ARIZONA, USA — “Recovering politician” Andy Kunasek is stepping back into the arena with a blistering message to fellow Republican Paul Gosar: Get out now and face the consequences for sedition.
“It's just heartbreaking, terrifying," Kunasek said in an interview with 12 News for this weekend's "Sunday Square Off."
"I think a lot of people need to stand up and say this has to stop - more people than me, some has-been politician that has no platform.”
Kunasek retired from politics four years ago after serving 20 years as a Maricopa County supervisor representing parts of Phoenix, Paradise Valley, and northern county suburbs.
He is the first current or former Republican state officeholder to single out Congressman Gosar by name.
Here is the text of Kunasek's email last week to Gosar’s chief of staff:
“As a recovering politician, I have deliberately avoided engaging with those still in office. Your deplorable behavior over the last few days has compelled me, and I hope others, to condemn your acts and words, which have incited violence and have clearly resulted in the death of our fellow Americans and the undermining of our democratic institutions.
"You are an embarrassment to Arizona. For the good of the state and the Republican Party, you should apologize to the American people, resign and accept punishment for your acts of sedition.”
Kunasek showed me Gosar’s response via text: “Coming from you, I take that as a compliment!!!”
Kunasek is a member of a prominent Republican family.
His father, Carl Kunasek was a longtime state legislator who presided at Republican Gov. Evan Mecham's impeachment trial as Senate president. Mecham was ousted, but five months later a Mecham supporter would defeat Kunasek in a GOP primary.
Kunasek’s sister. Karrin Taylor Robson, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, is considering a run for governor in 2022.
Gosar, a former Flagstaff dentist, is a six-term, far-right Republican who represents the state's safest GOP seat in the House, western Arizona's Fourth Congressional District.
In 2018, he handily won re-election despite the opposition of six of his nine siblings in a digital ad that got millions of views. In the wake of the Capitol riot, three Gosar siblings have called on the House to expel him.
Kunasek said he was disturbed when he saw Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz object to Arizona’s election results during the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.
Gosar was speaking in the House of Representatives when he was cut short by a Trump-incited mob at the doors.
“It really troubled me and I felt like something bad was going to happen, really bad,” Kunasek said.
News reports and law enforcement statements after the riot confirmed his fears, he said.
“This was an orchestrated attempt ... to stop the process that they were going through, which was a legal process,” Kunasek said.
“Squarely, what Congressman Gosar participated in, actively and knowingly, he was guilty of sedition.”
Gosar, as well as Congressman Andy Biggs of Gilbert, have been named as organizers of the “Stop the Steal” movement by lead organizer Ali Alexander.
Social media posts and videos, as well as public rallies, show a long-running connection between Gosar and Alexander, a felony convict and right-wing provocateur.
Alexander reportedly went into hiding after the Capitol riot.
A Gosar spokesman declined to comment to 12 News about the congressman’s connection to Alexander. Biggs has denied any connection.
The movement aims to overturn the presidential election results and restore Donald Trump to office. More than five dozen legal challenges to the results have failed in several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stop the Steal organized rallies near the U.S. Capitol the night before and day of the Capitol riots. Alexander spoke at two Arizona rallies after the election.