After far-right Rep. Debbie Lesko announced she won’t run for re-election in Arizona’s solidly conservative 8th District next year, the primary to take her place has quickly become a competition to see who better embodies former President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial ID.
It appears there’s a “Mr. MAGA” pageant underway, involving two contestants who’ve garnered right-wing praise for portraying themselves as Trump’s political facsimiles. And the competition is causing some interesting divisions in the conservative movement. The two contestants with the most name recognition are Blake Masters and Abe Hamadeh.
Hamadeh is the failed Arizona secretary of state candidate who’s yet to concede, despite having lost to a Democrat in last year’s midterms.
To give you a sense of his fealty to the former president, here’s a social media post from Hamadeh in which he thanks Trump for sharing a post Hamadeh wrote — praising Trump.
Masters is the failed senate candidate and creepy gun whisperer who has cast himself as the rightful shepherd of the far-right’s goals. And Masters’ pro-Trump obsequiousness is well documented (his campaign announcement featured Trump prominently). The social media post below, in which he suggests the former president’s unhinged social media posts can help bring about world peace, really drives the point home.
Both Masters and Hamadeh received Trump’s endorsement in their losing election bids last year.
For what it’s worth, outgoing Rep. Lesko isn’t endorsing Masters or Hamadeh. She’s backing Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, who recently announced his campaign for the seat. And the race is causing some cleavage in the Trump-ophilic community. For example, Hamadeh is attracting support from Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake and extremist influencer Laura Loomer. Meanwhile, Masters has U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and conservative Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio in his corner.
There’s already some MAGA mudslinging afoot. Hamadeh and his press team have been on the attack against Masters over the fact Masters doesn’t live in the district.
Citing public records, Business Insider reported that Masters lives in Tucson, nearly 200 miles from District 8. The report also cited records that show Hamadeh lives outside the district, too — though not quite as far.
As best as I can tell, Masters doesn’t yet seem to have taken the bait and attacked Hamadeh in response. (Although I did see some pro-Masters social media posts slamming Hamadeh’s past praise of late Sen. John McCain, who’s widely reviled among Trump supporters.)
But the primary process is just getting started and, rest assured, there’s plenty of time for this glorified Mr. MAGA pageant to get uglier.
Ja’han Jones is The ReidOut Blog writer. He’s a futurist and multimedia producer focused on culture and politics. His previous projects include “Black Hair Defined” and the “Black Obituary Project.”