‘Why don’t you listen to what I have to say?’

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, tries to speak above the heckling crowd at “Rally to Protect Our Elections” hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix. Ugenti-Rita spoke for only 75 seconds before she exited the stage. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/THE STAR NEWS NETWORK
Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, tries to speak above the heckling crowd at “Rally to Protect Our Elections” hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix on July 24, 2021. Ugenti-Rita spoke for only 75 seconds before she exited the stage. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/THE STAR NEWS NETWORK

Not even five seconds into her speech at a rally to support former-President Trump and his agenda is when the boos and catcalls began for Arizona State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita.  

She lasted at the podium for 75 seconds before she hustled off stage like a comedian who had bombed her set. 

The event, hosted by Turning Point Action – the fundraising arm of pro-Trump organization Turning Point USA – took place at Arizona Federal Theatre in downtown Phoenix on July 24, and all Republican candidates for the governor, secretary of state and U.S. Senate races were invited to speak. 

The crowd’s treatment of her raised the question of whether the Arizona Republican Party is doomed in the 2022 general election if this crowd was going to turn on one of the most conservative lawmakers in the state, someone who has passed more bills to tighten election laws than practically anybody else. 

Ugenti-Rita was one of two Republican candidates for the chief election officer job who showed up. Two others did not attend. The event surrounded the topic of election integrity – something Ugenti-Rita has built a career on over the course of a decade in politics. 

Ugenti-Rita’s record includes things conservatives have boasted about. She wrote the bill to ban ballot harvesting that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of on July 1. She also passed a bill this year to revamp the state’s early voting list, changing it from being permanent and laying out a process to remove registered voters who don’t return their ballot by mail. 

The indoor venue, formerly called Comerica Theatre, has a great sound that carries through the 5,000-seat auditorium, but during its usual concerts, the sound is coming from the stage, not the audience. 

Before she left the stage, Ugenti-Rita barely got through two full sentences as the heckling and hollering drowned her out and she shouted: “Why don’t you listen to what I have to say?” 

Two Republicans deeply tied within the grassroots of the state party were critical of the crowd’s treatment of her. 

Kathy Petsas
Kathy Petsas

Kathy Petsas is the Republican chairman of Legislative District 28 – one of Arizona’s strongest swing districts that houses some of the most prominent politicians in the state.  

She told Arizona Capitol Times she doesn’t agree with Ugenti-Rita on most issues, but that it was a “shame” nobody came to her defense to let her speak. 

“Ugenti-Rita deserved every right and every respect and courtesy to provide her message and it was a shame that party leadership like Kelli [Ward] didn’t speak up for her to say she deserves the right to speak,” Petsas said.  

She added that Ward, the two-time controversial chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, stood up for Daniel McCarthy, the failed U.S. Senate candidate in 2020 who was incredibly critical of Ward, during the state party meeting in January, but she didn’t extend the same courtesy to Ugenti-Rita. 

“If the party wants to win general elections, then they have a responsibility to allow all their candidates the platform,” Petsas said. “I don’t know that she’s the person I’m going to end up voting for. Maybe she is, but she sure did have every right to be there and speak.” 

Petsas said if there’s a candidate like Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley or Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, up against one of the Democrats for secretary of state, there’s a good chance Republican voters will not vote for that race rather than vote across party lines like what happened in Arizona in 2018 and 2020 on the top of the ticket. 

“If you don’t like either, all of a sudden you’ve got 75,000 Republicans who don’t vote,” she said.  

Nearly 36,000 people “undervoted” for the U.S. Senate race in 2020. 

Trey Terry
Trey Terry

Trey Terry, a Republican member on the Agua Fria School Board and a state committeeman in Legislative District 13, didn’t go as far as Petsas, but said it depends on how much longer Republicans are talking about the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election.  

“When it comes to a general election, this mindset that we saw at the rally is disastrous for Republicans moving forward,” Terry said. “Republicans in Arizona need conservatives like Ugenti, [House Speaker Rusty] Bowers, [County Supervisor Clint] Hickman, [Maricopa County Recorder Stephen] Richer, etc., if we want any chance at winning statewide or competitive elections.”  

