‘Negligent in every way’: AZGOP spent $530K on a bus tour and party

Hundreds of red, white and blue balloons were suspended over the massive ballroom inside the swanky Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in the early morning hours of Nov. 9.

But rather than fall onto a joyous crowd of Republicans cheering on their candidates in the midst of a “red tsunami” sweeping GOP candidates to victory across Arizona, the night ended with the balloons nestled against the ceiling.

Those balloons cost $3,348, a mere drop in the bucket of the more than $325,000 that the Arizona Republican Party spent on its extravagant election night party, according to the Arizona Mirror’s analysis of campaign finance records.

Combined with another $205,000 or so spent on a three-day bus tour during the critical final weekend of the campaign, Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and her team spent more than $530,000 on what one GOP consultant said were “vanity projects” designed to boost her ego instead of winning races.

The election ultimately ended in disaster for Republicans in Arizona: For the first time in nearly 50 years, Democrats won the top three statewide races plus the U.S. Senate contest.

Two of those races were close, but Republicans came up short. Kari Lake lost the governor’s race by about 17,000 votes, while attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh was defeated by a mere 280 votes out of some 2.5 million cast, the narrowest margin in state history.

“It’s no surprise we didn’t fare well in the election,” said Robert Graham, who chaired the Arizona Republican Party during the 2014 and 2016 elections. “Ward didn’t use resources to win, she used it for parties.”

The Arizona Republican Party did not respond to multiple requests to interview Ward or to defend its spending choices.

But Sheila Muehling, who has been the party’s elected treasurer for the past two years, said she was outraged at the decision to spend so much money, so late in the campaign, on things that weren’t aimed at helping Republican candidates locked in close races.

“To me, it was negligent in every way, shape and form,” she told the Arizona Mirror. “I wish I could tell you what the point was. It made no sense at all.”

Muehling, who is one of three candidates to replace Ward as party chairman when the AZGOP elects new leadership on Saturday, said she aims to remake the party into an organization “with a laser-like focus on training our volunteers, raising money and helping our candidates win their elections.”

Even Trump questioned Ward’s spending priorities

In the months leading up to the election, Republicans hadn’t been shy in voicing their concerns about Ward’s spending priorities — including former President Donald Trump, who reportedly had a heated conversation with Ward in late October about the AZGOP sitting on more than $1 million in the final weeks of the campaign, saying her explanation was a “bullsh** excuse,” according to Politico.

“Ward’s refusal to spend to the bottom of her organization’s coffers has baffled top Republicans, and it remains unclear to those outside the state party leadership why exactly she is hoarding the funds,” Politico wrote.

It seems a large portion of those funds were earmarked for a three-day bus tour and an extravagant election night party.

That the party ponied up more than $500,000 on a party and a days-long bus tour was disappointing, but not surprising, said J.P. Twist, who was the political director for the Republican Governors Association during the 2022 election

“The current leadership at the AZGOP has consistently placed a higher value on flash rather than substance,” Twist said. “It makes you wonder what impact that money could have had on so many close races.”

That’s why the RGA opted not to work with the AZGOP as it supported Lake’s campaign in the fall. Instead, the group, which was helmed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, coordinated its support of Lake with the Yuma County Republican Party.

When Ward bragged on Twitter in December that she “turned off the feeding trough” for “slimy, unprincipled consultants” because she was dedicated to spending money on candidates and not political operatives, Twist sounded off.

“This is a blatantly moronic LIE. We sent our money to Yuma because we couldn’t trust you to spend it wisely had we sent it to you. That’s the reason,” he responded.

Chad Heywood, a Republican political consultant and former executive director at the AZGOP, said that although events aimed at firing up the base are important, there was a better way to do that late in the campaign than an expensive, multi-day bus tour.

“These bus tours drive out the faithful and get them excited, which is a piece of the puzzle — but that was a very overpriced piece,” he said. “In this case, I’d bet some of these candidates who lost by a few hundred or a few thousand votes wish that money were better spent with direct voter contact.”

Heywood would know: He was the general consultant for Hamadeh, who lost by a razor-thin margin. There were a multitude of ways to better spend that $200,000 sunk into the bus tour to increase turnout, particularly among low-propensity GOP and conservative-leaning independent voters.

“Paid canvassing, paid phones, paid text messages, digital, TV would have all been better means to get the attention needed to persuade independent voters than a ($200,000) bus tour with the most-likely-to-vote GOP voters,” he said.

‘Fleecing the donors’ for the celebrity treatment

The largest expense for the bus tour wasn’t the tour bus, but the D.C.-based event production company that spearheaded the three-day-long affair. Event Strategies, which bills itself as “a full-service event management and production company,” was paid $137,285 to run the bus tour.

The AZGOP spent $29,350 to rent a bus from Goss RV, which calls itself “the leading provider of luxury RV rentals in the U.S.” and another $11,000 to wrap the rented bus with the faces of Lake, Hamadeh, Mark Finchem and Blake Masters. Venues where the tour stopped for small campaign rallies, like Schnepf Farms and First Assembly of God Church in Phoenix, also were paid.

And the party spent $2,000 on a Scottsdale-based hair stylist and makeup artist, listing the payment as “bus tour production GOTV,” using an acronym for “get out the vote.”

But the bus tour was cheap compared to the election night bash. The AZGOP paid The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch nearly $180,000 to host the “cowboys and conservatives” themed soiree, as well as for a bloc of rooms for the party’s workers.

Another $76,000 went to the event’s audio and visual production, which was done by a Phoenix company that works extensively with conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA. And more than $23,000 was spent on off-site parking at Salt River Fields, nearly three miles away, and shuttle buses that ran every half hour to ferry attendees between the resort and the parking.

Graham, the former AZGOP leader, said the only job of the party chairman is to win elections. Spending so much money on things like a bus tour and a fancy party instead of proven get-out-the-vote strategies is political malpractice, he said.

“It’s a fleecing of not just the state party, but the donors,” he said.

Heywood said spending so much money on an ostentatious election night party is particularly galling, since everyone following the election knew the premier races would be closely contested — and that final results wouldn’t be known for several days after the election.

“Unless you are Kelli Ward. When she was on the ballot two times, the results were definitive by 8 p.m.,” he said, referring to Ward’s two blowout losses for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and 2018.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Arizona's new political reality


For nearly 14 years, Republicans have controlled the most important levers of power at the state Capitol, allowing them to increasingly become more insular in their governance and oftentimes cut Democrats out of the process entirely.

That ends on Monday, when the GOP-majority 56th Legislature convenes and its 90 members take their oath of office. Shortly after they do so, Gov. Katie Hobbs — the state’s first Democratic governor since 2009 — will present them with her vision for Arizona in 2023 and beyond when she gives her inaugural State of the State address.

Hobbs, herself a former legislator, will be leading an administration that is certain to clash repeatedly with a Republican-majority legislature that will be grappling to figure out the new political realities after nearly two legislative generations — lawmakers are limited to eight years in office — have learned how to navigate governing under a GOP governor.

And because of those term limits, there is virtually no experience in legislative corridors for dealing with a split government. Ken Bennett and John Kavanagh, new Republican senators, are the only two of the 90 legislators who also served when Janet Napolitano was governor from 2003 to 2009.

But even the lessons they learned in how to deal with an opposition executive might not be terribly useful, given the changes in Republican politics since then. Two shifts stand out most: Republican majorities are now razor-thin, only a single seat in each legislative chamber, and the GOP caucuses are considerably more conservative than they were in the early aughts.

