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Kari Lake, a Republican Senate candidate from Arizona, is facing a defamation lawsuit from Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who accused her of spreading false claims of election malfeasance that led to threats against him and his family. Richer, also a Republican, took the aggressive step of suing Lake, who did not defend her statements in the case. Lawyers for Lake, her gubernatorial campaign, and a nonprofit group aligned with her are now asking a judge to determine whether damages are owed to Richer.

In response, Richer stated that Lake and her allies had backed down after initially defending their lies in media and social media. He emphasized the impact of the threats and damage to his reputation caused by the false claims made by Lake. Lake’s decision not to further engage in the lawsuit is seen as a strategic move to appeal to more moderate voters in her Senate campaign, which is critical in succeeding Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is retiring. Despite stepping back from the inflammatory rhetoric, Lake has not completely abandoned her election fraud claims and continues to challenge her 2022 election loss.

Lake’s Senate campaign received an endorsement from the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm earlier this year, indicating establishment Republicans’ support and allocation of resources towards her campaign. However, Lake’s refusal to participate in the defamation lawsuit against her has raised questions about her commitment to addressing the allegations made by Richer. She has continued to echo former President Donald Trump’s claims about election fraud and characterized the lawsuit as a political witch hunt and a frivolous attempt to sideline her from the campaign trail. By not participating in the lawsuit, Lake intends to focus on her Senate race.

Despite Lake’s efforts to avoid the defamation lawsuit and dismiss it as a distraction from her campaign, the state Supreme Court declined her request to put the case on hold, allowing it to progress towards discovery and trial. Lake’s legal team argued that their request for a default judgment hearing should not be viewed as an admission of the allegations in the lawsuit. The ongoing legal battle between Lake and Richer reflects the contentious nature of politics in Arizona, as both Republicans vie for public office and navigate the aftermath of the 2020 election controversy. It remains to be seen how this lawsuit will impact Lake’s Senate campaign and her credibility among voters.

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