GOP election rift engulfs Mesa lawmakers The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

GOP election rift engulfs Mesa lawmakers

December 15th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
GOP election rift engulfs Mesa lawmakers


Two Mesa lawmakers and a congressman are at the epicenter of a widening schism in Arizona’s Republican Party over President Donald Trump’s defeat in the state.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers has been subjected to threats from some Trump supporters while state Senator-elect Kelly Townsend has stirred calls for a legislative panel to investigate unproven election irregularities that handed Arizona to President-elect Joe Biden.

Gov. Doug Ducey also has been dragged into the rift after certifying the election and declaring Biden the winner in Arizona’s Presidential election.

Last week, Mesa Congressman Andy Biggs, whom Townsend succeeded in the Legislature when he went to Congress, assailed Ducey in a blog by accusing the governor of a “petty move” in certifying the election.

Biggs, who complained his calls to Ducey were shunted to the governor’s chief of staff, said, “Governor Ducey has harmed the common cause of the Republican Party” and that he “has left the Reagan Republican Ranch.”

Reagan also was invoked by Bowers in a statement Dec. 4 when he categorically refused the demands of Townsend and other legislators to overturn the certified results of the election and investigate so-called irregularities.

“Forty years ago next month,” Bowers said, “President Ronald Reagan reminded us that while the ‘orderly transfer of authority’ is a ‘commonplace occurrence’ for Americans,” it is a “miracle” to most in the world…“Now, Americans are being reminded once again never to take for granted what President Reagan correctly described as ‘the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic.’

Stating “the rule of law forbids us” from upending the election results, Bowers noted that Trump lawyers, some legislators and state Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward failed to make a case for that.

In two separate meetings with lawmakers, Bowers went on, “the Trump team made claims that the election was tainted by fraud but presented only theories, not proof. U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said on Tuesday that he, too, has ‘not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome of the election.

“Even if such evidence existed, the Arizona Legislature simply couldn’t do what is being asked,” Bowers said. “Under our state’s constitution, the Legislature can act only when it is in session, and the Legislature could call itself into a special session only with the support of a bipartisan supermajority of its members.”

Bowers also noted that three years ago, a law passed by the Republican-led Legislature requires electors to cast their votes for the majority winner in the Presidential election.

“The law was aimed at ensuring that Arizona’s electors would remain faithful to the vote of the people,” he said.

“No election is perfect, and if there were evidence of illegal votes or an improper count, then Arizona law provides a process to contest the election: a lawsuit under state law,” Bowers also said.

“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election.  I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him,” he added. “But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.”

“Under the laws that we wrote and voted upon, Arizona voters choose who wins, and our system requires that their choice be respected,” Bowers said.

The lawsuits haven’t worked.

Less than a week after Bower issued his statement, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Ward’s challenge. A federal judge in Phoenix did the same with another lawsuit the following day.

In tossing the suit, U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa ripped the plaintiffs, stating: “The allegations they put forth to support their claims of fraud fail in their particularity and plausibility.

“Plaintiffs append over 300 pages of attachments, which are only impressive for their volume,’’ Humetewa said. “The various affidavits and expert reports are largely based on anonymous witnesses, hearsay, and irrelevant analysis of unrelated elections.’’

But the state GOP’s consistent inability to justify their allegations and Bowers’ statement failed to mollify pro-Trump forces within Arizona’s Republican party to the point where Republican House Speaker Pro Tem T.J. Shope said, “It’s time to dial it down a little bit here or a lot a bit.”

According to Channel 3 news, Townsend’s tweet of screen grabs of emails from Bowers was followed by a tweet listing Bowers’ home address for a protest and a separate one with his personal cellphone number.

Both tweets were taken down.

There also were tweets from the AZGOP Twitter account suggesting people be ready to die for Trump, news accounts said.

Shope described the language as hostile and dangerous.

“There are people in this world, in this society, unfortunately, who need a trigger of some sort,” Shope said to the TV station. “That’s exactly why you don’t usually cross the line.”

Townsend earlier this month also reacted angrily to state Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s announcement that he won’t pursue an investigation into the complaints of election irregularities.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright told Townsend that her unit, which was set up by the Legislature to investigate election irregularities did not have the power to issue civil subpoenas in election matters.

Townsend,  who helped push last year to establish the AG’s Elections Integrity Unit, said, “What I plan to do this next session is to defund the unit because it’s not performing how we expected it to.’’

Townsend said she would put the unit into the Auditor General’s Office, which is a branch of the Legislature, and give that agency subpoena power.

Brnovich declined comment.

Townsend said she has a donor – she did not name names – who has pledged $500,000 to hire legal help to pursue any legal remedies.

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

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