That’s a recipe for potential disaster, said Wendy Baldo, a former longtime state Senate staffer who worked as chief of staff for 13 years before retiring at the end of 2021. Politics now punishes pragmatism and compromise, but there’s no way around either of those if lawmakers are serious about doing their jobs — particularly passing a budget, their sole constitutional duty, Baldo said.

“You have to be willing to compromise,” she said. “You have to recognize that you can’t always get what you want.”

Republican leaders in 2004, Napolitano’s second year, learned the hard way what happens when you don’t. After months of budget negotiations, Republicans in the state House of Representatives wouldn’t budge on their conservative spending demands, and they rejected a framework budget agreed to by the GOP-controlled Senate and Napolitano.

You have to work hand-in-hand with people who don’t share your policy goals. Unless they do that, they’re going to get rolled, one way or another.

– Wendy Baldo, former Senate GOP chief of staff

After a lengthy stalemate, a group of more moderate Republicans (who dubbed themselves the “Mushroom Coalition” because their leaders kept them in the dark and fed them manure) took matters into their own hand and struck a deal with Napolitano and legislative Democrats. When it became clear that spending plan had the votes in the House, the Senate fell into line, and House GOP leaders were left cut out entirely.

Baldo said she’s been thinking a lot about that situation since Hobbs won the governor’s race last year, and said today’s Republicans risk repeating history if they don’t learn the lessons from nearly 20 years ago.

“You have to work hand-in-hand with people who don’t share your policy goals,” she said. “Unless they do that, they’re going to get rolled, one way or another.”

Chuck Coughlin, a longtime lobbyist and president of Arizona High Ground, believes that both Republicans and Democrats are more ideologically driven now than they were when Napolitano was governor.

“The Republican party is different these days than the Republican party that Napolitano had to deal with,” he said. “It’s more the party that you’re seeing in the Kevin McCarthy hearing in D.C. It’s a more ideologically-controlled organization and I think they’re going to struggle.”

Coughlin, who described himself as a “Gerald Ford Republican,” said that Napolitano’s deal-making skills played a part in the compromises she reached with the Republican legislature at the time — but he’s not sure Hobbs will be able to do the same.

“I think part of that Republican caucus is going to look at compromise as a loss, and they’d rather just not pass anything,” he said.

After so long of Republican rule, it can be difficult to operate in a new political environment, said Bob Robson, a Republican who served 14 years in the state House during two different stints. When Robson arrived at the Capitol in 2001, Republican Jane Hull was governor. But for his second term, Napolitano had become the state’s executive.

The change was a “major, major shift” for returning Republicans. They may not have seen eye-to-eye with Hull on everything, but they largely agreed on the big issues, and negotiations were often a matter of fine-tuning a proposal. But with Napolitano, GOP lawmakers were now dealing with someone who had a much different view of government and spending.

“It was exceedingly difficult,” he said. “And if you look at this legislature, it will be even more difficult, because you only have 31 and 16 Republicans.”

Robson said those slim margins make it impossible for Republicans to operate the way they have in the Legislature for years, requiring that bills get the votes needed to pass only from the GOP caucus.

“Extremes will get you nowhere if they stay that way,” he said. “At some point, there will be an uprising. You can’t bottle that up for too long.”

While displaying caucus unity is important for solidarity when the legislative session begins, Robson said Republican leaders will eventually have to shift to a bygone model of the past if they hope to succeed and let bills advance if they have 31 or 16 bipartisan votes, as long as a majority of those votes are from Republicans.

“That’s the release valve” to avoid a repeat of 2004, he said.

Reaching that point is hard, said Bob Burns, a Republican state legislator from 1989 until 2011. A longtime chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Burns also served as Senate president for his final two years in office.

The hardest part about taking on those leadership roles, he said, is realizing that your personal priorities might not be shared by your colleagues — or by the governor, particularly when that governor is in the opposing party.

“You have to be flexible to some extent. You may not want to be, but you have to be,” he said. “You have to get to 31, 16 and one. That’s your job as leadership. And it doesn’t always fit your vision.”

Getting to a solution, particularly on the state budget, is a slow and painstaking process that Burns called “a balancing act,” even in the best of times.

“At some point, you recognize deadlock,” he said. “That’s when you say, ‘I can’t get them all. It will never happen. We have to get who we can get.’ It’s a never-ending cycle of negotiation. It’s a brutal process.”

Extremes will get you nowhere if they stay that way.At some point, there will be an uprising. You can’t bottle that up for too long.

– Bob Robson, former Republican state legislator

The most important thing that the incoming Republican leaders can do is to recognize the power that Hobbs has as governor, said John McComish, a GOP leader in the state House during Napolitano’s final years as governor.

“The first thing the Republicans need to realize is they’ve got a vetoing governor — and an equal partner on the budget,” he said.

Coughlin believes that there are Republican members of the legislature who know how to compromise and get a budget passed, but they will first have to wait for some of the new, eager members to propose bills that are all but certain to be vetoed. Then those that are willing to compromise can work on bills that might garner more bipartisan support, Coughlin said.

The threat of vetoes is not an idle one. In her tenure, Napolitano vetoed 202 bills, including a whopping 58 in 2005 alone. Hobbs has already said that she only wants to see legislation come to her desk that has bipartisan support in the legislature, not the GOP-only provisions that were largely delivered to her predecessor, Gov. Doug Ducey.

Whether the Republicans will heed that warning remains to be seen, but the increasing extremism in modern politics is a sign that Hobbs likely should get her veto stamp ready, said Daniel Scarpinato, a Republican political consultant and veteran of the Ducey administration, where he finished his tenure as chief of staff.

“I think it is probably going to be a bloodbath of (vetoes), and I think that it will probably exceed Napolitano,” he said.

While there will undoubtedly be bills sent to Hobbs designed to get a veto in order to score political points, Scarpinato said Republicans would be wise to be more strategic in what they send to Hobbs. That would let them campaign in 2024 as “a check and a balance” on Hobbs’ administration.

But what will damage that effort, he said, is continued Republican infighting, especially on the budget. Public squabbling amongst themselves will only give Hobbs more advantage in the negotiations.

Marilyn Rodriguez, a lobbyist with Creosote Partners, believes Hobbs has a smart strategy in “leaving her door open” for compromise with Republicans.

Rodriguez predicts that, if Republicans in the Arizona legislature refuse to work with Democrats and no lawmaking is accomplished this session, they’ll be setting Democrats up to win the legislature in two years and “have a trifecta” to control both legislative chambers and the Governor’s Office.

There’s a good example of that happening in Michigan, she said: After two years of Republicans blocking legislation favored by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrats won both houses of the state legislature in November.

I think it is probably going to be a bloodbath of (vetoes), and I think that it will probably exceed Napolitano.

– Daniel Scarpinato, Republican political consultant

But Rodriguez thinks that, at some point this session, a Republican legislator will break from the caucus to work with the Democrats, because legislators ultimately want to pass laws.

“Eventually, somebody’s going to give in and want to say that they brought something home to their constituents,” Rodriguez said. “This is a guess, but those politicians are more likely to be the ones that are already bucking this caucus trend to go nuclear, before they’ve even had a chance to try to work together.”

But she also thinks that it’s going to take a long time for legislators to find a middle ground.

“I think it’s going to be a long session where most everything, if not everything, gets done during the budget,” Rodriguez said. “This legislature is really hostile. They have been, especially to Democrats, whether or not Democrats are bringing them something they agree with.”

