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Chosen To Lead Arizona GOP . . . Persistent Trump Backer Kelli Ward Finally Enters Winner’s Circle

February 6, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — When Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) stepped to the microphones for a talk at Arizona State University in suburban Tempe in May 2015, he wasn’t the only politician in the room with thoughts of running for a higher office.
Paul had then just jumped in to a run for the White House for 2016, while the woman who introduced him to a crowd of more than 400 people at the ASU student fitness center, Arizona GOP State Sen. Kelli Ward, was thinking of challenging incumbent Sen. John McCain in the Grand Canyon State’s 2016 Republican primary election.
Both Paul and Ward had libertarian-conservative instincts, which both of them referred to in their comments.
Ward presented the Kentucky senator to the afternoon audience after she asked, “Who is here because they want to fight for freedom?” The audience cheered.
Both of these Republican politicians weren’t on the same political page with McCain, given his preference for an activist national-security government.
Paul and McCain recently had exchanged verbal shots over the best approach to national security. And if Ward went ahead to battle McCain for his Senate seat, she’d be placing herself squarely in the crosshairs of his powerful campaign machine. In fact, even by welcoming Paul to this talk, Ward placed herself at risky odds with McCain.
Not that Paul and Ward were positioning themselves as rebels way out on the fringe. Citing the most popular GOP president of the twentieth century, Paul told the gathering, “I am a Reagan Republican, through and through. . . . Reagan believed in peace through strength. Reagan didn’t believe intervention was always the answer.”
Moreover, one of the official sponsors of Paul’s appearance was the Phoenix area’s own Republican Party.
And Ward, a physician from western Arizona’s Lake Havasu City, on the Colorado River, was regarded as an effective state senator and pro-lifer. The ugly rise of Obamacare had pushed her into elective politics.
Just the previous month in New Hampshire, in April 2015, Paul excited pro-lifers by turning a reporter’s routine type of abortion question around on him. Rather than say what exceptions he’d allow for abortion, Paul suggested asking Democrat Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she was okay with killing a seven-pound preborn baby.
“When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me,” Paul said.
However, in 2016 Paul’s higher-up hopes were overwhelmed by Donald Trump, as were Ward’s by McCain’s machine.
In a four-way 2016 GOP Senate primary, Ward lost to McCain by 12 points, although the internationally famous former Vietnam military prisoner won less than 52 percent of the total vote.
Offended at Ward’s taking on McCain, the Arizona establishment didn’t want to hear any more from her. It so resented Ward that it later kept resuscitating a fable that McCain’s campaign team had created for advertising for the primary election — that Ward was a conspiracy theorist promoting chemtrails.
McCain ads tagged her “Chemtrails Kelli,” a smear that establishment media were glad to spread nationally. Chemtrails result from chemicals allegedly dropped into the atmosphere by some agency for evil purposes.
Even The Washington Post, FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact all pronounced Ward not guilty of this accusation. They reported that Ward had organized a factual meeting in 2014 for her constituents to hear from representatives with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about environmental safety because of their “relentless” concerns about chemtrails.
Persistently optimistic, Ward turned right around from her 2016 loss and announced she was running for Arizona’s other U.S. Senate seat, the unpopular Never-Trump Republican Jeff Flake’s, that was to go before primary-election voters in August 2018. But in a surprise surrender, one-term senator Flake proceeded to leave the race in October 2017, nearly a full year before the 2018 GOP primary.
Arizona’s crusty establishment was horrified that Ward might waltz right into winning the party’s Senate nomination, so it started maneuvers which ended in three major GOP candidates splitting the vote, Ward, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Cong. Martha McSally, representing the state’s Second Congressional District.
A reluctant McSally had to be lured into the race by Washington, D.C., wise men who put the pedal to the metal to push her to primary victory. But McSally’s halting style managed to lose her the Senate seat in the general election to calculating radical leftist Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
However, strong Trump supporter “Chemtrails Kelli” definitely had a reason to feel up in the clouds on January 26. In this new year of 2019, she was elected to a two-year term as the new chairman of the Arizona Republican Party at the annual meeting of GOP state committeemen.
Enough committeemen thought that Ward represented the heart of the GOP, while the incumbent chairman, Jonathan Lines, not only presided over state Republican losses in the 2018 elections as he served his first two-year term, but he also had the dubious honor of being backed by the establishment.
