Home News Kari Lake Blasts Border ‘Invasion’ Alongside Top Senate Republican in Arizona

Kari Lake Blasts Border ‘Invasion’ Alongside Top Senate Republican in Arizona

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Kari Lake Blasts Border ‘Invasion’ Alongside Top Senate Republican in Arizona

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Kari Lake, the former television anchor running for U.S. Senate in Arizona, spent Thursday afternoon charming supporters at a Scottsdale ballpark during a spring training game. Then she shifted tone, excoriating President Biden’s handling of the migrant crisis, which she called an “invasion,” at a news conference with Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“I don’t know why we have laws in Joe Biden’s world. None of the ones that protect us as American citizens are being enforced,” said Ms. Lake, rattling off a list of undocumented immigrants who had committed violent crimes in the United States.

The dual appearances captured the range of Ms. Lake, whose blend of charisma and fiery rhetoric vaulted her to prominence in Arizona politics. But Ms. Lake’s divisive language in her 2022 campaign for governor pitted Republicans against one another, allowing her Democratic opponent to secure victory, and she could face similarly tough opposition this November.

This time, she could have more help from the Republican establishment. The presence of Mr. Barrasso, the party’s No. 3-ranking leader, was the latest sign of the party’s embrace of a candidate whose extreme views made her a lightning rod just two years earlier.

“I think our country would be much better and much safer if we had Kari Lake as a member of the United States Senate,” Mr. Barrasso said at the news conference.

Earlier in the day, with both the president and former President Donald J. Trump in Texas visiting the southern border, Mr. Biden dared Mr. Trump to “join me” to work out a compromise on the border crisis. Ms. Lake and Mr. Barrasso rejected that idea.

“Joe Biden doesn’t need a partner in this — he needs a backbone,” Mr. Barrasso said.

Not long ago, Republican leaders in Washington shied away from Ms. Lake, a bombastic ally of Mr. Trump who made false claims of fraud in the 2020 election a centerpiece of her 2022 campaign for governor, then spent more than a year challenging her own loss to Katie Hobbs, the Democrat, in court. She alienated establishment Republicans both in Arizona — with her attacks on the state’s former senator, John McCain, who died in 2018 — and in Washington.

But just as Mr. Trump has emerged from a post-presidency nadir to seize a dominant position in the Republican presidential primary, Ms. Lake has begun to be embraced by some members of the Republican establishment as she mounts a bid for the Senate. She has adopted a more conciliatory tone and worked to get back in their good graces, courting the type of Republicans who shied away from her in 2022.

Chuck Coughlin, the chief executive of the Phoenix political consulting firm HighGround, suggested that Mr. Barrasso’s presence could help broaden Ms. Lake’s base of support. “He would be effective at speaking to an audience of Republicans and unaffiliated voters to persuade them to give Lake a second look,” he said.

Ahead of Arizona’s Republican Senate primary on July 30, Ms. Lake has led her primary challenger Mark Lamb, a sheriff, by wide margins in polls, and she scored a key endorsement this month from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, led by Senator Steve Daines of Montana. She has also attracted the support of Republican senators like J.D. Vance of Ohio and Rand Paul of Kentucky as the party seeks to seize control of the chamber via elections this fall. On Thursday, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa joined that list, and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho is expected to endorse Ms. Lake on Friday.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ms. Lake did a lap around the Salt River Fields facility in Scottsdale while the Arizona Diamondbacks played a spring training game, engaging in typical retail campaigning: She chatted with families, took photos with firefighters, munched on a hot dog (mustard, but no ketchup), sipped a beer and studiously ignored the few hecklers she attracted.

Ms. Lake’s supporters at the game said they loved that she seemed genuine and not like an establishment politician. “I’ve liked her always on the news,” said Christy Spindler, who lives in Rio Verde, outside Scottsdale. “She’s honest, upbeat.”

But they also demonstrated the challenge she will have in uniting disparate factions of the party. “There’s a lot of bad political power in the state of Arizona,” said Rodrigo Almeraz, a Lake supporter from Tempe, saying Mr. McCain and his wing of the party had stood in “opposition” to real Republican values.

Democrats are playing defense across the Senate map this cycle, with Arizona joining Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia as potential Republican pickups.

Republican leaders hope their support for Ms. Lake can bolster her in what is expected to be a tight race against her Democratic opponent in the general election, Representative Ruben Gallego, who was in Washington on Thursday with the House in session. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in 2022 and became an independent, has not yet said if she will run again for the seat, but faces an April 1 deadline to collect tens of thousands of signatures to qualify for the race.

In addition to the event focused on the border, the pair also attended a lunch devoted to a discussion of economic issues and inflation. Mr. Barrasso is also headlining a fund-raiser for Ms. Lake’s campaign in Paradise Valley, a Phoenix suburb.

The party has made the border crisis a key issue in 2024, even as Republicans in Congress this month tanked a bipartisan immigration deal that would have achieved many of their aims, such as making it more difficult to claim asylum and expanding detention capacity. After Mr. Trump came out against the deal, other Republicans — including Ms. Lake and Mr. Barrasso — followed suit, saying it was not stringent enough.

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