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First Republican in Arizona to jump into Senate race against Sen. Kirsten Cinema

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has filed federal papers to run for U.S. Senate in Arizona, becoming the first Republican to jump into a high-profile race for a seat now held by an independent. Sen. Carsten Cinema.

Lamb, who filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, has built a profile in Arizona and beyond as a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and an advocate for cracking down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Although Pinal County is not on the US-Mexico border, it has several active drug and human trafficking routes through its remote desert.

In Arizona, long a GOP stronghold, Republicans are seeking control of the Senate, which Democrats control 51-49, including Sine and two other independents who typically vote with Democrats. In 1996, former President Bill Clinton was the only Democrat to win the state’s presidential election since 1948, along with two longtime GOP senators. After voting for Trump in 2016, the state went blue for President Joe Biden in 2020, and Democrats managed to win both Senate seats, although Cinema has since left the Democratic Party.

The 2024 Senate map heavily favors the GOP, with no Republican seats in states Mr. Biden won and three Democratic seats in states Trump won in 2020. Under the same Senate map in 2018, Cinema was one of only two Democrats to flip. One GOP-held seat and Democrats lost three seats. Closest Republican wins in Florida and Texas.

Election 2024 Senate Arizona

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb waves to a cheering crowd at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. Lamb filed federal paperwork to run for U.S. Senate in Arizona, Monday, April 10, 2023, becoming the first Republican to jump into a high-profile race for the seat now held by independent Sen. Kirsten Sinema.

Ross D. Franklin / AP

Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in December after falling out with many party members, is raising money for a possible re-election campaign but has not said whether he will seek a second term. US Representative Ruben Gallego So far the only Democrat in the running. He said last week he raised $3.7 million in the first quarter.

Fast-growing Pinal County is sandwiched between the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. Its small farming and mining towns have been dwarfed in recent decades by master-planned travel and retirement communities where newcomers build affordable homes.

Lamb is a fixture in border-themed television ads that show him walking through the desert, rifle in hand, with Republican candidates. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020, the sheriff refused to enforce Republican then-Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order. He also created a streaming service called “American Sheriff Network” to highlight the work of law enforcement agencies.

Lamb could win a crowded Republican primary and likely face a strong fight for the GOP nomination.

Kari Lake, a former television news anchor who became a star among many Republicans before losing the 2022 race for governor, is considering a Senate run and will be an immediate front-runner. Others considering running include Blake Masters, Jim Lamon and Caryn Taylor Robeson, who lost 2022 races for Senate or governor.

All of Lamb’s potential Republican rivals lack, to varying degrees, the sheriff — easy access to big money. Lake can raise it from his legions of fans, while other potential candidates have personal fortunes or benefactors from which to draw. Lamb’s ability to raise money will be the primary test of his viability.

Arizona Republicans have embraced Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, nominating a slate of candidates for statewide offices last year that put electoral intrigue at the center of their campaigns. All lost in the general election, raising fears in some Republican circles that it could stand in the way of their Senate majority.

Lake is aggressively pursuing interference claims in his own election defeat last year that were rejected by the courts.

Lamb distanced himself from the election conspiracy this month, saying he had not seen evidence of “material, large-scale fraud” that he could take to a jury. Lamb had serious problems last year in his own Pinal County that were blamed on incompetence rather than fraud.

“Where I thought there was smoke, I looked for fire,” Lamb said in an interview with Phoenix Fox. “I’ve been involved with groups that have actively said they have evidence. To date, I’ve never been provided with evidence of significant material fraud.”

Lamb suffered tragedy late last year, when her 22-year-old son, the son’s fiancee and their 1-year-old daughter died in a crash when their car was struck by a suspected drunk driver.

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