Trump backs Arizona candidate who echoes 2020 election lies | Government and politics

By JONATHAN J. COOPER and JILL COLVIN – Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Donald Trump on Thursday approved an investor Blake Masters in the crowded Republican Senate primary in Arizona, citing the candidate’s strident support for Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

The former president said in a statement that Masters is a “great modern-day thinker” and that Masters’ chief rival, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, has done nothing about voter fraud which, according to Trump, cost him a second term.

Republicans are hoping the winner of the Aug. 2 primary can unseat Sen. Mark Kelly, who faces no major opposition for the Democratic nomination, and return control of the Senate to the GOP in one of the earliest general elections. more contested in November.

Trump’s endorsement could upend a primary campaign that has no clear frontrunner and is largely defined by maneuvers to win Trump’s support. Despite his re-election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Trump remains popular with his party’s core supporters.

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On Thursday, Trump also endorsed construction manager Tim Michels in Wisconsin’s GOP gubernatorial primary, bypassing the state’s former lieutenant governor and slotting into another competitive race.

The endorsement is likely to elevate Michels, a late entrant in the race, and marks a blow to Rebecca Kleefisch, who served as lieutenant governor under former Governor Scott Walker and has been ahead in the polls. The winner of the August 9 primary will face Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

In choosing Masters in Arizona, Trump sided with fellow tech investor acolyte Peter Thiel after Trump’s backing helped ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author JD Vance secure the GOP nomination in Ohio last month.

Masters, 35, has been a fierce critic of the tech industry where he built his career and voiced the cultural grievances that drive grassroots GOP voters. He called for reducing legal immigration and married the baseless “great replacement” conspiracy theoryclaiming that Democrats are trying to “replace Americans who were born here”.

He said “I think Trump won in 2020” and claimed election officials, the media and big tech companies “conspired to manipulate the 2020 election.”

Trump, who has long touted the power of his endorsements and maintained his record as a measure of his continued grip on the Republican Party, bruised by a series of losses in the first primary races in recent weeks.

Georgia voters last month rejected Trump’s efforts to punish the Republican governor and secretary of state, who both pushed back against Trump’s extraordinary efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. by Trump lost in Nebraska, Idaho and North Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the Senate primary that pitted famed heart surgeon Mehmet Oz against former hedge fund CEO David McCormick is in the middle of a recount.

But the former president has scored major victories, particularly in Ohio last month, where Vance climbed in the polls after Trump’s endorsement in the Senate race.

Trump is counting on the next round of major primaries to counter perceptions that his influence over the Republican Party is waning as he lays the groundwork for a 2024 presidential election.

In addition to the Arizona Senate race, Trump is targeting Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a chief Trump critic who voted to impeach him and is the top Republican on the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump held a rally in the state last weekend to boost Cheney’s main challenger, Harriet Hageman, who is currently far ahead in the polls.

Masters, who grew up in Tucson and moved back to southern Arizona in 2018, was until recently a senior executive at Thiel’s investment firm and foundation. Masters makes his first run for political office.

He gained notoriety in some circles for his detailed notes on a course Thiel taught at Stanford University. The two collaborated on the 2014 book, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” and Masters went to work for Thiel. He became COO of Thiel Capital and Chairman of the Thiel Foundation.

Trump had long been expected to endorse Masters. Like Vance, Masters is a Thiel protege whose campaign has received millions in support from the tech billionaire, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook. Many expected Trump to formalize his support after Vance’s victory.

“Despite an incredible business career and a wonderful family, Blake decided he wanted to make a difference for the people of our country,” Trump said in a statement endorsing Masters.

He said Masters would be strong on border security and gun rights, cut taxes and regulations, and support the military.

Masters, in response, said in a statement, “I wish everyone knew what this feels like. He said that “soon we will have a young, fearless and vibrant America First coalition in the US Senate.”

As in most contested Republican primaries, Trump’s endorsement in Arizona is a prize that has been heavily positioned by most candidates. Several, including Masters, made multiple trips to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida and sought favors from the former president’s advisers. Last summer businessman Jim Lamonin an effort to get Trump’s attention, ran an ad on Fox News about the New York-New Jersey market while Trump was staying at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

In April, Trump ruled out supporting Brnovich, who opened a criminal investigation into the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county after allegations of fraud by Trump and his allies based on conspiracy theories and misleading data. . Brnovich trumpeted some of the allegations, saying they raise questions about this election, but he didn’t deliver what Trump wanted most: indictments of election workers.

Trump again attacked Brnovich in his statement endorsing Masters, repeating the lie that the Arizona election was “rigged and stolen.”

Brnovich defended his record in the 2020 election in a statement responding to Trump’s endorsement, highlighting his ongoing investigations into the fraud allegations. Lamon redoubled his efforts to attack Masters, which he called “a wholly owned subsidiary of a Big Tech, California billionaire.”

Trump has made a habit of announcing his endorsements just days or weeks before major races. This may add to the drama, but it also gives the campaigns he supports little time to make his approval known. Trump noted in the days following the Pennsylvania primary that his endorsement of Oz came “very late, several days AFTER early voting began,” suggesting he may have come to recognize the impact of its timing.

Former Arizona National Guard Adjutant General Mick McGuire and state utilities regulator Justin Olson are also up for the Senate nomination.

Kelly is a retired astronaut who rose to fame in the state when his wife, then U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and seriously injured during a constituent event in Tucson in 2011. Kelly was elected last year to complete the last two years. of late GOP Sen. John McCain’s term and is now seeking a full six-year term.

Once a GOP stronghold, Arizona has become a battleground thanks to a growing Latino population, an influx of more moderate newcomers and Republican struggles with suburban women during the Trump presidency.

The race will serve as a test of the sustainability of those Democratic gains. Polls show Biden’s approval rating floundering and voters are frustrated with high inflation and rising gas prices.

The Club for Growth, a powerful spending group that has opposed Trump in recent weeks, spending millions to support rivals of several of its chosen candidates, praised Trump’s decision in Arizona.

The organization’s president, David McIntosh, said that when the group and Trump work together, “true conservatives win, and that’s exactly what will happen in Arizona.”

Colvin reported from New York.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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