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Ducey, Flake, Cindy McCain: Arizona GOP plans to censure leading Republicans

National party chair's response: Don't do it. 'This does nothing to grow our party.'

PHOENIX — The Arizona Republican Party will vote in two weeks on censuring Arizona’s sitting Republican governor, the state’s last Republican U.S. senator and the widow of the party’s former presidential nominee, who is a national icon.

Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain are all targeted in resolutions released Tuesday for the party’s annual meeting on Jan. 23.

The McCain resolution comes after the chair of the Republican National Committee had urged the state GOP not to censure her. 

“Obviously, we are upset that a prominent Republican would support Joe Biden whose beliefs are the opposite of what our party stands for, but the language in this resolution is abhorrent,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Sunday to The Washington Post

“My hope is that the Arizona Republican Party will not entertain it. This does nothing to grow our party or put us in a better position to win in 2022." 

12 News reached out to the Arizona Republican Party for comment. They did not respond.

McDaniel was reacting to an initial draft of the McCain resolution that included inflammatory language about both Cindy McCain and her late husband, Sen. John McCain. That language was removed from the resolution that will go to a vote in two weeks.

"The chairman of the Republican Party nationally understands that the chairman of the Republican Party locally is a complete goofball," said Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general and longtime McCain family friend.

A censure is a formal statement of disapproval by the party but has no other impact.

Sen. McCain was censured by the state party in 2014. He went on to win re-election two years later, defeating current party chair Kelli Ward in the GOP primary.

Ward has emerged as one of President Donald Trump's fiercest defenders. She has said Trump urged her to run for a second two-year term as chair at the party's convention. She faces token opposition.

Ward has had her run-ins with both Ducey and Sen. McCain.

When Ducey didn't buy into Ward's baseless challenge of the presidential election results, Ward tweeted the hashtag #STHU at the governor — short for "shut the hell up."  Ducey responded: "The feeling's mutual."

Ward, a twice-failed candidate for the U.S. Senate, suggested on Facebook in August 2018 that the McCain family statement that his treatment for brain cancer was ending was designed to hurt her Senate campaign against Martha McSally.

In 2017, after McCain disclosed he had brain cancer, Ward said he should step down and she should get the job.

Some Republicans are concerned about the message the planned censures send to voters.

"We need to be looking forward, not backward," said Kim Owens, a former GOP official at the district, county and state levels.

"It does nothing to advance our cause. It does nothing to increase liberty, It does nothing to increase voter registration or to increase voter turnout."

The censure resolutions condemn:

  • Ducey’s emergency orders to deal with the pandemic have outraged many Republicans: “The party demands… that he immediately rescind all Executive Orders and directives issued under this faux State of Emergency.” Gov. Ducey's office declined to comment. 
  • Cindy McCain’s support for Democratic President-Elect Joe Biden appears to be the last straw for the party: “The Republican Party… agrees to dissolve any connections whatsoever to Cindy McCain.”

McCain has said she remains a party member despite the Biden endorsement.

McCain tweeted her response: "Future Republican candidates really have to question if the current party leadership represents their philosophy and values. Time for some soul searching in the Arizona GOP."

While the Maricopa County GOP was debating its McCain resolution last weekend, daughter Meghan McCain posted:

"Oh, how will she ever survive such a thing?!? And this is THE REAL problem facing the Arizona GOP, my mom! A few days after a domestic terror attack led by maniac Trump supporters."

  • Flake's opposition to President Trump and support for Democrats and "globalists."  Flake is a lifelong Republican and was one of President Trump’s earliest GOP critics. He also endorsed Biden. As with McCain, the party would “dissolve any connections” to Flake. The resolution also "suggests he join the Democrat party." Flake texted his response: "If condoning the president's behavior is required to stay in the party's good graces, I'm just fine being on the outs."

The planned censures come after Arizona Republicans suffered historic defeats in the last two election cycles.

With the nation's eyes on Maricopa County as a potential swing county, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates won both the county and the state in 2018 and 2020, giving the party control of Arizona's Senate seats for the first time in almost 70 years.

Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Maricopa County in 72 years.

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