Arizona voters relegated House Speaker Rusty Bowers to the history books after the conservative Republican outed former President Donald Trump and refused to back up his baseless claims that he lost 2020 due to fraud.
Bowers was completely crushed in Tuesday’s GOP primary, losing to a former state senator by a nearly 2-to-1 margin among voters in his east suburban Phoenix district. He was trying to move to the Senate after term limits barred another term in the House.
Bowers knew his position was on the line and said he had no regrets about standing up to Trump.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said Wednesday. “I’d do it 50 times in a row.”
Bowers, who has impeccable conservative credentials except for one, had rejected Trump’s calls to help him reverse the November 2020 election results that saw him lose in Arizona, the first time a Republican lost a presidential race in the state after Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996.
And then he further angered the former president and his supporters in Bowers’ district by testifying in June before a committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress about the president’s actions.
Trump endorsed his opponent, David Farnsworth, and the state Republican Party criticized him.
And then so did the voters.
Bowers said the former president has tarnished the party.
“President Trump is a divisive force that has crushed our party,” he told The Associated Press. “And it is not enough to disagree. You have to argue and then trample on people and ruin their reputations and kick them out and beat them up and just keep beating them up. This is the Trump model.”
He said the state Republican Party, which has broken with tradition by strongly supporting Trump nominees and disparaging those like Bowers who failed to toe the line, is in a “lock” and has a “bully mentality.”
“And I think you’re going to learn as all these people leave this party, that someday there’s going to be a harsh reckoning,” Bowers said. “And I have a feeling it might be later this year.”
Farnsworth automatically wins the Senate seat, as the heavily Republican district in eastern Mesa’s Phoenix suburbs drew no Democrats in the primary.
Trump supporters in Arizona did very well at the polls on Tuesday, with his gubernatorial nominee leading and the candidates he endorsed for US Senate, attorney general and secretary of state all winning elections.
Trump candidates also won in several other GOP legislative races.
In another eastern suburbs district, GOP Sen. Tyler Pace lost to a Trump-endorsed challenger. Robert Scantlebury’s campaign website said Pace “is a RINO like Jeff “Flakey” Flake (if that’s even possible!), who never had a clue.”
Flake, who declined to seek re-election to his US Senate seat in 2018 after admitting that his refusal to endorse Trump made it impossible for him to win the Republican primary, now serves as President Joe Biden’s ambassador to Turkey . Opponents call him a “Republican in Name Only” or a “RINO.”
The redistricting put two pro-Trump state senators, Kelly Townsend and Wendy Rogers, in the same district. Rodgers ended up easily beating Townsend.
Rogers has faced repeated ethics charges for her inflammatory rhetoric, support of white supremacists and conspiracy theory-laden tweets.
Townsend said she felt compelled to run against Rogers when she refused to denounce white nationalism after speaking at a convention in Florida in February.
“If I don’t run against her and make that statement, win, lose or draw, then her actions become ours,” Townsend said Monday. “It kind of corrupts the whole (Republican) party.”
Rogers has won a national following, raising a whopping $3 million from donors across the country since taking office in early 2021. Townsend had raised about $15,000, far more typical for a state legislative race.
Republican Rep. Joel John, who had secured the House majority by defeating a Democrat in 2020 but angered some in the party by opposing key school and social issues legislation, lost his bid for another term representing a large area west of Phoenix.
In west suburban Phoenix, former Rep. Anthony Kern, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6 rally before the congressional attack and unsuccessfully sued Democrats who asked the Justice Department to investigate him, won his Senate primary . He was defeated in the 2020 House primary and is now aiming for a seat in the Senate. No Democrats are running, so Kern will automatically win the seat in November.
Former Rep. Steve Montenegro, whose 2018 run for Congress was derailed by a sexting scandal, also made a successful political comeback. He was the top vote-getter among four Republicans running in a west Phoenix House district for two open House seats. A Democrat ran in that district.
Democratic Reps. Diego Espinoza and Richard Andrand battled for a Senate seat after being drawn in the same district in the western suburbs of Phoenix, with Espinoza holding a slight lead in a race too close to call.
And Sen. Lela Alston, considered the most experienced lawmaker in the Legislature, easily beat two Democratic challengers in her central Phoenix district. One of them, unknown politician Al Jones, gained attention by buying billboards around town.