Kari Lake alleges 'intentional misconduct' in lawsuit that seeks to overturn election loss to Hobbs

Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks during an Arizona Republican election night gathering at Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on Nov. 8, 2022.
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Former candidate for governor Kari Lake on Friday filed a lawsuit asking the courts to set aside her electoral loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs and declare her the winner instead.

If a judge won't declare her the winner, Lake wants an order requiring Maricopa County to re-do the gubernatorial election.

Lake, a former television news anchor and first-time candidate for office, has signaled for weeks she would file a legal challenge over the election, which saw her fall 0.7 percentage points — or about 17,000 votes — short of Hobbs, who is Arizona's secretary of state.

That filing came Friday, within a five-day window from certification of the election result that is set in Arizona law, and on the same day that several defeated Republican candidates filed their own challenges.

Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem and U.S. House candidate Jeff Zink contested their losses saying Arizona’s election was not full, fair or secure — and must be nullified.

For subscribers: Mark Finchem channels election loss in barrage of vitriolic, antisemitic tweets

“A process that should be sacrosanct oozes impropriety,” they said in a joint statement of election contest filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. “Our election is the only mid-term election in the 50 states with such a comical and tragic outcome.”

Republican Abe Hamadeh, who was defeated by Democrat Kris Mayes in the race for attorney general by about 500 votes, also filed a lawsuit that stood in stark contrast to the others, in that it explicitly did not allege fraud or intentional wrongdoing, but sought to eliminate or add votes Hamadeh claims were improperly counted. That race is headed to a recount.

Lake's 70-page lawsuit includes a laundry list of problems and allegations related to the Nov. 8 election, including echoing many claims she has raised in recent weeks over long lines and printer issues creating "chaos" at voting locations. She claims "hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election in Maricopa County."

The lawsuit also references issues that were raised, and repeatedly debunked, in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential contest and the subsequent Arizona Senate review of the Maricopa County election.

Aides to Hobbs, who has begun hiring staff to serve her in the Governor's Office, couched Lake's far-reaching lawsuit as a "nuisance" and a "sham."

"Kari Lake needs attention like a fish needs water," a statement from Hobbs' campaign manager Nicole DeMont reads. "And independent experts and local election officials of both parties have made clear that this was a safe, secure and fair election."

"Arizonans made their voices heard," the statement continued. Hobbs is slated to take office Jan. 2.

Katie Hobbs: Certifies 2022 Arizona election in ceremony at Capitol

Lake's claims echo 2020

Lake alleges First Amendment violations committed by Hobbs, whose staffer in the Secretary of State's Office flagged Twitter posts as misinformation before Hobbs even entered the race — an issue that has spawned another misleading election theory.

Many of the claims in Lake's lawsuit lacked supporting evidence, or were said to come from eyewitness or "expert" accounts that The Arizona Republic could not independently verify.

The lawsuit alleges "intentional misconduct" leading to problems with machines and that ballots were "illegally injected" into the election by county contractors. She claims between 15,600 and 26,200 voters were disenfranchised by "catastrophic failures of tabulators" at Election Day voting sites, though the issues were actually with printers, and she cites an opinion poll of 800 voters as the basis to extrapolate that tens of thousands were disenfranchised.

The lawsuit spends pages pointing to claims raised following the 2020 election in Maricopa County, including about signature verification. Two years ago, that razor-thin contest saw Joe Biden defeat Donald Trump for the White House and led to a months-long review of the election that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, only to prove Biden's victory.

The case has several ties to the 2020 ballot review and election, just as Lake's campaign for governor centered on her belief Trump won that race. One of Lake's lawyers is Bryan Blehm, whose dual work for 2020 review contractor Cyber Ninjas and the Arizona Senate raised concerns of a conflict. Lake's second lawyer is Kurt Olsen, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who helped with a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and names Hobbs, the members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett and Recorder Stephen Richer as defendants. The county provided one statement in response to the flurry of election cases filed Friday, noting the court system is the proper avenue for election challenges.

"Maricopa County respects the election contest process and looks forward to sharing facts about the administration of the 2022 General Election and our work to ensure every legal voter had an opportunity to cast their ballot," the statement reads.

Finchem, Zink join together in lawsuit

The claims filed by Finchem, the losing candidate for secretary state, and one-time Congressional hopeful Zink are based on three key allegations, which they say gave Democrats an unfair advantage on Nov. 8.

  • Voters were disenfranchised because of voting machine problems in Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county that prevented printers from reading ballots in about 30% of polling stations. They say voters were forced to wait in long lines or made to deposit ballots into a box to be counted later.

  • Hobbs had a conflict of interest in overseeing the election because she was running for governor and refused to recuse herself. They say Hobbs “abused her office” by threatening county officials who delayed certifying the election with criminal charges.

  • Hobbs failed to properly certify tabulation machines in the state, which allowed the “uninspected and unverified machines to have widespread failures.”

Finchem, a state representative from Oro Valley, also alleged in the suit, without direct evidence, that Hobbs and his Democratic challenger, Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes, conspired with Twitter to censor and suspend his social media account at the peak of election season.

For subscribers: Deleted tweets ignite new GOP election conspiracy about Katie Hobbs

Finchem lost the election by more than 120,000 votes. Zink lost his longshot race against incumbent Democrat Ruben Gallego by 76,124 votes.

Finchem was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and Zink was endorsed by AZ MAGA , a nonprofit dedicated to getting conservatives elected. Both disputed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Both men were outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan.6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying election results. Zink’s son, Ryan Zink, was arrested and indicted on several charges in connection with the riot, including trespassing and obstruction. He has pleaded not guilty.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: AZ governor candidate Kari Lake asks court to name her election winner