State parties elect new officers

By Arizona Daily Independent

On Saturday, Arizona’s two major political parties gathered for their annual meetings. While Democrats complained of the oppressive tactics of their party on a national level, Republicans struggled against tactics on a local level.

Lifelong Democrat Felecia Rotellini was elected the new chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party. The State Committee members voted overwhelmingly for Rotellini, 359-25, over LD-16 Chair Scott Prior.

In her campaign for party chair, Felecia Rotellini stressed the importance of bringing in new voters and grassroots groups to the party; continuing a fifteen-county strategy of building party infrastructure; and cultivating a more open, transparent state party that’s accountable to its members.

Felecia Rotellini, chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party.

Progressives are leery, but hopeful. Rotellini, an approachable attorney, who has taken on the establishment at times, is not viewed as an establishment puppet.

At the same time, Democrats are hoping to take advantage this year of the Arizona GOP’s (AZGOP) continuing attacks on grassroots groups and candidates. Prior to Saturday’s meetings, the Arizona Democratic Party released a statement questioning the Republican establishment’s effort to “protect Congresswoman Martha McSally by hijacking the Arizona Republican Party’s primary process.”

The Democratic National Committee lost much of its support during the 2016 election cycle as the establishment forced Hillary Clinton on the grassroots.

Republican Party faithful, who attended the annual meeting, said the Democrats are only partially right. Not only is the establishment hijacking the primary process, they continue to “rig” the system to ensure that establishment precinct committeemen remain in positions of power.

According to sources, from the very start, the AZGOP’s meeting was a disaster. “There were not proper sign in sheets. Just outdated lists of the districts with no room for signature,” reported one source. “The sheets did not reflect current rolls of members. The ballots were not counted and were not balanced, unused ballots were thrown into a box and co-mingled. Training was held the morning of and was disorganized.”

Multiple sources report that Saturday’s election of AZGOP leadership were poorly run and corrupted. One member of the Maricopa County Republican Committee (MCRC) told the Arizona Daily Independent that the MCRC “held an election just two weeks earlier with complete integrity and the state officers refused the assistance offered,” on Saturday.

One attendee said, “The Lines’ people running the Party have no use for rules if they interfere with their marching orders from the people pulling their strings.”

The “McCain Machine”

The people pulling the strings are part of what has become known as the “McCain Machine.” That “machine” has taken such a toll on the Party faithful, that attendance was extremely low this year. As a result, McCain’s network of operatives produced piles of proxies to be cast in favor of establishment candidates. Rather than lack of support being a source of embarrassment, Legislative District 24 tweeted out:

According to the popular conservative website, Arizona Freedom Alliance (AFA), “We only have a scattered report so far and are awaiting a credentials report. Given the chaos of the sign in, we will probably never get a correct credentials report to know who was there in person or by proxy. We know that Barry Wong, Chairman of LD24, was very proud that, of his group of 30 PCs, 28 turned out! WOW! Uh, oh, not so fast. The ratio was nearly 50% people and 50% proxies with 15 present in person, 13 by proxy. Folks, when nearly half the votes are cast by people who did not show up – which is standard for these meetings – the meeting should be illegitimate.”

One poster on AFA discussed “the abusive use of proxies in action.” He wrote, “There were counties and precincts that had more proxies than people attending. There is no way one person can accurately represent the voting preferences of 5, 10, or 20 or more people, none of whom are present to hear the reasoned debate. Not to mention it is an explicit violation of Roberts Rules of Order.”

“All we can do to prevent this egregious abuse of proxies by the GOP is to encourage our state legislators to vote for HR 2029 which, if passed, will amend ARS Section 16-828 to limit proxies to two per attending elector at both state and county committee meetings,” the poster continued. “For some unexplained reason, the state party Resolutions Committee rejected, before the meeting even started, 4 lawfully submitted petition-based proposed resolutions to limit proxies. They also arbitrarily rejected lawful resolution requests for the party to support enforcing immigration reform, stopping the harboring of illegal aliens, repealing ObamaCare, securing the borders, and even providing a condemnation of NFL players’ (and their supporters in League management) conduct disrespecting the flag, police, and veterans. What kind of Republican Party would not support those positions? Not one comprised of Conservatives.”

Rachel Alexander, writing for the Stream, acknowledged the grassroots “love-hate relationship with McCain.” She wrote, “They respect his years of military service and as a P.O.W., but they don’t really like him. He’s known for his down and dirty political tactics and bad temper. He’s distrusted for purging the party of conservatives.”

Jonathan Lines , GOP Chairman

AZGOP members also attempted to recall AZGOP Chairman Jonathan Lines on Saturday, but that effort fell through as the establishment tightly controlled the meeting, and McCain’s people allegedly controlled Lines’ performance. An attendee, identified on Twitter as Kimberhatt tweeted:

@Kimberhatt #AZGOP Oh look it’s one of the McCain operatives unwilling to identify himself while giving directions to Lines through his ear piece from the back of room during the motion to remove Chairman Lines. So typical.

@Kimberhatt is referring to an incident when Jonathan Lines AZGOP Chairman was speaking at the podium. He was connected electronically to, and told what to say, by a top McCain political hand, Jon Seaton, of East Meridian Strategies, who worked for McCain in his 2008 campaign and has remained with him since. Seaton was one of the operatives behind McCain’s purge of conservatives in the AZGOP after McCain was censured by the party faithful.

Seaton’s actions were witnessed by more than one State Committeeman. When Seaton was confronted about his actions he refused to identify himself and ran off to hide. Seaton then called security to have one of the State Committeeman involved removed. This plan failed as security, upon hearing both sides, seemed to support the State Committeeman involved and went looking for Seaton.

“The Conservatives tried to recall Lines but the motion failed on a questionable vote,” reported AFA. Lines has been a controversial figure since before he was installed as Chair. After he took power, Lines broke a promise he had made to precinct committeemen that he would not hire McCain operative Matthew Kenney. Since then, Kenney, who has been variously described as everything from an “asshole” to a “thug,” has kept a tight rein on information and a loose grip on funds.

Peggy McClain posted on the AFA article: “Chairman Lines was exposed by our Treasurer when we learned there are FEC errors the AZGOP is paying for from 2015-6. Also, we get the rah rah from Lines at every appearance he makes, yet we have over a million $$ in debt? Really, though, who would turn over hard-earned money to dishonest and disrespectful individuals?”

From Politico 2014: McCain’s big purge

“There’s been a huge organizational effort that I’ve never seen before,” said Gordon James, an Arizona public relations executive and longtime McCain confidant. “A lot of the party folks who were hostile to John McCain have been marginalized, and that’s a good thing.”

Out in Arizona, the McCain forces, led by Seaton, set out to find would-be candidates for the precinct committee positions, many of them citizens with little or no political experience. They conferred with the establishment-aligned Chamber of Commerce and held recruitment house parties.

Fighting the base

As much as the Democrat establishment seems to respect grassroots members more than their Republican counterparts, both parties are fighting their bases in order to win the Senate seat soon to be vacated by the widely unpopular Sen. Jeff Flake. The Republican establishment is throwing everything it has behind Rep. Martha McSally while the Democrat establishment is supporting Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

Sinema is facing a credible challenge from Deedra Abboud, a Muslim-American attorney activist. McSally is facing former Arizona State Sen. Dr. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It is believed that Arpaio entered the race to reduce Ward’s chances for success by splitting the conservative vote.

Whoever emerges from the primaries will be a clear sign for many as to the health of the parties. If the establishments in both parties prevail, they will be hard pressed to press the grassroots into service during the general election.

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