Former Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton recorded a video message at the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater: “We are ready to march for you.”
PHOENIX – Kelli Ward, the fractious leader of the Arizona Republican Party, narrowly beat back significant competition on Saturday to win another two-year term as the organization’s chairwoman despite the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
The closely watched result offers an early, state-level indication that Trump retains sway over the activist base of the GOP, though it is more tenuous. The election also suggests the longstanding divisions in the state party in the Trump era have not abated.
Ward’s reelection was considered a foregone conclusion weeks ago, but many in the GOP had misgivings about the party’s past electoral performance on her watch and an uncertain future heading into the 2022 midterm elections.
Under Ward, the state GOP joined a failed lawsuit against Vice President Mike Pence seeking to allow him to overturn the election results. She also urged Pence on Twitter to adjourn Congress to allow state Legislatures to overturn their results
The state party often used incendiary messaging since President Joe Biden’s victory – including one social media post asking supporters if they were willing to give their lives in the fight to overturn the election – and helped establish a baseline of radicalism for conservatives that culminated in the invasion of the Capitol.
Later Saturday, the state Republican Party members passed three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. It was another sign of the party’s move to the right.
The party censured Ducey over his decision to impose emergency rules during the pandemic that the GOP said “restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts.”
McCain, who endorsed President Joe Biden, “has supported globalist policies and candidates” and “condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results.”
Flake has “condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests.” The party suggested Flake join the Democrats.
‘I think I had some effect’: Cindy McCain pleased with Joe Biden’s election victory, looks ahead
Sara Mueller, Ducey’s political director, took the censure in stride.
“These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever, and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had,” she said.
J.P. Twist, Ducey’s former campaign manager who now is the political director of the Republican Governors Association that Ducey heads, suggested financial reprisals for the state party.
“And with that, the AZGOP will have no significant role in ’22. No other option but to work with others. We’ve been here before. No big deal,” he said in a tweet after the vote.
McCain in a tweet alluded to her late husband Sen. John McCain’s own battles with the party.
“It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well … and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor,” she said.
Flake tweeted a picture of himself with Ducey and McCain at Biden’s inauguration that said simply, “Good company.”
The Greater Phoenix Leadership, an influential group in the business community, noted its disapproval, saying, “The behaviors, actions & messages of the AZ GOP under the leadership of Kelli Ward remain disgraceful & disappointing.”
The dynamics of the race for GOP chair seemed to shift after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and after criticism that the party had scheduled the censure votes.
Ward defeated Sergio Arellano in a run-off election after getting about 47% of the vote in the first balloting, which included three challengers. She won 52% on the second ballot. It was a 42-vote margin over Arellano.
The meeting, held in person at Dream City Church but off-limits to most in the media, took a more combative turn when Ward allowed Daniel McCarthy, a former U.S. Senate candidate who publicly floated the idea of creating a third party after his 2020 GOP primary loss, to address the crowd.
Amid boos from those on hand, McCarthy urged Ducey’s recall and called the GOP part of a “uni-party system” that doesn’t offer true conservatism to its supporters.
Amid boos, Daniel McCarthy, a former U.S. Senate candidate who floated the idea of creating a third party after his primary loss, addresses the crowd.
“You have a uni-party system. I was blocked last year,” McCarthy said. “They took a controlled opposition candidate and spoonfed them to you.
“Martha McSally, Doug Ducey, they are controlled opposition, and you know it. This party put Doug Ducey in office and Doug Ducey should be recalled by this party. … Why don’t you want to recall the man that certified the fraudulent election?”
At one point Ward admonished disruptive members of the crowd: “You know what, people? This is not Republican behavior.” She declared them out of order and said they would be escorted from the meeting floor.
The spectacle renewed the feud between Ducey and Ward that has simmered since the election, and suggests the grassroots of the Arizona Republican Party intends to double down on Trump’s style of combative conservatism in the 2022 midterm elections.
Ducey’s standing with the activists in the state GOP continued to plummet. Last year, the two-term governor who now heads the Republican Governors Association was shouted into silence by some at the GOP meeting a year ago, largely because of his support for red-flag laws that would allow authorities to temporarily take away guns from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Heading into the meeting this year, Ducey had directly crossed Trump by certifying the state’s election results and ignoring a call from Trump at the moment he was doing so.
The state party remained fixated on the baseless allegations of election fraud that helped bring together those in the mob. There were calls Saturday to prevent stolen elections through corrupt administrators, “ballot harvesting” and rigged machinery.
Biden won Arizona by less than 11,000 votes, the tightest margin in the country and only the second win for Democrats in the state since 1948. The victory by Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., gave the state its first pair of Democratic senators since 1953.
Ward’s closest competitor, Arellano, runs an arms-manufacturing company and a political consulting company, Tipping Point, LLC. He decided to challenge Ward after seeing what he called “the deterioration of our organization and our majority” under Ward.
“I bring the organizational knowledge, skills and abilities to bring this party back, with a message that not only embraces diversity but also capitalizes on the motivations of Republicans,” he said before the election.
After the results were announced, Arellano and Ward walked on stage together in a move intended to show party unity. “It’s time for us to unite, come together and win,” he said with Ward at his side.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/01/24/arizona-gop-reelects-kelli-ward-censures-cindy-mccain-jeff-flake-doug-ducey/6692657002/
View original Post