Barry Aarons, a veteran lobbyist who’s been in the business for more than 50 years, warned that progressives shouldn’t assume that Hobbs will veto every right-of-center bill that comes across her desk. He remembers when Napolitano told progressive lobbyists that she couldn’t just veto every single Republican-backed bill and asked them to point out which bills were “most egregious” and which ones they thought they could live with.

Aarons added that it’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the upcoming session with so many new faces and the new dynamic between the legislature and the governor’s office.

“I think the legislature, over the next 60 days, has to kind of find its own personality for this session, and we’ll see how that happens,” Aarons said. “Everybody needs to be patient and I think everybody’s expectations need to be tempered a little as to what can get accomplished, at least in this first year while we’re figuring out the dynamic of how things are going to work.”

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy contributed to this report.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

When you tell voters to ‘get the hell out,’ prepare to lose embarrassingly

Kari Lake performed historically badly in her bid to be governor. And there’s no debate about why she and her merry band of MAGA extremists lost all of the top statewide races this year: Republican voters abandoned them.

Not that they could ever admit that, of course, as Lake and her allies have spent the weeks since she lost diving headlong into fanciful and evidence-free claims that the election was rigged against them.

And it’s not all Republican voters who couldn’t stomach the intentional demolition of faith in American elections, obviously. The GOP remains firmly under the thumb of former President Donald Trump, and the vast majority of its voters remain enthralled by the reality-TV-star-turned-politician and his incessant, delusional blathering about stolen elections.

But data published about the recently certified election makes clear that a significant number of GOP voters rejected the Republicans at the top of the ticket.

The political climate couldn’t have been better for Lake and Blake Masters and Mark Finchem and Abe Hamadeh. Midterm elections are historically great for the party out of power in D.C., and with surging inflation and an unpopular Democratic president, Republicans were predicting not just a “red wave,” but a “red tsunami” that would “break the establishment.”

Republican enthusiasm was strong in the election. In Maricopa County, where about two in every three Arizona voters live, more than 75% of registered Republicans cast a ballot, outpacing Democrats (69%) and independents (49%).

Critically, overall turnout in Maricopa heavily favored the GOP. More than 40% of voters were Republicans, about 8.3 percentage points more than Democrats — slightly better than the eight-point edge that reputable polling predicted.

And yet, Lake lost 315 precincts that voted for Doug Ducey in 2018, when he easily secured reelection over David Garcia. Between Maricopa and Pima counties, where some 80% of Arizona voters live, 295 precincts flipped from R to D in the governor’s race.

At the same time, Kimberly Yee secured reelection as treasurer by more than 280,000 votes, an 11 percentage point margin over her Democratic opponent. And Republicans picked up competitive congressional seats in Phoenix and Tucson.

You don’t have to crunch the data too hard to understand that Lake’s loss wasn’t because of fraud or the hacking of machines, as she desperately wants people to believe. It’s because her message about pervasive election fraud and fealty to Trump — also the central message of the Masters, Finchem and Hamadeh campaigns — drove Republican and conservative-leaning independents away from her by the thousands.

By contrast, Yee didn’t cozy up to Trump — or to Lake, Masters, Finchem and Hamadeh, for that matter. Neither did U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, who narrowly won reelection, or Juan Ciscomani, who was elected to Congress in a tight race in Tucson.

One look at the map of the precincts in Maricopa County shows clearly what happened in Lake’s race: The ones that flipped are primarily in north Phoenix and Chandler, two areas that have historically been Republican strongholds but are increasingly becoming purple.

None of that surprised Ryan Smith, a lifelong Republican and former political consultant from Mesa who voted for Hobbs. Lake ultimately faltered, he said, because her focus on feeding red meat to the die-hard, Trump-loving GOP base turned off Republicans like himself who want to move away from the Trump era.

The result, he said, was that some of those voters cast a ballot for Hobbs, while others skipped voting in the contest altogether. Election data shows there were roughly 32,000 voters who didn’t vote for governor, nearly twice the margin that Lake lost by.

“That combination, in small-margin races, is the kiss of death,” Smith said.

Kathy Petsas, a longtime Republican activist from Phoenix, said Lake ran an abysmal campaign that squandered the huge GOP turnout advantage by focusing on re-litigating Trump’s 2020 loss and demonizing voters who didn’t kneel at Trump’s altar.

“We might be a conservative state, but we’re not a Trumpy state,” she said, noting that this is the third straight election in which Trump-backed statewide candidates have lost.

Yee’s victory is indicative of what the state’s red wave ought to have looked like, had there been better candidates at the top of the ticket, said Tyler Montague, a lifelong Republican who has spent more than a decade in the intraparty fight between the GOP’s increasingly more powerful right wing and the more moderate business-centric wing.

“It’s a massive loss, and it’s strictly due to campaign malpractice,” he said. “The Republicans should have swept.”

Lake’s campaign rhetoric, Montague said, was particularly damaging — especially in the campaign’s closing weeks, when she repeatedly shared a stage with convicted felon Steve Bannon and told voters who liked the late John McCain to “get the hell out” of a rally.

“Hey, dumbass, you’re in the friend-making business,” Montague quipped.

Led by Lake, none of the Republicans who lost their statewide races seemed to recognize — or care — that they needed to shift their rhetoric in a general election to win votes from people who didn’t vote in the primary.

That led to a campaign focused on personal and political grievances. While that might fire up the base, it wasn’t the base that was ever going to deliver a statewide victory.

“You can’t own the libs into the Governor’s Office. Or into the Secretary of State’s Office. Or the Attorney General’s Office, thank God,” Petsas said.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Kyrsten Sinema's side hustle has just been revealed

Slate on Thursday published a story speculating that U.S. Sen Kyrsten Sinema is padding her income and decluttering her D.C. apartment by reselling designer clothing and athletic gear on Facebook Marketplace.

The story stopped short of definitively saying that the senator, who is one of the two most pivotal votes in the entire U.S. Senate, is behind the account selling stylish clothes, athletic apparel and bicycling equipment. But because reporter Christina Cauterucci couldn’t get confirmation from Sinema’s office that the “Kyrsten Sinema” Facebook account selling the goods is in fact run by the real senator, she had to couch the descriptions.

“It is 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and I am exchanging Facebook messages with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema about a lightly used pair of Badgley Mischka heels. At least, I think it’s Kyrsten Sinema,” Cauterucci wrote, before noting that that Facebook profile includes Sinema’s photo, claims she lives in Phoenix and that the pair’s only mutual friend is a former Democratic National Committee staffer.

The closest Cauterucci came to getting confirmation from Sinema’s spokesperson, who said she was “perplexed” by the interest in the the Facebook Marketplace sales, were inquiries about the story’s purpose: “Kyrsten’s athletic hobbies? The fact that many Ironman / triathlete competitors resale gear?”

I can confirm what Cauterucci was unable to verify. All of the items she featured in her Slate story were sold by Arizona’s newly independent senator.

I covered Sinema day in and day out in the Arizona House of Representatives for six years when I was a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, and then oversaw coverage of her as an editor after she moved to the state Senate and then to Congress.

An unfortunate reality of the job, particularly back in the mid- to late-aughts, when Facebook was becoming ubiquitous, was monitoring Facebook to mine for potential stories. But because of that, I’ve been Facebook friends with Sinema on her personal account since that time.

And as a result, I can see that the Kyrsten Sinema selling a $3,500 road bike frame is the same one I’ve been Facebook friends with for some 15 or so years, and the one with whom I share 143 friends — almost all of whom are from the world of Arizona politics and government.

Likewise, Sinema’s personal account is the one that posted every piece of clothing and equipment Cauterucci linked to in her story. In all, she’s listed 84 items on Facebook Marketplace.

