PHOENIX (AP) — Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House, faced voters Tuesday and the ire of former President Donald Trump’s supporters after he rejected calls to help overturn the 2020 election results and testified before Congress. for the efforts.
Bowers is trying to move to the state Senate because of term limits and faces a challenger who has criticized him for refusing to help Trump or compromise on a controversial 2021 “check” that Senate Republican leaders have mandated.
Bowers faces an uphill battle in Phoenix’s east Mesa suburb, especially after the state GOP criticized him after he testified in June before a committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress and Trump endorsed his opponent, former Senator David Farnsworth.
“I’m well aware that I have a lot of distrust,” 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, fine, I’d do it all over again,” Bowers said.
Trump pressed Bowers to help with a plan to replace voters committed to now-President Joe Biden during a phone call weeks after Trump lost the 2020 election. Bowers declined.
Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said the Trump team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, later telling him, “We have a lot of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers is a conservative Republican, but Farnsworth said he’s not conservative enough and has become less so since he became speaker after the 2018 election.
“Of course, the big issue, I think, for everybody is the fact that I strongly believe there was fraud in the 2020 election,” Farnworth said in an interview last week. “And I feel that Rusty has failed to take responsibility as speaker of the House and look into this election.”
The Farnsworth-Bowers battle is one of several developing involving current or former Arizona lawmakers.
The redistricting put two pro-Trump state senators, Kelly Townsend and Wendy Rogers, in the same district. That race was marked by bitter accusations as Rogers 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 address 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.
In west suburban Phoenix, former Rep. Anthony Kern, who attended Trump’s Jan. 6 Capitol rally that led to the attack on Congress and unsuccessfully sued Democrats who asked the Justice Department to investigate him, is seeking a return to the legislature. body. He was defeated in the 2020 House primary and is now aiming for a seat in the Senate.
Also attempting a political comeback is former Rep. Steve Montenegro, whose 2018 congressional bid was derailed by a sexting scandal. He is among four Republicans running in a west Phoenix House district for two open House seats.
Democratic Reps. Diego Espinoza and Richard Andrade are facing off after vying for 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, has attracted attention by buying billboards around town.