Opinion: House Speaker Rusty Bowers continues to stand tall while many of Arizona's leaders were (are) willing to overturn democracy. Both he - and they - should be remembered.
Tuesday began with the utterly predictable pronouncement from ex-President Donald Trump that Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers is a RINO who owes his 2020 reelection to … wait for it … Donald Trump.
It continued with Bowers’ utterly unsurprising testimony to the House Select committee investigating Jan. 6, wherein the staunchly conservative Republican described repeated attempts by Trump and his co-conspirators to get him to participate in a scheme to overturn Arizona’s presidential election results.
I say utterly unsurprising because we in Arizona already know the story of how Bowers stood tall – and mostly alone at the state Capitol – as Trump, his lawyers, his cronies and even Rep. Andy Biggs plotted to throw the state’s election to Trump.
How the speaker asked for proof that Arizona’s election was stolen and how Team Trump never provided so much as a shred of it. How they repeatedly pressured him to go along with decertifying Arizona’s election anyway and ask Congress to accept the GOP’s “alternate” set of electors.
'Don't have the evidence':Rusty Bowers says Giuliani showed no fraud
How protesters descended upon his neighborhood, using loudspeakers to call him a pedophile and a pervert as inside his daughter lay dying.
“I do not want to be a winner by cheating,” Bowers told the House Select committee on Tuesday. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
These leaders were willing to set aside their oaths
What remains utterly surprising – stunning, really – is the sheer number of Arizona’s so-called leaders who were (are) willing to set aside their oaths and overturn democracy. The plotters (see: Biggs, Rep. Mark Finchem and state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward, among others) as well as the pawns (see: Senate President Karen Fann).
Many of them are now seeking either reelection or election to higher office.
There are the the fake electors who on Dec. 14, 2020, signed legal documents claiming that they were the duly elected to cast Arizona’s vote for Trump. Those 11 phonies included Jim Lamon, who is now hoping we will elect him to the U.S. Senate, state Rep. Jake Hoffman of Queen Creek and former Rep. Anthony Kern of Glendale, who is hoping to return to the Legislature after having been ousted by voters in 2020.
The fake slate was led by Kelli Ward (likely a future candidate for Congress) who like Finchem refused to comply with a subpoena to explain to the House Select committee how the fake elector scheme was hatched.
There is Sen. Kelly Townsend of Apache Junction. Her first attempt to overturn the election came in December 2020, when she circulated a “Joint Resolution of the 54th Legislature” asking Vice President Mike Pence to accept the 11 “alternate” electoral votes for Trump.
Twenty-nine Republican legislators signed that document. Among them were Reps. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley and Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix, both of whom are now candidates for secretary of state, hoping to oversee Arizona’s 2024 election.
Rep. Walter Blackman of Snowflake, now a candidate for Congress, also signed onto the plan. So did then-state Sen. David Farnsworth of Mesa, who retired in 2021 but is now running again, hoping to knock off Rusty Bowers for the unpardonable sin of allowing Arizona’s vote to stand.
And, of course, Sen. Wendy Rogers of Flagstaff.
Bowers was pressured in Arizona and Washington
Should the fake electors plot not work, Townsend had a backup plan – a bill calling on the Legislature to decertify the vote and appoint the phony electors. Her bill noted that the Legislature has a “constitutional and legal obligation to ensure that the state’s presidential electors truly represent the will of the voters of Arizona.”
Fortunately, it went nowhere.
Now Finchem is back this year with a similar bill to decertify the 2020 election, claiming there is “clear and convincing” evidence that the election was stolen – and oh, by the way, will you vote for him? (Never mind that there isn’t and you shouldn’t.)
Meanwhile, in Washington, Reps. Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar were trying their level best to nullify Arizona’s vote. Even as the Trump mob was breaking into the Capitol, Gosar was on the House floor outright lying about Arizona’s vote, claiming that “over 400,000 mail-in ballots were altered, switched from President Trump to Vice President Biden or completely erased from President Trump’s total.”
Earlier that day, Biggs had called Bowers, making a last-ditch effort to get him to sign onto the phony elector scheme.
“I said I would not,” Bowers testified on Tuesday.
Don't forget what he (and they) did
Bowers, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, read the House Select committee an entry from a journal he kept in December 2020, as pressure mounted on him to heed Trump’s call and reject his oath.
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor ...,” he wrote.
“I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to, with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will, as I believe he led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach him in the wilderness of life knowing that I asked his guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he let me take?”
Bowers is no coward. He stood tough in defense of democracy, refusing to give into the collective psychosis that has infected a depressingly large percentage of the Arizona Legislature and most Republicans in our congressional delegation.
For that, he should be remembered.
And so should they.