were killed in the attack in Newtown, Conn., which was the deadliest school shooting in American history.
At one point, Heslin and Lewis’s lawyer Mark Bankston informed Jones that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the last two years’ worth of texts from Jones’ cellphone. Jones had previously testified in a deposition that he had no texts on his phone about the shooting. “Do you know what perjury is?” Bankston asked Jones.
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