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Head of Arizona GOP says she'll run again after helping her party lose elections

Kelli Ward says she’s running for another term as head of the Arizona Republican Party because Donald Trump told her to.

By Josh Israel - January 07, 2021
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Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward

Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward said Tuesday she will seek another term to “build on the successes” of last year.

Under Ward’s leadership, Republicans lost both a key Senate race and the presidential election in the state in 2020.

“It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as Chairwoman of the @AZGOP for the past two years,” Ward tweeted. “Tonight, I am announcing my run for a second term to build on the successes of 2020, advance the fight for election integrity, and KEEP ARIZONA RED for generations to come.”

In a video accompanying her tweet, she noted that she made the decision to run again after asking Donald Trump in December whether she should. “He said he not only thought I should run, he told me that I needed to run. I’ll be honest with you: Even at that point, I was still on the fence, but I thought I owed it to the president to give it some serious consideration.”

With Ward at the head of the state GOP, Arizona, a state that had gone Republican in every presidential election since 1996, gave its 11 electoral votes to Democrat Joe Biden, who won in the state by more than 10,000 votes. Four years earlier, Trump won Arizona over Hillary Clinton by more than 90,000 votes. This marked only the second time a Democratic nominee had won since Harry Truman in 1948.

The state also elected Democrat Mark Kelly to the Senate over appointed interim Republican Sen. Martha McSally for the final two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s unexpired term. The last Democrat to win that seat was Carl Hayden in 1962.

Ward presided over growing divisions between her own hard-right faction and the more moderate wing of the party. One Republican state lawmaker told CNN last month that GOP infighting had become a significant problem. “It has become very toxic,” the unnamed official observed. “Eighty percent with you isn’t enough for some people.”

After the election, Ward led an unsuccessful effort to get the Arizona presidential results overturned. Last month, the party’s official Twitter account shared a comment from a supporter who wrote, “I am willing to give my life for this fight.” “He is. Are you?” the party replied, seemingly urging others to commit violent acts. It also tweeted — and then deleted — a scene from the movie “Rambo” in which a character said, “This is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something.”

The state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, denounced the tweets: “The Republican Party is the party of the Constitution and the rule of law. We prioritize public safety, law & order, and we respect the law enforcement officers who keep us safe. We don’t burn stuff down. We build things up.”

A former state senator who unsuccessfully sought her party’s Senate nominations to the U.S. Senate in 2016 and 2018, Ward has a long record of extremist comments and far-right actions.

In April, she urged citizens to defy coronavirus safety restrictions and to impersonate health care workers to circumvent stay-at-home orders.

In 2018, she tweeted, “Political correctness is like a cancer!” just days after McCain died of brain cancer.

That same year, she defended the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant child from their parents by arguing that “bad people” exist and might try to sneak into the country using children as props.

And in 2013 and 2015, she authored bills aimed at nullifying all federal gun laws and making it a felony to enforce them in Arizona.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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