Republican Kari Lake, left, appears before a PBS televised debate on June 29, 2022, in Phoenix and Democrat Katie Hobbs smiles prior to a televised interview in Phoenix, Oct. 18, 2022. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / AP

Editor’s note: Park officials said Saturday that Acadia plans to stay open through Sunday, Oct. 1 if the federal government shuts down.

No, Kari Lake didn’t win the 2022 election for governor in Arizona. And no, the recent judicial ruling against her election claims does not mean “our elections can run lawlessly,” as she claimed. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Republican candidate made her case in court, and she lost based on the facts and the law.

For all her inaccuracies and irresponsible claims, Lake got one thing right: Her Democratic opponent, now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, should have recused herself during the election. At the time of the November election, Hobbs was secretary of state, the state’s top election official, and she rebuffed bipartisan calls for her to recuse herself from that role. That meant she was essentially overseeing her own election, in appearance if not in practice.

This creates a strong and obvious perception of a conflict of interest. The same was also true when Republican secretaries of state, like now-Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia or 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Summers in Maine, also didn’t clearly or fully recuse themselves while running for a different office. (Summers said at the time that he took steps to eliminate conflicts of interest.) And it will remain true until states pass laws to require and plan for this kind of recusal.

Lake has spent months lobbing accusations and inaccuracies in court and in the court of public opinion (and raised a ton of money while doing so, by the way). Judges and fact checkers alike have refuted her arguments, but she has nevertheless been able to hitch a clown car of false claims onto the legitimate concern about a secretary of state overseeing their own election.

Was Lake going to make these claims regardless of Hobbs’ recusal? Seems likely to us watching from across the country, but we also have little doubt that this potential conflict of interest added fuel to the fire and helped launder false claims as supposed fact. We were convinced that Hobbs should have recused herself last fall, and we’re even more convinced now.

Former President Donald Trump has ushered in a massive wave of election denial, and with others like Lake choosing to go along for the ride, state legislatures must be especially committed to the task of ensuring public trust in elections. That doesn’t mean capitulating to denialism, but it means identifying and removing potential conflicts of interest that undermine trust regardless of the claims being thrown around.

Kemp faced criticism when he didn’t recuse himself in Georgia’s 2018 race for governor. The same standards should apply across the board. Something can’t be a problem when the political opposition does it but justified when a political ally does the same thing. For all the talk about the health of democracy, there should be no doubt that good governance must be applied equally. Wrong is wrong, and a conflict of interest is a conflict of interest.

In a sea of inaccuracies, Lake got one thing right: Hobbs should have recused herself. And the same should be required of top election officials across the country overseeing their own election.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...