What was good for this GOP congressman in the time of Trump might not be after redistricting

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert might end up being a case study in how escalating extreme rhetoric to avoid the wrath of former President Donald Trump and his voters turns from an advantage to a liability because of redistricting.

Schweikert won his seat in Congress in the GOP wave year of 2010, knocking off incumbent Democrat Harry Mitchell, who had improbably represented the reliably Republican district for two terms.

But Schweikert’s re-election two years later was starkly different: Rather than facing a contested general election in the newly created 6th Congressional District, his path to victory lay in winning a primary. Schweikert squared off against fellow Congressman Ben Quayle, who chose to run in the ruby red District 6 (which included about two-thirds of his constituents) instead of the deep purple District 9 (which included his house).

Schweikert emerged victorious from a bitter, bruising and expensive campaign. Ever since, he’s faced no real challenge from Democrats, who have been unable to mount a serious challenge in a district where Republicans widely outnumber Democrats.

As with any elected official in a district that isn’t competitive, the only accountability Schweikert could face is from his own party. In the modern GOP, that means the way to re-election is to reliably hew to the party orthodoxy — and for the past six years, that’s meant Trump and Trumpism. The more extreme the rhetoric, the happier the voters.

Schweikert would never be mistaken for Trump. He’s a policy wonk, not a bombastic bomb-thrower. I’d put him among the legions of Republicans who went along to get along, hoping to weather the storm of Trumpism, increasingly terrified of the voters who view fealty to the lying and philandering billionaire as the only yardstick by which to measure candidates.

In defending Paul Gosar, Republicans show just how scared they are

That fear leads people to say and do unexpected things to retain their political power. And those calculations are rational — even if they’re morally abhorrent — if someone like Schweikert is in a district where extremism is rewarded by fending off would-be Republican challengers.

Perhaps that’s why Schweikert voted to overturn Pennsylvania’s election. And maybe that’s why he has appeared several times on a local extremist internet talk show this year defending the Jan. 6 insurrectionists and suggesting the FBI conspired in the day’s failed coup. And it could be why he’s funded a PAC run by one of the talk show hosts that has called for abolishing the FBI, advocated for election falsehoods and spread numerous lies about COVID-19.

In the immediate wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol that sent him and all of his colleagues scrambling for their lives as angry Trump rioters attacked police, broke through barricades, smashed windows and sought to stop Congress from certifying Trump’s loss, Schweikert praised Capitol police officers and “unequivocally condemn(ed)” those who committed violence.

Just a few months later, he was lamenting the prosecution of those very people on the extremist talk show.

“I don’t believe many of these people had malice in their souls, I don’t think they had malice in their hearts,” he told Jay Lawrence on Sept. 20. (Lawrence, a veteran radio host in Phoenix, recently spent several years in the state legislature, where he earned a reputation for bigoted comments and promoting QAnon.)

In that same interview, Scweikert openly wondered about the FBI’s role in the insurrection, noting that the law enforcement agency was a “sting operator” and allegedly had “recordings of some of these folks, weeks ahead of time,” but had left the Capitol — which it doesn’t oversee or protect — vulnerable on Jan. 6, implying that the FBI had been dishonest.

“If that’s true, the whole narrative of this was just a sneak attack that blew up out of… nowhere just can’t be true,” he said. “You can’t have both things — you can’t have a bunch of informants who’re recording the folks, or this just came out of nowhere. You can’t have both.”

Schweikert’s defense of people who participated in the violent insurrection found a friendly audience. Lawrence’s show is broadcast by an outfit known as HUB Radio, which is run by a longtime far-right activist in Phoenix named Ron Ludders.

HUB Radio and Ludders were particularly upset about the prosecution of Jake Angeli, the self-anointed QAnon Shaman who was among the first people to breach the Capitol and was famously pictured at the Senate dais shirtless with red, white and blue face paint, wearing a horned fur hat and carrying a spear.

Angeli had appeared on HUB Radio in the past, and the fawning interview that Ludders and co-host Ray Michaels did with him was replayed a week after the insurrection, and again in May. Ludders was particularly taken with Angeli — who discussed QAnon time travel, anti-gravity and “zero point energy technology,” black magic and lineages of “royal families” controlling the world that stretch from Biblical times to today — and praised him as “very knowledgeable.”

