As Arizona GOP picks new leader, 2 primary candidates offer advice on moving forward

By Tara Kavaler || The Arizona Republic

As Arizona Republicans are set to vote for a new leader Saturday, two candidates who ran in the GOP’s August primary hope the election changes the party’s direction following big losses in November.

One is Lacy Cooper, a former Republican candidate for attorney general. Now an attorney in private practice, the former border security section chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Trump said she wants her old party back, with a return to conservative principles and less of a focus on election denialism.

Another Republican who hopes to see the party forge a new path is former state party chairman and former Congressman Matt Salmon, who ran in the primary for Arizona governor but announced he was dropping out of that race shortly before early voting started.

Cooper and Salmon both said they believe the party’s current trajectory is unsustainable. But while prospects for GOP unification may appear grim, they said they cannot imagine leaving it.

Lacy Cooper was a Republican candidate for attorney general and former border security section chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office under former President Trump.

“The Republican Party in Arizona has been co-opted by a group of people who have made election integrity their No. 1 and really sole issue,” she told The Arizona Republic. “I thought it would sort of die out over time as people returned to the conservative principles. I was wrong.”

She said the values the Republican Party was founded are getting ignored, such as limited government, low taxes, and the conservative constructionist judicial philosophy.

Cooper lost in a six-person primary. Abe Hamadeh, the winner, would go on lose to Democrat Kris Mayes by 280 votes in the general. He is challenging the election results and his success in the primary demonstrates the ascent of election integrity as the primary issue of the state’s GOP.


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January 2023