He said winning a Republican primary is easier from what was seen at the rally, but general elections need independent voters to win statewide. Republicans far-and-wide have been appealing to Trump in hopes to win competitive races among their party.  

“Mark Finchem participated in the January 6 riot,” Terry said. “He would get crushed in a statewide general election. I think Shawnna is in a better position, but we just don’t know. I think if Republicans are still talking about this audit and the 2020 election in the 2022 general election, we are going to get crushed. If we are able to put this audit behind us and learn from our mistakes in 2020, there is a lot of history showing that Republicans can have a very good year.” 

Petsas said the crowd, which seemed to support another potential Trump presidency in 2024, would be better off supporting someone like Ugenti-Rita. 

“[She] is a legitimate conservative, with bona fides to prove it, which is a lot more than I can say for Trump,” she said. 

It’s believed that the boos for Ugenti-Rita were because she wouldn’t hear election bills from Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction. Ugenti-Rita, who chairs the Senate Government Committee with Townsend as vice chair, repeatedly said throughout the session that the bills were bad. 

“There is no shame in voting against something that is bad policy,” Petsas said, adding that it’s still no reason to boo her off the stage before she can lay out her platform. 

Terry said Ugenti-Rita has been the most effective legislator over the past decade when it comes to conservative changes on election integrity, but she could be criticized on other issues and he doesn’t support her candidacy or anyone else in that race.  

“But to criticize her on alleged unwillingness to ‘support election integrity measures’ or whatever, is intellectually deranged.” 

Ugenti-Rita in turn went home to immediately criticize the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election for the first time publicly and took a swipe at Senate President Karen Fann for her leadership, two moves that could hurt her chances in the race, which is still more than one year out.  

“I’ll put my record of fighting for election integrity up against anyone. What I won’t do is vote for ‘show’ legislation that does nothing to strengthen election integrity and introduced for self serving reasons,” she wrote in a Twitter thread immediately after the rally. 


Behind the Ballot: Riding the wave


Lynsey Robinson
Lynsey Robinson

Democrats are fielding a candidate in nearly every federal, statewide and legislative race this year, using a strategy of saturation that has been successful elsewhere.

But there’s no guarantee the much-anticipated “blue wave” will lead to victory in Arizona.

Still, novice candidates like Lynsey Robinson have learned one thing over the years – they’ll never know whether they can win if they don’t even try.

Robinson’s road to candidacy has not been easy. And she’s hoping her narrative will resonate with voters who share in her concerns for Arizona and the state of politics in the era of President Trump.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes.

Music in this episode included “Little Idea,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Challenge to LD28 candidate’s petition signatures alleges forgery

The husband of Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, is seeking to kick independent challenger Mark Syms off the general election ballot for having insufficient signatures to qualify for the ticket.

In a complaint filed June 11 in Maricopa County Superior Court, attorneys Kory Langhofer and Joseph Kanefield listed 20 reasons for why the majority of the 2,156 signatures Syms collected must be disqualified.

Langhofer and Kanefield, who represent Robert McGee, alleged that 914 of the signatures, which Syms collected in just 10 days, according to staff at the Secretary of State’s Office, appear to be forgeries. The attorneys said after visually comparing the signatures on the nominating petitions with voter registration records, none of the 914 signatures collected bore “reasonable resemblance” to the signatures on file.

“Not only are the affected signatures void, but this apparently concerted effort among multiple circulators to manufacture a critical mass of fraudulent signatures irretrievably taints the integrity of the nomination petition as a whole and requires its invalidation,” the attorneys wrote.

Langhofer and Kanefield called the alleged forgeries “the most extensive and pervasive petition fraud scheme in recent Arizona history.”

Mark Syms
Mark Syms

The attorneys also alleged that there were several missing or illegible signatures, some signers did not list their address or a complete address, and in other instances the date the person allegedly signed the petition was missing. Some of the signers were registered to vote outside of Legislative District 28 or weren’t registered to vote at all in Arizona when they allegedly signed the petition.

The attorneys also seek to invalidate entire nominating petition sheets because the circulator failed to sign the circulator verification accompanying the petition sheets they circulated, or because they didn’t completely fill out the circulator information on the back of the petitions.