Ludders also runs a PAC that Schweikert gave $3,266 to in 2021, via his own leadership PAC. The donations are unusual, as congressional leadership PACs typically only give money to other candidates. Schweikert’s is no exception — the money given to Ludders’ Arizona Project is the only expense that isn’t another candidate or paying for routine compliance or operations.

While downplaying the events of Jan. 6 for political gain might fuel support from Republican primary voters — GOP support for prosecuting insurrectionists is dropping quickly and the majority don’t think it was an attack on the government — the same can’t be said about Democratic and independent voters.

All of which could spell trouble for Schweikert after redistricting, as he’s staring at the prospect of his double-digit GOP voter advantage vanishing into thin air: He’s currently been drawn into the new highly competitive District 1, where Republicans edge out Democrats by less than 2%.

That map may still change in a way that benefits him, when the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meets later this month to make final changes after a month-long tour of the state to gather input on the draft map. But those changes are unlikely to fundamentally change the district’s competitive nature.

For the first time since he won his first election to Congress, Schweikert might have to worry about a general election. And his race more than any other may test just how willing Arizona voters really are to forgive and forget the extremism the Trump era incentivized among Republicans.


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.

Republicans just revealed how scared they really are

What does it say about a political party that defends a member as toxic and repulsive as Paul Gosar?

What does it say that 207 of the 210 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives — including the other three from Arizona, Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert — stood in defense of a man who last week tweeted an animated video that depicted his avatar violently slaying one of his political opponents and congressional colleagues?

What does it say that only two Republicans in Congress spoke out against Gosar's actions and saw through his defense of “it was only a joke, lol" to denounce his violent rhetoric?

The sad truth is that it says exactly what we already know: Today's GOP is not the party of moral character and truth that it once pretended to be — that I believed it was for much of the time I was a registered Republican voter — but is instead a cesspool of amorality that is driven by fear.

Fear of change. Fear of immigrants. Fear of inadequacy — electoral or otherwise. Fear of growth. Fear of understanding. Certainly fear of Donald Trump.

But mostly fear of the electoral monster that controls the party. Fear that daring to criticize Gosar for this — or anything, like his blatant embrace of racist ideology or his stoking the Jan. 6 insurrection or his fondness for QAnon — will lead to charges that they're “woke," the label most offensive to a Republican this side of correctly pointing out the racism that underpins what passes for their ideology.

Republicans are desperate to avoid the wrath of a voting base that has been fed lies about the election, lies about American history, lies about science — and told that anyone who tells the truth about those things is evil and literally trying to destroy America.

There's an entire propaganda media ecosystem that excels at manipulating its viewers and readers into accepting a completely fact-free worldview — one where COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than the illness, where grade-schoolers are being taught college-level academic studies of racism in America, where white people are the truly oppressed in this country and where Trump is an altruistic and morally righteous billionaire who won the 2020 election.

Dissension is not tolerated, and those who don't adopt the talking points built on the alternate reality are apostates. It's why Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich are traitors in the MAGA world — and it's why not a single Arizona Republican leader will say a bad word about Gosar, no matter what he's done.

Republicans don't care that the rhetoric they've used and exploited has led to actual violence. After all, the new conservative truth is that there was a perfectly peaceful transfer of power, the homemade gallows and chants of “Hang Mike Pence" were perfectly normal things for regular tourists to say and the violent criminals who are sitting in jail are really political prisoners.

They don't care that the rhetoric Gosar used to defend his video — that he was speaking out against the destruction of America through immigration — is practically indistinguishable from the rhetoric of the El Paso Walmart mass shooter, or the Christchurch mass shooter, or the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooter.

This is the ugly heart of the Republican Party today: It not only can't condemn white male violence, it revels in it and seeks to normalize it.


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 death toll of political ambition will be Doug Ducey's legacy

More than anything, Doug Ducey wants his legacy to be the massive tax cuts that he has given wealthy Arizonans. It's an issue he campaigned on in his first gubernatorial campaign, and in whatever the next phase of his political career brings, he will surely point to it as a victory.

But his true legacy will be the thousands of Arizonans who have died needlessly on his watch, as he repeatedly and stubbornly and maliciously mismanaged the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been on his watch that COVID-19 became the leading cause of death in Arizona, even as other similar states — where the governors implemented simple and common-sense measures to blunt the spread of the illness — managed to limit the death toll of the novel coronavirus.

