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The Daily Agenda: A blunt political assessment
No more Senate races, please ... Mesa seeks pro-police artists ... A donkey full of thorns and a donated human head.
Former President Donald Trump is attempting to push failed 2022 U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters out of the next U.S. Senate race, which Masters is teetering on entering, warning that if Kari Lake jumps in, she’ll beat him.
We’re still more than a year away from the grand finale of Arizona’s fifth consecutive U.S. Senate race since 2016, but the pressure campaign to set the field is already on.
The New York Times reported on Friday afternoon that the former president had recently called Masters to warn him that Lake was the stronger candidate, suggesting that if she gets into the race, he’ll have her back. Key to the president’s confidence in Lake is her ability to respond to all questions — no matter how much they are not about election fraud — by answering that the 2020 and 2022 elections were stolen from her and Trump.
“(I)f they say, ‘How is your family?’ She says, ‘The election was rigged and stolen.’ You’ll lose if you go soft. You’re going to lose that base,” Trump reportedly told Masters in a “blunt political assessment” of Masters’ chances of beating her, according to the Times’ unnamed sources.
Trump has never been a huge Masters fan. In 2022, the former president dangled his stamp of approval over Masters until much later than others, seemingly coaxed into backing the Silicon Valley political upstart who had a friendship with and funding from Peter Theil. Back when Trump’s 2022 endorsement was still up for grabs, Masters told Hank for a piece in Politico Magazine that he probably couldn’t win a GOP primary without Trump’s explicit support. We can’t imagine his calculus has changed much.
While Trump had to warm up to Masters, he took an immediate liking to Lake, who seems to know all the right moves to ingrain herself in the president’s heart.
But Lake, who confirmed to the Times that she’s still considering jumping into the race, was once Masters’ biggest fan. Back when Trump was still making up his mind on Masters, Lake was already touring the state with him.
The Lake and Blake alliance officially ended when she started attacking him on social media for being soft on election fraud — which coincidentally was just a few days before the Wall Street Journal declared he was moving toward an announcement.
The Times’ report left many Arizona GOP politicos speculating that Masters won’t even run. Some told the Daily Beast over the weekend that they think Masters is either likely reconsidering now or that he was never all that serious about running anyway. Still, Trump hasn’t officially ruled out supporting Masters, per the Times’ sources, and the former president left open the possibility that Lake might not run.
After her great success at failing to get elected governor of Arizona, Lake may have her sights set higher than just the U.S. Senate. As Rolling Stone reported, Lake is still on the shortlist of a few potential vice presidential running mates that can fit into the “very narrow lane” of “election-denying, shameless Trump diehard who has emerged as a conspiracy-theory-slinging star among the conservative base.”
The other person in that lane is Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. While the two were once closely allied in their love for Trump, she and Lake allegedly view one another with “intense distrust and disdain,” as they vie for Trump’s affection, per Rolling Stone. Greene, it seems, has been “trash-talking” Lake, describing her as not “serious” enough and a “grifter.”
Politics has a way of fracturing friendships — and whether it’s Lake and Masters, or Lake and Greene or Kyrsten Sinema and Ruben Gallego — we’re just beginning to see the new dividing lines that will be drawn in 2024.
The art is too woke for Mesa: The Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum is delaying its fall show over concerns that artist Shepard Fairey’s piece is disparaging to police, raising questions about censorship in public-sponsored art, the Associated Press’ Terry Tang reports. Local artists are now boycotting the show, even though the museum eventually opted to keep Fairy’s piece, with a warning that it only represents the artist’s views.
“His painting that led to the suspension of the Mesa art exhibit, titled “My Florist is a Dick,” … depicts a police officer in riot gear holding a baton with a flower growing out of it. The phrase ‘when his day starts your days end’ appears at the top right of the painting,” the AP reports.
Can’t run out of water if we don’t measure it: Four months after she accused the Arizona Department of Water Resources of ignoring state law by not conducting adequate hydrological studies, Arizona AG Kris Mayes tells 12News’ Joe Dana that she still hasn’t received any response from the department and is considering her options. And some rural residents are dealing with rapidly depleting water tables, forcing new and awkward conversations, without much data to go on, about groundwater protection in rural Arizona, Peter Aleshire writes in the Payson Roundup.
Water is to Arizona what subscribers are to the Arizona Agenda. Subscribe today so we don’t dry up.
Slow justice: Former Democratic state Sen. Tony Navarrete’s trial for molesting children, for which he faces a minimum of 49 years in prison, is scheduled to start next week after multiple delays, the Republic’s Ray Stern reports. Navarette wasn’t feeling too chatty when 12News’ Brahm Resnik caught up with him outside the courthouse after a pretrial hearing.
Coming to a southwestern state near you?: New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham suspended the state’s open and concealed carry firearms laws in the city of Albuquerque for 30 days, saying firearm deaths constitute a public health emergency. Gun rights groups have already filed a lawsuit, and Arizona conservatives are up in arms, suggesting Gov. Katie Hobbs may try the same. Meanwhile, Arizona’s homicide rate is climbing, the Republic’s Miguel Torres reports. Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office says gun-related deaths are at an all-time high, and Phoenix had 223 murders last year, a 15-year high.
Politicians can’t resist cutting ribbons: Republican U.S. Rep. David Schweikert was pretty stoked to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony at a local American Legion Post for a new solar project. That project was made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act, which he voted against, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports.
The birds are less stoked: Last month’s Hurricane Hilary off the coast of Baja California blew birds off course, presenting “an opportunity” for birders in Arizona and the Southwest, the New York Times reports.
“Storm petrels were sighted from Las Vegas to Tucson, Ariz., and another was spotted in the high desert of Nevada toward Reno, near the California border. A red-billed tropic bird, typically found off the coasts of Southern California and Baja California, was seen near Lake Havasu City in Arizona, and frigatebirds clustered near Yuma,” the Times reports.
A wild donkey asked a human kayaker to help get cactus out of its face. The human, Travis Ward, not only obliged, but he filmed the episode and shared it with 12News for us all to enjoy.
Ward said the donkey calmly approached him and appeared to be in pain from the stickers. After the donkey was clear, it said thanks by making “the donkey noise for about a minute and a half” before wandering off.
And someone donated a bunch of taxidermy stuff, including an actual human head, to a Goodyear Goodwill. Police say it looks old and doesn’t have any obvious trauma, but they’re sending it to the medical examiner’s office to be checked out.
"This is an unusual situation," Goodyear Police Public Information Officer Lisa Berry understated.
John McCain won his final re-election in 2016. Then Sinema beat Martha McSally for Jeff Flake’s seat in 2018. Then McSally got appointed to McCain’s seat anyway after his death, but she lost to Mark Kelly in a special election to officially fill McCain’s seat in 2020. But because that was a special election, Kelly still needed to win the seat outright in 2022 to get a six-year term, and he beat Masters to do so. Now Sinema is up for her first re-election, but Arizona won’t get another U.S. Senate race until 2028, when Kelly is up for his first full re-election.
Trump eventually did weigh in for Masters over the self-funded Republican Jim Lamon boosting Masters to frontrunner status in the GOP primary and solidifying his place as the party’s nominee.
Pinal County Republican Sheriff Mark Lamb, who is actually in the race, is probably just stoked that the Times piece even mentioned he’s running. Most of the coverage doesn’t bother.