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Political Mercury

Is Kari Lake a 2024 presidential candidate?

3/1/2023

Arizona Republican Kari Lake insisted she is not running for the presidency following a speech to several hundred people in Ankeny. Photo by Douglas Burns

The Republican candidate for governor of Arizona in the last cycle, Kari Lake, an embattled and ascendent conservative with a rocketing national profile, pulled a crowd in Ankeny on Feb. 11 that had the feel of a White House-run event.

The former Iowan said she’s not running for office, but the atmospherics at her event, styled like an Iowa Caucus rally, revealed the potential for Lake.

Several hundred people showed up early on a late Saturday afternoon, and stayed late, with lines of conservatives snaking to the back of the District Venue, waiting for an opportunity for autographs, well-wishing and selfies with Lake, who said she was in Iowa, the state in which she grew up and went to college, to make the case that Democrats and their allies stole the election from her. An Arizona appeals court ruled against Lake, who lost the election to Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs. Lake contends that ballot printing issues were the result of intentional electioneering by her opponents.

An outspoken surrogate for former President Donald Trump, Lake, a product of north Scott County in eastern Iowa, insists she’s not testing presidential waters and has no intention of returning with Oval Office ambitions.

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“I am not running for president,” Lake said in an interview. “I am fully supportive of President Donald J. Trump, and I want to see that man back in the White House as soon as possible.”

That said, Lake added, “I am considering running for another office.”

Lake plans to press her Arizona election case to the state supreme court in that southwestern reach of the nation.

In a fiery speech that lambasted so-called “cancel” culture, the Republican generated Trump-like energy with the standing-room-only crowd.

Political Mercury asked Lake, a 1991 alum of the University of Iowa, if she would send members of her family there — or if she thinks the cultural environment in Iowa City today is too liberal.

“I’m very concerned with all of our universities,” Lake said. “They have been turned into ‘woke’ ideology factories who are pumping out kids who have been brainwashed.”

Does that include her alma mater?

“Well, I haven’t studied their curriculum, but if they are anything like ASU (Arizona State University), U of A (Arizona University), NAU (Northern Arizona University), then I am sure they are having some of the same problems,” Lake said in a 10-minute interview. 

Lake attended the university in the late 1980s and 1990s, and noted she is a Republican because of President Ronald Reagan.

Is Iowa a better place now, with a series of conservative policies taking root under the leadership of Gov. Kim Reynolds, than it was in the 1980s of Lake’s youth here?

“If I say ‘Oh, it was a better place back then,’ it’s going to look like I don’t love Iowa, and I do,” she said. “We have to grow; we have to move forward. But I don’t know enough to tell you things look bad in Iowa. I don’t think that’s the case. Sometimes it’s hard to embrace that because we miss what it was like before when there were smaller towns, when it was a little easier to get around.”

Lake said the Republican Party nationally only seems far more conservative today because Democrats have veered toward communism.

“The left has moved so far to the extreme left that it’s not even recognizable,” Lake said. “The Democratic Party is not even recognizable. This is almost communism. So when you are looking at communism over here, and you’re looking at us, where we are, where we have been, it might look like we are way far to the right, but it’s because the people on the left have moved so far.”

Lake’s grievances with the election in Arizona coursed through her speech, and she pledged to take the fight through the courts.

“I’m concerned that corruption has seeped into so many parts of our government,” Lake said in the interview. “We look at how uneven our judicial system is right now. They are going after President Trump. They sic the DOJ on President Trump, Republicans, people who are their political adversaries.”

Melissa Callahan, 44, a teacher in Altoona, thinks Lake connects in Iowa and represents values of Republicans here.

“I adore her,” Callahan said. “She stands up for what’s right, and she stands up for truth, and she stands up for election integrity, which scares so many people right now.”

Carol Coburn, 78, of Waukee, thinks a presidential run is likely “too big of a step” for Lake now.

“But for myself, I have been so interested in Kari Lake,” Coburn said, adding that the outcome of the Arizona gubernatorial race was a “supposed loss” for Lake.

“I would rather she run for president than for her to do vice president under someone else,” Coburn said.

Douglas Burns of Carroll is fourth-generation journalist and founder of Mercury Boost, a marketing and public-relations company.

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