To: AZ GOP Chairman Robert Graham
cc: Members of the AZ GOP Executive Committee
It has been just over one week since the Executive Committee (EC) of the Arizona GOP met to conduct its business. I have had a chance to read some of the commentary on what became a marathon Executive Committee meeting of almost 6 hours. But upon reflection and based upon my desire for the Republican Party to succeed in the future after being very active in the Party for over 50 years, I feel it is my responsibility to report what I observed. The EC did a great disservice to the over 1300 State Committeemen who voted overwhelmingly for a Resolution to restore our closed primary system in partisan elections by filing a lawsuit with the Arizona Courts and working with the Legislature to pass new legislation.
In this marathon meeting, almost 2 hours was spent discussing this one agenda line item, Close Primary. Mr. Chairman, when we got to this agenda item you spent over 35 minutes discussing all the reasons why we “could not” file a lawsuit to restore our previously closed primary system. Then you opened up the floor for discussion. I realized later that we were mis-directed and forced to re-debate the issue. This discussion/debate in reality was “Out of Order”. We were not there April 18th to discuss the merits of filing a lawsuit, it had already been debated and discussed back on January 24th at the AZ GOP Statutory Meeting. At this Jan. 24th meeting the Resolution, after spending over half an hour of debate, was passed by an overwhelming majority of the State Committeemen (SC) present (1321 present in person or by proxy). Again, we the Executive Committee were given an order to execute an approved Party Resolution. We were to proceed with closing our Primaries in a two-fold approach, legislatively and by lawsuit. It was not our purview to re-debate, only to execute. I tried to do that. I am the member who made the motion to set aside $75K in our budget (3% of a $2.5M budget) to fund the lawsuit effort. I had mentioned to the body that there were two ways to do this: 1) either go over budget on the legal expense line item or 2) fund it as its own project. It was suggested to me to fund it separately so I made the motion. It failed to pass.
However, there was no plan on how to go back to the State Committeemen, the party members that elected all of us, on why we were not going to do what they directed us to do back in January. The Resolution passed was to close our primaries. This must be dealt with, not kicked down the road or ignored. I believe that each of us has a responsibility to the SC’s who elected us, in my case the SC’s from CD4. They overwhelmingly supported the Resolution. We still have a problem with non-Republicans voting in our Primaries that was not even addressed at the EC mtg. All we heard were reasons why we could not file a lawsuit.
Before I make a couple of recommendations, I must share a few more comments. We were told that the Libertarian Party lawsuit is different than the one we would file. The Libertarian Party was able to explain severe burden or risk, that their election results could be skewed by Independents voting in their primaries. I agree. But that has also started to happen in our Republican Primary. Just look at the 2014 Republican Primary results for State Senate in LD25. The winning Republican candidate won by 1646 votes. The number of Independents who voted in that election was 4316, more than enough to influence and determine the winner. Add to this the fact that over $500K was spent on electioneering in that State Senate Republican primary and its not hard to conclude that big money could also influence Independent voter participation in our Primaries. Remember, there are 24 other LD’s that have Independent voter registration within 10% of the total Republican registration in those districts. So I believe we will see more elections where Independent voters determine who wins in our primaries.
Another point about Independent Voters involved in the Republican Party’s Political business. Less we forget, it was just the ONE INDEPENDENT member of the Independent Redistricting Committee who decided the election boundaries for all 30 legislative districts and 9 congressional districts in Arizona. How did that work out for fairness to Republicans!
I can also imagine that the members of the Libertarian Party are sure glad that their leaders didn’t come to the same conclusions about fighting open primaries that the leadership of the Arizona Republican Party has displayed. Can you picture what some of the discussions were like back in 2002 when the Libertarian Party debated whether to go to court:
We Libertarians can’t go to court to fight the Arizona Constitution, it will cost us millions!
It will take years to deliberate with no guarantee of success.
And who will pay for our primaries if we shut out the Independents; we will have to pay for our own primaries!
We need to form a Fundraising Committee to pay for this expensive court action, but there are only 27,000 registered Libertarians across the whole state of Arizona!
We may have a case of severe burden on our Primary results, but again, we would be going against the Arizona Constitution and who can win a court case against a Constitutional law?
Why file a court action anyway to close the Libertarian Party Primary, we will never win!
It is time Mr. Chairman, for all of us as the AZGOP Executive Committee to provide the leadership we were elected to provide by properly responding to the Resolution of the State Committeemen and proceed with a legislative action plan as well as a legal action plan to protect our Republican Primary selection process with closed primaries. I offer my help in that endeavor. Remember, Democrats file lawsuits all the time against Arizona laws and have a great batting average.
I have fought for the Republican Party and what it stands for and will continue to do so. And in case you chose not to proceed with an appropriate response to the party members, then I would like to be appointed to the next Bylaws committee that reviews the Continuing Bylaws of the Arizona Republican Party. Either we need to remove the ability of passing Resolutions as a Party because they are not followed through by the Chairman and the Executive Committee or the Resolutions section needs to be revised so that it is clear that Resolutions are binding on the Party and require regular updates to the Party until they are enacted upon and completed.
Don M. Ascoli
Member At Large CD4
AZ GOP Executive Committee
April 18, 2015: Republican PCs threatened with arrest at AZ GOP HQs & UPDATE First person accounts of April 18, 2015 AZ GOP newly closed executive meeting by LD 28 PCs. It garnered 63 comments from readers.
April 13, 2015: A.J. LaFaro dispels Robert Graham’s myth on closing Primary
April 5, 2015: Need more proof of McCain chokehold on AZGOP? Robert Graham closing meeting to elected Precinct Committeemen, shutting down information flow