With more than 1,220 committeemen and proxies up for grabs, Ward had a reported vote of 633, Lines had 526, and a late-entering third candidate 65.
An Associated Press story on January 26 said, “The state party has been fractured for years between moderates who embrace business-friendly strategies and prefer to avoid hot-button social issues and a more conservative wing that has embraced the Tea Party and President Donald Trump’s initiatives.”
Ward told Phoenix radio talk host James T. Harris (KFYI, 550 AM) that the day before the committeemen met was her fiftieth birthday, not a woman’s favorite day, but the results of the meeting the next day more than made up for it.
Having traveled Arizona extensively, Ward said people told her that what’s needed for success now is full activation of Republicans on the ground.
Some posters outside the meeting hall noted GOP seats lost under Lines in November 2018’s election, as well as Lines raking in “lowest individual contributions since 2000,” during the terms of six different state chairmen.
Lines was said to have brought in less than $1 million, while Bob Fannin, a well-known twentieth-century GOP name in Arizona, had more than $4.6 million attributed to his term as the twenty-first century began.
While waiting to learn the voting results on January 26, The Wanderer spoke with a close adviser of Ward’s who asked not to be named. Saying that the situation looked favorable for her to win, he said she’d retain people on staff who were doing a good job, but make some changes. “Her focus is on getting the right people in to do the job.”
A couple of Latino Republicans expressed their concern to this writer that Democrats were outhustling Arizona Republicans, with a woman expressing concern over a lack of GOP outreach to minorities. Given the media slant that Latinos hate the GOP, it was reassuring to see Latinos at the gathering who actually want Republicans to prosper.
Some contention was voiced in the meeting hall about how the vote for GOP chairman was to be cast, with a roll-call vote winning out amid fears of manipulation of secretly cast ballots.
Rob Haney, a retired chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, based in Phoenix, told The Wanderer in an email: “I was one of the many who believed that Dr. Kelli Ward did not have a chance of being elected the new Arizona GOP state chairman. I had become all too familiar with the dishonest tactics the John McCain surrogates used in previous elections.
“With them in control of the election process and tabulation, the outcome was not in question. But then a surprise point-of-order roll-call vote was demanded by over 10 percent of the committeemen,” Haney said.
“The planned vote by cell phone and backroom tally shenanigans was not going to be allowed. A fair and clearly observed vote was to be used, and that changed everything,” he said. “Ward won by 107 votes. The upset was in spite of all four members of our Republican congressional delegation and Arizona Gov. (Doug) Ducey endorsing the incumbent chairman, Jonathan Lines. Lines had just overseen the worst defeat of Arizonan Republican Party candidates in our memory. . . .
“My prayer is that Ward realize that the establishment Republicans will try in every way to sabotage her term. They may talk unity, but they will commit treachery. That is their record,” Haney said. “First, look for Chambers of Commerce members to cut funding the party. They would rather a Democrat win than a conservative hold the reins of power.
“Let the actions of the Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., serve as an example of what Dr. Ward can expect from the RINOs in Arizona,” he said.
When The Wanderer asked a Republican considered to be more of a centrist to comment, he declined.

The Secret Ballot

Meanwhile, conservative GOP strategist Constantin Querard saw a different implication in casting the vote by roll call.
“The roll call vote was terrible and likely cost Ward some votes,” Querard told The Wanderer in an email. ”Quite a few districts insisted on a secret ballot, but a surprising number allowed themselves to be forced into giving up that sacred right and having to vote out loud, or some districts had a confession-like line where voters walked up to someone keeping the tally and told them who they were voting for before moving on.
“Several voters I spoke to wanted to vote for Ward but they were afraid of being seen or heard voting against the establishment pick, so they voted Lines. At least a few voters didn’t vote at all,” Querard said.
“Republicans have fought for as long as I can remember for the right to secret ballot, and we’ve actually been engaged in fights against unions who use card-check and public intimidation to effect outcomes, so seeing it adopted as a tactic at a GOP meeting was not good,” he said. “If the objection was electronic voting, it could have been overcome with simple paper ballots like many districts ended up using.
“The media loves to attack Ward and, no, there isn’t any legitimate attack on her on the basis of conspiracy theories, etc., but since when has something not being true ever stopped the media? The party faithful knew better and the average Arizona voter won’t know or care. She’ll be judged on results in 2020, as she should be,” Querard said.

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