Syms, a doctor and the husband of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, is running as an independent for the Senate in Legislative District 28. His candidacy is viewed by many as political payback for Republicans running a second candidate, Kathy Petsas, in the House.

Some Republicans believe Petsas is more likely to take out Maria Syms than Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler. And Republicans also worry that Mark Syms’ appearance on the ballot could split valuable votes for Brophy McGee and throw the race to Democrat Christine Marsh.

Syms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the complaint, the attorneys alleged that four circulators collected the majority of the signatures, about 1,330. Of those four circulators, three listed their address at a homeless shelter in Phoenix.

Langhofer and Kanefield said the signatures collected by the four circulators appeared in consecutive, or nearly consecutive order, based on numbered addresses, and the addresses were written in the same handwriting.

The attorneys argued that it was “highly unlikely” that this could occur given that during the course of signature gathering, circulators will often encounter people who will refuse to answer the door or decline to sign the petition.

They alleged that the circulators likely filled out the nominating petitions using voter registration rolls and then forged the signatures themselves, adding that many of the signatures were similar in size, spacing and had the same slant.

Langhofer and Kanefield argued that two of the circulators reportedly collected 200 signatures each in one day, which far exceeds the average 12 signatures per day other circulators collected, they wrote.

And one of the circulators, who listed his name as Anthony Garcia, is thought to have impersonated the real Garcia, “an experienced career circulator who has collected petitions signatures in Arizona for years,” the attorneys wrote. Not only will the real Anthony Garcia testify he never circulated nominating petitions on behalf of Syms, the attorneys said, but GPS data maintained by his employer will show that he was outside the boundaries of LD28 on the dates the circulator purporting to be Garcia collected signatures for the nominating petition.

Langhofer and Kanefield argued that once the signatures are invalidated, Syms will have fewer than the 1,250 valid signatures he needs to qualify for the ballot.

GOP infighting in LD28 gives Democrats hope of trifecta

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, and Kathy Petsas
Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, and Kathy Petsas

The Arizona Republican Party would have you think there’s nothing wrong in Legislative District 28.

In an email blast sent on June 4, state GOP officials touted a slate of candidates — Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, and Kathy Petsas — as “three strong conservative women” who would sweep the three seats available in the district.

Even the candidates themselves know nothing could be further from the truth.

Republicans are already worried that a wave of Democratic enthusiasm in a post-presidential election could sweep Democrats into office. And Brophy McGee was already expected to face a difficult race against Christine Marsh, a Democrat who was the state’s 2016 “Teacher of the Year.”

Mark Syms
Mark Syms

Her path to re-election is made trickier by the emergence of Mark Syms as an independent candidate. The husband of Rep. Maria Syms, Mark is viewed by many to be running as political payback.

Some Republicans believe Petsas is more likely to take out Maria Syms than Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler.

And some Republicans worry Mark Syms’ appearance on the ballot could split valuable votes for Brophy McGee and throw the race to Marsh.

Republicans hold a strong voter registration advantage in LD28, but the district has a moderate streak. For more than a decade, its two representatives have hailed from opposite political parties. That could make it difficult for both Maria Syms and Petsas to get elected to the House, especially as Petsas bills herself as a moderate while Syms has struck a much more conservative tone.

Even before the GOP kerfuffle, Democrats were already ramping up their efforts in LD28. For the first time in years, they’re abandoning their “single-shot” strategy in the House.

Instead of running two candidates for both possible House seats, a single candidate — a single-shot — in a district where the conditions are right can result in one win where two candidates might have produced two losses. The goal for a single-shot candidate is to get core supporters to cast only one vote in the race and persuade others to split their votes between the candidate and an opponent. That maximizes the candidate’s own numbers and dilutes the opponents’ numbers.

Butler, a Paradise Valley Democrat, ran single-shot as a Democrat in 2016. This fall, she’ll be joined on the ballot by Aaron Lieberman, who’s touting his born-and-raised ties to LD28 and his education background. Butler said she’s excited about the possibility of Democrats taking another House seat, which she said could “really change our state.”

