Tempers flared on March 20, 2023, after Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli (left) admonished a speaker for using the term “conspiracy theory” to refer to false election fraud claims peddled by some Republicans, prompting Sen. Juan Mendez (right) to defend the speaker. Photo by Joe Duhownik | Courthouse News
BY: JOE DUHOWNIK/COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE – MARCH 21, 2023 4:18 PM
Nearly a month after Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes released documents further disproving claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, Senate Republicans continue to make such claims in the election committee.
“They didn’t find criminal fraud, something they could actually attach a criminal charge to,” Republican state Senator Sonny Borrelli said, his voice raising in response to a guest speaker who suggested that Republican election security bills are inspired by conspiracy theories. “But there were numerous, numerous violations of the civil law of the code.”
“For you to make that broad statement and impugn everyone…” The Republican from Lake Havasu didn’t finish his thought before Juan Mendez, a Democrat from Tempe, jumped to the speaker’s defense.
“He doesn’t have to abide by that rule,” Mendez said, referring to committee chair Wendy Rogers’ rule against using the phrase “conspiracy theory” in her committee. The three went back and forth until Rogers, a Republican from Flagstaff, threatened to remove Mendez from the room.
Borrelli stood up from his chair and paced behind other senators, apparently to blow off steam. After a few moments, he stepped outside of the room where he spent most of the remaining meeting time. A staff member was forced to call him back in for each subsequent vote.
The spat came during testimony on HB2415, which would remove people from the active early voting mailing list if they go a full year without participating in an election. Republicans said it’s a way to declutter the early voting list, which they say is chock full of incorrectly identified voters that need to be purged from the system.