Election Day has come and gone and races for party leadership have begun. While Arizona Democrats will be celebrating gains made across the state, Arizona Republicans will have a high-profile battle over party positions like Chairman that will offer the AZGOP an opportunity to stay the course or choose a new way forward. Representing the status quo is current Chairman Jonathan Lines, whose hard work on behalf of the Ducey and McSally campaigns ought to earn him some loyalty from those groups. However, the AZGOP was trounced on election day! Lines’ hiring decisions caused strife within the party from day one and most candidates not named Ducey or McSally didn’t feel the love the same way as the two top candidates did. Former Reagan White House alum Frank Thorwald and US Senate candidate Kelli Ward have both announced campaigns for the office and East Valley activist Tim Horn’s name has also been mentioned.
To win the race for Chairman you need to secure a majority of votes of the AZGOP’s State Committeemen at the state meeting in January. These State Committeemen were all just elected at various legislative and county meetings as part of electing new district/county leadership. ADI is getting reports of shenanigans being played by the AZGOP to ensure the Jonathan Lines slate of state committeemen are elected. The most complete report comes from LD13 in Maricopa County’s West Valley where officials in charge of the district, along with party officials, managed to break not just the district bylaws and Arizona state law. Unfortunately, it looks like there is nothing that can be done about it.
Arizona law requires districts to establish Nominating Committees to provide a fair process for nominating for the district’s leadership and state committeeman (SCs). In addition, a Credentials and Tally Committee is to also be established to certify the precinct committeemen present at the meeting are entitled to vote, that proxies are certified, and to count the votes cast. These committees are supposed to be announced at the monthly meeting before the election. The LD13 Chairman and officers ignored this requirement and did nothing to form them. Committees were assembled literally at the last moment. District leaders also ignored the requirement that committees consist only of LD13 Precinct Committeemen (PCs) and instead placed AZGOP staffers/volunteers in charge of much of the effort.
LD13 also violated all the rules governing ballot access. State law requires that when scheduling a meeting for November 28th, the deadline to submit your name to appear on the pre-printed ballot is November 14th. Yet, only a select group of PCs received an email on November 13th asking them to submit their name if they wanted to be a candidate for one of the district officer positions. No mention was made of having to submit your name if you wanted to be a candidate for State Committeeman or how to get your name on the ballot for that office; nor was any deadline given to appear on the ballot for SC even though the date was the same.
The remainder of the PCs not on the original list didn’t receive any email at all. Of course, the email itself doesn’t satisfy any legal requirements because the call letter and rules for the meeting must be physically mailed to the PCs by the required date (outlined in statute as 14 days before the meeting). Yet, LD13 officials waited until AFTER the deadline to get on the ballot to even mail the call letters, dropping them in the mail on the 17th, 18th, or later. This resulted in many LD13 PCs receiving their call letter a full week after the deadline to appear on the ballot. We will never know if the goal of the leadership team was to deprive PCs of access in order to control the slate for the incumbent chairman, or perhaps to hide that the legal deadlines had already passed, or both. However, what we do know is the call letter itself contained no information regarding any deadlines or what PC’s needed to do for their names to be submitted if they wanted to run for officer or state committeeman.
The written rules contained in the call letter reminded PCs that registration at the meeting would close promptly at 7:00 p.m., and no PC could be credentialed after 7:00 p.m.
The meeting itself was a circus! Most PCs showed up on time to comply with the rules but there was no Credentials and Tally Committee consisting of LD13 PCs as required. Instead, the District Chairman Michael Carbone, announced that he had outsourced the entire credentials and tally process to the AZGOP. These AZGOP representatives arrived so late that registration didn’t even start until after the 7:00 p.m. deadline to close the registration process. Also, there was no effort to determine who was in line in time and who arrived too late to vote. The written rules were ignored to make sure that late arriving PCs were credentialed and there are numerous complaints of improper proxies being accepted or repaired at the meeting in violation of the rules. LD13 PCs were unable to examine the signature sheets for PC’s and their proxies or of the proxy documents themselves because they were kept by the AZGOP staff members and taken after the meeting. Assisting the AZGOP representatives in their work was LD13 Secretary Karri King, a relative of AZGOP operative Kim Owens (better known for her work on behalf of Jeb Bush then later John Kasich in 2016), and the district chairman’s son.