PHOENIX (AP) — The Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives faces voters and supporters of former President Donald Trump on Tuesday after he rejected calls to help overturn the results of the 2020 election and testified before Congress about the efforts.
President Rusty Bowers is trying to move to the state Senate due to term limits and is facing an opponent who criticizes him for refusing to help Trump or agree to a controversial 2021 “audit” commissioned by Senate Republican leaders.
Bowers faces an uphill battle in the eastern Phoenix suburb of Mesa, especially after the The state Republican Party censored him after his June testimony. before the panel investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress and Trump endorsed his opponent, former state senator David Farnsworth.
“I am very aware that I am very suspicious of myself,” Bowers told The Associated Press. “My district is a very Trump district, and who knows how this is going to play out.
“And if it doesn’t work out, great, I’d do it all the same way,” Bowers said.
Trump pressed Bowers to help with a plan to replace constituents committed to now-President Joe Biden during a phone call weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election. Bowers refused.
Bowers insisted on seeing evidence of Trump voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never presented beyond vague allegations. She recalled Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, telling her later, “We have a lot of theories, but we don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers is a conservative Republican, but Farnsworth said he’s not conservative enough and has become less so since becoming House speaker after the 2018 election.
“Of course, I think the big issue for everyone is the fact that I strongly believe there was fraud in the 2020 election,” Farnworth said in an interview last week. “And I feel like Rusty failed … to take responsibility as Speaker of the House and analyze that election.”
The Farnsworth-Bowers battle is one of several brewing involving current or former Arizona lawmakers.
Redistricting placed two Trump-supporting state senators, Kelly Townsend and Wendy Rogers, in the same district. That run has drawn bitter recriminations. as Rogers has faced repeated ethics charges for his inflammatory rhetoric, support for white supremacists, and conspiracy theory-laden tweets.
Townsend said she felt compelled to run against Rogers when she refused to refute white nationalism after speaking at a conference in Florida in February.
“If I don’t compete against her and make that statement, win, lose or draw, then her actions become ours,” Townsend said Monday. “It kind of messes up the whole (Republican) party.”
Rogers has gained a following nationally, 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 run.
In the western suburbs of Phoenix, former Rep. Anthony Kern, who attended Trump’s January 6 rally at the US Capitol that led to the attack on Congress and unsuccessfully sued Democrats who asked the Justice Department to investigate it, seeks to return to the Legislature. He was defeated in the 2020 House primary and is now running for a Senate seat.
Also trying to get back on his feet politically is former Rep. Steve Montenegro, whose 2018 congressional bid was marred by a sexting scandal. He is one of four Republicans running in a West Phoenix House district for two open House seats.
Democratic Representatives Diego Espinoza and Richard Andrade are facing off after being drawn to the same district in the western suburbs of Phoenix. And Sen. Lela Alston, considered the most experienced lawmaker in the Legislature, faces two challengers in her central Phoenix district. One of them, unknown politician Al Jones, made waves by buying billboards all over town.