So, while Cauterucci was robbed of confirming it was really Sinema who sold her designer heels on Facebook, she can rest easy knowing that, yes, it was one of the most powerful people in the U.S. Senate she was trading messages with on Facebook.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Trump playbook: Kari Lake provides zero evidence in new election fraud claim

Kari Lake is demanding that the courts overturn Katie Hobbs’ victory in last month’s midterm and instead declare the former television news anchor governor-elect or, barring that, entirely throw out the 2022 election and re-do it.

In a sprawling lawsuit that claims the election in Maricopa County was irredeemably flawed by “intentional misconduct,” including the “hacking” of election equipment to disenfranchise Republican voters, and hundreds of thousands of allegedly “illegal ballots (that) infected the election,” Lake says the court must throw out her 17,000-vote loss to Hobbs and order the county to conduct a new election.

But Lake’s lawsuit contains little evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead almost entirely on statements from poll workers and observers, as well as analyses by partisan actors.

The election challenge also cites no statutory authority by which the courts could throw out the entire election and order a re-do.

Election challenges are limited in scope by state law, and must be confined to misconduct by election boards; ineligibility of a candidate; bribery or another offense “against the election franchise”; illegal votes; or an erroneous vote count.

If a challenger can prove one of those things affected the outcome of the election, the court can overturn the official election results and declare a new winner. But nothing in state law gives a court the power to order a new election be conducted.

Lake’s 70-page lawsuit, filed late Friday by Scottsdale attorney Bryan Blehm and D.C. attorney Kurt Olsen, alleges that a litany of problems caused her to lose. Those include “chaos” at Maricopa County polling locations on Election Day, supposedly “illegal” ballots being counted, an allegedly unknown number of ballots “injected” into the system by county contractors and “hacked” election equipment.

Relying on sworn testimony from a cyber security expert, but no actual evidence, Lake argues that only “intentional misconduct” explains the problems that Maricopa County had with ballot printers at some voting sites on Election Day.

She claims that between 15,600 and 29,300 Republican voters were disenfranchised because of the “oppressively long lines” caused by those problems — an estimate reached based on extrapolating the results of a 800-person exit poll done by a Republican political blogger and pollster whose public opinion surveys are generally considered unreliable.

Several pages of Lake’s lawsuit rehash debunked claims about early ballot signature verification raised following the 2020 election, which Donald Trump lost in Maricopa County and Arizona.

‘Audit’ expert Shiva Ayyadurai didn’t understand election procedures. He made a number of false signature claims.

Those claims about 2020 spurred the Arizona Senate to conduct a partisan review of the county’s election. The so-called “audit,” which was led by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists, costs millions of dollars and ultimately confirmed that there was no election fraud and Joe Biden won the election.

Lake’s legal team on the lawsuit is deeply tied to the 2020 election. Her lead attorney, Blehm, was an attorney for Cyber Ninjas, the now-defunct firm that led the “audit” effort. Olsen, her other attorney, represented Texas in a December 2020 lawsuit that sought to throw out the election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all battleground states that Trump lost. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit.

Another election suit

Mark Finchem and congressional candidate Jeff Zink also filed a lawsuit late Friday seeking to overturn their election losses. Finchem lost the secretary of state’s race by more than 120,000 votes, while Zink lost his congressional challenge to U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego by more than 76,000 votes.

The election in Maricopa County was “comical and tragic” because of Election Day polling place problems, they argue, because election equipment was not properly certified by Hobbs, which led to “widespread tabulation machine malfunctions” and caused long lines at polling places that disenfranchised voters. They allege Hobbs had a conflict of interest overseeing elections because she was running for governor.

The lawsuit includes no evidence that ballot tabulators malfunctioned anywhere in Arizona — the issues in Maricopa County were caused by malfunctioning ballot printers — or that voters were disenfranchised.

Finchem and Zink want their election losses overturned, a statewide hand-recount of all ballots and a court order that the attorney general investigate Hobbs for self-dealing and threatening public officials.

The two Republicans are represented by Daniel McCauley, a Cave Creek attorney who specializes in trusts and wills, not election law. McCauley earlier this month was hired by the Cochise County board of supervisors to defend its decision not to certify election results by the deadline in state law, but he failed to show up to a court hearing. A judge ultimately ordered the county to certify its election.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Hand-count audits find no problems with Arizona ballot tabulators

Hand-count audits of the November election results in 12 Arizona counties found no problems with electronic ballot tabulators, but three counties didn’t conduct the post-election audits required by law.

State law calls for counties to perform a partial hand count of ballots after each election. Representatives of each recognized political party in the county randomly select which precincts or vote centers are subjected to the hand counts, as well as which races shall be included.

Those county parties must inform election officials of who will participate in the hand count no later than the Tuesday before Election Day. And because no more than 75% of the participants can be from the same party, at least two political parties must participate.

That didn’t happen this year in the three counties that didn’t conduct the post-election audits following the November election: Apache, Graham and La Paz.

In La Paz County, the Republicans failed to designate a representative, Elections Director Bob Bartelsmeyer wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office. In Graham County, Elections Director Hannah Duderstadt wrote that neither political party participated.

It’s less clear what happened in Apache. Elections Director Angela Romero wrote that one of the political parties did not supply a representative, but didn’t identify which party. Emails and a phone message left for Romero seeking clarification went unanswered.

All three of those counties also failed to do the audits for the August primary election. In Apache and Graham counties, neither political party supplied a representative, while Democrats didn’t participate in La Paz County.

After the primary election, Greenlee and Santa Cruz counties also didn’t have the required participation to conduct the audits. In Greenlee, neither party submitted representatives. The parties in Santa Cruz submitted names, but at least one of the party representatives failed to show up for the audit, so it was canceled.

The post-election audits are designed to ensure that ballot tabulators are accurately counting ballots that were cast during the election. The members of the political parties serve as independent witnesses to the results.

In addition to the audits, political party representatives also participate in pre- and post-election logic and accuracy tests in which sample ballots are tabulated and the results are checked for accuracy.

Hand-counts of elections have become a rallying cry for some on the right, particularly among those who believe the conspiracy theory that electronic ballot tabulators used in every Arizona county are part of a scheme to ensure Republicans lose.

In Cochise County this year, far-right activists persuaded county leaders to pursue a full hand-count of the November election. But a judge ruled that the state law allowing for the post-election audits, which Republican county officials said justified their move, doesn’t allow counties to hand-count every ballot.

State law mandates that counties hand-count at least 2% of ballots cast in-person at polling places, and of 1% of all early ballots.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

These Arizona County supervisors didn’t question election equipment when they won in 2020

The two Republican Cochise County supervisors who have so far refused to certify the Nov. 8 election because of ostensible concerns about the trustworthiness of electronic ballot tabulators weren’t concerned when that same equipment confirmed their electoral victories in 2020.

Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd were both elected to the Cochise County Board of Supervisors in 2020, winning competitive Republican primary contests in the August election. Those victories allowed them to advance to the November general election, where both were unopposed.

Those elections both used the same electronic ballot tabulators that Crosby and Judd now say can’t be trusted in the 2022 election. Both have cited those fears — and unfounded claims that the machines haven’t been properly certified — as to why they weren’t able to certify Cochise County’s election results by the Nov. 28 statutory deadline.

Now, the county is being sued to force them to canvass the election, and former top prosecutors say the pair should face felony charges for failing to follow state law.

Lisa Marra, the county’s election director, told the Arizona Mirror that the county purchased the ballot tabulators in 2015, and they were first used in 2016. She said neither Crosby nor Judd have questioned their own elections.

