Arizona GOP censures Rusty Bowers after Jan. 6 testimony

FILE - Arizona's House Speaker Rusty Bowers returns at the end of a break in a House select committee hearing investigating the Jan. 6, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Donald Trump on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, endorsed the Republican running against Bowers, who last week gave powerful testimony to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File) (Patrick Semansky, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Republican Party has censured state House Speaker Rusty Bowers after his gripping public testimony to the Jan. 6 panel about Donald Trump's relentless pressure to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The censure Tuesday night by the state GOP's executive committee came hours after Trump reiterated his support for Bowers' opponent in his upcoming Republican primary for state Senate. The former president is scheduled to campaign with his favored candidates on Friday in northern Arizona.

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The censure is largely symbolic, but it's illustrative of the iron grip that Trump continues to have over the Republican Party, even after a mob of his supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

“(Bowers) is no longer a Republican in good standing & we call on Republicans to replace him at the ballot box in the August primary,” Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward tweeted Tuesday.

It’s highly unusual for a state political party to formally take sides in a contested primary, but the Arizona GOP under Ward has not been shy about boosting Trump allies in the internal struggle over the future of the Republican Party. The Arizona Republican Party last year censured other top Republicans who crossed the former president, including Gov. Doug Ducey, Cindy McCain and former Sen. Jeff Flake.

A spokesman for Bowers, Andrew Wilder, did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment.

The censure does not specifically mention Bowers' testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee but characterizes him as hostile to the GOP platform and activists. It cites his efforts to block election bills advanced by Trump allies and his support for a bill banning most employers from discriminating against LGBTQ people, among other measures.

Bowers is term-limited in the House and is running for the state Senate against David Farnsworth, a former Republican senator who echoes Trump's lies about the 2020 election.

Bowers earned national acclaim with his recitation of the pressure he faced from Trump and his allies, including angry and noisy protests outside his home as his adult daughter lay dying inside from an extended illness. Bowers says he supported Trump's campaign in 2020 but would not help the former president overturn his loss in Arizona.

In his testimony last month, Bowers walked through what started with a Trump phone call on a Sunday after he returned from church. The defeated president laid out a proposal to have the state replace its electors for Biden with others favoring Trump.

“I said, ‘Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, ’” Bowers testified.

Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani later told him, “We’ve got lots of theories; we just don’t have the evidence.”

He took heat for telling The Associated Press before his testimony that he would support Trump if he won the GOP nomination. He has since walked that back, saying he’s even more opposed to Trump after testifying publicly before the Jan. 6 committee.

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