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Pullen won’t seek re-election as GOP chief after stunning ouster

Randy Pullen (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Randy Pullen (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Randy Pullen won’t seek another term as chairman of the Arizona Republican Party after a shocking loss in his re-election bid for state committeeman.

Pullen, who has served as chairman since 2007, announced Nov. 18 on Twitter that he wouldn’t run for a third term.

“I will not seek re-election as AZ GOP chairman on Jan. 22. It has been an honor to serve these past four years as chairman. God bless,” Pullen wrote on his Twitter account.

The loss stunned Arizona’s Republican establishment. Pullen has been a controversial chairman due to what many complained was his lackluster fundraising and his vocal criticism of Sen. John McCain, which led McCain to divert money from the Republican National Committee to the Yuma County GOP instead of the state party.

But supporters also gave Pullen some of the credit for the recent election, in which Republicans ousted two Democratic incumbents in congressional races, swept the slate of statewide offices and gained supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Maricopa County GOP Chairman Rob Haney, who also lost his bid for state committeeman, blamed allies of McCain and Sen. Jon Kyl for his and Pullen’s losses.

“It shouldn’t have been (a surprise). McCain forces are at work,” said Haney, who said he plans to run for another term as county chairman. “We’re about the tea party movement from the grassroots. The heirarchy did not want to respond to the grassroots.”

Pullen’s announcement came the day after he lost a race for state committeeman at the District 11 GOP organizational meeting. Under state law and party bylaws, only a state committeeman may be elected party chairman.

Precinct committeemen nominated 135 state committeemen at the District 11 meeting on Nov. 17. Pullen received 156 votes, according to District 11 GOP officials, while three people tied for the 135th state committeeman spot with 158 votes.

“I was astonished that he did not get the necessary votes. Quite frankly, it really floored me,” said former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker, a Pullen supporter who said he is now considering running for chairman.

Pullen’s loss leaves Pinal County GOP Chairman Marty Hermanson as the only declared candidate in the state chairman’s race. Hermanson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Parker, who briefly ran for governor and lost the GOP primary in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, said he confer with people he trusts to determine whether to run.

“I’ve had just an outpouring of individuals asking me to run,” he said.

If he runs, Parker said he expects Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to endorse him.

Several other rumored candidates said they would not seek the chairmanship. John Munger, who served as Arizona GOP chairman in the 1980s, said he considered running but decided against it, while former Sen. Bob Blendu opted against a run as well.

Pullen did not return a message seeking comment, though he posted comments on his social media accounts.

“It has been an honor to serve these past four years as Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. I want to thank all of the volunteers, precinct committeemen and women, candidates and elected officials with whom I have had the opportunity to meet and work with to secure an unprecedented sweep of state offices and super majorities in both houses of the legislature,” he wrote on Facebook. “God bless.”

Pullen’s announcement likely will put an end to speculation that he would find a way to run, despite his loss in the state committeeman’s race.

Sources familiar with statutes and party rules governing the chairman’s election and state committeemen said the state committee could suspend its rules at its January election, which would allow Pullen to run again. In past years, candidates have also sought election as state committeeman in districts outside of their own.

Doug Cole, an adviser to Gov. Jan Brewer, said the governor would support Pullen if he decided to seek a third term. Pullen met with Brewer on Nov. 18 at the Republican Governor’s Association conference in San Diego, which Cole said was a precursor to the Republican National Committee’s January elections.

Pullen has said he is considering a run for RNC chairman.

Rep. Adam Driggs, who will move to the state Senate next year, also lost his bid for state committeeman.

Here’s an exclusive Q&A with Pullen that took place just two days before he lost his spot as a state committeeman.

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