“I’ve had no inquiries from any of them asking about a procedure to remove themselves from office if they aren’t legally elected,” she said.

Crosby and Judd did not respond to messages seeking comment.

It’s unclear whether the concerns the Republican supervisors have voiced about the ballot tabulators are genuine, however. After Crosby and Judd voted to delay certifying the election, Judd undercut that rationale, telling the New York Times that the vote was a protest.

“Our small counties, we’re just sick and tired of getting kicked around and not being respected,” she told the Times, adding that the move was a protest over the election in Maricopa County, where printer problems affected Election Day voters at about 30% of voting sites.

Voters in Maricopa County who were affected couldn’t have their ballots read by polling place tabulators. But they were still able to deposit their completed ballots in a secure box so they could be transported to the county’s central election facility and counted later. There were roughly 17,000 of those ballots, and all were counted.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

MAGA fails in Arizona for the third straight election

The historically good results for Arizona Democrats at the polls this month are the third cycle in a row that MAGA has faltered at the ballot box, and political observers say it should be a clarion call to Republicans that Trumpism is a loser in the Grand Canyon State.

But operatives in both parties say that will be easier said than done, as Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party electorate remains strong.

“Conservatism wins in Arizona. Crazy does not,” said Chris Baker, a Republican political consultant who works on congressional and legislative races in Arizona and across the country. “The Republican Party in Arizona is at a crossroads right now. Is this the direction we want to continue in?”

Democrats in Arizona found historic success this year. Mark Kelly was re-elected to the Senate, a win that marks the third straight cycle where Democrats won a Senate seat. Katie Hobbs will be the first Democrat elected governor since Janet Napolitano, who was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. Adrian Fontes won secretary of state, retaining the position for Democrats, following Hobbs winning that post in 2018. And Kris Mayes is nursing a small lead in the attorney general’s race, and a victory would be the first for Democrats since Terry Goddard was elected in 2002 and served two terms.

The 2022 victories come on the heels of 2020, where Joe Biden became the first Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1996 to win Arizona’s electoral votes. That year, Democrats also won a majority of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Kelly defeated Martha McSally in a special election. In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally and Hobbs gave Democrats control of the secretary of state’s office for the first time since Richard Mahoney won in 1990.

The last time Democrats won the top three statewide offices — governor, secretary of state and attorney general — was in 1974. That year, Raúl Castro was elected governor, Wesley Bolin was the people’s choice for secretary of state and Bruce Babbitt ousted a GOP incumbent to become attorney general.

Chad Campbell, a Democratic consultant who worked on more than a dozen Arizona campaigns this cycle, said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hit the nail on the head in August when he said “candidate quality” was a problem for Republicans. McConnell was referring to GOP Senate candidates, but Campbell said those problems were the same up and down the ticket.

“If you run whacko candidates, you’re not going to win at the state level in Arizona,” he said. “MAGA is not a winning platform for statewide candidates in Arizona.”

Big expectation, big disappointments

By all accounts, 2022 should have been a banner year for Republicans. Midterms have historically been happy hunting for the party that doesn’t control the presidency. Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, when George W. Bush was president. Democrats lost 63 seats in Barack Obama’s first midterm in 2010 and another 13 in 2014. Republicans under Trump lost 40 in 2018.

With Joe Biden’s approval rating hovering in the low 40s, the stage was set for Republicans to run roughshod over Democrats. Arizona Republicans spent months touting the coming “red wave” that would sweep them into office at all levels of government, from Kelly’s Senate seat to statewide offices to Congress to the state legislature.

“This was the year they should have run up the score,” Campbell said. “Instead, you lost statewide seats and are hanging on by the skin of your teeth in the legislature.”

Even after favorable legislative redistricting, Republicans couldn’t expand on their majorities at the state Capitol. For the second election in a row, they emerged with the barest majorities: 16 of 30 in the Senate and 31 of 60 in the House of Representatives.

Shane Wikfors, a longtime Republican activist who founded the conservative blog Sonoran Alliance back in the mid-aughts, said he hopes this election serves as “a signal to the MAGA crowd that Trump doesn’t sell well in Arizona.”

“This cycle was a mandate to walk away from this stuff and get back to being the party of (John) McCain and Jon Kyl and Doug Ducey,” he said.

Wikfors said the Republican Party is facing a dearth of leadership, beginning with Trump — still the de facto leader of the GOP — and filtering down to the Arizona Republican Party, which is led by Kelli Ward, a Trump acolyte who facilitated his “fake elector” scheme here, and increasingly intertwined with pro-Trump Turning Point USA.

“The leadership just doesn’t understand what it takes to win a statewide election,” he said.

But DJ Quinlan, a former executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party who now helps run Democratic campaigns, said the problems for the GOP “go much deeper than Donald Trump and Kelli Ward,” who chairs the state Republican Party.

Republican primaries were crowded, Quinlan said, and each race was filled with candidates trying to out-MAGA their opponents.

“There were no candidates running in the ‘mainstream Republican’ lane,” he said.

Even the candidates who typically would have filled that lane — like gubernatorial hopeful Karrin Taylor Robson, a businesswoman who comes from a family with a long history in Republican politics — recognized that GOP primary voters were hostile to anyone perceived as being part of the party “establishment.”

Republicans are beginning to tire of Trump and Trumpism, said GOP political consultant and lobbyist Marcus Dell’Artino.

“There’s a segment of Arizona Republicans who are just done with Donald Trump,” he said.

But while that segment may be growing, Dell’Artino said it’s nowhere near large enough to change the course of the party quickly.

“It’s the beginning of a long campaign. It won’t happen overnight,” he said.

MAGA isn’t a message

The continued power of the MAGA movement in Arizona should leave Republicans “petrified” about 2024, Campbell, the Democratic consultant, said. Democrats performed much better than expected in the midterms — and in two years, “Democrats will actually turn out to vote in large numbers.”

“People want adults in charge. They’re tired of MAGA, they’re tired of Donald Trump,” he said. “If you don’t have anything more to offer than that, you can’t win statewide in Arizona.”

That lack of ideas from Republicans was key for Democrats, said Barry Dill, a Democratic consultant and political operative who cut his teeth in Arizona politics in the mid-1980s. The GOP candidates seemingly forgot that it’s impossible to win elections in Arizona without appealing to independent voters, he said.

“You still have to have a message. You have to tell people what you’ll do for them,” he said. “And Republicans this cycle didn’t do that.”

Dell’Artino said that was the defining characteristic of the most high-profile statewide Republican campaigns.

“We never presented an idea. We never presented a vision of the state in the next four years,” he said. “It was all Trump, Trump, Trump.”

The reason there wasn’t any vision presented outside of fealty to Trump, said Baker, the Republican consultant, is that the GOP candidates spent their energy grinding axes against enemies instead of meeting voters where they are. He said polling consistently showed that swing voters were worried about things like inflation and education.

“They campaigned on the issues that were important to them rather than on issues that were important to swing voters, and that is a quick and easy way to lose,” he said.

Tell voters to ‘get out’? Don’t be surprised when they do

And on top of that, the GOP candidates were openly hostile to voters who weren’t in the tank for Trump.

“When voters hear, repeatedly, ‘Get out, we don’t want you,’ I think they listened. And they voted accordingly,” Dell’Artino said.

Baker said that gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake unnecessarily damaged her candidacy when she repeatedly attacked the late John McCain, his family and told McCain-supporting Republicans to “get the hell out.”

