From the pews of a north Phoenix church on Saturday, Arizona Republicans voted to give the reins of the state party’s power to a grass-roots Tea Party member.
At the state party’s convention, an all-day event at the Church For the Nations near 19th Ave. & Cactus Rd., roughly 1,300 Republican state committee members elected Tom Morrissey party chairman at the state party’s convention. He defeated Ron Carmichael, backed by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl; Marty Hermanson, backed by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu; and late-entering candidate Robert Graham.
Morrissey, who entered the race only days before the election, won in the third round of voting, expanding his lead over Carmichael, the perceived establishment candidate, in each round.
The party’s chairman election procedures require a majority to win, and eliminates the bottom vote-getter of each round starting in round two. Chairman candidates and committee members caucused between rounds, until Morrissey won with 677 of the third round’s 1,348 votes.
“My election today is a testimony to the new energy in our party, the constitutional conservatives, the Tea Party, you people. This is your victory,” Morrissey said after being sworn in. “We need to come together now.”
After the third-round vote totals ensured Morrissey’s win, Carmichael urged party unity and asked his supporters to unanimously support Morrissey by acclamation. Some committee members got up and left when Carmichael asked them to support Morrissey, but the loud applause sealed the vote.
Carmichael told the Arizona Capitol Times that he plans to meet with Morrissey in coming days to discuss their different visions for the party and forge a plan that will bring the establishment and grass-roots segments of the party together in a constructive way.
Unseating President Barack Obama, improving community outreach, promoting the party brand and implementing a high-tech approach to party networking and communication will top Morrissey’s agenda, he said.
Morrissey said he has large shoes to fill, as Randy Pullen steps down from the state party’s top position, which he had held since 2007.
Maricopa County GOP chairman Rob Haney said Morrissey’s election sends to U.S. Sens. Kyl and John McCain a message that grass-roots Republicans are not happy with the top-down approach to party governance the two senators seemed to favor.
The division in the party arose over the past several years on such issues as immigration, campaign-finance reform and climate-change legislation, which were supported by some of Arizona’s congressional Republicans, despite 80 percent to 90 percent opposition from Republican state and precinct committee members, Haney said.
“We’re tired of our representatives dissing the base and joining liberals in Congress,” Haney said. “Are they listening? I hope so.”
Haney said he thinks Morrissey not only will push for a more grass-roots approach from Arizona’s Republican congressional delegation, but that he will also help elect more Tea Party conservatives to the state Legislature by encouraging greater activism and involvement from the Tea Party. Haney said Morrissey will also be able to allocate the state’s campaign resources to those candidates as well.
Constantin Querard, a prominent Republican consultant, said he doesn’t expect much to change for the party, adding that Morrissey’s main task will be to maintain the momentum the party now enjoys.
One Carmichael supporter, Jeremy Vaught, a precinct committeeman from Phoenix who worked on McCain’s 2010 re-election campaign, said the trouble with Morrissey, and with Pullen before him, was that donors became hesitant to give to the state party.
“Moderates like (Carmichael) raise money better,” Vaught said. “They don’t feel as comfortable giving money to the ultra-conservatives.”
The party also re-elected treasurer Tim Lee and secretary Linda White, and voted on several resolutions, including two that aim to bar independents from voting in Republican primary elections. The resolution that would seek a lawsuit to achieve the change passed, while the resolution that would have sought legislation to do it failed.
Another resolution that failed would have urged the Gov. Jan Brewer to move the presidential primary election from March to February.
Party Chairman Vote Totals
The story has been clarified to say that Haney said Morrissey will be able to use state party’s finances to help elect Tea Party candidates. It originally said Haney thought Morrissey will use the state party’s finance to help elect Tea Party candidates.