Why are big-name Republicans and a former ‘QAnon Shaman’ competing for the same House seat in Arizona?
What would normally be a throwaway U.S. House race — for a solidly red seat in Arizona that’s unlikely to help determine control of Congress — may still be a colorful primary this year.
When Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko announced last month that she would not seek re-election to represent Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, she ignited what has quickly become a crowded race to succeed her, with challengers from across factions of the GOP and beyond.
“A Republican is going to win this district, no matter what, it’s just a question of what kind of Republican they are,” said Barrett Marson, a conservative strategist in Arizona. “The path to the hammer doesn’t go through CD-8. So it will certainly attract money, but that’s because of the people, not the seat.”
The field so far includes two well-known Republicans, Abe Hamadeh and Blake Masters, who campaigned together last fall for statewide offices with much more power and the approval of former President Donald Trump.
Two other candidates, including a liberal candidate, were present at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. One of those individuals was also a so-called “fake voter” in Arizona as they pushed to reverse Trump’s 2020 loss in the state, which is planned and underway. Investigation by the state attorney general.
Meanwhile, Lesko endorsed a fifth candidate, Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, who has already been elected by voters in the district to the Arizona House three times.
He will face off against the liberal Toma and at least three candidates aligned with Trump, who are competing for the same voters — for whom the district provides a target-rich environment.
“It will be an interesting race to watch how each of the MAGA candidates positions themselves and how Ben Touma can advance,” Marson told ABC News. “CD8 is generally a pretty right-wing congressional district. It has retirement communities, a lot of retired veterans and active duty.”
Here’s how the primary in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District unfolded.
Hamada — who narrowly lost the Arizona attorney general race last year but continues to baselessly challenge his loss — and Masters — who similarly lost his bid for U.S. Senate last year but conceded the race to Democrat Mark Kelly — now find themselves in a difficult situation. odds after competing on the same ticket last fall.
Hamadeh announced that he would run for Lesko’s seat on the same day she announced her plans to retire.
Nine days later, when Masters announced that he too would jump, Hamada’s spokesman was quick to attack him, taking advantage of the fact that he did not currently live in the Phoenix area. (Hamada lives in Scottsdale, which is also outside the area, though much closer.)
“Abe has significantly outperformed him in the district, and Blake’s poor performance now threatens to pull the top spot back down the list,” Erica Knight, Hamada’s spokeswoman, said in a statement to ABC News.
Masters said at a candidate forum in Phoenix on Wednesday that he is looking at homes to buy with his wife, Katherine, as they prepare to move their family from Tucson in the new year.
“I’m originally from southern Arizona, so I’m not going to pretend I’ve lived in this area my whole life,” Masters said.
He claimed to have conducted a poll that showed him performing well in the district, “which I consider to be merely an invitation,” he said, “by the powerful Republicans in this district.” [to] Move over here and put my hat in the ring.”
Unlike Hamadeh, who continues to criticize the validity of the 2020 presidential election as well as the results of his race last year, despite local officials certifying both, Masters has begun to move away from some of the talking points about specific ways to vote that Trump has made. GOP-aligned Republicans in the state surged in the wake of 2020.
“I don’t know for sure what happened,” Masters said of 2022. “Maybe it’s just gross negligence.”
“But while the rules are the rules, we have to play by the rules. We have to play the early ballot game better than the Democrats,” he added, after Arizona Republicans discouraged early voting and finally mail-in voting. year. “We have to do a much better job.”
At the same forum, Hamadeh suggested, without evidence, the claim that there was widespread fraud in the elections.
“People are afraid, and in many ways you should be,” he said.
He added: “But they cannot take away our will to fight.”
Former ‘QAnon Shaman’ enters as liberal
Jacob Chansley, who became widely known when he previously identified himself as the “QAnon Shaman” but has since denounced the conspiracy movement, has also filed a statement of interest as a Libertarian Party candidate.
Chansley was shirtless and wearing a horned headdress and face paint during the storming of the US Capitol on January 6. He later pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding and spent more than two years in prison.
“I came topless. I came in full uniform. This is who I am. This is what I stand for,” Chansley, who was wearing a button and tie, said Monday on Newsmax. “And I guess what? I think once people hear me speak, they can and will want to vote for me.”
Libertarian National Committee Chairwoman Angela McArdle welcomed his offer in a statement on Monday.
“It is not surprising that the notorious ‘Q-Anon Shaman’ is looking to run for Congress as a Libertarian rather than a Republican. It is clear that the GOP has abandoned the people who rallied for Trump and suffered the consequences,” McArdle said. a permit.
But Arizonans are unlikely to give his attempt serious consideration, said Marson, the Arizona strategist.
“Chancey will probably get the most attention with the least ability to win an election. Since he’s running as a Libertarian, he’ll sail straight to the general election, but is he really a factor? Absolutely not,” Marson said. “It’s a novelty.”
Fake voter under investigation
Republican state Sen. Anthony Kern, who was also at the Capitol on Jan. 6, also threw his hat in the ring, seeking support from the same bloc as Masters and Hamada.
Kern, who also received Trump’s endorsement in the state Senate, will likely soon face legal ramifications of his own. Kern was one of 11 Trump “fake electors” who signed documents falsely claiming that they were legitimate representatives of Arizona’s electoral votes, which were won by President Joe Biden.
“I believe the election was stolen in 2020,” Kern falsely said at a congressional forum on Wednesday. “I think the 2022 election had enough shenanigans going on…so,” he added [with] 2024 elections, there is concern. Absolute anxiety.”
His bid to Congress comes as state Attorney General Chris Mayes, who defeated Hamadeh last fall, says her office is investigating voter fraud and has been in contact with the Justice Department.
“I want to bring him,” Kern said Wednesday. “I’m ready. I’m going to sell T-shirts with my picture on them. I’m going to sell coffee cups with my picture on them and raise money for this race for Congress.”
Aside from Touma, Hamada, Masters and Kern, there are at least seven other Republicans foot Statements on interest, as well as from eight Democrats.
“I expect it’s going to get a little ugly. I expect some inconsistent advertising,” Marson said. “But he will be a Republican.”
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com