That message might resonate in a primary election, where far-right voters have more influence. But in a general election where the only path to victory is to ensure centrist Republicans and right-leaning independents back you, the anti-McCain rhetoric is foolish, Baker said.

“You basically told a bunch of voters you needed to win that you didn’t want their vote,” he said. “You don’t win elections by insulting voters.”

The GOP litmus test for candidates is steeped in the MAGA ethos, said Quinlan, the Democratic consultant. Having the right enemies is more important than policy positions, and Republicans who are civil to their opponents or display pragmatism in governing are viewed as apostates.

And until that changes, Republicans are going to win GOP strongholds in rural Arizona, but struggle to appeal to the educated, suburbanite swing voters that they’ve now largely lost for three straight elections.

“You cannot win statewide with just Yavapai and Mohave counties,” he said.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Katie Hobbs is poised to win the governor’s race after Kari Lake gains, but not enough

Kari Lake cut into Katie Hobbs’ lead for governor on Sunday, but not by as much as her campaign hoped — or enough to put her in a good position to overtake Hobbs as the final ballots are tallied in the upcoming days.

The Hobbs campaign Sunday night issued a statement that, while it stopped just short of declaring victory, made clear that the Democratic nominee expects to do so in the near future.

“With the latest tabulation results from Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties, Katie Hobbs is the unequivocal favorite to become the next Governor of Arizona,” said Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ campaign manager. “Katie has led since the first round of ballots were counted, and after tonight’s results, it’s clear that this won’t change.”

Lake, a former television newscaster who surged to the GOP nomination in August after being endorsed by former president Donald Trump, picked up about 8,900 votes on Sunday — but still trails Hobbs by more than 26,000 votes.

There are an estimated 160,000 early ballots left to be counted across Arizona, though most of those are from the urban centers of Maricopa and Pima counties. Some 94,000 ballots remain in Maricopa County, while another nearly 39,000 remain in Pima County. Almost all of those ballots have been verified and are ready for tabulation.

With the number of outstanding ballots dwindling, Lake’s path to victory has become increasingly difficult, if not verging on mathematically impossible. According to the Arizona Mirror’s analysis, she will need to win 58.13% of the remaining votes to catch Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state.

The problem: Lake hasn’t yet hit that mark in any of the post-Election Day counts.

Republican pollster Paul Bentz said the math seems to be against Lake.

“At this point, there’s one play left in the game and Lake needs a Hail Mary,” he said. “I don’t think she’ll get it.”

While Republicans have predicted that every day since the polls closed would reveal a wave of GOP-heavy ballots that would eliminate Hobbs’ lead, that has yet to happen. In Maricopa County, where roughly two-thirds of voters live, Lake didn’t notch a majority of votes in post-Election Day counting until Saturday, when she earned 51.8% of the votes counted that day.

Her tally on Sunday in the county was 54.6%, the best she’s achieved so far, but significantly less than the roughly 60% target that her campaign surrogates said would put her within striking distance of Hobbs.

The Lake campaign has remained quiet about the election results over the weekend. Her last statement came on Nov. 11, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, when she said she was “very confident that these counts are going to start going heavily our way and we will win this.”

Earlier that day, she told her supporters to “keep your champagne cold, our votes are about to start” being counted.

Other Republicans in contested races also made gains. Abe Hamadeh picked up more than 10,000 votes on Democrat Kris Mayes in the battle for attorney general, halving her lead. If he wins 53.6% of the remaining votes, Hamadeh would win the contest. (He won 55.4% of the ballots counted in Maricopa County on Sunday.)

And the race for state schools chief is a dead heat: Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat seeking reelection, leads Tom Horne by just 592 votes.

Both the AG and superintendent races seem destined to head to a recount. A new law in place for this election requires a recount if the margin between the candidates is less than half of a percentage point.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kari Lake embraces AZ senator who promotes white Christian nationalism, racist conspiracy theories and election fraud claims

Top Arizona Republican candidates Kari Lake and Abraham Hamadeh, who are running for governor and attorney general, respectively, spent the final days of the campaign praising a GOP state legislator who has embraced white Christian nationalism, racist conspiracy theories and baseless election fraud claims.

“I love you so much,” Lake said as she embraced state Sen. Wendy Rogers on stage at a Nov. 4 campaign rally.

Rogers has endorsed both Lake and Hamadeh, and in recent days, has been hitting the campaign trail with both statewide candidates.

Rogers has embraced white nationalism, and earlier this year spoke at a white nationalist conference, calling the attendees “patriots” and advocating for the murder of her political enemies.

She has also said she is “honored” to be endorsed by a prominent antisemitic Christian nationalist and regularly trafficks in antisemitic tropes. Rogers has also advocated racist theories, appeared on antisemitic news programs and aligned herself with violent anti-government extremists.

In March, Rogers was censured by the Arizona Senate for threatening her colleagues — but Republican senators balked at punishing her for celebrating white nationalism.

And while Lake has backed away from other endorsements — she denounced an endorsement from Gab founder Andrew Torba and withdrew an endorsement she made of an antisemite in Oklahoma — she has steadfastly refused to distance herself from Rogers.

At her Nov. 4 campaign event, Lake bragged about her close relationship with Rogers.

“Because she fights for Arizona, do you know how many text messages I got last session (saying), ‘You need to separate and back away from Wendy Rogers’? I said, ‘Hell, no.’ She fights for Arizona like no one I’ve ever seen,” Lake said.

.@KariLake: “We have such an amazing movement. @bgmasters, I don’t want to say he’s like a son to me because I’m not that old. But we’ve become really good friends. And @RealMarkFinchem, @AbrahamHamadeh, we are in this together. We’re in this to save Arizona.” pic.twitter.com/3qrgiVcFbH
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) November 5, 2022

Rogers told the crowd that Lake would text her late at night to share words of encouragement.

“She would text me and say, ‘I’m behind you, never give up, you’re over the target, let’s win this,” Rogers said.

“When they were attacking Wendy Rogers, the person who was standing up the most for Arizona, and they were trying to get me to back away from her, I said, ‘That’s not who I am.’ I don’t back away from the people,” Lake said. “If I back away from Wendy, that means I back away from you. And I will never back away from the good people of Arizona.”

Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state and Democratic nominee for governor, blasted Lake’s association with Rogers.

“Kari Lake demeans national heroes like John McCain who served our state diligently all while cozying up to extremists like Wendy Rogers,” she said in a written statement.

“Kari Lake continues to demonstrate she will only represent the extreme factions of her party, those who spew hate and conspiracy theories,” Hobbs added. “While she and her allies continue to destroy and divide Arizona, I’m working with our broad coalition of supporters to defeat her chaos with sanity.”

Hamadeh was a speaker at the same Nov. 4 rally. On Monday, he praised Rogers as “a true friend and the definition of a patriot.”

I’ve known ⁦@WendyRogersAZ⁩ for over a decade, she’s a true friend and the definition of a patriot. Can’t wait to celebrate with you tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/9x5kGggwjz
— Abe Hamadeh (@AbrahamHamadeh) November 7, 2022

In June, Hamadeh said that Rogers was “an America First powerhouse” and thanked her for endorsing his bid for AG.

Kris Mayes, the Democratic nominee for AG, slammed Hamadeh for his close relationship with Rogers.

“To see Hamadeh uplift Wendy Rogers is vile, but not surprising, given my opponent’s own anti-Semitic and racist comments he’s made throughout this campaign, as well as those who he’s aligned himself with,” Mayes said in an emailed statement to the Arizona Mirror. “The current GOP is divisive, dangerous and destructive. I have faith that Arizonans will reject this hateful behavior and rhetoric tomorrow so we can begin the process of healing and work to get Arizona, and our country, back on track.”

