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GOP Activists Call For Redo Of Arizona Republican Party Election

Published: Friday, March 26, 2021 - 5:34pm
Updated: Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 10:59am

Republican critics of Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward have enough support to call a special meeting of the state party that could lead to her ouster.

Hundreds of Republican activists signed a letter in support of the gathering, at which point Republicans would decide whether or not they should redo the party’s Jan. 23 leadership election, when Ward and other Republicans were elected to top positions with the state GOP.

Bill Beard, a Pima County Republican, said that Ward’s continued refusal to honor repeated requests for an audit of the leadership election forced the unusual maneuver of threatening an election do-over.

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Questions about the vote-counting process and the conduct of party officials conducting the election were raised immediately following the vote, and were echoed in the following days with requests for an audit and transparency. In late February, Beard and fellow Republican Sandra Dowling sued Ward and the state party, alleging she’s violating party bylaws that obligate her to conduct the audit if asked.

“If any of those requests had been honored, I honestly do not believe that we would have been forced to go the route of getting the 20% of the state committee to sign those letters,” Beard said.

Ward, who narrowly won reelection as state party chair in that January election, has blasted the call to action as an attempt by a “disgruntled few” to sow division. She’s used the communications arm of the state party to dismiss the call for a special meeting as “illegitimate.”

“The letter you may have received is a dishonest and underhanded method of attempting to obtain signatures under false pretenses,” an email to Arizona Republicans from the party states. “Please do not engage with it.”

The letter, signed by roughly 350 Republicans, calls for an April 24 meeting of the state party. At the meeting, they’d hold a vote to elect not just a party chair, but also the party secretary, treasurer and other top leadership roles. If enough Republicans approve the redo, they’d immediately hold a new election the same day.

Trey Terry, a Republican active with the party in the West Valley, said the call to action puts Ward on notice.

“My hope is that this is a wake-up call to her, that her status quo is unacceptable to Arizona Republicans,” Terry said. “And this is either going to force a change in her behavior, or it can force a change in leadership altogether.”

Officials with the Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment. But the emails discouraging Republicans from signing the letter make it clear that Ward doesn’t plan to honor the call for a gathering that could result in her ouster. 

One email cites a rule in the state party’s bylaws that only the state party secretary can issue an official call for a special meeting. 

Beard agrees. He said it’s the secretary’s role to certify that enough signatures were gathered — 20% of the roughly 1,400 Republican state committeemen. Once the signatures are certified, Beard said bylaws dictate that the secretary must also notify all state committeemen of the special meeting on April 24. 

Ward has no authority to stop the meeting from occurring, Beard said.

“Once it is officially recognized that the 20% threshold has been passed, it sets in motion a series of events that the chair, I mean, [Ward] has every right as an individual to refuse to show up if she so chooses, but the party will continue to operate and the officers will move forward with conducting the meeting,” he said.

Asked what would occur if the secretary rejected the signatures or refused to issue the official call for a special meeting, Beard said, “there will be hell to pay.”

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