Arizona State Republican Party Chairman Kelli Ward is again battling with the conservative grassroots in the party, and party bylaws are once again being ignored. According to email communication from prominent party activists, including former Senate President Russell Pearce, Ward stacked the state party’s Resolutions Committee with loyal supporters to ensure that resolutions critical of incumbent Republican legislators be gutted or scrapped altogether.
The state party has its annual meeting coming up this Saturday, January 22nd, 2022, and part of that meeting is the debate over resolutions proposed by state committeemen, followed by votes on those resolutions. Before a resolution can be put before the entire meeting, it must first clear a Resolutions Committee that consists of appointed representatives from various counties and legislative districts. In the case of legislative district 25, the district chairman appointed Russell Pearce as that district’s Resolutions Committee member, a post Pearce has held on several occasions before. The appointment was ignored by Chairman Ward, who instead appointed her own choice to that position. Pearce was one of several hundred state committeemen openly critical of Ward’s refusal to follow the party’s bylaws in her own 2021 election, and to use party resources to thwart an audit of that election.
The resolutions that Ward’s team wanted to neuter were copies of resolutions already overwhelmingly approved by the Maricopa County Republican Party’s Resolutions Committee. The most notable was critical of State Representative Michelle Udall, whose lengthy record of opposing legislation that would empower parents and grow school choice opportunities in Arizona had made her a top target for conservatives in 2022. In the face of such opposition, Udall abandoned her reelection campaign, and is instead running to be the State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position conservatives oppose her for, given her record on education issues. Ward’s resolution committee voted down the Udall resolution 20-0, and struck the names of Udall and two liberal Republicans, Joanne Osborne and Joel John, from a second resolution, by a vote of 19-0.
“The people who write the checks and run the show in Arizona Republican circles are back in charge.” vented one angry state committeeman, who noted that it has been standard operating procedure for censure resolutions to pass that called out prominent Republicans including Senators McCain and Flake. “Kelli Ward helped pass resolutions critical of her opponents when she was running against them, but now she protects them because it’s in her personal best interest, and it pisses me off.”
Leading GOP contenders for Governor Kari Lake and Matt Salmon have both been publicly critical of anti-school choice votes cast by Udall, Osborne, and John, calling them out for campaigning as pro-school choice conservatives then voting like Democrats. So there is little doubt that the resolutions would pass at the conservative gathering. But that is good reason for Ward’s actions according to some.
“The McCain resolutions were bad politics, the Flake resolutions were bad politics, and Ward is right to try to protect someone like Michelle Udall who might be the GOP candidate in the general election. Kudos to Ward for finally showing some common sense and for using her power to shut up a group of state committeemen who mostly just want to stir things up and make trouble for other Republicans.” said one State Committeeman who did not support Ward for Chairman, but who is willing to give her credit for her latest move.
For his part, Pearce is upset that his resolution was gutted, but is also upset that Ward is again ignoring the party’s bylaws to do what she wants, and other state committeemen agree with him. “The rules are simple, the district chairmen appoint their district’s representatives, and its been done that way forever. The problem is Ward acts like a queen, not a chairman, so it doesn’t matter what’s right or what the rules say.” said an East Valley committeeman who plans on attending the meeting and fighting for Pearce’s original language.
“Look, these passed overwhelmingly through the Maricopa County Resolutions Committee and those same legislative districts make up an awfully big chunk of the State Resolutions Committee, so pulling the strings to have 19-0 and 20-0 votes that were the exact opposite of what Maricopa voted for just two weeks ago tells you that Kelli Ward is running the State Party as her own personal kingdom now.” said one East Valley committeeman who plans on attending the meeting and complaining about the edits.
Ward is not up for re-election until 2023 if she decides to run again, but several State GOP offices are up on Saturday, including the 1st Vice Chair election that features Ward loyalist Jill Norgaard, who played a large role in the redistricting process, and former County School Superintendent Sandra Dowling, a pro-Trump activist who nevertheless found herself on the outs with Ward after calling for an audit of her election this last January.