But other Republicans are speaking out to warn that the audit’s amateur conduct and the conspiracy theories it amplified could cause lasting damage to the party. Next year they must defend an open governor’s seat and try to roll back one of the two Senate seats Democrats took in the last two elections.
Instead of a wake-up call sparked by these two Trump-era losses and Biden’s narrow statewide victory, they fear the audit is the latest sign of the Republican Party’s marginalization in a state where he once reigned supreme.
“First of all, you’ve got to get to a point where you say, ‘Okay, we’re done. We have sufficiently addressed any concerns that may exist in the community. And I feel like we’ve come to this point, ”said Bill Gates, a Republican supervisor from Maricopa County, in an interview. He said the county previous audit and the recount of the ballots has already determined that there were no problems in the election.
“I think it only appeals to a certain segment of the Republican Party,” Gates said. “I think there are a lot of Republicans out there who are horrified by what’s going on. I think there are very few freelancers who aren’t horrified by what’s going on. But it’s not too late.
But other audit supporters say the party needs it to help its base move through 2020 and focus on the political battles ahead.
Arizona GOP chairman Kelli Ward said in an emailed statement that the audit was ongoing due to state voters reaching out to the state Senate to express concerns to the state. subject of the election. She fired Republicans who say it could hurt their chances next year.
“We are preparing for the 2022 election and we believe that the fight for electoral integrity will benefit our candidates in 2022,” Ward said. She criticized the media for focusing on “former Republicans and a few current Republicans who question the audit.”
“Let the audit continue and then we can talk about the results,” added Ward.
Division is a familiar state for the Arizona GOP, and this is emblematic of a broader fight within the party, between Republicans relaunching the 2020 election and others seeking to move forward and focus on opposition to Biden by 2022.
“They’re listening to a very vocal Republican base in Arizona that’s convinced something was wrong with the 2020 election, and they’re responding to that vocal constituency,” said Stan Barnes, Republican consultant and former state senator. He added, “I don’t throw up with some of my Republican gossip classes that say it’s a belly flop for Republicans in 2022.”
Representative Andy Biggs, a high-level Trump supporter and possible Senate candidate, visited the audit site late last month and released a video on twitter promote it. Jim Lamon, a businessman and the first major candidate to enter the 2022 race to challenge Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, said in a statement that “electoral integrity is a foundation of our Republic” and an important issue for him.
“This audit will help ensure that the American people have full confidence that all eligible Arizonans who voted had their votes counted accurately,” Lamon said.
Governor Doug Ducey said to the Republic of Arizona recently they would evaluate the results once completed. A spokesperson did not return a request for comment from POLITICO, but told the Republic the governor had been a strong supporter of the Arizona elections, although the executive branch was not involved in the audit .
Katie Conner, spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, Mark Brnovich, said in a statement that there would be time to discuss the results of the audit, but it was not during the process.
Brnovich “believes that the legislature has the power to conduct the audit, and the judiciary has agreed,” Conner said. “It would be inappropriate to stop the process just because some people say it could be treated in a different way. “
The concerns go beyond the political ramifications. Election administrators and security experts are also gravely concerned that it will further erode confidence in the elections and open the door to more unwarranted challenges for future elections, in the state and elsewhere.
The audit is being conducted, in part, by a company called Cyber Ninjas. the little known company is run by a man who has previously promoted baseless conspiracies about the 2020 election and appears to have little experience in conducting elections or performing audits.
“It’s not an audit. It’s not even a recount, ”said Tammy Patrick, a former Maricopa County election official who is now a senior advisor to the Democracy Fund. “If we continue to engage in this kind of activity, we will not be living in a true and healthy democracy.”
The process will stop next week, while auditors temporarily leave their space for pre-scheduled graduation ceremonies.
But the disagreement will continue. State Senate President Karen Fann this week sent a letter to the Maricopa County Oversight Board raising “serious issues” arising from the audit and requesting a public meeting next week. Trump and his political shop amplified the letter. But board chairman Republican Jack Sellers said in a statement the audit firm was “in the head” and called the allegations “dangerous.” The council will meet on Monday to dispute the allegations, according to the Arizona Republic.
Find defended the audit against critics who say it would have a political and institutional cost. And she disagreed that the audit effort itself was contributing to election concerns.
“I think there are political ramifications if no one answers anyone’s questions,” she said, noting the large number of voters who have expressed concerns and saying that “the less we can do is get these questions answered.
Democrats see plenty of opportunities to continue attacking Republicans over the division within the party, especially if the audit continues through the summer.
“The break-up of the Republican Party will play a disproportionate role in what is already shaping up to be a combative, costly and time-consuming primary in the GOP Senate in Arizona,” said Sarah Guggenheimer, spokesperson for the state Democratic Party.
Chuck Coughlin, a Republican veteran of the state, highlighted the surveys of his company At the end of March, this showed that 42% of voters believed there had been significant fraud in the 2022 election and 54% said there was not. But the poll found that 78% of Republicans agreed there was major election fraud, according to Coughlin.
“They keep talking about things that put them in an election stalemate,” Coughlin said. “They’re not talking about Biden. They should make this massive expansion of the federal government their main issue and explain how Arizona’s economy is growing and doing well.
Some Republicans are pushing in this direction. Ducey – the limited-term governor, who has said he will not run for the Senate – this week stressed that he was ending additional federal unemployment benefits, instead offering one-off bonuses for people returning to the job. And National Republicans didn’t highlight the 2020 audit or fighting in the state, but instead focused on Kelly’s criticism of border issues.
Gates, the Republican deeply critical of the audit, agreed the party needs to refocus, but said the GOP has time to do so without completely eroding its chances in 2022. He said the program de Biden provides fodder for Republicans, if that’s their focal point.
“There is a great opportunity, but the last thing the party should do right now is relaunch the 2020 election and basically say if you don’t believe in the Big Lie then you are not welcome. in this party, ”Gates mentioned.
Zach Montellaro contributed to this article.