“We could have a lot more opportunities at the Legislature to really advance the causes that we believe in,” she said. “I think a lot of people in my district are very excited to start knocking on doors and talk about how transformative having another candidate can be for LD28.”

Former LD28 Rep. Eric Meyer, who used the single-shot strategy to win in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, said the dynamic in his old district has changed.

“Our district has slowly gone from strongly leaning Republican to just barely leaning Republican now,” he said. “All of this will help our candidate.”

Jonathan Lines, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, has declined to address the intraparty schism in LD28, and has publicly insisted that all is well. He recently told the Arizona Capitol Times that he “absolutely” thinks the three Republican candidates can go three for three in the district.

“We intend to win all three seats and we’ll do whatever it takes in the Senate to ensure that Kate Brophy McGee is re-elected,” Lines said on June 4.

That may be possible if the candidates worked together and supported one another, Petsas said. But that would mean that Maria Syms would have to throw her support behind her fellow Republican candidates in LD28, including Brophy McGee, and not her husband running as an independent.

Maria Syms initially demurred when asked if she would endorse her husband, and claimed that any issues between her, Brophy McGee and Petsas are all in the past. Maria Syms noted that she signed Petsas’ nominating petition to qualify for the ballot.

“I am glad we can put all this third party gossip behind us. I look forward to a robust general election campaign,” she wrote in an email.

Petsas said it’s telling that Maria Syms would not say whether she would support her fellow Republican candidates because it indicates that they haven’t gotten past whatever issues existed. And Petsas hasn’t held back in blasting Maria Syms for throwing her support behind her husband, Mark.

Their actions are not in line with Republican values, Petsas said.

“Maria Syms’ husband has filed for the Senate to run against Kate Brophy McGee and Maria Syms is a Republican? I don’t think so,” she said. “People who are experienced and people who are wise realize this is not the time to play games.”

Maria Syms later confirmed she can’t support the all-Republican slate, given that her husband is in the race and running as an independent.

“It’s silly to expect me to endorse someone over my husband,” she wrote in a text message on June 5.

Brophy McGee said she’s unclear about Mark Syms’ motivations for running against her. And Mark Syms has yet to speak for himself on the matter.

He was briefly approached by the Capitol Times when he filed his nominating petitions to run for the LD28 Senate seat on May 30, but his wife cut off the interview after one question. He’s also declined multiple requests for comment.

Brophy McGee noted that she’s won every race she’s run in LD28, going back to her school board days, and that she’s confident she’ll prevail again, even with an independent and a Democrat running against her in the general.

“It’s not something I had anticipated. I would not be human if I did not say I was disappointed. But I’m running, and I plan to win,” Brophy McGee said. “I do not understand. But anyone is free to run in any race, and this is certainly no different.”

Brophy McGee also said it was a “complete shock” to her that the Arizona Republican Party would tout her among a slate of GOP women running in the district. As to how that works with Mark Syms in the mix, Brophy McGee said she’ll leave that up to Maria Syms.

“It is a very, very tough campaign regardless of how this whole situation works out … and that is consuming every bit of time that I have,” she said. “I think focusing on [the intraparty fighting] at the moment when there’s so much that hasn’t been sorted out is a total waste of my time.”

Political newcomer among leaders in campaign fundraising for legislature

Political newcomer Aaron Lieberman, a Democrat running for the House in Legislative District 28, far out raised the competition in just 30 days.

Lieberman, a first-time candidate, reported raising $127,284 from more than 180 contributors since he started collecting campaign contributions on June 1, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Not only is that more than what the three other candidates in the LD28 House race raised during the second quarter of 2018, it’s also more than what was raised by any other legislative candidate during the same time period.

To date, only incumbents Kate Brophy McGee, Heather Carter, Sean Bowie, Karen Fann, Vince Leach, and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, who all launched their campaigns months before Lieberman did, have raised more money than him.

Aaron Lieberman
Aaron Lieberman

Campaign finance reports for the second quarter of 2018, which spans April 1 to June 30, were due July 16.

Lieberman’s campaign coffers were heavily bolstered by out-of-state contributions from a large built-in national fundraising network of people in the education and health fields in which he used to work.

