Republicans have reacted to the state’s leftward drift by stocking the 2022 ballot with conspiracy theorists and extremists.
Just when it seemed Arizona Republicans couldn’t make more of a spectacle, they found another way.
As the party hardens around its fealty to former President Donald Trump, the GOP is filling up its midterm ballot with a roster of conspiracy theorists and extremists that could threaten the party’s prospects in a state that’s drifted leftward in recent elections.
The latest of those candidates is Ron Watkins, a celebrity in the QAnon conspiracy world suspected of being Q, who announced his plans to run for Congress last week.
It isn’t just that Watkins embraces the baseless claim that the November election was stolen. It’s that an entire ticket is running on that falsehood now. The state’s congressional delegation features Rep. Paul Gosar, who spoke earlier this year at a conference organized by a white nationalist, and Rep. Andy Biggs, who falsely maintains “we don’t know” who won the presidential election in Arizona.
State Rep. Mark Finchem, one of the chief proponents of the discredited post-election ballot review in Arizona, has been endorsed by Trump in his bid for secretary of state. And Kari Lake, the former TV anchor who has become a frontrunner for governor, still insists Trump carried the state and said recently that she would not have certified the 2020 election.
With Watkins’ entry into a competitive House race, the rush to the fringe has become so fulsome that one of his more prominent competitors in the GOP primary — a state lawmaker who has publicly praised the Proud Boys extremist group — now looks, in comparison, like a moderate.
All of this comes after state party officials had already censured the state’s sitting governor and other prominent Arizona Republicans deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump.
“The goalposts keep moving,” said Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor. “It used to be that we got into genuine debates about whether you’re more of a conservative or a moderate. We used to debate over ideology. And now it is how far you can go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. And if you’re unwilling to do it, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life, if you’ve never voted for a tax increase. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, unfortunately.”
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