There are some interesting parallels between Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Ronald Reagan when he left the entertainment world to successfully run for governor of California in the 1960s.
I came of age politically during Reagan’s presidency, saw him speak at West Point while I was a cadet there, wrote a documentary film about him, and even lived briefly in Simi Valley, California, where the Reagan presidential library is located, so I’m fairly steeped in the 40th president’s story.
When I started looking into Lake’s background in preparation for an interview, the similarities popped out at me right way. Here are five.
Lake was born in Rock Island, Illinois, and grew up just outside of Davenport, Iowa, about an hour’s drive from Reagan’s birthplace and early childhood home of Tampico, Illinois.
Her political views were greatly shaped by Reagan’s time in the White House in the 1980s.
“He was the president of my childhood. I mean, I had Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan. And Ronald Reagan is the reason that I registered as a Republican when I turned 18,” Lake told The Western Journal.
First Job Out of College in Media
Reagan attended Eureka College in Illinois, and his first job after graduating was as a radio sports commentator in Davenport at WOC-AM in 1932.
“He worked in my hometown at a radio station,” Lake said.
Moved Out West to Chase Their Dreams
Reagan did a screen test for Warner Brothers in 1937 while he was in Southern California reporting on the Chicago Cubs’ spring training season, according to History.com.
The studio signed him, and his first role was as a radio news reporter in the film “Love Is on the Air.”
Lake came to Phoenix in 1994 to take a job as a weekend weather anchor and reporter with the local NBC affiliate KPNX-TV.
“I loaded up my car and drove across the country. I guess a modern-day pioneer, loaded up the car and drove to Arizona,” Lake said.
“I stepped out of my car on Day One, middle of August, 113 degrees. And I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love this.’ I knew right then Arizona was for me, and it was a perfect spot for me,” she added.
Lake briefly took a news anchor position in Albany, New York, in the late 1990s before returning to Phoenix in 1999 to become an anchor on the Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV, where she spent the next 22 years.
Not surprisingly, both Reagan and Lake mastered the art of speaking directly to the camera as if it’s their friend. Lake’s skill was on display during our interview.
Launched Into Politics Thanks to a Powerful Media Moment
Both Reagan and Lake spent about 30 years in their respective careers in Hollywood and the news media before a pivotal moment moved them into politics.
For Reagan, it was what became known as “The Speech,” which he gave on national television in 1964 in support of then-Arizona GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.
It was the first real big-time foray into the political sphere for the Hollywood actor, former president of the Screen Actors Guild and recent convert to the Republican Party.
From that point forward, California Republicans urged Reagan to run for governor of the Golden State, which he successfully did in 1966.
At the Reagan library (at least the last time I was there), there is audio of the 40th president explaining that he never really intended to run for office, but it kind of found him.
Lake has had a similar experience.
“I never dreamed of running for office. I never had a desire to. I still don’t know that I have a desire to be in politics. It’s a grimy field,” Lake said.
Much like Reagan, a particular moment launched Lake into national political headlines when she stepped down from her position at Fox in March 2021.
“Sadly, journalism has changed a lot since I first stepped into a newsroom, and I’ll be honest, I don’t like the direction it’s going,” she said at the time.
“For the past few years, I haven’t been proud to be a member of the media,” Lake added. “I found myself reading news copy that I didn’t believe was fully truthful. … It’s been a serious struggle for me, and I no longer want to do this job anymore.”
As with Reagan, she told The Western Journal that people started reaching out to her, urging her to run for office.
“We need somebody who we trust, who understands us, who understands the issues and has integrity,” Lake said people were saying to her.
She thought, “Well, wow, maybe this is God kind of tapping me on the shoulder, saying, ‘This is that moment I opened you up for.'”
Lake, like Reagan when he ran for governor, has held no political office, but she has the ability to communicate a vision.
“He went in and turned California around. He didn’t have executive experience on Day One, but he had leadership,” Lake said of Reagan.
“He knew right from wrong. And he had a way of communicating the issues to the people. And we need a great communicator, and I think that’s where I can help.”
Disillusionment with Party of Youth
Reagan was a lifelong Democrat until he switched to the Republican Party in 1962 when he was 51.
He was a huge fan of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but by the 1950s started feeling the Democrats had lost their way by building a federal government that had become too big and too powerful. Reagan participated in Democrats for Republican Dwight Eisenhower events in the 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns.
When the Californian ran for president in 1976 and 1980, he ran as the anti-establishment candidate. In ’76, Reagan’s rival was moderate GOP incumbent President Gerald Ford and in ’80, he faced off against George H.W. Bush.
Lake left the GOP from 2006 to 2012, first registering as an independent and later a Democrat in 2008. She supported Barack Obama’s first run for office over Republican nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain. In a June 2021 interview with KPNX-TV, she cited the “endless wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of her motivation for the switch.
“Somewhere between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, I think the Republican Party lost its way and became the uni-party,” Lake told The Western Journal.
In other words, there was not much that distinguished D.C. Republicans from Democrats at that time in her estimation.
But Trump changed that in 2016.
“You’re either [an] ‘America First’ Republican, you’re an establishment Republican, which are kind of the Never Trumpers, or you’re the Democrats,” Lake said.
“And I’m starting to think that the kind of swampy Republicans have a lot more in common with the socialist Democrats than they do the ‘America First’ Republicans. And we’re kind of at a crossroads right now,” she added.
Lake is running as the anti-establishment candidate against the establishment’s pick, former real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson.
Trump endorsed Lake in September 2021, saying, “She is strong on Crime, will protect our Border, Second Amendment, Military and Vets, and will fight to restore Election Integrity (both past and future!). She is against Covid lockdowns, Cancel Culture, and will end ‘woke’ curriculum in our schools.”
Trump will be holding a rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on Friday where his slate of “America First” endorsed candidates will be featured, including Lake, U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.