Neither the Lake nor Hamadeh campaigns responded to multiple requests for comment about the Republican candidates’ allegiance to Rogers.

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Finchem has found more campaign support from outside Arizona than any other candidate

Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, has been a minor player in Arizona politics since becoming a state legislator in 2015. But in the past two years, he’s built a national profile as one of the most ardent backers of baseless claims that the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud — and that nationwide following is evident in his campaign finance reports.

It’s why Finchem is the only candidate for statewide office who has received the majority of his campaign cash from outside the Grand Canyon State. An Arizona Mirror analysis of campaign finance reports show that about 55% of the nearly $1.8 million that individuals have given to Finchem’s campaign have come from outside Arizona.

It’s almost a mirror image of the financial support for Adrian Fontes, the Democratic nominee in the contest. Fontes has raised about $2.4 million from individual supporters, with almost 61% coming from Arizonans and about 39% coming from outside the state.

Almost half of the out-of-state money Finchem raised came from three states: California, Florida and Texas, which account for 23% of individual contributions. But Finchem collected contributions from every state in the nation, as well as from Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. And one donor in the U.S. Virgin Islands even chipped in $5 to aid his campaign.

About 20% of contributions to Fontes came from California and New York.

Finchem began his ascent to national prominence in far-right politics shortly after the 2020 election when he began pushing false claims about election fraud in response to Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in Arizona and other key battleground states. He was a pivotal leader in the #StopTheSteal movement in Arizona, and soon became a fixture on right-wing media platforms, including Newsmax, One America News and Steve Bannon’s “War Room” internet show.

The only other candidate who comes close to Finchem’s national support is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor. Hobbs carved out a national profile in 2021, during the Arizona state Senate’s partisan election review, appearing regularly on national cable news programs where she condemned the so-called “audit” and pushed back against the debunked conspiracy theories that motivated it.

But unlike Finchem, Hobbs has managed to raise most of her money in Arizona: More than 55% of the $10.1 million she’s raised from individuals comes from people in Arizona, with the remaining 44% or so from the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. About 1 in 4 dollars that Hobbs raised came from California, New York, Massachusetts and Washington state.

Hobbs’ opponent, Republican Kari Lake, has lagged far behind in fundraising, receiving only about $7.3 million from individual contributors. But Lake has leveraged her high name identification in Arizona, where she was a television news anchor for 22 years, into a strong base of financial support in the state. Nearly 2 in every 3 dollars she’s received from individuals — about 66% of the total — has come from Arizona.

Nearly half of her out-of-state donors have come from Texas, California or Florida, accounting for about 15% of her overall contributions.

In the contest for attorney general, the vast majority of the money raised by Republican Abe Hamadeh and Democrat Kris Mayes has come from Arizona residents.

Hamadeh, a political newcomer who emerged from a crowded GOP field in the primary after receiving an endorsement from Trump, has only raised about $871,000 from individuals — and 81% of that has come from within Arizona.

And Mayes, a former member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, has raised more than 70% of her $2.1 million from individuals in Arizona. About 15% of her campaign money has come from either California or New York.



Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

The ‘most important person’ on Kari Lake’s campaign mocked Native Americans in a racist tweet

Kari Lake’s campaign manager likened all Native Americans to bloodthirsty savages who engage in human sacrifice in a racist tweet mocking the concept of Indigenous People’s Day.

“Happy Indigenous People’s Day!” Colton Duncan wrote on Twitter along with an artist’s rendering of a human sacrifice by an ancient Mesoamerican civilization that lived thousands of miles away from Arizona.

Many states and cities have replaced Columbus Day, which was on Oct. 10 this year, with Indigenous People’s Day to recognize the civilizations that had existed for centuries in the Americas prior to the arrival of European colonizers.

Lake earlier this month called Duncan “the most important person” on her campaign.

Although Duncan’s tweet was made on Oct. 10, it didn’t garner attention until Oct. 20, when Democratic lobbyist and campaign consultant Mario Enrique Diaz retweeted it.

“This is @katiehobbs opponent’s campaign manager. I don’t know what the purpose of this post is but it’s consistent with the theme of dividing Arizonans. When our Native American friends are working to keep #Arizona’s water supply alive, for example, this is sad,” Diaz wrote.

In a subsequent tweet, Diaz called Duncan’s tweet “very offensive and disconcerting.”

A short time later, Duncan made his Twitter account private, limiting who can view his posts. However, the tweet was preserved by internet archive services.


Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis called on Lake to fire Duncan and apologize.

“Arizona’s Native peoples deserve better. All Arizonans should denounce this racist garbage,” he wrote on Twitter.

Debbie Nez-Manuel, a Navajo and national committeewoman for the Arizona Democratic Party, said the tweet is inexcusable — both for its racism and for its ignorance of the Indigenous people whose civilizations thrived in what is now Arizona for centuries before colonizers arrived.

“It’s just infuriating. This is probably one of the worst things I’ve seen,” she said.

Lake owes all Indigenous people a heartfelt apology for the “gross imagery” and “ignorant” racist message of her campaign manager, Nez-Manuel said.

“Kari Lake is the candidate. She’s 100% responsible for whatever her campaign manager does,” she told the Arizona Mirror.

If Lake fails to apologize and hold Duncan accountable, Nez-Manuel said it will show that “she doesn’t care about our perspective” or about Arizona, which has more tribal lands than any other state. Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribal nations, but nearly 500 Indigenous peoples from across the nation are represented in Arizona’s population, she added.

Laura Medina, the coordinator for Indigenous Peoples Day Arizona, said Duncan is a “typical colonizer” whose message was that Indigenous people needed to be conquered by Europeans.

“It’s justifying the colonization and genocide that we, as Indigenous people, had to go through,” she said. “We’re not stupid. We know that he wants to further that hate and that divide, and say that we’re just a bunch of savages who needed to be colonized.”

Medina said “it’s frightening” to think that Lake surrounds herself with people “who don’t care about Indigenous folks,” given that she could be the state’s next governor.

But the racist tweet also shows the power that the state’s Indigenous people have, both culturally and at the ballot box, Medina said.

“He knows that our narrative devalues everything that America is about — that it’s a free country, built on democracy,” she said.

State Sen. Victoria Steele, a Tucson Democrat who is of Seneca/Cayuga Native ancestry, said in a written statement to the Mirror that someone posted the same image on her Facebook page on Indigenous People’s Day — and she’s not surprised that a prominent member of Lake’s team found it appropriate.

“Just because someone can read a teleprompter does not mean she has the intellectual ability to read and understand a history book,” Steele said, referring to Lake’s former career as a television news anchor. “Clearly, she has lost her moral center if this is the kind of behavior she tolerates in her campaign.”

Lake has accused her opponent, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, of being racist because a Black legislative staffer successfully sued the state for sex and racial discrimination after she was fired several years ago. The staffer, Talonya Adams, worked for the Senate Democratic caucus, which Hobbs led at the time.

And Lake’s campaign has also said it “absolutely denounces bigotry in all its forms” after receiving an unsolicited endorsement from a prominent racist.

But Lake also briefly endorsed an Oklahoma Republican who said “the Jews” are evidence that “evil exists.” The endorsement sparked outrage, and Lake ultimately rescinded her support.

Ross Trumble, a spokesman for Lake’s campaign, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about Duncan’s racist social media post.

Early voting has begun in Arizona in advance of the Nov. 8 general election. November is also Native American Heritage month.

