GOP picks Yuma County’s Jonathan Lines as next state chairman

Jeremy Duda//January 28, 2017

GOP picks Yuma County’s Jonathan Lines as next state chairman

Jeremy Duda//January 28, 2017


In a race that was at times overshadowed by a feud between the state party and one of its most active district organizations, Jonathan Lines of Yuma County emerged as the next chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.

Lines, the Yuma County GOP chairman and treasurer of the Arizona Republican Party, won a narrow victory over Jim O’Connor on Saturday. Lines defeated the former Legislative District 23 chairman by just 34 votes at the party’s state committee meeting at the Phoenix’s Church for the Nations.

The 46-year-old businessman said the vote was closer than he expected, and attributed the narrow margin to a negative campaign waged against him by O’Connor, who cast Lines as the “establishment” candidate who is nothing more than an extension of outgoing Chairman Robert Graham’s four-year tenure.

“A lot of people who didn’t have the opportunity to know me or to meet me believed some of the… kind of the fake news that was out there,” Lines, who served as county party chairman for six years, told the Arizona Capitol Times.

O’Connor accused Lines of dirty politics, donning a pair of sunglasses to represent the “lies” that people were told about him. In a speech, he said he’s tired of the mudslinging against him and proclaimed that “it’s time to drain the swamp, right here in Arizona,” borrowing a line from President Donald Trump.

“They want to blind you to who I am because if you believe the lies then you won’t have a choice. I couldn’t possibly vote for me with the stories I’ve heard out there about me,” O’Connor said.

While O’Connor’s speech was peppered with references to negative campaigning and his district’s dispute with Graham over the ability of LD23’s state committeemen to vote at the meeting, Lines struck a positive tone, focusing on party unity.

Lines said his 100-day plan will focus on precinct committeemen, including providing them with extensive training and data accessibility. He lauded Graham for his fundraising prowess as chairman, but vowed to surpass him by raising “record amounts of money.”

He talked about lessons from his county party.

“We don’t have the luxury of fighting over our differences in Yuma County. We oftentimes debate them. We discuss them. But then we come together. We were united for Trump and we turned Yuma red,” he said. “In Yuma we don’t talk about Reagan’s 11th commandment. We actually live it.”

In the weeks leading up to Saturday’s meeting, O’Connor and other leaders from LD23 fought with Graham over the election of the district’s 119 state committeemen. The state committeemen are the voting members who elect the party’s chairman. Graham alleged that there were improprieties in the way LD23 nominated its committeemen at its Dec. 1 meeting, and threatened to block them from voting at the state party’s meeting, which would have deprived O’Connor of his major base of support.

Two days before the meeting, Nancy Ordowski, O’Connor’s successor as LD23 chair, announced that she and Graham had reached a settlement. She acknowledged that the state party had received a number of complaints and vowed to work with party leadership to prevent future issues, while Graham agreed to seat the district’s state committeemen.

While Lines rejected the “establishment” label that O’Connor tied to him, he enjoyed the support of elected officials and other prominent Arizona Republicans. He boasted endorsements from Congressmen Andy Biggs, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, who introduced him at the start of his speech, and, the night before the meeting, announced the endorsement of Gov. Doug Ducey. Graham also backed Lines’ bid to succeed him, though the outgoing chairman emphasized that he didn’t go public with his support until the day of the meeting.

Nearly as soon as the election ended, O’Connor began huddling with his closest supporters to discuss a possible appeal or challenge to the results based on what he called “irregularities” in the voting. His team alleged that some state committeemen may have been credentialed after the deadline, others may have voted in the wrong congressional district, and that some people who weren’t state committeemen may have voted in the race.

Ultimately, O’Connor declined to mount a challenge, and Lines was sworn in. Tim Horn, LD23’s first vice chairman and an ally of O’Connor, said they plan to inspect proxy votes and credentials from the meeting to ensure that the election was conducted properly.