Ohhhh what a week it was for Arizona Republicans…but not in a good way. In an incredible roller coaster ride, the party is now attempting to dig out of self-inflicted peril.
It all started with a bombshell: Kari Lake recorded a private meeting with state party Chair Jeff DeWit where DeWit attempted to make her offers she could not refuse on behalf of “very powerful people” in an attempt to get her to bow out of the U.S. Senate race, as it was believed that she would lose that critically important race.
Lake announced the existence of that recording and used it as leverage; under threat of another more damaging recording coming out and with pressure from Lake, DeWit resigned his role of Chair. One of the most audacious power plays in recent Arizona political memory worked, and Lake won…for the time being.
Anyone who has been an insider at any point in politics is aware of this strategy; in order to clear the path for a preferred candidate, you incentivize the undesired candidate. That said, it is usually done to get a less popular candidate out of the way in order to avoid a costly primary. The strategy of trying to get a candidate who is extremely popular with their base (and one known for bomb throwing) was undoubtedly a risky one that backfired. However, it may not have only backfired for DeWit.
Implied in this entire fiasco is the understanding that Lake has likely been recording private conversations with nearly everyone of note, as well as the understanding that she is willing to use those supposedly private conversations to blackmail them. Instead of strengthening her hand, it may have done the precise opposite.
This bombshell was almost certainly purposely released just in time for the Arizona Republican state committee meeting this past weekend, where a successor could be named. Lake lobbied for Jim O’Connor to be DeWit’s successor, along with an entire slate of “Ultra MAGA” candidates for leadership in the state party. All but one of those candidates lost, and Chair candidate Gina Swoboda won by about a 1,000 vote margin..
Perhaps most damningly, the previous party darling Lake was booed during her own speech. While she may be popular with primary voters, she clearly has lost the confidence of party insiders. This may now pave the way for those same party insiders to coalesce behind a primary opponent, one that they think has a better chance to knock off Congressman Ruben Gallego (Doug Ducey anyone?).
This is in stark contrast to the Arizona Democrats state committee meeting, one that was potentially imperiled by significant infighting between progressives and liberals on the Israel/Gaza issue. Instead, both parties worked behind the scenes to craft a resolution that seemed to placate both sides of the issue, and it passed by a large margin.
There is still plenty of time to go before the election, but as of now Arizona Democrats are united, and Arizona Republicans are digging out of a massive hole with a Senate candidate now deemed toxic by party leaders. Advantage: Democrats.