Phoenix will be sweltering Friday, expected to reach a high of 115 degrees, and the political heat here may be just as uncomfortable, with former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence holding dueling rallies for opposing candidates in the upcoming Republican primary race for governor.
With less than two weeks until primary day and early voting underway, Trump is backing former local TV news anchor Kari Lake while Pence has thrown his support behind Karrin Taylor Robson, a land use strategy consultant. In the Republican Senate primary, Trump endorsed Peter Thiel’s protégé, Blake Masters.
Masters has enjoyed a bump in the polls since Trump’s endorsement last month, but a large portion of Republican voters remain undecided.
A recent poll from OH Predictive Insights showed Masters leading businessman Jim Lamon by seven points. But more than a third of likely GOP voters in the poll also said they made a decision in the race.
Lamon has been ratcheting up his attacks on Masters since Trump’s endorsement. During the last debate, Lamon called Masters a California transplant who is controlled by Big Tech. Masters fired back by making fun of Lamon’s accent and referring to him as a “bozo.” State Attorney General Mark Brnovich is the more moderate candidate in the race but he didn’t appear in the last debate and has seen his early lead in the polls diminish. The winner of the primary will face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
In the governor’s race, Trump endorsed Lake early, and many GOP operatives in Arizona think she’s reached her ceiling in the polls. Meanwhile, Robson is gaining momentum thanks in large part to the $17 million she’s spent on TV ads. Robson, whose husband made a fortune in developing retirement resort communities, has lent her campaign $13 million. She also has the endorsement of Gov. Doug Ducey, who is ineligible to run for another term. In contrast, Lake has spent less than $1 million on TV.
A poll last month showed Lake leading Robson by five points with nearly a quarter of voters undecided.
Pence and Ducey are campaigning with Robson in Peoria, a growing suburb in the Phoenix area, on Friday morning. They’ll then make their way south to Tucson for a rally with the National Border Patrol Council.
Trump’s evening rally is in Prescott Valley, one of the more conservative parts of the state. In addition to Lake and Masters, Abe Hamadeh, Trump’s endorsed candidate for Arizona attorney general, and State Rep. Mark Finchem, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, are also slated to attend.