As it turns out, even before either of them have actually jumped into the race, the mess is already here.
On Saturday night, around 11 p.m. EDT, Lake called Masters to have a conversation. Earlier in the day, The New York Times published a report revealing that former President Donald Trump had spoken to Masters about a week ago to discuss his Senate plans, and The Daily Beast had just published a story—only a few hours before the call—on how Masters may be having second thoughts about running.
Sources familiar with the conversation said the call lasted about 10 minutes, describing the discussion as “intense,” “paranoid,” and “erratic.”
(This account of the phone call is based on two sources who heard the conversation and two other sources who were briefed on the discussion.)
The call started with Lake pressing Masters on why he’s been “floating” his name as a possible candidate for the Senate seat.
“Have your intentions changed?” Lake asked Masters.
Masters, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year, said he doesn’t intend to run against Lake if she gets into the race. But he pressed Lake, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Arizona, on why she hadn’t announced her Senate campaign yet.
Masters said he thought Lake was “wasting time” by not announcing, according to one of the sources familiar with the call.
“You should have been in this race yesterday,” Masters said, another one of the sources told The Daily Beast.
(As The Daily Beast reported Saturday, Lake has been aiming to announce her Senate bid later this year.)
The phone call wasn’t all advice. Among a number of spirited moments, there was plenty of score-settling. Lake said she and her campaign did as much as they could to help Masters in the 2022 race.
“And you ran and hid under the bed as soon as the election was over,” Lake allegedly said, according to one of the sources.
The conversation quickly pivoted to who was the more viable Senate candidate. Lake allegedly asked Masters if he thought he could win the Senate seat. Masters said he thought he could, according to a source familiar with the call.
Lake then asked Masters if he thought she could win.
“No, I don’t think so,” Masters allegedly told Lake. “Not based on what I’ve seen.”
Predictably, that set Lake off, according to the sources. Even though about 14,000 more people voted in the 2022 Senate election, Lake received more votes for governor than Masters did for Senate—1,270,774 to 1,196,308. Lake lost to now-Governor Katie Hobbs by less than 0.7%, while Masters lost to Sen. Mark Kelly by almost five percentage points, with the Libertarian candidate garnering 2% in the Senate race.
While Masters’ defeat was no doubt a major disappointment for the GOP, his Democratic opponent was recognized as one of the strongest incumbents in the country that year. A former astronaut and the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Kelly had already won a tough Senate race in 2020. And he raised nearly $90 million for his 2022 effort, more than every Senate candidate anywhere except for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
Lake, meanwhile, was seen as the strong favorite to defeat Hobbs, who even some Democrats believed was running a weak campaign dogged by bad publicity. Since refusing to accept her 2022 defeat, Lake has only broadened her negative reputation, some Arizona insiders believe, perhaps making Masters the more favorable option for 2024.
That backdrop may explain why Masters was blunt about Lake’s shortcomings Saturday night.
Masters told Lake she needed to “move to the center a little bit” on “tone, not policy,” according to one of the sources. Masters also told Lake she needed to surround herself with people that “have a little skepticism and don’t just drink the Kool-Aid,” this source added.
He also allegedly told Lake that he didn’t think she’d been taking the Senate race “seriously,” noting that she’s pursued other opportunities—like potentially being Trump’s 2024 vice presidential nominee.
Spokespeople for Lake and Masters didn’t immediately return requests for comment, but according to these sources familiar with the call, Lake defended herself by saying she has never sought the VP nomination and that, contrary to news reports, she hasn’t given much thought to the idea.
But Lake wasn’t just on the defensive.
The former TV-journalist-turned-far-right-gubernatorial-candidate claimed that Masters had turned to the GOP “establishment”—a dirty epithet for the MAGA faithful—and she rattled off the names of some mainstream GOP operatives who she believed were working for Masters.
A source close to Masters claimed none of the names Lake tossed out were accurate.
During the call, Masters reiterated that he wouldn’t get into the race if Lake did.
“I’m not going to run against you,” Masters reportedly said.
According to one of the sources, Lake “tried to be cool and suave” about the call, but instead became “rattled” and “defensive,” while another source described Masters as “angry” and said the phone call was “tense.”
By the end of the conversation, neither side had much clarity on the intentions of the other, but the discussion ended in familiar territory.
Lake allegedly claimed she won in 2022, and pressed Masters on whether he agreed.
“Don’t you think I won?” Lake asked, according to one of the sources.