PHOENIX — A handful of Republican lawmakers, some representing Pinal County, are calling on newly reelected state GOP Chair Kelli Ward to either agree to a recount of that vote or back off of her challenges to the presidential race.
In an email Wednesday to Ward, the 14 representatives and three senators said they have been involved in a two-month effort to bring “transparency and accountability in our election process.’’
“This included ballot security and integrity, comprehensive audits, and paper trails that allow the average voter to know that their vote counted and that the election results as presented were accurate,’’ they wrote. That followed the certified election results that showed Joe Biden outpolling Donald Trump in Arizona by 10,457 votes.
At the same time, they noted, Ward won a new term as party chair by defeating Sergio Arellano, a southern Arizona businessman and unsuccessful 2018 congressional candidate, by 42 votes. She has refused, saying there was no procedure, process or rule that allows for that.
“And you certainly don’t allow a challenger who lost an election to demand something that they don’t have the right to, and we don’t have the responsibility for providing,’’ she said last month on KFYI.
The GOP lawmakers said that’s subverting what they’re trying to do.
“Now, our collective message is being undermined by your insistence that none of these standards should apply to your election as AZ GOP Chairman,’’ they wrote. “This inconsistency is simply not acceptable.
The lawmakers acknowledged that election of a party chief “pales in comparison’’ with a presidential election.
“But the principles that surround every election, no matter how big or small, must remain the same,’’ they wrote.
So they want Ward to either allow an immediate audit of her Jan. 23 election or remove herself from efforts to audit the Nov. 3 election “as you would be an unwelcome distraction and foil for the media to use to discredit our efforts to protect our state’s voters.’’
Ward did not return a message seeking comment.
But the signers said the call is merited.
“I support transparency, free and fair elections in every corner of representation,’’ Rep. Mark Finchem, of Oro Valley, told Capitol Media Services. Finchem has been at the forefront of arguments that the Arizona results were tainted and incorrect.
Fellow Legislative District 11 lawmaker Rep. Bret Roberts, of Maricopa, echoed Finchem’s concerns. He said it would be “hypocritical” to demand an audit of the state election returns but not require the same for a close and contested GOP chair race.
LD8 Sen. T.J. Shope of Coolidge said it’s a matter of “trying to be consistent.’’ And he said that’s not what’s happening here.
“I come at it as a guy that doesn’t believe the ‘stop the steal’ stuff,’’ he said, referring to people who are convinced that Trump won Arizona.
“And here we have somebody who is essentially leading the charge and was former President Trump’s lead surrogate essentially in Arizona saying these things,’’ Shope said. “And when her election comes up under question, auditing or anything like that is not even on the table.’’
Rep. Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix said after the January GOP meeting was over it was brought to her attention that there were missed ballots from one county between the first and second round of voting.
“An audit of the chairmanís election would bring transparency to the process,’’ she said. Bolick said it would be wise for the party to lead to ensure that the state committeemen who voted “have the confidence in the integrity of the chair’s election,’’ essentially echoing the reason many Republican lawmakers have argued the need for the state to conduct its own audit of the November vote.
“By conducting an audit we can identify the sources of any potential discrepancies and put this issue to rest,’’ Bolick said. “Our party needs to rebuild and this is causing further division when we need to focus on growing our party.’’
Peoria Rep. Ben Toma agreed.
“We want transparency and an audit of the November election to ensure voter confidence and the same standard should apply to the GOP meeting,’’ he said.
Rep. Kevin Payne, also of Peoria, was more circumspect in response to a question about his decision to sign.
“The letter speaks for itself,’’ he said.
Lawmakers who signed the email to Ward.
Those representing Pinal districts in bold:
Paul Boyer, Phoenix
Rick Gray, Sun City
Vince Leach, Saddlebrooke
T.J. Shope, Coolidge
Shawnna Bolick, Phoenix
Frank Carroll, Sun City West
Regina Cobb, Kingman
Timothy Dunn, Yuma
John Fillmore, Apache Junction
Mark Finchem, Oro Valley
Quang Nguyen, Prescott Valley
Becky Nutt, Clifton
Joanne Osborne, Goodyear
Kevin Payne, Peoria
Beverly Pingerelli, Peoria
Bret Roberts, Maricopa
Ben Toma, Peoria
Justin Wilmeth, Scottsdale