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Starkly different visions for Arizona dominate campaign's closing days

TUCSON, Ariz. — In the frenzied closing days of the midterm campaign, Republican and Democratic candidates in Arizona are offering voters drastically different visions for the state and the country, with conservative contenders pushing a return to Trumpism and their opponents calling for “sanity.”

“We know that democracy is at stake,” said Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, who is running against Trump-endorsed Kari Lake for governor.

Arizona is among the most closely watched battleground states going into Election Day. Hobbs, who was a social worker before she sought public office, was the target of death threats and protests outside her home after then-President Donald Trump lost the state in 2020. She says she expects to be targeted again this year if any of Arizona’s Republican candidates lose or if the races are too close to call.

Speaking to supporters Sunday at a campaign rally in Tucson, in historically blue Pima County, Hobbs repeated a familiar refrain about the midterms: It is a choice between “sanity and chaos.”

“Democracy is going to send Kari Lake back to whatever dark corner of the internet she came from,” Hobbs said to thunderous applause.

Lake, a former local TV anchor, has said that if she is elected, she will finish building Trump’s border wall, prioritize police funding and get “groomers” out of classrooms, referring to anti-gay rhetoric that has proliferated in recent months targeting teachers.

Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks at a get-out-the-vote rally Saturday in Scottsdale. Lake is campaigning throughout the state with other GOP candidates before Tuesday’s election.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Speaking to supporters outside Phoenix on Friday night, Lake said she would reclaim land along the U.S.-Mexico border for the federal government and complete Trump’s dream of a border wall. The crowd, many wearing red Trump hats, roared with approval.

“We need Arizona to stay red,” said Joel Gleason, a Lake supporter. “In order to have faith [and] family values as the rubric of the state constitution and the rule of law, we need to have those kinds of leaders.”

A recent Marist College poll found Lake and Hobbs deadlocked in the final stretch of the nationally watched race. Among voters who said they were definitely voting, 49% said they favored Hobbs, compared with 48% for Lake. The poll has a 4-percentage-point margin of error. In a September poll by Marist, Lake had a 3-point edge.

The same poll showed the Senate race in Arizona also neck and neck, with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly 3 points ahead of his Republican challenger, Blake Masters, among voters who say they are definitely headed to the polls.

On the campaign trail last week, Kelly frequently touted his career as a Navy captain and astronaut and highlighted his commitment to fighting climate change, ensuring reproductive freedom and easing inflation. He is also a strong supporter of gun control after the assassination attempt on his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, in 2011.

“Our state deserves someone who will focus on the issues Arizonans face every day, like paying for gas and groceries and affording prescription drugs,” he told supporters Sunday in Tucson. “That’s why I’ve spent the last two years working to lower costs and create better-paying jobs in Arizona.”

Masters is a venture capitalist with close ties to PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, a Trump supporter and close ally. In the week leading up to Election Day, Masters has been joined by Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Steve Daines of Montana.

“Are you ready to send Mark Kelly back to space in two days?” he asked supporters Sunday afternoon in Tucson.

“We’re getting pretty sick and tired of politicians who just lie,” he went on, suggesting that Kelly “tricked” Arizona voters into thinking he was an independent when he is really a Democrat.

Pacing back and forth onstage, Masters accused Democrats of having an open-border policy by pausing construction of Trump’s border wall. He joked that even Democrats are fed up with so-called sanctuary cities’ policies, referring to the backlash after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

“This is a save-this-country election,” Masters said.

Tucson voter Suzy Jacobs, a Democrat, said Masters represents a rising extremism in the Republican Party that she does not want to see control Arizona. Jacobs said she will vote blue to fight climate change and protect reproductive freedom.

“The GOP slate is so extreme,” she said. “It’s beyond reason.”

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