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RNC Committeeman Ash, attorney Carmichael enter GOP chairman’s race

Arizona Republican National Committeeman Bruce Ash announced that he will seek the state GOP chairmanship, and attorney Ron Carmichael said he will announce soon as well.

“In my view, the state Republican Party must be a professional organization whose mission is to win elections while promiting the conservative political philosophy of the grassroots,” Ash said in a press statement. “Providing that leadership will guide the AZGOP through the election in 2012, will be a full-time job and I strongly feel that I have the experience and ability necessary to get the winning results that we’ve all worked so hard to achieve.”

Ash is close with outgoing Chairman Randy Pullen and will likely garner the support of many of the chairman’s backers, who are upset over his premature elimination from the race and want a candidate they consider equally conservative. Pullen announced he would not seek a third term after losing his re-election bid for state committeeman in District 11, a move that likely barred him from running.

“It’s not a monolithic bloc … but I think the folks that tend to be in this for ideological reasons will support Bruce for the same reasons they would’ve supported Randy,” said Republican consultant Constantin Querard, who said he is supporting Ash.

Carmichael, the first vice chair for the District 11 GOP, is running with the backing of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s allies, which may antagonize Pullen’s grassroots supporters who are largely hostile to Arizona’s senior senator. But he said he expects the support of McCain and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, which would likely give the semi-retired real estate and business attorney a huge boost.

Carmichael said he has worked on every one of Kyl’s campaigns. He said he expects the support of Kyl, who will be at the top of the Republican ticket in 2012, as well as others in the state’s congressional delegation.

“I do expect it,” Carmichael said. “I think they would like to see somebody who has some vigor and energy and would open the party to anyone who wants to be a Republican.”

Carmichael’s Republican activism goes back five decades. He said he worked as an advance man for Richard Nixon’s 1960 presidential campaign in Michigan, and worked on the campaign of former Michigan Gov. George Romney. Since coming to Arizona, he’s served as a campaign adviser for Kyl, former Gov. Jane Hull and numerous others.

The addition of Ash and Carmichael leaves four candidates openly seeking the chairmanship, and party insiders speculated that more might be coming. Pinal County GOP Chairman Marty Hermanson and former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker are already in the race.

Former Yavapai County GOP Chairman Malcolm Barrett ran briefly but dropped out of the race, while former state GOP Chairman John Munger said he considered running but ultimately decided against it.

During an April 2009 speech to the Pinal County Republican Party, Ash referred to Hermanson as the best county chairman in the state. Hermanson supporters pointed to the comment as evidence that he is the more qualified candidate.

“If you look at the job of county chairman – growing the grassroots, increasing the number of PCs, organizing door knocks, raising money … that is more like being chairman of the state party than any other position in the state,” said Chris DeRose, Hermanson’s campaign manager.

Ash said Hermanson has done a great job as county chairman and credited him with the unprecedented inroads the GOP has made in Pinal County. But he said he still believes he is the most qualified candidate in the race.

“I just think that I’m a better person for the job. I think I bring a skill set that is different from both of them (Hermanson and Parker) in terms of how I’m able to work in large public settings, as well as one to one sitting across the table asking someone to write a check for $100,000,” Ash said. “There’s a big difference between being county chairman and state chairman.”

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