Lieberman, whose background is in early childhood education, started an early childhood education nonprofit called Jumpstart with three others during his time at Yale. The organization provides language and literacy programming to preschool-aged children in underserved communities in 14 states and Washington, D.C.

Following his time at Jumpstart, Lieberman started his own company, Acelero Learning, which helps communities run Head Start programs.

He also served as the CEO of the Phoenix Spine Surgery Center, which his brother owns, for two years, and he now works as a consultant for various education organizations.

Lieberman said the relationships he built during his time at these organizations helped boost his fundraising numbers.

“I spent 20 years working closely with a broad group of people to help improve the lives of underserved families. I reached out to that group, close friends and relatives, told them this is what I’m working on now and they were more than willing to help based on my track record,” he said.

Out-of-state contributions include a $5,100 contribution from Melissa Polaner, executive director of iMentor NYC, a volunteer mentoring organization, and a $5,000 contribution from Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa, an early childhood education group.

Lieberman also received sizable contributions from valley contributors, including $5,100 from Matthew Pittinsky, CEO of Scottsdale-based Parchment Inc., which provides transcripts, diplomas and certificates digitally; $4,000 from relative Amy Lieberman, a social worker at a local school district, and $2,550 each from physicians Yara Vargas Ortiz and Tutankhamen Pappoe.

He also raised $18,700 through personal and family contributions, including $5,100 he self-funded.

Lieberman moves into the next reporting period with $119,041 on hand after spending $8,242.

Kathy Petsas, a Republican candidate for the House in LD28,  who began collecting campaign contributions just a few weeks before Lieberman, reported raising $53,965, including $10,600 she funneled into her campaign coffers, during the second quarter.

Petsas reported receiving $2,750 from political action committees, including $500 each from the Cox Political Action Committee, Realtors of AZ PAC and the Arizona Chapter of NAIOP Inc AZPAC.

Her biggest contributions came from family members John Pappas, who contributed $5,100, Angeline Pappas, who contributed $4,500, and Nicholas Petsas, who contributed $1,000.

After spending $8,104, Petsas is left with $45,860 on hand.

Incumbent Reps. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, and Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, reported raising $30,031 and $20,105, respectively, during the second quarter of 2018.

To date, Butler has raised $103,749 while Syms has raised $87,011. They move into the primary election with $76,772 and $64,048 on hand, respectively.

Ward, Terán take different ways to lead parties

From left are Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party and Raquel Terán, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. ( Ward photo by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun via AP and Teran photo by Gage Skidmore)
From left are Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party and Raquel Terán, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. ( Ward photo by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun via AP and Teran photo by Gage Skidmore)

In a state that has turned from red to purple, Arizona’s Republican and Democratic parties continue to push away from the center – one opens the door for more voices to be heard and the other shuts out those who disagree.

It was easy to predict who would win each party chair on January 23 — Raquel Terán for the Democrats and Kelli Ward for the Republicans — but what wasn’t as expected was what those margins of victory would be.

Terán, a Latina state representative in west Phoenix, got her political upbringing in the post-SB1070 movement. She’s a progressive through and through, but told Arizona Capitol Times she will make sure that whether a Democrat is progressive or moderate, they will have the same access to party resources, helping more members pick up seats like the party did in 2018 and 2020.

Democrats won several legislative seats in 2018, and four statewide races including the first U.S. Senate seat in roughly 30 years. In 2020, while less successful, Democrats picked up one seat in the state Senate, the other U.S. Senate seat and also handed its electoral votes to a Democrat for the first time in 24 years. 

Ward, a far right Republican loyalist to former President Trump, was elected to her second term leading the AZGOP, but on January 27, several Republican state committeemen questioned Ward’s victory and are looking into a full audit of the results. Party officials did not release any numbers for all of the races and resolutions and speculate that something nefarious could have happened.

It’s a show of irony as Ward has been a top voice pushing several debunked conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from Trump despite a lack of evidence and every court from local to the highest in the country throwing out cases left and right. 

Ward previously served two terms in the state Legislature before running in GOP primaries for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and 2018 – and losing. As her political career began to fizzle out, Terán’s began to take flight. Ward did not respond to multiple attempts for comment on this story. 

Teran was first elected to the state House in 2018 along with her current seatmate Robert Meza.