It has been on his watch that the pandemic in Arizona has become more deadly than in New York. According to The New York Times' invaluable data tracking, the Grand Canyon State has seen 288 people per 100,000 die from COVID-19, surpassing the 287 per 100,000 in the Empire State.

That is particularly horrendous, given that New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic as it first began to spread in the United States in April 2020. Fear gripped the city, and spread nationwide, as hospitals there were quickly overwhelmed, health professionals didn't have access to the equipment they needed — both to keep themselves safe and to treat the ill — and morgues were overflowing. Nearly 1,000 people per day were dying.

On top of that, the global medical community was still learning exactly how COVID-19 worked, leaving few reliable ways to treat it. And little was known for sure about how it spread, hamstringing efforts to contain it.

By the time the coronavirus began spreading widely in Arizona in June, many of those questions had been answered. Infectious disease experts had figured out that the virus spread through the air, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was telling Americans to wear masks in public places.

The month before our first spike in cases, ignorance about how to respond to COVID-19 was replaced by politics, with then President Donald Trump spending the month increasingly politicizing efforts to limit the illness and urging states that had restricted commerce — including Arizona — to ignore CDC guidelines and re-open nonessential businesses.

And if there's one thing about Ducey that you can take to the bank, it's that he will reverse course at a moment's notice in pursuit of praise. Faced with a few bad headlines, Ducey's backbone melts like a Crayon on a Phoenix sidewalk in July.

Initially, Ducey's about-faces worked to preserve public health. Remember when Ducey told schools they should stay open, and then dozens of school districts announced they were halting in-person learning to protect students and staff? Days later, Ducey was suspending classes.

The governor was likewise nowhere to be found when cities began declaring public health emergencies and closing down bars, in-restaurant dining, fitness centers, movie theaters and other businesses where people regularly come in close contact with each other. The mayors were praised for taking bold and decisive action. Two days later, Ducey announced that he was ordering all bars to close and shutting down restaurant dining rooms across Arizona.

But as the political winds changed, Ducey's COVID-19 policies became littered with choices aimed at preserving his political standing among Republicans — and Trump. He lifted the stay-at-home order right before Trump came to town in May, spurring the state's first major wave of cases.

Trump hated masks, and Ducey couldn't be bothered to do more than impotently suggest that Arizonans wear them — while he refused to — and certainly wouldn't entertain mandating mask use. Until, of course, public pressure mounted that he display just a modicum of leadership … at which point he told cities and counties to handle it themselves, so unwilling was he to make a decision that would upset the president who stridently opposed masks because encouraging their use might make people think the pandemic was real and quite dangerous.

That's the backdrop for how we arrived at this moment, with Arizona surging from behind to pass New York as a more deadly place in the pandemic — an ignominy made all the more horrifying when you realize that 3,840 (and counting) Arizonans have died since April 1, a week after free vaccines became available to anyone who wanted them.

Ducey was quick to tout the early successes of the state's vaccination distribution program, and the state was among the most efficient at getting vaccines into bodies in the spring. But as summer arrived, our vaccination rates plunged and haven't recovered — as if Ducey's promise that we would “vaccinate our way out" of the pandemic never happened.

It would be bad enough if the governor was MIA, merely watching as things got worse while the Delta variant surged through Arizona, bringing a new spike in cases and deaths, filling hospitals along the way.

What we got instead was intentional sabotage. With the prospect of his prized tax cuts in danger of not passing, he sold out our public health in the name of capturing GOP votes. He barred mask mandates in our schools, said cities couldn't require masks or vaccines, and decreed that businesses can ignore public health rules.

As bad press mounted, Ducey then did exactly what we knew he would: He denied doing the thing that he'd bragged about doing only weeks earlier.

It was a fitting declaration from a coward whose political ambition killed the people he swore an oath to protect. And that will be his legacy in Arizona.

***UPDATED: This column was updated to reflect the 63 new COVID-19 deaths announced on Oct. 29, 2021.


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 death toll of political ambition will be the legacy of GOP governor Doug Ducey

More than anything, Doug Ducey wants his legacy to be the massive tax cuts that he has given wealthy Arizonians. It's an issue he campaigned on in his first gubernatorial campaign, and in whatever the next phase of his political career brings, he will surely point to it as a victory.

