The self-proclaimed "only conservative" in the race for Arizona governor has had her campaign launch derailed by reports of her political donations to Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama.
Former news anchor Kari Lake announced her candidacy in June, positioning herself as the "only conservative, America First Trump Republican in the race." But instead of spending the opening weeks of the campaign touting her conservative bona fides, Lake has sparred with local media over her donations to liberal politicians.
Lake on June 15 accused one local reporter of conducting a "hit piece interview" when he attempted to confirm the contributions, saying the line of questioning was "unethical" and "slanted."
"I just think it's really interesting that the crux of this interview is about, ‘Wow, she's donated in the past. Or she might've voted Democrat before,'" Lake said. "Who gives a crap? Who cares?"
While Lake's campaign did not return a request for comment, she has explained her contributions to Democrats in other local interviews by saying she "was really excited about the first black president" and "thought the Republican Party had lost its way with the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."
"I was so concerned that it caused me to change party affiliation from Republican to an independent and then for a short time a Democrat, but I returned to the Republican Party in 2012 and have been ever since," Lake told 12 News in June.
Financial disclosures show that Lake contributed a combined $850 to Kerry and Obama's presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008, respectively. The 2004 donation marked her first ever political contribution. Lake officially left the GOP two years later, changing her party affiliation to independent ahead of the 2006 midterm elections, according to NBC's Phoenix affiliate. She went on to register as a Democrat in January 2008 and held the affiliation for four years.
The political newcomer's Obama donation came shortly after National Journal ranked the Illinois Democrat the most liberal senator in 2007. Just months after Lake's contribution, Obama railed against "small town" Americans who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them … as a way to explain their frustrations." Lake is now running as a Second Amendment champion and Christian conservative.
The longtime Fox 10 Phoenix anchor also attacked "McCain millionaires" in a June tweet. According to the Yellow Sheet Report, however, Lake hired former McCain campaign manager, chief of staff, and senior adviser Mark Buse to run her gubernatorial bid. The Lake campaign says the report on Buse's hire is false, and that Buse has no role in the campaign.
"Buse was never hired for this campaign," said Lake spokesman Ross Trumble. "Personally, I've never heard of him."
Lake left Fox 10 in March, attributing the decision to a lack of "balance in coverage" in "every newsroom, at every level, and in each position."
"I found myself reading news copy that I didn't believe was fully truthful, or only told part of the story, and I began to fear that I was contributing to the fear and division in this country by continuing on in this profession," Lake explained in a March video.
Lake joins a crowded Republican field to replace outgoing GOP governor Doug Ducey. Additional candidates include state treasurer Kimberly Yee, businessman Steve Gaynor, and former congressman Matt Salmon.
Update 3:06 p.m.: This piece was updated with comment from Lake spokesman Ross Trumble.