Is Name-Calling Coming to the 2024 Senate Primary?

Jim SharpeMay 1, 2023
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If I asked you how a lamb could be transformed into a rhino, you might think I’d lost it – or had just watched The Island of Dr. Moreau on TNT.

And if I added that former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake was the one trying her luck at a lamb-to-rhino revamp, you might even suspect that I’d been smoking large quantities of the funky stuff, perhaps with back issues of PHOENIX magazine for jumbo rolling papers.

But I sound sober when I add full names and apply proper spellings for these particular political animals. So, once again: Can Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb be transformed into a RINO (i.e., Republican in Name Only)?

Recently, Lamb became the first Republican to throw his (cowboy) hat into the ring for Arizona’s 2024 U.S. Senate race. And that Senate seat, held by newly independent U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, is a seat many people believe Lake would love to sit in.

NBC News political director and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd told me on KTAR that the second-term sheriff is a “very formidable” candidate and that Lamb’s launch created “a lot of positive Republican buzz” in D.C. and “a lot of nervous Democratic buzz.”

His candidacy makes Democrats nervous because a Lamb win in 2024 could cost them their current Senate majority.

But Lamb has to win an Arizona GOP primary first – and that’s where the RINO name-calling comes into play. In a Lamb vs. Lake gunfight, it’s a weapon Lake would surely unholster, as she has in the past. But will the shots do any damage, considering the former’s solid conservative credentials? 

While Lamb was busy winning two elections, putting human and drug smugglers out of business and bringing the border battle into American living rooms on Fox News and Live PD, Lake lost her only election as she went from reading (what she now says were) lies to a camera in a TV news studio to talking to a camera (that made it look like she was swimming in Vaseline) in her living room.

So, how can Lake claim that Lamb is a RINO? Simple: The RINO definition changed. 

Previously, people who didn’t embrace the conservative Republican agenda were tagged “RINOs,” but in the Trump Era, the term has been recontextualized to mean Republicans who don’t embrace election-denying lies.

And Sheriff Lamb is surely guilty of transforming into that kind of RINO.

Despite hanging out with some very vocal critics of the 2020 and 2022 elections (which is almost impossible to not do these days if you’re a Republican) and despite supporting Trump as a candidate, Lamb told Congress not long ago that he saw “zero evidence” of widespread voter fraud. To his credit.

And only days before announcing his Senate candidacy, Lamb told FOX10 (the station where Lake did all her “lying”) that despite the fact he “…got involved with some of the groups that were actively out [there] saying they had evidence… to this day, I’ve never been provided any evidence of significant material fraud.”

Alright, so Lamb might be one of those new-fangled Trump-era RINOs, but please don’t call him that other epithet far-right Republicans are fond of using… because the fact he didn’t obediently follow Trump down the path of election-conspiracy tomfoolery means he’s clearly not a sheep.

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit to find more information about his on-air work.