Arizona Republicans have a winner ... in the candidate who didn't get Trump's endorsement
There is at least one Arizona candidate who owes her election to Donald Trump.
State Treasurer Kimberly Yee was the Republicans’ biggest vote getter in last week’s election, the only Republican in the six biggest statewide races who, as of Monday, could declare victory.
She’s also one of the few statewide candidates who wasn’t endorsed by Donald Trump. The one who didn’t run around with Kari Lake and Blake Masters and the rest of the America First slate.
Is it a coincidence that Yee is now preparing for a second term while Lake and the MAGA machine are preparing various conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from them?
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“Arizona is a conservative state. We are not a Trump state. It’s that simple,” Republican consultant Barrett Marson told me. “At some point, Republican and right leaning independents had to come home and vote Republican and I bet you for many, Yee was the first Republican they marked their ballot for.”
Yee, followed by the two winning Republicans in the Corporation Commission race – a campaign in which Trump also was absent.
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There’s a message in there for the once-Grand Old Party.
Had Karrin Taylor Robson won the Republican gubernatorial primary, she’d be working on her legislative agenda by now.
Had anyone but Kelli Ward and Turning Point USA’s Tyler Bowyer been running the state GOP, there’s a decent chance Republicans might have held onto control of Arizona.
Instead, Democrats already have claimed the Senate seat and the Secretary of State’s Office and are inching ever closer to grabbing the Governor’s Office.
Kimberly Yee got more votes than Kari Lake
Republicans, meanwhile, decisively won the offices in which Trump was a non-entity (though the races for attorney general and state superintendent remain too close to call.)
Yee was all-in for Trump when she announced her reelection bid in January. But he never endorsed her and Republican politicos tell me she was shunned by the MAGA team.
Instead of centering her campaign, as they did, on Trump’s grievances, Yee ran a quiet, traditional Republican race focused on financial policies.
Instead of belittling moderate Republicans and independents, she courted them.
It paid off.
As of Monday morning, Yet had racked up more than 1.3 million votes – or 113,539 more than Lake.
Lake, meanwhile, trails Katie Hobbs by 24,772 votes. With just 160,000 of the 2.6 million votes left to count, the window has started its downhill slide.
It’s already slammed shut for Masters. As of Monday, he trails Sen. Mark Kelly, who won the race, by 126,650 votes. Masters got 183,568 fewer votes than Yee.
Turns out, the GOP needed McCain voters
Turns out those “party of McCain” voters were important.
That’s something for Republicans to contemplate in the coming years, as Kelly returns to Washington and Hobbs (likely) stockpiles ink for her veto pen, to counteract the crazy from a state Legislature that will be dominated by the MAGA crowd.
Historical voting patterns, an unpopular president and inflation should have given Republican candidates easy wins in Arizona.
Instead, with Ward in the driver’s seat, they took a sharp right turn and careened right off the cliff.
“Kelli Ward has been nothing but a failure,” Republican consultant Tyler Montague told me. “Just because you can get some hurrahs from the far right and some real energy there, it’s just not winning energy. It’s not enough to win. Drive a dagger through McCain? That’s not growing the base, that’s shrinking it.”
The question is, are Republicans ready to learn from the debacle of 2022 and kick Ward and her “winning” strategy to the curb?
Ward, who on Sunday was howling about “voter suppression”?
Have Republicans actually learned their lesson?
Marson believes Ward’s time as state GOP chairwoman is coming to end, having played a role now in losing three Senate races and, likely, the Governor’s Office.
“Death row inmates have a longer future than Kelli Ward as head of the Arizona Republican Party,” he told me.
Me? I’m not so sure the party of the once-big tent has learned its lesson, to the delight of Democrats.
As for Yee, she may well be the party’s highest ranking elected official in Arizona.
For that, she has Donald Trump to thank.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona GOP has a winner ... in the candidate Trump ignored