Former VP Pence holds rally in Peoria with Karrin Robson following endorsement

A new poll shows the Republican primary for governor is growing closer.
A new poll shows the Republican primary for governor is growing closer.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 9:39 AM MST|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 10:52 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has already helped block one of former President Donald Trump’s allies from winning the Republican nomination for governor in a crucial battleground state. Now he’s hoping for a repeat in his own backyard.

Ducey is part of a burgeoning effort among establishment Republicans to lift up little-known housing developer Karrin Taylor Robson against former television news anchor Kari Lake, who is backed by Trump. Other prominent Republicans, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have also lined up behind Robson in recent days.

On Monday, Robson’s campaign announced the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence, who will campaign with her on Friday — the same day Trump is scheduled to hold a rally for Lake, creating a split-screen moment underscoring the divide between the GOP establishment and Trump.

The push for Robson is reminiscent of how many leading Republicans rallied around Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in the final stretch of his ultimately successful bid to fend off a Trump-endorsed primary challenger.

Arizona’s Family spoke to Douglas Cole with Highground, Inc. He calls this a “true proxy war” for the heart and soul of the Republican party. Cole says the leading GOP gubernatorial candidates represent two sides of the party, including the traditional business-oriented side and Trump’s MAGA movement.

“A lot of people anticipate the former president may run again in 2024,” Cole said. “So this kind of sets up which way the party is going to go. And which way is the party going to be successful. Because remember we’re talking primaries here. Everyone is setting up candidates to take on their democratic opponents come November.”

Few states have been as central to Trump’s election lies as Georgia and Arizona, the two closest 2020 battlegrounds where he pushed aggressively to overturn the results and fumed when Kemp and Ducey refused to go along. Trump has already faced a setback in Georgia, and the Aug. 2 race in Arizona is among his last opportunities to settle scores and install allies to lead states that may prove decisive if he decides to run again in 2024.

“You’ve got to look at what the landscape is right now here on July 22nd,” he said. “And that is there are still about 20% of the Republican electorate that have not made up their decision in in this very high-profile race.”

As an incumbent seeking reelection, Kemp had an advantage over his primary rival, David Perdue, and ultimately defeated him by nearly 52 percentage points. Without an incumbent on the ballot — Ducey faces term limits — the GOP contest in Arizona will likely be much closer. “In Arizona, people are independent minded, much like they are in Georgia, and they pick the person that they think will be best for the responsibility,” Ducey told The Associated Press. “In Georgia, the voters said Brian Kemp, and I’m hopeful in Arizona, they’ll say Karrin Taylor Robson.”

But what once looked like an insurmountable lead for Lake could end in a more competitive finish. With early voting already underway, Robson is drawing on her family’s vast fortune to drown out Lake who, despite Trump’s endorsement, has lagged in fundraising. Robson had outspent Lake more than 5 to 1 as of the end of June.

The final maneuvering by some leading GOP figures could prove significant in a close race. Beyond Ducey and Christie, Robson has lined up support from former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, who dropped out of the governor’s race and endorsed her. The Border Patrol union, meanwhile, broke with Trump and backed Robson, citing in part Lake’s prior statements supporting a pathway to citizenship for people living in the country illegally.

Pence, who notably split with Trump in Georgia and campaigned alongside Kemp, praised Robson as “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 he was “proud to support her.”

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed reporting from New York.