But his true legacy will be the thousands of Arizonians who have died needlessly on his watch, as he repeatedly and stubbornly and maliciously mismanaged the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been on his watch that COVID-19 became the leading cause of death in Arizona, even as other similar states — where the governors implemented simple and common-sense measures to blunt the spread of the illness — managed to limit the death toll of the novel coronavirus.

It has been on his watch that the pandemic in Arizona has become more deadly than in New York. According to The New York Times' invaluable data tracking, the Grand Canyon State has seen 288 people per 100,000 die from COVID-19, surpassing the 287 per 100,000 in the Empire State.

That is particularly horrendous, given that New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic as it first began to spread in the United States in April 2020. Fear gripped the city, and spread nationwide, as hospitals there were quickly overwhelmed, health professionals didn't have access to the equipment they needed — both to keep themselves safe and to treat the ill — and morgues were overflowing. Nearly 1,000 people per day were dying.

On top of that, the global medical community was still learning exactly how COVID-19 worked, leaving few reliable ways to treat it. And little was known for sure about how it spread, hamstringing efforts to contain it.

By the time the coronavirus began spreading widely in Arizona in June, many of those questions had been answered. Infectious disease experts had figured out that the virus spread through the air, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was telling Americans to wear masks in public places.

The month before our first spike in cases, ignorance about how to respond to COVID-19 was replaced by politics, with then President Donald Trump spending the month increasingly politicizing efforts to limit the illness and urging states that had restricted commerce — including Arizona — to ignore CDC guidelines and re-open nonessential businesses.

And if there's one thing about Ducey that you can take to the bank, it's that he will reverse course at a moment's notice in pursuit of praise. Faced with a few bad headlines, Ducey's backbone melts like a Crayon on a Phoenix sidewalk in July.

Initially, Ducey's about-faces worked to preserve public health. Remember when Ducey told schools they should stay open, and then dozens of school districts announced they were halting in-person learning to protect students and staff? Days later, Ducey was suspending classes.

The governor was likewise nowhere to be found when cities began declaring public health emergencies and closing down bars, in-restaurant dining, fitness centers, movie theaters and other businesses where people regularly come in close contact with each other. The mayors were praised for taking bold and decisive action. Two days later, Ducey announced that he was ordering all bars to close and shutting down restaurant dining rooms across Arizona.

But as the political winds changed, Ducey's COVID-19 policies became littered with choices aimed at preserving his political standing among Republicans — and Trump. He lifted the stay-at-home order right before Trump came to town in May, spurring the state's first major wave of cases.

Trump hated masks, and Ducey couldn't be bothered to do more than impotently suggest that Arizonians wear them — while he refused to — and certainly wouldn't entertain mandating mask use. Until, of course, public pressure mounted that he display just a modicum of leadership … at which point he told cities and counties to handle it themselves, so unwilling was he to make a decision that would upset the president who stridently opposed masks because encouraging their use might make people think the pandemic was real and quite dangerous.

That's the backdrop for how we arrived at this moment, with Arizona surging from behind to pass New York as a more deadly place in the pandemic — an ignominy made all the more horrifying when you realize that 3,777 (and counting) Arizonans have died since April 1, a week after free vaccines became available to anyone who wanted them.

Ducey was quick to tout the early successes of the state's vaccination distribution program, and the state was among the most efficient at getting vaccines into bodies in the spring. But as summer arrived, our vaccination rates plunged and haven't recovered — as if Ducey's promise that we would “vaccinate our way out" of the pandemic never happened.

It would be bad enough if the governor was MIA, merely watching as things got worse while the Delta variant surged through Arizona, bringing a new spike in cases and deaths, filling hospitals along the way.

What we got instead was intentional sabotage. With the prospect of his prized tax cuts in danger of not passing, he sold out our public health in the name of capturing GOP votes. He barred mask mandates in our schools, said cities couldn't require masks or vaccines, and decreed that businesses can ignore public health rules.

As bad press mounted, Ducey then did exactly what we knew he would: He denied doing the thing that he'd bragged about doing only weeks earlier.

It was a fitting declaration from a coward whose political ambition killed the people he swore an oath to protect. And that will be his legacy in Arizona.


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.