Arizona Speaker of the House of Representatives Rusty Bowers has been censured by the executive committee of the Republican Party of Arizona, it was announced late Tuesday evening.
Bowers will no longer have any formal state GOP support as a member of the Republican Party in part due to his purported “general disregard for Republican Party Leadership at the precinct, legislative, county, state, and federal levels,” according to a statement released by the AZGOP on Wednesday.
“Rusty has failed in his specific actions, including co-sponsoring Democrat-led bills and refusing to work with the most conservative legislative body in 10 years during arguably one of the most critical sessions in Arizona history,” the statement reads. “This goes much further than any policy disagreement and acknowledges his failures in his capacity as Speaker to implement stout conservative legislation.”
The censure vote came less than two weeks before the Aug. 2 Republican Primary Election in which Bowers is being challenged in the newly redistricted Legislative District 10 encompassing much of Mesa. It also came less than one month after Bowers testified in Washington DC about his communications with former President Donald Trump after the 2020 General Election.
The executive committee is comprised of more than 80 registered Republicans, including the AZGOP’s elected officers, three members from each of the 15 county committees, 27 at-large members based on Arizona’s nine Congressional districts, and others. The number of votes cast has not been released, but the state party’s bylaws allow for a quorum based on only one-third attendance provided eight different counties are represented.
According to the AZGOP statement, it is the state party’s duty to hold elected officials within its party “responsible and accountable.” The executive committee further calls on Republicans in the new LD10 “to contemplate a similar censure,” while encouraging “all registered Republicans to expel him permanently from office in the impending primary election.”
Bowers, who is being primaried by David Farnsworth, spent Wednesday ignoring what he called “baseless character attacks, choosing instead to focus on highlights of his tenure as House Speaker. Such as the most expansive school choice options in the country signed into law earlier this month.
The censure action prompted mixed reactions, although the majority of Arizona’s lawmakers remained on the sidelines.
AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs.
PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session.
The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined:
In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent.
In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent; David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent; Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.
Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.
Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.
Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist.
Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.
There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.
State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25.
Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.
State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state.
It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.
Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225.
Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.
One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.
Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) sat next to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his chief operating officer Gabriel Sterling, wearing stoic expressions as they awaited the hearing and eliciting the occasional smile as a tight gaggle of reporters filmed and photographed the trio. Though, later on, Bowers would grow upset, even holding back tears when his responses turned to include references to the Constitution and his daughter, who passed away a year ago.
Also smiling was Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), when he entered the room behind the more somber-faced Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), and throughout his line of questioning.
Thompson commenced the hearing by recapping the committee’s narrative that former President Donald Trump orchestrated the January 6 riot at the Capitol to overturn the 2020 general election, despite knowing completely that he lost the election. The committee characterized Bowers and Raffensperger as two of the handful of “brave” officials who stood between Trump and the 2020 election results.
Thompson said that lack of action would further undermine future actions and lead to “catastrophe.”
Cheney echoed Thompson’s statements, directing viewers to understand calls made by Trump to state officials within the context of the committee’s claim that the former president knew that the election wasn’t stolen. Cheney told viewers that they shouldn’t be distracted by “conspiracy theories and thug violence.”
“The point is this: Donald Trump did not care about the threats of violence. He did not condemn them. He did not care to stop them,” said Cheney. “Today we’re going to see an example of what truly makes America great.”
The committee characterized nationwide discontent with the 2020 general election’s validity as “increasingly violent” in the weeks preceding January 6.
Bowers was the first to testify. As he was about to begin Schiff said he received word from his staff about one of the latest statements issued by Trump claiming that Bowers affirmed that the election was “rigged” and that the former president won Arizona.
“Bowers should hope there’s not a tape of the conversation,” said Trump.
Trump’s statement disrupted the hearing proceedings; it prompted Schiff to vet Bowers about Trump’s claims and the content of the call in question. Bowers categorically denied Trump’s account of the phone call.
In the statement, Trump called Bowers a “RINO,” short for “Republican In Name Only” and referred to the January 6 Committee as the “Unselect Committee.”
Bowers asserted that on a phone call with Trump, lawyer Rudy Giuliani promised to give him evidence of mass voter fraud, but never did. Bowers said he told Trump he refused to overturn the election results because it was against his oath as an elected official.
“I said look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, that is sworn to the Constitution, that I uphold it,” said Bowers. “This is totally foreign as an idea or a theory to me, and I would never do anything with such deep magnitude without consultation of my attorneys.”
Bowers held back tears as he described how Trump’s pressure caused internal turmoil for him, because his faith inspired a deep respect for the Constitution as a divinely inspired document.
Bowers confirmed that he met with Giuliani at a Phoenix hotel after the election. He recounted that Giuliani repeated claims of mass voter fraud, which Arizona State Senators pressed him on. Bowers said that he and Giuliani both pressed Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis to turn over the evidence to the Arizona legislators, but she kept claiming that she didn’t have it on her.
