The news that AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines had selected Matthew Kenney as the organization’s new executive director sent shock waves across the state this week. Kenney, who is considered an operative for the establishment, was hired along with Torunn Sinclair.
On Wednesday, GOP activist and precinct committeeman John Backer spoke for many of the Party faithful in an interview on the James T. Harris show when he said Lines’ decision left many people feeling “betrayed.”
Backer explained, “Through a period of time, the chairman has been personally giving commitments that he wouldn’t hire that individual because he so controversial.” Backer says the move has “largely alienated” Lines from the “Party and his supporters.”
“It all starts with the commitments that Chairman Lines made to the GOP and his supporters, on a one-on-one basis, that he wouldn’t hire this individual. The controversy comes about for a number of reasons; one, because Matthew Kenny was involved in a purge of grassroots conservatives using the Party against the people that it was supposed to be working with, and two, going out and signing up PCs to get proxy votes to get things done that he and the folks he deals with,” Backer said referring to the establishment, “wanted to get done.”
Backer stated that Kenny was a “never -Trumper who was working to whip up votes against Trump. If you think about it, there was a majority of our Party that selected Trump, and if this individual is meant to unite our Party, I think he ill-equipped to do that because he’s already alienated himself from so many members.” [LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE]
Backer said a “coalition is growing, and if you are a principled conservative – whether you know it or not – you are a member of that coalition.” He stated that steps need to be taken to move the Party forward. Backer was alluding to a growing group of activists who want to start a recall campaign against Lines.
As Backer said, during his run for the AZGOP chairmanship, Lines had frequently told members that Kenney would not be part of his team. It is widely believed that had Lines been honest about his intentions, he would not have been elected chair. In fact, Lines only won by a narrow margin over the grassroots candidate, Jim O’Connor, with the help of a faction of Kelli Ward supporters.
Ward ran against Sen. John McCain in the Republican Primary in 2016. Her supporters believed that O’Connor had supported another Primary candidate, Alex Melusky. As a result, many of them turned to Lines believing his promises that he would not be the establishment choice.
The selection of Kenney is an especially painful slap in the face to Ward supporters. It was Kenney, who called Ward after her defeat in a now infamous exchange, to gloat and then suggest she endorse McCain.
In December, the ADI first predicted that Lines’ would pick Kenney.
In March, the ADI reported that Republican grassroots were calling for a recall of Lines as AZGOP chair based on a number of issues.
Former AZGOP Chair Robert Graham left the Party all but broke and Lines had served as Treasurer during Graham’s tenure.
Despite the lack of funds, in his first official meeting as Chairman, Lines presented a budget that assumed future income in the amount of $1,000,000 and expenses at $750,000. The budget included salaries for 4 paid employees, averaging approximately $62,500 per employee.
The day after that highly unusual get together, “Republicans in Arizona received a message from a group identifying itself as the Trump Coalition. The group claims that the “grassroots will have enough votes to recall,” Lines,” according to ADI’s report.
According to sources, that group is expected to grow exponentially now that Lines has made Kenney the new executive director.