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Kari Lake declines to defend her statements in defamation suit filed by Arizona election official

The Senate candidate's legal team indicated she doesn't contest her culpability regarding the statements, though she is seeking to dispute the damages.
Kari Lake speaks during a fundraising dinner in 2023.
Kari Lake speaks in Columbus, Ga., in June.Cheney Orr for The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Kari Lake, a prominent election denier running for a Senate seat in Arizona, has decided not to contest her liability in a defamation suit brought by a Republican election official in Maricopa County.

Stephen Richer, who presided over the county’s 2022 election, filed a defamation claim against Lake in June alleging that she “repeatedly and falsely accused" him of causing her electoral defeat in the race for governor won by Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Lake’s legal team on Tuesday filed a default judgment motion that indicated she was not challenging her culpability. She instead seeks to dispute the damages.

She also said Richer should have to turn over relevant medical and psychiatric records to show that his health was negatively affected, as he detailed in his lawsuit. Lake requested a jury for the default judgment hearing.

Lake, a staunch Trump ally, has repeatedly pushed the lie that she won her 2022 bid for governor, and in doing so she took aim at Richer.

The lawsuit alleged that "Richer and his family have been the target of threats of violence, and even death, and have had their lives turned upside down" because of Lake's "knowing and malicious falsehoods."

The lawsuit pointed to a series of Lake's election denialism claims, among them that she falsely claimed that Richer had misprinted ballots “so that the tabulators would jam all day long.” In another instance, her campaign’s Twitter account claimed that Richer “sabotaged” Election Day.

Dozens of vote tabulation machines malfunctioned during Arizona's 2022 election and would not accept ballots to read, which some conservatives falsely pointed to in espousing conspiracy theories. The root cause was ultimately traced to changes in ballot paper.

Lake railed against Richer's lawsuit Tuesday in a video statement on X.

"By participating in this lawsuit, it would only serve to legitimize this perversion of our legal system and allow bad actors to interfere in our upcoming election," she said. "So I won't be taking part."

Richer replied to her on X by saying means "she has conceded she has no evidence (truth is 100% quick defense to defamation), she has surrendered first amendment claims, and she has stopped fighting."

"But I’m happy to start investigation on damages," he added. "Reminder that she says this case looks a lot like Rudy’s and Trump’s — I’m fine with those final dollar figures."

Longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani was ordered to pay $148 million last year in a defamation case over false claims he made about two former election workers in Georgia. Giuliani had previously chosen not to contest the claim.

In a statement on Tuesday, Richer said, “I have said from the beginning that no one is above the rule of law and today further validates that belief. I look forward to entering the damages phase of this case.”   

An attorney for Lake did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.