The Arizona GOP has a Huge Fundraising Problem: Where Do They Go From Here?

Photo Credit: Rebecca Noble, Washington Post

Money is the fuel that powers politics: fuel alone won’t drive anything, but the best car around won’t drive an inch without it. And it’s the same with political parties as it is with campaigns. Money helps parties hire staffers, pay for resources, and ramp up in preparation for warfare every two years. And here in Arizona, we found out that it is truly a lopsided fight at this point.

Campaign finance reports for Q2 (and as such, the full first half) of 2023 recently came out, and it is looking very, very bleak for the AZ GOP. They raised a mere $165K in the first half of the year, compared to $1.15 million for the AZ Democrats. The party that was once in a completely dominant fundraising position in the relatively recent past is getting creamed in the money war with about a 7-to-1 disadvantage.

So what happened? While there is certain to be more than a single reason why, there is certainly one dominant reason: the destructive hurricane that was Kelli Ward. Ward’s combativeness was extremely off-putting to those who might be concerned about the potential brand damage that political support can bring, but more than that, her support of election conspiracies both nationally and statewide showed an apparent willingness to burn everything to the ground. If you have heard about advertisers having second thoughts and brand concerns  about advertising on Twitter (errrr, X?) due to Elon Musk’s questionable public posts and inability to corral questionable material, Ward gave Musk the ol’ “Hold my beer” when it comes to that subject.

In short, Ward spoke to the fired up everyday conservative voter on the fringes of political emotion. But your average business executive (i.e. the people that will write 4- and 5-figure checks) is not a firebrand, but instead is much more calculated and rational. Financially and sometimes socially conservative, yes, but not driving to Washington to storm the Capitol, as was the type of person that Ward seemed to speak best to. It was the type of talk that got the President’s attention, and that intoxication of attention was apparently an addiction that Ward could never unhook from.

Enter Jeff DeWit, the new Chair for the AZ GOP. As a former Treasurer and generally seen as a reasonable, cooler head, he is almost certainly a more favorable option for the business community. His time in the Trump administration could be off-putting to many, but it may have been a necessary step for him to even be in this role. After all, how can you even lead a party that currently has a strong preference for the former President (at least at the organizer level) without having true credibility with that administration?

Will he be successful? Looking at the first half-year of his performance is likely too short of a runway to make a strong judgment. Rebuilding those bridges that Ward napalmed will take time. Reasonable and rational people want to see plenty of evidence before making significant financial investments, and simply having someone new in charge probably isn’t enough. They will want to see the tone, tenor and direction of the new administration. And frankly, it may be more beneficial to try to cozy up to a Hobbs administration that is not a leftist nightmare for their interests in all likelihood.

There are plenty of questions yet to be answered by the AZ GOP, but one thing is for certain: they better get their fundraising act together in the next 12 months, or they will be staring down the strong likelihood that Joe Biden wins the state again, and as such…four more years.