Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House who gave compelling testimony earlier this summer to a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, lost his bid for a state Senate seat on Tuesday to a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, NBC News aired.
Armed with Trump’s endorsement, former state Sen. David Farnsworth held a more than 20-point lead over Bowers in his bid for Arizona’s 10th District as of 1:15 a.m. ET.
Bowers, who testified to the committee about the effort by Trump and his allies to overturn him in his state’s 2020 election, told NBC News last month that it would be difficult for him to pull off a victory in his race for Senate.
“It’s so hostile,” Bowers said of the political environment in a telephone interview at the time, noting the overwhelming preference for Trump in his state’s Senate district, Arizona’s 10th. “If I do this, it will be a miracle.”
A few weeks after Bowers’ testimony, the Arizona Republican Party criticized him, saying he “has demonstrated that he is unfit to serve the platform of the Arizona Republican Party and the will of the voter of the Arizona Republican Party” and called on voters to “kick him out of office for good.”
It is highly unusual for a member state to make such a declaration before a contested qualifying process.
Trump attacked Bowers on Monday on his Truth Social platform, Writing: “Remember Arizona, your so-called ‘Speaker’, Rusty (a fitting name because he is Rusty, just like steel rusts and weakens) Bowers, is absolutely terrible.”
He called on Arizonans to “vote him out!”
Bowers, who served a total of 17 years between the Arizona state House and Senate, received the John F. Kennedy Profile of Courage Award this year for his handling of the post-election period. His race served as the first and possibly only test this cycle of whether a Republican can publicly cross Trump before the Jan. 6 panel and still win the GOP primary — one that took place while the testimony of Bowers was still fresh in voters’ minds.
Weeks ago, the conservative lawmaker told the committee that he knew Trump and his allies were pursuing an unconstitutional effort to force him to cancel the 2020 election in his state, which President Joe Biden had little support for.
“It’s a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is inspired, that’s my most basic fundamental belief,” Bowers, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the committee. “And so to do this because someone has just asked me to, is foreign to my very being; I will not do it.”
Speaking to NBC News, Bowers described the response to his testimony in his district as mixed.
“Among my friends and people I know personally in the area, it was good,” he said. “But generally, it’s not considered good. It’s become: “Here. The traitor””.
He also said he disagrees with people who tell him his decision to testify took courage.
“I don’t see myself as having any quixotic courage [moment]. Maybe this is it, but definitely not a Joan of Arc,” Bowers said. “But I did what I had to do. I knew there could be consequences, and in some cases, I knew it would end relationships. But I have to tell the truth. This is. From there on, nothing else.”
Shortly after Bowers’ public testimony, Trump fully endorsed Farnsworth.
Bowers described Farnsworth as a campaigner who “did exactly zero” while previously serving in the state Senate for eight years.
The House speaker has pushed for legislative victories since his most recent term, including overseeing passage of a budget package with bipartisan support and legislation aimed at bringing new water sources to the state — one where conservation issues loom large.
Farnsworth heavily advertises Trump supportwhile also claiming to be the best candidate to tackle inflation, border immigration and elections.
Asked what a victory in Farnsworth would say about the state of the party, Bowers said at the time: “It says that Mr. Trump has, there’s a very, I would call it almost cult appeal.”