Republicans in Maricopa County gathered for a meeting in a megachurch earlier this month to elect their leadership, only for the whole thing to devolve as attendees "hissed and screamed" and pushed conspiracy theories about the equipment being used in the process, reported Yvonne Wingett Sanchez for The Washington Post on Friday.
"Just a few months ago, Arizona Republicans lost nearly every major statewide midterm race after campaigning for months on false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. That was not always a winning strategy in Arizona or in many other states, but many Republican leaders and their supporters here are still clinging to election-fraud falsehoods, refusing to acknowledge that their candidates lost and resisting attempts to lessen the extreme divisions in the state," said the report. "The recent Saturday gathering of the Maricopa County Republican Committee to pick new leadership could have been a day of reflection, but it instead showcased how conspiratorial claims of voter fraud remain a litmus test for leaders in the GOP’s state and local party apparatus."
"The day was a preview of the fight to come this weekend when the state Republican Party convenes to select new leadership and priorities ahead of 2024. That meeting, set to unfold in the same megachurch, will test the power of new grass-roots activists versus a more tenured pragmatic faction focused less on litigating past elections and more on winning ones in 2024," said the report. "By the end of the night, when county activists had to leave the church’s inner sanctum, it was unclear who would lead the county party, a frustrating end for some so focused on having elections that begin and end on a single day."
After a series of furious arguments, the party finally decided to quell the conspiracy theorists by counting the ballots multiple ways. The Maricopa GOP elected as its new chair Craig Berland, who was endorsed by losing pro-Trump gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and MyPillow CEO-turned-election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.
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Lake has still refused to concede her election defeat, filing multiple lawsuits to try to overturn the results.
According to the report, many election deniers were swept into lower-level office even as the GOP lost most statewide races. "The midterm elections ushered in 41 freshman lawmakers at the state Capitol, one of the largest crops of new or returning members in modern history. Of those, 25 are Republicans. Some have explicitly questioned election results, and about half appear sympathetic to the newly launched 'Arizona Freedom Caucus,' an unofficial assembly of lawmakers who appear aligned with Trump’s agenda and combative approach to more traditional GOP members in leadership. The group does not publicly identify all of its members."