(JTA) — Arizona Republicans have chosen a brash 35-year-old whose record includes once citing a prominent Nazi as their challenger to Sen. Mark Kelly, the ex-astronaut husband of the Jewish representative who was shot at a political event in 2011.
Blake Masters solidly prevailed in the Republican Senate primary in Arizona Tuesday with the support of former President Donald Trump and tech financier Peter Thiel. His win came despite fierce criticism of his past and current rhetoric, which place him as a standard-bearer for the far right of the Republican party.
Much of the background that drew criticism was unearthed by Jewish Insider, which scoured Masters’ online postings from nearly two decades ago to construct an image of an iconoclastic libertarian who more recently has claimed to embrace Republican orthodoxies.
Among the online posts that drew scrutiny was one in which Masters included what he said was a “poignant quotation” from the Nazi official Herman Goering to argue against U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts. On the campaign trail, Masters emphasized that he had not praised Goering — but that did little to assuage the concerns of his critics, including from within Arizona’s Jewish community.
“The overlap between conspiracy theorists and antisemites is quite strong,” Tim Eckstein, who chairs the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, told Jewish Insider in June. “Masters is no exception. The Goering quote is, in and of itself, not antisemitic. It is that Masters cannot appreciate that other non-Nazis have said similar things, and there is something pernicious in quoting Goering, or any other prominent member of that murderous regime. For him, it is all one big game.”
Masters is not the only Republican candidate who has embraced conspiracy theories to win a statewide primary in Arizona on Tuesday. Mark Finchem, a state representative who has said he believes Democrats conspired to steal the 2020 presidential election from Trump, will be the Republican candidate in November for secretary of state, a role with responsibility for overseeing the state’s elections.
Finchem drew criticism last year for comparing a hotel chain’s decision not to host a speech by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Holocaust. More recently, he has touted his endorsement by Andrew Torba, the founder of the social networking platform Gab who said last month that Jews are not welcome on the site. Gab is favored by the far-right because it permits speech that mainstream social media platforms has banned; it was used by the shooter who killed 11 Jews in their synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. (Masters also got Torba’s endorsement but did not promote it.)
Meanwhile, the Republican incumbent Paul Gosar, a far-right member of Congress who has had yearslong associations with the antisemitic provocateur Nick Fuentes, easily won his primary in Arizona’s 9th District. Gosar held a fundraiser with Fuentes, who has questioned the dimensions of the Holocaust, last year.
Though most Jewish groups, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, have denounced Gosar over time, at least one Jewish candidate this cycle proudly touted his endorsement: Republican Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who on Wednesday morning was lagging in his primary for state attorney general.
The strength of far-right candidates in the statewide races means that Arizona voters are likely to hear continued messaging that embraces popular conspiracy theories, many of which have antisemitic valences. But their prospects for victory in the general election are hardly assured, as Arizona voters have grown less right-wing on average. The Masters-Kelly matchup in particular will be closely watched, as control of the Senate could hinge on its result.
In other significant races featuring Jewish candidates, Adam Metzendorf, a Jewish former executive for the Phoenix Suns, was trounced in the Democratic primary for Congress in Arizona’s 6th District, which includes Scottsdale, home to a large number of Jews. Jevin Hodge will instead be the Democratic candidate for Congress there.
And the Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction, an elected position in Arizona, will certainly be Jewish. Tom Horne, who previously held the role before becoming state attorney general, is currently leading the vote count, with Israeli immigrant Shiri Sapir in second. Both candidates say they want to strip politics from Arizona schools.