When Dr. Kelli Ward took over as Chair of the Arizona Republican Party, hopes were high that the grassroots would finally have a place at the AZGOP decision-making table. After all, Ward was swept into office in January by those very party members Sen. John McCain had once contemptuously referred to as “hobbits.”
Ward’s win signaled a new day and a new way of doing business. Finally, conservatives could recruit like-minded individuals as precinct committeemen and together they could work to elect candidates that best reflected their values.
For some AZGOP members, primarily in more rural counties however, little has changed. The resistance to growing the ranks of Republican precinct committeemen lies in a lust for power by the “good ol’ boys,” who appear to be more determined to maintain their position rather than grow the Party.
Take the case of Santa Cruz County Chairman George “Zack” Taylor. For years, Taylor has managed to hold a tenuous grip on the Santa Cruz County Republican Party by only allowing a handful of carefully selected precinct committeemen to be officially approved by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
Because only official precinct committee persons can elect a county chair, it is imperative that the likes of Taylor prevent unfriendly precinct committeepersons from infiltrating their domains.
That is exactly what Taylor did earlier this month when he pulled 5 potential precinct committeepersons (PCs) from consideration by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. Taylor took the aggressive step despite the fact that the names appeared on the official public notice of the supervisors’ meeting agenda. While he claimed he made the move because he didn’t want to bother the supervisors with such a small number of appointees, the Santa Cruz Democratic Party kept their single PC on the agenda.
As the Democrats know well – every PC counts.
At a recent Legislative District 2 meeting, which includes portions of Pima County and Santa Cruz counties – there was a lengthy conversation and debate about Taylor’s maneuver.
Given that Santa Cruz is authorized 58 PC positions – 1 for every 125 registered Republicans, the fact that there are only 6 PCs currently – and the numbers haven’t changed significantly for several years, makes his decision to quash 5 PCs very questionable. Most Chairmen would be excited to see their PC numbers double.
At the LD2 meeting Chairman Taylor presented his side of the disagreement and explained that out of the 14 PC appointment applications presented (some say the number is 19 PCs) – only 4 were Registered Republicans. The 14 PC appointment applications came from or through Sergio Arellano and Steven McEwen. Chairman Taylor discussed his issues with Arellano and McEwen.
Arellano was not present at the meeting and Chairman Sizer presented information that Arellano had discussed with him; therefore, after some debate, a motion passed which prevents Arellano from having equal time to present his case.
Some of the problem appears to be related to bad blood between Taylor and Sergio Arrellano going back years. Arellano has been working in Santa Cruz County as a Hispanic outreach person for the AZGOP in previous years (click here for a related story ), and has been working to grow the Republican party ranks in Santa Cruz County.
Taylor reportedly pointed out that he prefers for Sergio Arellano to not interfere with his role of Chairman in Santa Cruz County, with Arellano countering that that every PC should be recruiting new PCs. There were some additional comments made about another GOP volunteer, Steven McEwen, who had volunteered to be a poll watcher in the last election (he was turned down) and who had been helping to recruit additional PCs even before he was appointed as a PC himself.
Additionally, Taylor stated that McEwen attended and voted at the GOP Statutory meeting where Dr Ward was elected, but it is unclear how he could have voted when Santa Cruz County only could cast 2 votes due to their limited PC count and the votes were collected either through county chairman or LD chairman. One would think a third vote would have been questioned on the spot.
McEwen appears to be passionate about helping the Republican party – in a short time he has helped find volunteers and set up a Santa Cruz Republican Club Facebook page which has approximately 100 likes. No other website or Facebook page could be found for Santa Cruz Republicans.
We reached out to following people for comment and here is what each had to say:
AZGOP Chairman Dr Kelli Ward – She shared her plans to have the Executive Director present at the LD2 meeting on Saturday March 16th and went on to say that they would have a better handle on the issues after attending the meeting.
Santa Cruz GOP Chairman Zack Taylor – no response
GOP LD2 Chairman Anthony Sizer – no response
GOP LD2 1st Vice Chair John Backer – he requested we publish exactly what he wrote to us. His quote was received before Chairman Taylor pulled the 5 appointments from the Board of Supervisor agenda:
“First off, I am not speaking for the Republican Party or for the executive committee of LD2 – what follows is my individual observations only.
The Republican Party very much needs to and wants to grow our party and our precinct committeemen ranks. During the meeting, when we were told that only 4 people were registered Republicans and I asked the 1st Vice Chair from Santa Cruz County if a procedure was in place to register those who had volunteered but were not registered Republicans.
She shared that they do have that process in place. As long as people who volunteer are getting registered when needed and appointed as PCs most of the concerns here go away. I’m confident that at our upcoming meeting Santa Cruz County will have 4 or more freshly appointed PCs and those who were not registered are now registered and will soon join the ranks of PCs in Santa Cruz County and move Santa Cruz County closer to the permitted 58 PCs. We have a lot of work to do in Pima County too.”
With the next LD2 meeting coming up Saturday March 16th at 9:00 a.m. – at the Quail Creek Clubhouse, we plan to follow this situation as it develops. County Chairmen enjoy a few perks that come with the title, but a Chairman more interested in the title and perks than in growing the party and electing Republicans will cost the GOP dearly as 2020 approaches.
Turning away people who are excited and ready to help the party will discourage them and turn them off to politics. Steve McEwen has provided a lengthy document outlining his side of this story and he strongly feels he has been wronged and claims to have proof to what he has to say.
Is there a problem in the Santa Cruz Republican Party? If you believe “perception is reality,” some have the perception there is a problem. One thing is for certain,Chairman Ward is taking a serious look at this situation and we hope to see it resolved very soon.