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Arizona Republicans choose former Trump aide Jeff DeWitt to lead the state party in a landslide vote

Phoenix Arizona Republicans on Saturday chose former state treasurer and aide to Donald Trump Jeff DeWitt as the party’s next chairman, turning into a familiar face of relations across the fractured party after its worst election in decades.

DeWit replaces controversial Trump ally Kelly Ward, who aided the former president in his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election and has been an outspoken supporter of his false claim that the election results were rigged. She broke with precedent in last year’s primary, publicly touting a list of election deniers who lost the November general election.

“I’m going to work for you and we’ll unite,” DeWitt said after the win. We will go back to defeating the Democrats and winning the election.

DeWit was supported by Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor but became a rock star on the right; Mark Finch, the defeated candidate for Secretary of State; and retired general Michael Flynn. Lake said shortly before the vote that Trump gave a last-minute endorsement to DeWit as well, though the former president didn’t say anything on his social media accounts.

He won 70% of the vote over several other candidates, including Steve Daniels, who was the pick of some of the party’s most ardent advocates for blowing up the election system. After helping lead protests against face masks and a critical race theory, Daniels founded the Arizona Patriot Party and wants all voting to take place in person on one day, with votes counted by hand.

Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt gets on an elevator at Trump Tower on November 15, 2016, in New York.
Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt gets on an elevator at Trump Tower on November 15, 2016, in New York.

Carolyn Custer/AP

During Ward’s four-year tenure, the GOP lost three Senate races and the three largest offices in the state—governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. In recent weeks, it has faced criticism over party spending, including an extravagant election night party in November that Republicans hoped would be a celebration of victory before the GOP candidates failed.

DeWit was elected state treasurer in 2014 and resigned in 2018, shortly before his term ended, when he was confirmed as NASA’s chief financial officer under Trump. He led the Trump campaign in Arizona in 2016 and was chief operating officer of the 2020 Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, Arizona Democrats elected Yolanda Bejarano, a senior national official with the Communications Workers Union of America, to lead their party after the first contested Democratic presidential election in 12 years. Bejarano was supported by most of the state’s elected Democrats, but newly elected Governor Katie Hobbs backed Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Outgoing Democratic President Raquel Teran has refused to run for another term, saying she wants to focus on her role as minority leader in the Senate. She said on Friday that she is looking forward to running for the secure Democratic seat in the House of Representatives that was vacated by Ruben Gallego, who is Run for Senate.

The 2024 election includes several races with national implications. Arizona is likely to be a battleground in the presidential race, and independent Sen. Kirsten Sinema’s seat is also on the ballot. Sinema, a former Democrat who has alienated many in the party, has not said whether she will seek a second term, setting up the possibility of a rare three-way contest.

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