AZ GOP Censure Cindy McCain, Gov. 01/24 11:20
PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Republicans voted Saturday to censure Cindy McCain
and two prominent GOP members who have found themselves crosswise with former
President Donald Trump.
The censures of Sen. John McCain's widow, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Gov.
Doug Ducey are merely symbolic. But they show the party's foot soldiers are
focused on enforcing loyalty to Trump, even in the wake of an election that saw
Arizona inch away from its staunchly Republican roots.
Party activists also reelected controversial Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who has
been one of Trump's most unflinching supporters and among the most prolific
promoters of his baseless allegations of election fraud.
The Arizona GOP's combative focus has delighted Trump's staunchest
supporters and worried Republican insiders who have watched the party lose
ground in the suburbs as the influence of its traditional conservative
establishment has faded in favor of Trump. A growing electorate of young
Latinos and newcomers bringing their more liberal politics from back home have
further hurt the GOP.
"This is a time for choosing for Republicans. Are we going to be the
conservative party?" said Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker and chief of
staff to Ducey. "Or is this a party ... that's loyal to a single person?"
It's a question of Republican identity that party officials and activists
are facing across the country following Trump's 2020 loss, and particularly
after a mob of his supporters laid siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Nowhere is the question more acute than Arizona, where the state GOP's
unflinching loyalty to Trump stands out even in a party that's been remade
everywhere in the image of the former president.
Ward has relentlessly --- but unsuccessfully --- sued to overturn the
election results. The party has used its social media accounts to urge
followers to fight and perhaps even to die in support of Trump's false claims
of victory. Two of the state's four Republican congressmen are accused of
playing a role in organizing the Jan. 6 rally that turned violent.
After dominating Arizona politics for decades, Republicans now find
themselves on their heels in the state's highest offices. President Joe Biden
narrowly eked out a victory here, becoming just the second Democrat in more
than five decades to win the state. Consecutive victories in 2018 and 2020 gave
Democrats control of both U.S. Senate seats for the first time in nearly 70
Ward, a physician and former state legislator who lost two Republican
primaries for the U.S. Senate, defeated three challengers to win a second term.
In a brief interview, Ward acknowledged "disappointment at the top of the
ticket" but said she and many other Republicans still question the results
showing victories for Biden and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Judges have
rejected eight lawsuits challenging Arizona's election results.
Ward pointed to GOP successes down the ballot, noting Republicans defied
expectations in local races.
Ward said she's a "Trump Republican" who will "always put America first, who
believes in faith, family and freedom." The way forward for the GOP, she said,
is keeping Trump's 74 million voters engaged.
"Yes, I will be radical about those things because those are the things that
keep this country great," Ward said. "The people who are complaining are the
people who actually put us in this spot where we are in Arizona, people who
have been mamby pamby, lie down and allow the Democrats to walk all over them."
The censures target some of Arizona's most prominent Republicans,
Cindy McCain endorsed Biden and became a powerful surrogate for the Democrat
following years of attacks by Trump on her husband. After the vote, she wrote
on Twitter that "it is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who
have served our state and our nation so well."
"I'll wear this as a badge of honor," she wrote.
Also after the vote, Flake tweeted a photo of him with McCain and Ducey at
Biden's inauguration and wrote: "Good company."
Flake was one of the few congressional Republicans who was openly critical
of Trump for failing to adhere to conservative values. He declined to run for
reelection in 2018 and endorsed Biden in last year's election.
"If condoning the President's behavior is required to stay in the Party's
good graces, I'm just fine being on the outs," Flake wrote on Twitter before
and after the vote.
Ducey is being targeted for his restrictions on individuals and businesses
to contain the spread of COVID-19. While it's not mentioned in the proposed
censure, he had a high-profile break with the president when he signed the
certification of Biden's victory.
"These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever and the people behind
them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had," said
Sara Mueller, Ducey's political director.
Many traditional conservatives fret that the censures and Ward's combative
style turn off the swing voters and ticket-splitters who handed Democrats their
recent victories. But they say the party's decisions will reflect only the
views of about 1,500 committed activists.
John McCain was censured by the state GOP in 2014 and went on to comfortably
win a Republican primary over Ward and a general election. The self-described
maverick, known best for his willingness to buck his party, had strained
relations with the state party for much of his career but was consistently
reelected by wide margins.