Aside from the two party leaders having their fair share of differences, the party meetings could not have gone any differently. Terán won with 75% of the vote. Ward won in a run-off just barely eking out a victory by 3 percentage points, but no specific vote totals were revealed. 

The Democratic Party election, which was wide open after former chair Felecia Rotellini decided not to run again, also voted to condemn Trump and the riots on January 6, and urged U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to convict the former president when the impeachment trial takes place next month. Both Sinema and Kelly endorsed Terán for party chair.

The Republican Party voted to censure Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of U.S. Sen. John McCain, who branded himself as one of the most textbook Republicans in state history after Barry Goldwater. The party also voted to say there are only two genders and calls for revoking birthright citizenship, among other resolutions that passed. 

In between the November 3 election and the AZGOP meeting, several conservatives — and even more moderate Republicans — had had enough of Ward’s behavior and criticized her at every opportunity. One of those conservatives was Kirk Adams, the former Arizona House speaker and former chief of staff to Ducey.

Adams was dismayed that Ward won the chairmanship, saying true conservatives must do their part to quiet the noise coming from Ward and her crew of conspiracy theorists by “call[ing] out their [expletive].” 

Adams has been talking to just about any reporter who calls to say that Ward winning the chair again isn’t an end to the Republican Party here, but it’s not a good sign, and it’s not reflective of all Republicans. 

“You have to let voters know that this is not a Republican brand. Or if they think it is, [explain that] there are a lot of other Republicans who don’t think this way – give us a second look,” he said. “But if we sort of ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ we don’t want to tick anybody off, then her style of politics becomes the Republican brand.” 

While Ward pushes away those who she calls RINOs or Republican in name only, Terán said she is trying to bridge the divide in her party that she now gets to lead. 

Geoff Esposito, a progressive lobbyist and political consultant, has been following Terán’s career for years and believes she is the right person to lead. 

“There are people who are just symbols of their generation in the moment and Raquel is that in so many ways,” Esposito said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a candidate for party chair that has engendered such enthusiasm from all the various factions of the party … she has a unifying presence that everyone from the progressive left to the moderates see something that inspires them and that they can support.” 

Compared to Ward, Esposito said Teran clearly has a vision for the party to move forward where the Republican Party continues to be more divisive than ever. “We’ll see how that holds over the next two years,” he said. 

2022 is a big election year for Arizona since Kelly’s Senate seat will be up, and all five statewide offices will be on the ballot, with the governor’s race wide open after Ducey terms out, plus two seats on the Corporation Commission and a redistricted Congress and Legislature. Both parties have a lot to work with leading up to that election. 

Adams said he believes that Republicans can continue to win in Arizona, despite now having an obstacle in Ward. He said there are several financial backchannels Republicans can use without having to go through the state party, but it just makes it more challenging. To win, Adams said, Republicans must continue to put forward good candidates because it’s no longer useful to rely on having an “R” next to your name. 

He said Republicans are increasingly willing to vote for sufficiently moderate Democrats, such as Sinema and Kelly, and the GOP needs to court “Ducey-Sinema” voters, who are the voters of the future, he said, not simply rely on the fringe that Ward represents. 

Adams has made it clear he thinks Ward is extreme and said Republicans who still haven’t made a point to come out publicly against Ward and her loyalists are still learning to navigate the waters in a post-Trump world. 

“Others have governing responsibilities that need to be tended to as a first priority. So they’re focused on that,” he said.

Count Kathy Petsas, the Republican chair of the Legislative District 28 party, among those who condemn Ward. 

She stands by Ducey, who lives in her district and is a state committeeman, and has adamantly criticized Ward for being a terrible choice to lead the party. She said not a single committeeman in LD28 voted for Ward in 2019 or this year. That includes Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and several other elected officials. 

“She is unfit to lead,” Petsas said, adding that she (Petsas) is tired of being lumped into the Ward-faction of the party just because she makes a lot of noise.

 Only 1,300 people participated in the AZGOP election, Petsas said, compared to roughly 1.5 million registered Republicans in Arizona. They do “not represent the diversity of thought, respect for the rule of law, economic pragmatism, and integrity of the full party.”