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Arizona Republicans select Gina Swoboda as new party leader

By Wayne Schutsky
Published: Sunday, January 28, 2024 - 1:48pm
Updated: Monday, January 29, 2024 - 10:36am

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Gina Swoboda
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Gina Swoboda

Arizona Republicans selected a close ally of former President Donald Trump to lead the state party days after Chairman Jeff DeWit resigned.

Gina Swoboda won a landslide victory at the state Republican party’s annual meeting in Phoenix on Saturday. She picked up more than 1,400 votes, defeating Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Jim O’Connor by around 1,000 votes.

Swoboda, who was the party’s third vice chair, worked in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office from 2018 to 2020 under Republican Michelle Reagan and Democrat Katie Hobbs. 

But she then went on to become a key ally of Trump and Kari Lake, working on the 2020 campaign Trump lost to President Joe Biden and the 2022 Arizona governor’s race Lake lost to Hobbs. Swoboda also runs the Voter Reference Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make state voter databases public.

Trump and Lake both endorsed Swoboda, who is now an advisor to the Arizona Senate’s Elections committee. 

But she also picked up support from the Arizona GOP’s establishment wing.

“Gina is a true conservative fighter & I’m thrilled to welcome her to the helm of our State Party!” Karrin Taylor Robson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Taylor Robson lost to Lake in the 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary in Arizona.

Swoboda received applause upon taking the stage, though Lake — who introduced her — was met with boos, according to those in attendance. Lake’s decision to secretly record conversations with DeWit – and the fact that those recordings were leaked to the media in an apparent attempt to force him out — has divided Republicans in recent days.

“I hope that the overwhelming mountain of boos Lake got from the almost 2,000 Republican voting members of the state party helps her realize the party needs and wants unity, not secret and edited recordings which she has spent the last week fundraising off of that only bring divisiveness and chaos to a time that our country needs to heal,” DeWit said in a statement to AZ Family’s Dennis Welch.

Despite widespread support, there was initially a question of whether Swoboda was even eligible to serve as party chair due to the fine print included in the state party’s bylaws.

Those bylaws stated that all vacancies “shall be filled by an elected precinct committee person.”  A precinct committee person is a local-level party official that is typically elected during the party’s primary election every two years. But party officials can also appoint party members to fill vacant precinct committee person positions.

According to statements made by AZ GOP officials during the meeting, Swoboda was an elected precinct committeeman, resigned from that post but was then reappointed. Party leaders ultimately allowed her to remain on the ballot after some debate, because she was originally an elected PC.

Republicans selected Swoboda just three days after DeWit resigned after a leaked recording revealed he seemingly tried to bribe Kari Lake not to run for U.S. Senate.

That led to a rushed chairperson election that saw party members select their preferred candidate on blank ballots provided by the party. The party was already scheduled to vote for lower level positions, such as second vice chair, and those ballots were prepared ahead of time.

But because ballot tabulating machines used by the party were not calibrated for the chairperson race, those ballots had to be counted by hand, and the party did not announce Swoboda’s victory until around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday after a nearly 10-hour meeting.

A vocal contingent of Arizona Republican Party members continue to sow distrust in ballot tabulating equipment by pushing disprove conspiracy theories, but an effort to force the state party to count all ballots by hand was narrowly voted down.

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