PHOENIX — Republicans were confident a red wave was on the horizon in the desert, but the tides changed and the wave turned blue.
Now, the party is analyzing what went wrong and strategizing, hoping for better success in future elections.
“I think it’s a letdown," said Robert Graham, former chair of the AZGOP.
Graham said there are a few reasons why he believes many Republican candidates lost.
“I think there was much more discussion about previous elections, the 2020 election, being stolen from us," Graham explained. "And we forgot that one of the jobs is to inspire people, teach them why we believe that the Republican values and principles are the best governing principles. And I think that that equation was missing.”
Graham believes the focus on the 2020 election from some candidates played a key role in Arizona Republicans losing key races, including the race for governor, U.S. Senate and secretary of state.
“What happens is that people get exhausted. When you have negative messaging, people just get tired of it," Graham said. "It's like a little brother picking at you every single day. Pretty soon, you turn, and you just say, 'Stop. You can't do this.' And that's what's happened.”
Another factor was Arizona Republican leadership, according to Graham, and at the top is AZGOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward. She has held the position since 2019.
“When you have somebody leading there whose message is nothing but vitriol and anger and discontent with the way things have been, and they're doing nothing to inspire people or bring people together, that's where you lose," Graham said. "There was no continuity via messaging. And I think Kelli Ward should be held accountable for that."
Graham isn't alone.
Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Kari Lake, weighed in Tuesday and called on Ward to resign.
She released a statement saying in part:
"On Ward's watch, the Arizona GOP has allowed our state to vote Democrat for President for the first time in a generation; has lost two United States Senate races, along with the Governor's office. More concerned with stoking division and settling old scores, Kelli Ward has led our party into a deep morass with no real plan for the future."
So what should happen next? Graham believes Ward should finish out her term and in January, he hopes a new chair is elected. On top of a leadership change, Graham believes the party needs to unify and go back to the basics of Republican policies.
“Focus on the policies that are going to help improve everybody's life," Graham explained. "To really excite the Republican base again, we need to show them what's possible and how it is to win around jobs, opportunity, prosperity, safety, all of these things that we care deeply about.”
Kelli Ward has not responded to 12News' request for comment.
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