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Arizona Republican Party Attorneys Ask Judge To Dismiss Case Of 'Party Politics'

By Ben Giles
Published: Monday, May 3, 2021 - 2:30pm
Updated: Monday, May 3, 2021 - 5:41pm

Kelli Ward
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kelli Ward

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge will soon decide if a group of dissatisfied Arizona Republicans can continue a legal challenge against leaders of the state Republican Party.

Republicans Bill Beard and Sandra Dowling say that Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward refuses to acknowledge that enough signatures were gathered to call for a meeting of the state committee — that’s the roughly 1,400 Republican activists in the Arizona GOP.

In March, hundreds of Republicans signed a letter calling for the meeting, where the full party would decide whether or not to redo an election of state GOP leaders.

A hearing is scheduled for May 18 to determine if enough valid signatures were collected. But first, attorneys for the Arizona Republican Party have asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp to dismiss the case.

GOP attorney Jack Wilenchik argued the court has no business interfering with what he described as the internal affairs of a state political party.

“It is a waste of the court’s time and runs contrary to the clearly-established principle that internal party political matters are not justiciable,” Wilenchik wrote in court filings. “It would entangle the court in party politics, to the benefit of absolutely no-one and at great expense to the reputation and resources of the court.”

Attorney Timothy La Sota, representing Beard and Dowling, said they’re only asking the court to order Ward and other Republican leaders to follow the party’s own bylaws. They don’t trust Ward’s assessment that not enough signatures were gathered to call a state committee meeting, and view Ward’s actions as another attempt to stonewall a push for an accountable election.

Before calling for a meeting on an election re-do, Beard, Dowling and dozens of other Republican activists requested that Ward order an audit of the party’s election.

Ward argued she alone doesn’t have the authority to order an audit -- only the state committee does, she and her attorneys said.

La Sota said that’s no relief to Republican activists if Ward acts as a gatekeeper and blocks the state committee from gathering.

“She's essentially taking refuge in this, in the state committee, the forum it provides for people to have their differences resolved in front of all the members of the state committee, but at the same time trying to prevent the state committee from ever meeting to make those determinations,” La Sota said.

A do-over of the leadership election would put Ward’s position as party chair in jeopardy — she would be up for re-election once again, just like every other elected leader of the Arizona Republican Party.

Wilenchik also asked the judge to bar La Sota from the case because he once served as general counsel to the Arizona Republican Party.

A hearing on both matters is scheduled Tuesday at 2 p.m.