Kari Lake rose to fame two years ago when she resisted announcing that US President Joe Biden had won Arizona while a news presenter on her local news station. She is now campaigning to become the new Governor of Arizona and her rising popularity within the Republican party has had people believe she is the “new Donald Trump”.
Gina Woodall, a political scientist at Arizona State University, has said she believes Kari Lake could qualify as “the new face of MAGA Republicanism”.
In an interview with AFP, she said: “She absolutely makes Trumpism look mainstream.”
Ms Lake has leaned into the comparison with Donald Trump, and said: “You can call me Trump in a dress any day.”
It has been speculated that her newfound popularity could qualify her to become Mr Trump’s running mate if the former President decides to run in 2024, and others believe she may even have the opportunity to become the Republican presidential nominee in the future.
Ms Lake is currently campaigning to become Arizona’s new governor, and opinion poll website fivethirtyeight has revealed she appears to be more popular with voters compared to Democratic candidate Kate Hobbs.
Her rising popularity has prompted former president Barack Obama to campaign in Arizona this week, who said: “Our democracy is on the ballot. And nowhere is that clearer than here in Arizona.”
Mr Obama described Ms Lake as “good in front of the cameras” and added: “If we hadn’t just elected somebody whose main qualification was being on TV, you could see maybe giving it a shot.”
Ms Lake responded by saying she could command larger crowds than Mr Obama.
Alejandra Gomez, the co-director of the progressive advocacy group Lucha, has described Ms Lake as a “really dangerous candidate” and said the Arizona governor campaign is “incredibly consequential for the future of our democracy.”
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Hours after becoming the Republican nominee for Arizona, Ms Lake walked on stage to a cheering crowd with a sledgehammer and vowed to use it on the state’s voting machines, which she believes stole the election from Mr Trump in 2020.
The sledgehammer makes a regular appearance in Ms Lake’s campaign trail, as she has voiced her disapproval of “sketchy elections”, the media, weak border policies and COVID-19 restrictions.
She has become one of the most prominent among election-denying Republican candidates, who believe the conspiracy theory that the US presidential election was rigged in 2020 and that former president Donald Trump should have won.
The rising Republican star has said she believes officials in charge of the 2020 election should be jailed and said that if she had been governor at the time she would not have certified President Bident’s win in Arizona.
She has refused to say if she would accept the result if she lost the vote to become governor, and said: “I’m going to win the election, and I will accept that result.”
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Some of Ms Lake’s former colleagues on local news have expressed scepticism of her beliefs, as she previously supported Mr Obama.
Ms Lake recently told Times magazine that she previously supported the Democrat party in protest of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Steve Krafft, who worked alongside the politician, said: “I don’t know if she really, really believes that Trump won the election, or if it’s just an avenue to become the governor. It’s a mystery to me.”
However, the politician has a devoted base of Republican voters, such as John Mendibles, the leader of a local league of veterans, who said: “She walked away from a 30-year career so that she could serve the people of Arizona, that says something.”