Gov. Ducey knocks Kari Lake on border, says she is 'making things up' and has no new ideas

Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic
Kari Lake speaks to the crowd at former President Donald Trump's Save America rally in Florence on Jan. 15, 2022.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is responding to criticism from gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, saying she was "making things up" in her frequent attacks on him and had no new ideas for securing the state's southern border. 

The governor's chastising of a fellow Republican, let alone a candidate for office, is rare. But Lake has repeatedly attacked Ducey on his record at the border, an issue he's prioritized throughout his eight years in office and one that helped him win election in 2014 and again in 2018.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Ducey dismissed the criticism and said Lake was playing politics.

"She's a candidate," the governor said. "She's making things up."

Lake said during a radio interview last month that Ducey "just hasn't been strong enough on the border" and his work with other governors through the American Governors' Border Strike Force showed they were "starting to realize, 'Wow, we have to do something about it.'"

She has blamed the Biden presidency — and being "stuck with a disaster in the White House" — on Ducey for certifying the 2020 election, which Lake consistently and falsely says was corrupted by widespread fraud. She repeats this stolen-election lie at nearly every public appearance, despite audits, lawsuits and other investigations that have found no evidence of Donald Trump winning the race.

In responding to Lake's criticisms, Ducey touted his own record at the border during his two terms in office and through three White House administrations of two Democrats and a Republican.

"There's no one out there that has a more comprehensive plan than the one we're already executing in Arizona, the one that was rolled out, in addition, in the State of the State (speech)," Ducey said in an interview.

Lake's border plan relies on an untested legal approach, using a section of the U.S. Constitution that gives states war powers if the federal government fails to protect them. It uses the idea of declaring an invasion, an approach pushed by former Trump administration officials and one that furthers anti-immigrant rhetoric that the former president championed. 

As to Lake's plan, the governor said: "There's not a new idea, or an additional idea, in the plan." Asked if he'd looked at Lake's proposals, Ducey didn't directly respond.

"I know the border," he said. "We're doing everything possible under the law and with resources at the border."

Ducey and Lake, the leading GOP candidate to replace him, come from different wings of the party: Ducey is from the traditional conservative wing that has stood up to Trump's false claims the 2020 election was stolen, and Lake, a political newcomer and bombastic culture warrior, has built her bid around parroting Trump's grievances.

For subscribers:Kari Lake has repeatedly attacked John McCain's legacy. His family says they feel betrayed

Their differences on policy have made headlines before. Ducey said last year that Lake's plan to put cameras into classrooms could lead to predators monitoring children. At the time, he foreshadowed "responsible things" the state could do to give parents more insight into classroom teachings. 

Those rifts have prompted speculation in political circles about whether Ducey might endorse in the race to replace him. Ducey has said he might do so, "at the time and place of my choosing."

Lake: Ducey is 'hurting Arizonans'

In response to Ducey's comments, Lake repeated her criticisms of the governor for not embracing her approach, which immigration enforcement experts say would run afoul of federal law.

"My border proposal is the first of its kind released by any candidate — and it is an approach that his own attorney general deemed constitutionally valid in a landmark legal ruling earlier this year," Lake said in a written statement provided to The Republic on Friday.

Republican Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Brnovich issued an opinion earlier this year  that the governor could declare an invasion and expel people at the border. It was not a legal ruling, and Ducey has not followed this course of action.

Lake added that Ducey's "continued dismissal of the need for stronger border actions and leadership is hurting Arizonans right now. Arizonans simply cannot afford to wait until I am sworn into office, we need Governor Ducey to do the right thing and take action on implementing my plan immediately."

Ducey has made border security a priority since his first campaign for governor in 2014.

He unveiled several additional border-related goals during his last State of the State address in January, and five months into his final year has a mixed record on achieving them.

In the annual speech, the governor announced the American Governors' Border Strike Force, a collaboration with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to address border issues. In April, he announced that 24 other Republican governors were on board.

Ducey also wanted to increase criminal penalties against human smuggling, and in late April signed a bill lengthening minimum sentences for some trafficking crimes.

The governor called for new funding to strengthen the Border Strike Force unit within the Department of Public Safety, deploy drones and provide equipment for patrols. In his budget, Ducey put the figure at $50 million, but that hasn't received the OK from lawmakers who have yet to produce a budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Ducey wanted to add physical barriers where possible to the state's southern border, but has not yet announced plans to accomplish that. He called on U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both Democrats, and every member of Arizona's congressional delegation to oppose all legislation until Biden took action at the border.

Vote records show that the call to inaction has gone unheeded by each of the Grand Canyon State's Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.