Bowers denied ever receiving evidence of mass voter fraud from Trump’s team. He noted that he and other members of his staff remembered Giuliani admitting that they had no evidence, just theories on voter fraud in the 2020 election.
“My recollection: he said ‘We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t got evidence,’” recounted Bowers.
The committee revealed previously undisclosed video of “Stop the Steal” protestors, which prominently featured Jacob Angeli, commonly referred to as the “QAnon Shaman,” who is currently serving his 41-month sentence for breaking into the Capitol on January 6.
Bowers alleged that Trump’s lawyer John Eastman asked him to deny the 2020 election results and “just let the courts sort it out later.” He clarified that he recalled Eastman saying, in so many words, that the authority of the legislature was plenary and that he as house speaker had the authority to undertake the requested action.
Additionally, Bowers alleged that Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) asked him to support overturning the election results.
Schiff referred back to a previous press release from Bowers in which the speaker declared he wouldn’t decertify the election results.
“We have no legal pathway nor to my knowledge in federal law, for us to execute such a request. I am not allowed to walk or act beyond my authority. If I’m not specifically authorized as a state legislator, then I cannot act,” said Bowers.
In closing, Bowers read from his diary, citing that his Christianity moved him to oppose Trump. He also described facing angry constituents in the aftermath, some of whom came to his home while his gravely ill daughter was inside.
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” read Bowers. “How else will I ever approach [God] in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take?”
The Arizona Senate has passed legislation which would prohibit a hospital or health care provider from imposing any treatment for COVID-19 or a variant but the bill has stalled in the House where Speaker Rusty Bowers has not scheduled it for its First Reading.
According to sponsor Sen. Nancy Barto, the legislative intent of Senate Bill 1393 is to confirm that public policy makes it “a fundamental right” to refuse any COVID-19 treatment or vaccination. Yet despite clearing the Senate on March 15, House Speaker Rusty Bowers has yet to allow the bill to have its First Reading in that chamber.
SB1393 would allow health care providers to ask a patient to specify in writing the circumstances under which the patient would accept a COVID-19 treatment if the patient cannot later express his or her consent. For purposes of the proposed legislation, a health care provider is defined as a licensed physician, a licensed nurse practitioner, or a licensed physician assistant.
The bill also requires a hospital or health care provider to ensure a patient who refuses a COVID-19 treatment is counseled and given information on other treatment options. No treatment could be mandated without a patient’s informed consent.
In addition, a patient orimmediate family of the patient would have to be advised of the patient’s right to leave a hospital; immediate family is described as a patient’s spouse, parent, child, sibling grandparent, or legal guardian.
Barto’s co-sponsors on SB1393 were Senators Sine Kerr, David Livingston, and Warren Petersen. The bill was supposed to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, but without a First Reading that could not occur.
The Arizona Medical Association and most of the state’s hospitals oppose the bill.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) is advancing a bill to expand anti-discrimination laws to cover gender identity and sexual orientation: HB2802. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.
The 23-page bill expands the concept of discrimination in businesses, public accommodations, and workplaces from qualities inherent at birth and protected constitutional rights to lifestyle choices: sexual orientation and gender identity. It also clarifies that health care providers may not provide conversion therapy to minors. Exceptions would be made for buildings designated as houses of worship, denominational headquarters, church offices, or for other religious purposes.
“The regulation of discrimination in places of public accommodation is of statewide concern and is not subject to further regulation by a county, city, town, or other political subdivision of this state,” asserted the bill.
Technically, the bill already garnered bipartisan support: State Representative Amish Shah (D-Phoenix) cosponsored the bill. Shah himself has other LGBTQ initiatives he’s introduced this session, indicating that he would like to see an end to the traditional understanding of marriage. Shah introduced a voter proposition to repeal the provision within the Arizona Constitution that recognizes marriage as existing between one man and one woman.
Bowers’ hometown implemented a similar policy last year. Prior to issuing a citation, city officials will attempt to mediate the complaint.
This wouldn’t be the first show of Bowers’ bipartisan efforts that, in years past, would’ve toed the line on party values. Bowers introduced a bill that failed last year under the introduction of Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen). Bowers’ version, HB2650, would allow several different law enforcement groups to investigate use of force incidents; Bolding’s version would’ve charged the county attorney or attorney general with investigation. HB2650 would also allocate $24.4 million to create a “Major Incident Division” in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) which would serve as one of the law enforcement groups eligible to investigate use of force incidents, alongside regional law enforcement task forces or outside law enforcement agencies. The state general fund would allocate an additional $600,000 to regional law enforcement task forces.
HB2650 was approved unanimously by both the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee and House Appropriations Committee.