After just one week of gathering signers onto a draft call, organizers of a fresh election for the Arizona Republican Party turned in 352 signatures, far more than the 294 signatures needed and, if they hold up, the AZGOP State Committee will be gathering on April 24th to consider and then potentially conduct a new election for state party leadership positions.
“This was no one’s first choice,” said Bill Beard, one of the organizers who has been trying to get the Party’s January 23rd election properly audited since it was first held, “but after months of trying to get our Party Chairman and leadership to follow our bylaws and conduct the audit as requested by dozens of state committeemen, we were left with no choice but to do as the State Party’s counsel insisted, and resolve the matter as a whole committee.”
Numerous complaints were filed about the Party’s election, although Ward and other party officials have insisted the election was perfectly run and that no mistakes were made. While the Party’s own bylaws allow for a 10-day challenge window, Ward spent weeks insisting that there were no provisions for any sort of audit. Later, her attorneys conceded that the bylaws did permit such challenges, but said that she was powerless to follow those bylaws.
The weeklong effort to collect signatures from at least 20% of the Party’s nearly 1,500 State Committeemen resulted in heavy email traffic from the State Party to its members, urging them not to sign, and calling those involved in the effort a small group of “malcontents” and sore losers. With approximately 350 signers now on board the effort, it remains to be seen how the Party’s rhetoric will change towards such a large portion of its own membership.
“This effort brought together Republicans from all over our ideological spectrum, and people united around this effort in a way that isn’t normally seen in State Party politics.” noted one organizer who preferred not to be identified because of potential retribution from Ward and her team. “You have conservatives like David Eppihimer, Russell Pearce, Barbara Blewster, and Mark Finchem on the same side as more moderates like Kathy Petsas, Steve Chucri, and Jane Lynch, and that doesn’t happen in these party fights, almost ever.”
There is a 10-day review period for those effected by the proposed special meeting to review the signatures and challenge any they believe to be invalid, but organizers appear confident that they will prevail in any review.
“Every signer is a qualified State Committeeman and, while it would not surprise us if some of those responsible for forcing this situation tried to play games with the process, we are so far over the minimum number required that we are certain we have met the requirements for an April 24th meeting,” said Beard, as part of a statement to the media.