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Opinion Please, Republicans. Don’t nominate Kari Lake for Arizona governor.

Kari Lake, a Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks during SaddleBrooke Republican Club breakfast in Tucson on July 1. (Rebecca Noble/Reuters)
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Early voting for Arizona’s primary elections started on Tuesday. Republicans can do something good for their country and party by defeating Kari Lake.

Lake, once an anchor on a Fox-TV affiliate in Phoenix, is former president Donald Trump’s choice for governor. She has thundered to a lead in the polls by theatrically embracing ultra-MAGA conservatism.

You can see this for yourself: Her campaign launch video featured her hitting TVs with a sledgehammer and burning face masks. Her Fourth of July celebration rally was held at a gun range where attendees were offered a chance to fire a machine gun. On Monday she tweeted “F (& I cannot stress this enough) JB” in response to the news that the Justice Department is suing Arizona over its new election law. Lake’s outrageous showmanship apparently knows no bounds.

There are also questions about whether she believes her own messaging. Former representative Matt Salmon, one of her Republican opponents who recently dropped out of the race, has detailed a number of flip-flops and inconsistencies she made. Her major foe, businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson, calls her “Fake Lake.” She’s being hammered for donating money to the campaigns of Democratic presidential nominees John Kerry and Barack Obama and for allegedly attending drag queen shows while criticizing them on the campaign trail.

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But nothing defines Lake more than her embrace of election denial. Lake doesn’t just say the 2020 election was stolen; she says believing the election was legitimate is "disqualifying." That’s right: The same person who says the corporate media creates a false narrative and tries to shut down disagreement is pushing her own false narrative and trying to shut down dissent. Talk about Orwellian.

In fact, Arizona’s election was entirely legitimate, and Joe Biden won. Arizonans have long cast the majority of their votes by mail, so the pandemic did not catch election administrators unprepared as it did elsewhere. Arizona swung hard to the Democrats in 2018, electing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The regional vote patterns in Biden’s victory mirrored those in Sinema’s. The post-election hand count in Maricopa County, which comprises 60 percent of the state’s registered voters, found no errors, thereby ruling out machine manipulation.

Even the Republican-sponsored “audit” of Maricopa County’s totals found that Biden won. Yet Lake keeps on charging ahead, heedless of the facts.

This matters for two reasons. First, the likely Democratic nominee for governor is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. She was in charge of the state’s 2020 election administration, which means a Lake-Hobbs contest will focus on relitigating 2020. That’s exactly what the GOP does not want.

That focus could have nationwide ramifications. Trump lost because millions of people who didn’t support Hillary Clinton in 2016 turned against him and the Republican Party in 2018 and 2020. These voters are now disenchanted with President Biden and Democratic rule, and their discontent is why the GOP is on the cusp of a national wave that could make history.

Democrats are desperate to change the topic — to abortion, Jan. 6, anything that gets those voters angry about Republicans again. That was their playbook in 2012, when errant comments about abortion by Republican Senate nominees in Missouri and Indiana gave rise to an alleged Republican “war on women.” Lake’s nomination would let frightened Democrats run a new version of this old play.

Lake cannot avoid this trap because of her outspoken and uncompromising views. Imagine what would happen in her first debate with Hobbs. The first thing Hobbs would almost certainly ask is, “Do you think I stole the 2020 election for Joe Biden?” Lake has to say yes, or she will sink her own credibility.

That’s when Hobbs could deliver the coup de grace: “So you’re saying that Biden won because I stole the race rather than because tens of thousands of independent Arizonans decided Trump wasn’t doing the job?” Again, Lake can’t admit the truth without sinking herself. That personally insults all the Arizonans whose votes actually shaped the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Hobbs would be foolish not to make such a direct appeal to Arizona independents angry with Biden and call on them to cast one more vote for democracy. This would doom Lake in a state where registered independents are about a third of the total and have nearly closed the gap with the long-dominant GOP. It could also sink the Republican nominee in Arizona’s marquee Senate race, which could decide who controls that crucial body.

Arizona Republicans can’t take that risk. They should instead give Kari a clear message: Go jump in the lake.