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Trump-backed Masters wants to join Senate ‘America First Caucus’

Arizona hopeful rails against Biden, McConnell, Fauci, Zuckerberg

Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks during his town hall event at Miss Kitty’s Steak House in Williams, Ariz., on Wednesday.
Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters speaks during his town hall event at Miss Kitty’s Steak House in Williams, Ariz., on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Arizona GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters is not afraid to talk about what kind of senator he would be, and if he wins he plans to team up with Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri to change things.

“This can’t be Paul Ryan’s Republican Party,” Masters said, referring to the Wisconsin Republican who served as speaker of the House at the start of Donald Trump’s administration. Endorsed last month by Trump, Masters doesn’t shy away from going after the Senate minority leader, who is a frequent target of the former president’s ire.

Mitch McConnell is not bad at everything. He’s good at judges. He’s good at playing defense. He’s wildly smart. He’s the master tactician, but again, he only wants to play defense. We need to go on offense,” Masters told a small crowd here Wednesday night. “We need to fight the left. We need to fight and win against the left. We need to legislate an affirmative America First agenda, and as far as I can tell, Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to do that.”

Masters said after the event that he would support a viable challenger to McConnell for GOP leader, but he says that more likely than not, McConnell will have another term leading the conference. He praised the Kentuckian for blocking confirmation of Merrick B. Garland as an associate justice in 2016, opening the door for Trump to ultimately nominate three justices to the Supreme Court.

“I think, you know as well as I do, probably no one’s going to challenge McConnell. He’s going to get another term,” Masters said.

Masters made personal wealth in the technology startup world and then worked in leadership for billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who has put $10 million into a super PAC backing the campaign.

But Masters is not relying on the air cover that can come from having outside support. He’s keeping a full schedule on the campaign trail, criss-crossing Arizona.

Wednesday’s schedule took Masters across the northern portion of the state, landing here at a town hall-style event with an audience of Republican faithfuls at Miss Kitty’s Steak House. It’s the home venue of John Moore, the longtime mayor of the town best known as the last point on Route 66 to be bypassed by the interstate highway. Moore himself is a candidate in the crowded House primary vying to take on Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran.

Moore, who you can’t walk down the street in Williams without running into, urged the audience to support Masters in the Senate primary, something he said he doesn’t always do in a venue that is a frequent gathering place for Republicans in Coconino County.

Mayor John Moore, right, introduces Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters to attendees at Masters’ town hall event at Miss Kitty’s Steak House in Williams, Ariz., on Wednesday. Moore, who is the owner of the restaurant, is also a candidate for Arizona’s 2nd District seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Masters is one of the three top candidates in the Aug. 2 primary to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The most recent public polling has shown Masters ahead of both businessman Jim Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, although polling has been limited and Lamon’s campaign in particular has dismissed the most recent numbers from Public Policy Polling.

Among myriad topics that Masters discussed over about an hour was his support for impeaching both President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the administration’s border enforcement policies. He predicted that a GOP-led House in the next Congress could do just that (though, of course, the Senate would not convict, given the two-thirds majority needed for removal from office).

“I don’t think we should just be impeaching someone because they’re a Democrat. And when I say Biden deserves to be impeached, like, I take that seriously,” Masters said in an interview with three journalists present. “I don’t think Barack Obama deserved to be impeached. I don’t think he committed high crimes and misdemeanors, but I do think [there’s a] very arguable case that what Biden has done with the southern border is a dereliction of duty that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Masters argued that if he is elected along with like-minded Republicans, including friend and fellow Thiel-backed candidate JD Vance in Ohio’s Senate race, the Senate would have a “young and dynamic America First Caucus.”

He suggested that Cotton, Hawley, Vance, himself and like-minded senators would be engaging in investigations of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and others while trying to lay the groundwork for a more conservative turn with a Republican president after the 2024 elections.

“I think that’s how it starts. We’ll investigate Fauci, we’ll investigate Zuckerberg, we will prepare and use those two years until January 2025, when we will once again inaugurate a strong Republican president,” Masters said. “I hope it’s President Trump; if he runs again, I think he’ll crush it. If he chooses not to, I think it’ll be President [Ron] DeSantis, who is also going to be pretty good.”

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