With quite a few people asking me for details on the disagreement within the AZGOP as it relates to its bylaws and an audit of the January 23rd party election, I thought it would be simpler to put it into writing and leave it on this blog so that anyone could access it at their own convenience. Years from now, it may also be beneficial to have some sort of a written record, should history repeat itself in some way.
Simplified to its most basic elements, the question is should the Arizona Republican Party follow its bylaws or not?
In this case the specific bylaw was passed at the January 23rd meeting and provides a 10-day period for election challenges so that challengers can participate or observe an audit of the results of the election and know that the results that were reported were accurate. The written reasons for the introduction of this bylaws have at their root the election of November 2020, and the desire that election integrity be more than buzz words. The authors of the bylaw, and the vast majority of State Committeemen who passed the bylaw, intended for the AZGOP to set a proper example to the rest of the state and country of how to properly conduct transparent and accountable elections.
It would double or possibly triple the length of this post if I were to detail some or all of the various infractions that took place during the AZGOP election. It would also put some people on the defensive and they would spend their time denying that any infractions took place, instead of considering the best way forward. The good news is that in order to determine the right way forward, it does not actually matter if any infractions took place or not.
What is clear is that the party bylaws contain a 10-day challenge, which opened the moment the gavel fell and ended the January 23 meeting. Legally, that is the moment that the bylaw changes take effect. It is why challenges were filed–nearly 40 state committeeman requested challenges in all–and it is why both the national committeeman and the executive director of the state party assured those filing challenges that the audit would take place in accordance with the bylaws.
This is where things went off the rails – because six days after the election, Ward herself went on the radio and declared that there would be no audit, that the bylaws did not allow for an audit, and that losers do not get to ask for audits. The bylaws hadn’t changed in those six days, but whatever Ward and her team had spent the last six days checking out was sufficient to reverse the party’s position and start a fight with its own membership over election integrity at a time when election integrity is the number one issue for all Republicans.
Sometime later, the attorneys for the Arizona Republican Party confirmed in writing that the bylaws did allow for these challenges and audits, but that important reversal of the chairman’s stated position did not come with an actual audit. It contained more stonewalling and an insistence that the chairman was powerless when it came to an audit and that the responsibility somehow lay with the state committee itself.
Again, it is worth pausing to note that this continued conflict is only happening because the state chairman is refusing to allow an audit of the party election, in direct violation of the bylaws.
So more than 350 State Committeemen took action, called a Special Meeting to fix things, then watched as Ward and her supporters bullied a handful into taking their names off of the filed call, a tactic which itself may not even be legal. Why threaten people’s livelihoods to prevent everyone from participating in a fair election? We see that kind of behavior in the third world, but why here in our own AZGOP?
Kelli Ward and her supporters insist that the election was perfect, but let’s lower the bar they themselves set to nearly perfect, since a perfect election is nearly unattainable. Nearly perfect is still good enough. If this is true, then an audit would be simple, quick and easy to perform, and would confirm that near perfection was attained, thus calming the state party and setting an example for the rest of the world both how to conduct an election, and how to provide transparency to the voters that reassure them that the election was conducted properly and that only lawful votes were cast and counted.
But that’s not what is happening. To the contrary, Ward and her team are all in on preventing an audit, at any cost to the party, its finances, and its reputation. Going further, Ward and some of her supporters are waging war against other Republicans who insist on election integrity and following the law, and they do so while trying to claim some moral high ground. They claim that those who want the law followed are just sore losers, disrupters, malcontents distracting the Party from its 2022 goals, and never-Trump opponents of the America First agenda. Ward herself has begun targeting Republican elected officials for defeat because they asked for an audit or a fresh election.
All of this is utter nonsense and a smoke screen to distract from the fact that Kelli Ward is hiding the truth about her own election behind a team of lawyers, the party’s bank account and reputation, and all while raising money in the name of election integrity from unsuspecting patriots who are sending in their $35, $50, or $100, unaware that Ward may turn around and spend that money to OPPOSE election integrity efforts in our own party.
When Kelli Ward attacks conservatives like Russell Pearce, Mark Finchem, Barbara Blewster, Frank Carroll, Randy Miller, and me as McCain supporters and opponents of the America First agenda, it should give you serious pause when it comes to her integrity and credibility on this and every other issue. Say what you will about this cast of characters — and individually and collectively we’ve been called more than our share of names — but “McCain supporters” or “opponents of the America First agenda” is obviously and laughably false.
The solution to all of this is simple – follow the bylaws – have an audit – show the election was done right or, if you can’t, do it again and do it right.
That’s what we as Republicans would ask of any election anywhere else, so if you’re opposed to doing it in this case, consider the very real possibility that you place more value on personalities or factions than you do principles. Is Election Integrity something you care about only when you don’t like who wins a race? Do you not care about the rules, laws, or bylaws, so long as your friend or your preferred candidate wins? If so, then so be it, but you don’t get to claim any sort of moral high ground or attack those for whom principles matter more than personalities or factions.
It may also be that you have viewed this entire dispute thinking it was all about Ward and people who dislike her and are trying to undermine her, so your natural reflexive position was to rally to her side to “stop the bad guys!” If you’ve read this far, you now know different.
I’ve spent probably six years supporting and voting for Kelli Ward for a variety of things. Until the last few months I have spent most of that time defending her against questions about her fitness and qualifications for various offices. This dispute wasn’t personal for me, and I would have taken the side of doing what was right if the Chairman was Ward, Lines, Graham, Morrissey, Pullen, Salmon, Fannin, or Londen.
But isn’t it time to move on? No, of course not. We have to do things right and the Party needs to know that it is led by quality people who are doing things right. If you get to lie, cheat and/or steal to be in charge, and you don’t have to follow the rules that everyone else has to follow, then you are the very swamp we are battling to rid ourselves of. If you’re unhappy with this distracting from the 2022 fight, then blame the people who are truly responsible – those who are ignoring the rules, laws, and bylaws of our Party, and who are threatening and intimidating those who want them to follow them. Again, this could have been finished in a single afternoon in late-January or early-February. Every delay since then is the responsibility of those intent on ignoring the rules.
Like efforts to obstruct audits of the 2020 election are only feeding suspicions and eroding trust in elections and the institutions that run them, blocking the lawful audit of our 2021 party election is doing the same. I agree with Russell Pearce’s recent op-ed that this won’t end until we do things right as a party. And the longer Team Ward violates the rules to stay in power, the greater the opposition to their actions will get. As with the 2020 election, the only way forward is through transparency and accountability. And if you are afraid of those two things, or if you are afraid or unwilling to champion those two things, then you have no business trying to lead the Arizona Republican Party.