GILBERT, AZ — Kari Lake was the featured guest at candidate night at the United Patriot AZ meeting in Gilbert recently. The estimated crowd of 250 was more than usual according to the organizers.
It was safe to say everyone in attendance knows who Kari Lake is. According to OH Predictive Insights, 96% of Arizona voters know Lake from her days as a TV news anchor with FOX10 in Phoenix.
ABC15 will be profiling candidates in many of the major races leading up to the upcoming Arizona primaries. For the latest Arizona election coverage, click here.
But in the year since she announced her candidacy for governor, Kari Lake has become the face of the new Arizona state Republican party. Lake, who has received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, resonates with Republican voters who feel they were kicked to the curb after the 2020 election and COVID.
"I've seen her on TV, never in person. I want to hear if she can be a strong candidate," said Dick Rollins, who along with his wife Roslie, came out to hear more from Lake. "I'm listening very carefully to her pitch to see what she has to say. We are in desperate need of an effective governor," Roslie Rollins said.
Many of the people in attendance said they were concerned about migrants illegally crossing the border. Despite a lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud, they also question the outcome of the 2020 election. They also disagreed with mask mandates, and the decision by Governor Ducey to close schools and shut down businesses during the early months of COVID.
"They shut our churches down. They shut our schools down. They masked these beautiful children." It didn't take long for the Rollins' or anyone else to realize where Kari Lake stands on the issues.
On the state's response to COVID, Lake is quick to criticize Governor Ducey. "What did the governor who ran a business do? He shut down your business. He shut down my husband's business," Lake tells the crowd.
From COVID, she moves on to the 2020 election where Lake repeats claims it was stolen and corrupt. It doesn't matter that her allegations of widespread voter fraud have been disproven. From the Republican State Senate audit of Maricopa County, which confirmed Biden defeated Trump. To the right-wing movie '2000 Mules', which claimed massive ballot harvesting in Arizona and four other states. The evidence in the movie has been debunked by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Former Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr.
On the border, Lake is promising a much tough approach. "My border plan is going to take back operational control from the cartels and narco-terrorists."
In her interview after her appearance, Lake says her border plan includes building the wall, which the Republican legislature began paying to do this session.
But first, Lake promises to declare an invasion at the border. It is a move she says will allow Arizona to bypass the federal government and actively pursue migrants who have entered Arizona illegally.
"We can't count on the federal government to do it," Lake said, "They've failed. They've left us wide open."
On abortion, Lake says she supports reverting back to Arizona's pre-Roe law. It outlaws all abortions except when the mother's life is at risk.
But Lake recognizes enforcing the law will require building a social safety net to protect both the baby and the mother.
"We need to help scared mothers," Lake said. "I'm not suggesting we leave people out to dry. I understand people are afraid when they are pregnant."
And finally, on water conservation, Lake says it will take a coordinated federal and state response. Every idea no matter how long it takes or how expensive it is, in her view, needs to be considered.
"Can we do things quickly in six months? No," Lake said. "But if it comes to the point we don't have water, you want to see how fast Americans work to get pipes built."
A few dozen people stayed around to wait for Lake to finish her interview. When they saw her, they greeted her, warmly exchanging pleasantries before Lake headed off into the night.