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to include comments from Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Sen. Victoria Steele and Laura Medina.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the tweet by Colton Duncan was made on Oct. 11; in fact, it was made on Oct. 10.

Jan. 6 committee wins — will get phone records of Arizona GOP boss who was a fake elector: report

The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has the right to see phone records for Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward and her husband, Michael, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The subpoena from the House Select Committee on January 6th sought phone records from T-Mobile between Nov. 1, 2020, through Jan. 31, 2021, for four phone numbers associated with the Wards and Michael Ward’s business, Mole Medical Services. Both Wards were among the Arizona Republicans who were fake electors and signed a bogus document claiming that Donald Trump won the state in the 2020 election.

The Wards filed a lawsuit in February challenging a subpoena for the phone records, arguing that it was “overbroad,” the Wards said, because it is “unrelated to the enabling resolution of the issuing Committee” and doesn’t make a clear connection between the records and potential legislation.

They also argued that the subpoena violated the First Amendment rights of both themselves and the state GOP, and they claimed that the subpoena was illegal because the committee was in violation of House rules. And the Wards, who are both physicians, told the court that turning over the phone records would violate Arizona’s law protecting patient-physician privilege and HIPAA, the federal law governing privacy of medical information.

Federal Judge Diane Humetewa on Thursday rejected all of those arguments. She wrote in an 18-page ruling that the committee’s work has a valid purpose and is not illegal — thus barring a lawsuit against the federal government.

“That three-month period is plainly relevant to its investigation into the causes of the January 6th attack,” she wrote. “The Court therefore has little doubt concluding these records may aid the Select Committee’s valid legislative purpose.”

Humetewa also noted that the federal courts have no oversight role regarding the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, dismissing the argument from the Wards that the committee has fewer members than the authorizing resolution required.

The judge also flatly rejected the claim that the records would ensnare anyone who called or texted Kelli Ward would “become implicated in the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history” and be subjected to harassment or political persecution by Democrats, in violation of their First Amendment rights.

Humetewa said the argument was “highly speculative” and the Wards “provided no evidence to support their contention that producing the phone numbers associated with this account will chill the associational rights of Plaintiffs or the Arizona GOP.” They also provided no more than “conclusory allegations” that complying with the subpoena would lead to harassment of themselves or anyone else.

The judge also dismissed the claims that state and federal medical privacy laws would be breached if the phone records are turned over. Even if the state law applied — and Humetewa said it doesn’t — its authority overridden by Congress’ constitutional authority to conduct investigations that could lead to legislation. She also said the Wards’ claims that a phone number would expose confidential information was “implausible.”

And Humetewa said the Wards cited no case law to support their argument that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, protects their phone records. Further, she said the subpoena was issued to T-Mobile, not the Wards, and the mobile phone company is not bound by HIPAA.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

No one wants to defend the new AZ law that makes filming police officers a crime

All three of the defendants in a lawsuit filed last month by a coalition of news organizations and civil libertarians say they won’t defend a law set to go into effect later this month that would make it a crime to take video of police officers in some situations.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including the Arizona Mirror, filed a federal lawsuit and a request asking a federal judge to stop the law from being enforced, known as a preliminary injunction.

The new law is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 24, and would outlaw video recording of police officers within eight feet of where “law enforcement activity” is taking place. If a person does not stop after being told to, they could face a class 3 misdemeanor and up to 30 days in jail.

The lawsuit named Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone as defendants. The AG’s office is almost always a defendant in litigation challenging state laws, while the Maricopa County officials will be tasked with enforcing the new law.

But Brnovich’s office on Sept. 1 told the court that it will not oppose the preliminary injunction. Beau Roysden, the state’s solicitor general, wrote that the AG “is not the proper party to defend the merits of” the new law.

Roysden wrote that the AG’s Office would notify Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and Karen Fann, the president of the Senate, that local and county prosecutors “are the proper entities to defend this statute.”

Filming cops raises questions that Republicans don’t want to answer. So they made filming cops a crime.

However, the next day, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said that neither it nor the Sheriff’s Office would defend the law or oppose the motion to block the law from going into effect.

“Neither County Attorney Mitchell nor Sheriff Penzone were involved in the passage of the statute at issue, nor is there any allegation in the complaint indicating that these defendants have enforced or threatened to enforce the challenged statute,” Deputy County Attorney Joseph Vigil wrote.

Although Bowers and Fann were not named as defendants, they could seek to intervene in the case to defend the law. Requests for comment with spokespeople for Bowers and Fann were not immediately returned.

The plaintiffs in the legal challenge are the Mirror and States Newsroom; the Arizona Broadcasters Association; the Arizona Newspapers Association; the parent company of Fox 10 Phoenix; the parent company of KTVK 3TV, KPHO CBS 5 News and KOLD News 13; KPNX 12 News; NBCUniversal, which owns Telemundo Arizona; the National Press Photographers Association; Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which owns The Arizona Republic; Scripps Media, which owns ABC15 in Phoenix and KGUN9 in Tucson; and the ACLU of Arizona.

Courts have long ruled that the First Amendment protects not only the publication of videos, but also the act of recording them — particularly videos of public officers in public places.

The U.S. Supreme Court “has consistently recognized a right to gather news, and recording police and other government officials is newsgathering,” attorneys for the news organizations and the ACLU noted in their filings. In a 1972 case, the high court ruled that “freedom of the press could be eviscerated” without First Amendment protections for seeking out the news.

And legislative attorneys warned lawmakers that the restrictions flew in the face of previous court rulings. Still, it was supported by every Republican legislator and signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Three Arizona Republicans must pay ex-Dem lawmaker’s $75,000 legal fees for ‘groundless’ lawsuit

Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and former GOP state legislator Anthony Kern must pay $75,000 in attorney’s fees to a former Democratic state lawmaker they sued after a judge said the lawsuit was “primarily for purposes of harassment.”

In February 2021, the three Republicans filed a lawsuit against Charlene Fernandez, then a Democratic legislator from Yuma, accusing her of defaming them by making disparaging remarks, connecting them to the violence of Jan. 6 and conspiring against them.

The lawsuit was a reaction to a letter sent by Fernandez and other Democratic lawmakers asking the FBI to investigate Finchem, Kern and Gosar’s connections to the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C.

The trio did not sue the 43 other Democratic legislators who also signed the letter.

The lawsuit was stalled for months because Fernandez was immune from being served while the legislature’s annual session was taking place, but was eventually heard by a Yuma County Superior Court judge in March 2022.

The following month, Judge Levi Gunderson dismissed the case and said its defamation claims were baseless and Fernandez’s comments and the letter she signed were clearly protected by the First Amendment.

On Monday, Gunderson said that Finchem, Gosar and Kern must pay Fernandez’s legal fees because the lawsuit “was groundless and not made in good faith.”

In a scathing order, the judge wrote that the lawsuit — which included passages about the national political scene that are unrelated to Fernandez — was “written for an audience other than” the court in which it was filed.

“The Court finds that (the) lawsuit … was brought for an improper purpose, having been filed against a political opponent primarily for purposes of harassment,” Gunderson wrote.

Footage reviewed by the Arizona Mirror has shown that Kern was closer to the Capitol than he said he was, and he was recorded on the Capitol grounds while violent clashes with police were still ongoing.

Finchem, too, was much closer to the Capitol on that day than he claimed.

Finchem has insisted that he never got within 500 yards of the Capitol building, but Getty footage of the failed attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election shows Finchem walking directly in front of the east steps at the Capitol after pro-Trump rioters had already broken through a series of barricades and police lines, and then smashed their way into the Capitol building.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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