Trump muscles into Arizona Senate primary

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Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend a fundraiser next week for Arizona Republican Blake Masters, marking his first foray into the state’s contentious GOP Senate primary.

The fundraiser, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO, is being held Wednesday night at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, a popular venue for candidates seeking to build goodwill with the former president. While Trump this fall endorsed candidates for Arizona governor and secretary of state, he has so far publicly stayed out of the Senate race.

“From time to time, the president attends candidate events at his properties prior to an endorsement in the race,” said a person familiar with Trump’s thinking on the matter.

It’s unclear whether Trump intends to endorse Masters or is still weighing other candidates in the Senate primary. The private reception costs $2,900 per person, though donors or couples raising $25,000 ahead of the event can also have their photo taken with Trump, according to the invitation.

The fundraiser’s host committee includes prominent tech entrepreneurs and investors like billionaire Peter Thiel, David Sacks and Joe Lonsdale, along with conservative donors Rebekah Mercer, Darren Blanton and J.J. Cafaro.

Thiel has donated $10 million each to super PACs supporting Masters and J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author and Thiel business associate running for Senate in Ohio.

Masters runs Thiel’s tech investment firm Thiel Capital, as well as the nonprofit Thiel Foundation.

The Arizona Republican Senate field is currently led by state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is already being attacked on air by the pro-Masters super PAC, claiming Brnovich is soft on border security.

Masters and Brnovich have both angled to demonstrate loyalty to Trump, despite Brnovich being chided by the former president earlier this year as “lackluster.”

Brnovich last fall joined Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona’s secretary of state in certifying election results in the state Biden narrowly won. Trump, in a statement earlier this year, said Brnovich was not doing enough as attorney general to support a GOP-led “audit” of the Maricopa County election results.

“[Brnovich] must put himself in gear, or no Arizona Republican will vote for him in the upcoming elections,” Trump said.

Jim Lamon, another Republican in the race, has expressed support for the partisan audit.

The television ads against Brnovich — which knock his “failed” illegal immigration enforcement — appear to be having some effect, even as Brnovich leads legal fights on red-meat conservative issues like President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses and welfare for immigrants in the country illegally.

A recent internal poll commissioned by the pro-Masters Saving Arizona super PAC found that Brnovich’s unfavorable rating had increased from 9 percent to 20 percent since the launch of the ad.

The Fabrizio Lee polling summary, obtained by POLITICO, said one-third of the 800 Republican primary voters surveyed had seen the ad. Brnovich’s negative rating went up to 32 percent among those who had viewed it.

In a primary matchup, 26 percent of voters still said they would vote for Brnovich, compared to 14 percent for Masters — though Masters’ vote share had nearly tripled since Fabrizio polled the question in August.

While Trump has avoided making an endorsement in the Arizona Senate primary, the former president has been outspoken about keeping Ducey from receiving the nomination, should the governor decide to get in the 2022 race.

Arizona is one of Republicans’ top targets this cycle in their effort to take back the Senate majority. Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who won the seat in a 2020 special election after Sen. John McCain’s death, is seeking reelection to a full six-year term.

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