Establishment fears McCain can’t win without crossover votes drive Robert Graham’s actions
An excessively lengthy dispatch carrying the subject line, “Robert Graham – Closing the Primaries,” arrived in the email boxes of select, though apparently not all, Republican precinct committeemen Thursday evening. Raw evidence of a intra-party feud is hard to miss as AZ GOP Chairman Robert Graham refers, in the harshest of terms, to a previous message send out on the issue by conservative former Maricopa County Chairman A.J. LaFaro. Graham begins with an inane off-topic apology, veers into summertime good wishes to the recipients and their families and then spins out of control, describing his sadness at having to castigate LaFaro. Graham then hypocritically closes his onslaught asking God’s blessings on the reader. Take a gander if you have nothing but time on you hands and don’t mind having your intelligence insulted. Following this diatribe, background information is linked under “Editor’s note.”
From AZ GOP Chairman Robert Graham:
I apologize if you have received this message. We had a challenge with our email addresses
Dear (first name),
I hope you are doing well and that the summer is off to a good start for you and your family. It saddens me to have to write this message following an email that was sent out by former Maricopa County Chairman A.J. LaFaro.
While many of our PCs are working hard to protect and grow our Republican foothold within Arizona, there are some that misrepresent and spin facts to create division and discontent within our party. Many of these same people have personal ambition way outside the best interest of the party, and their consistent misrepresentations of the facts are exhausting.
To be perfectly clear, I support the idea of a closed primary! If you read the transcription of the Executive Committee meeting that has been circulated, you will see my initial comment, “The state committeemen have passed the resolution to close the primary…in this room we have lots of smart people…let’s find a way to make it happen” (paraphrased). However, there is a process to accomplish a closed primary, and the process is more than a quick sound bite trying to stir emotion. There are real costs, real research and real time that must be invested in the effort. All of which has started.
Below I have listed many of the points discussed in Mr. LaFaro’s most recent coloring of events. Please read each of the points to assure you have an accurate and verifiable account of the truth.
Click on the link below to view the resolution:
Below are two points that illustrate the inconsistencies with the Constitution of Arizona:
- The Second “Whereas” in the resolution states“…Republicans believe in and support the U.S. Constitution, Arizona Constitution and the Republican Party Platform and should nominate Republican candidates that do the same…”
I agree with this statement; however, it should have been obvious to Mr. LaFaro that this resolution was not constitutional given this statement. How can you say in a resolution that “Republicans believe in and support the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution…”when this resolution is positioned to directly attack the Arizona Constitution where the definition of “semi-closed primaries exists”?
- 7th paragraph and first “Resolved” in the resolution states “That Arizona’s Republican Precinct Committeemen call upon Arizona Legislators to sponsor and pass legislation replacing Arizona’s semi-closed primaries with closed primaries…”
Once again, it is important to point out that this statement is not constitutional. In order to change the primary system, the Arizona Constitution must be amended. Can the legislature do that?? The answer is NO. An Arizona constitutional amendment must be done or changed by a vote of the people. A ballot measure for a constitutional change is required. This is not new…this is the AZ Constitution. All of us should be careful when submitting resolutions to assure they are constitutional first.
Even given the facts that Mr. LaFaro’s resolution to close the primary was unconstitutional, I recognized the overwhelming support by the State Committeemen and started the ball rolling with respect to closing the primary.
Attorney Opinion Letters
We have all witnessed countless times within politics that when the facts do not line up for your argument…emotion, name calling and old data sometimes find their way into the discussion. With that being said, more then [sic] a few weeks ago Mr. LaFaro sent an email and posted a letter on various sites. His letter centers on an expedited lawsuit and the fact that he personally spoke with three attorneys he endorsed as top election experts. Their names were Kory Langhofer, Joseph Kanefield and David Hardy.
LaFaro sited [sic] in this letter that the attorneys supported his position of little to no cost for a lawsuit to close the primaries, and his claim that it would be a fast process. At the end of the letter, he encouraged anyone who read his comments to contact each attorney directly. I did just that. I contacted each attorney with the goal to identify the best way to proceed. I spoke with each attorney Mr. Lafaro [sic] personally recommended and requested that each attorney draft an opinion letter. We added a fourth letter from Attorney Tim LaSota who is also considered an election expert as well and is General Counsel to the AZ GOP. Each of their opinion letters are attached below.
Click on the links below to view each opinion letter:
Mr. LaFaro made assertions that the fact that the AZ GOP paid for their opinions discredits the content. To the contrary, when an attorney drafts an opinion letter, their name and credibility is associated with the content expressed in their letters. Their livelihood is at stake and opinion letters are not taken lightly.
Since the opinions were not consistent with Mr. LaFaro’s claims, he is trying to discredit the opinions by using outdated letters from 2010. Please remember that he personally endorsed the attorneys we received opinions from as expert election attorneys.
When you review the letters, you will see that there are a few hurdles or obstacles that must be overcome in order to assure the best outcome when approaching the courts to overrule the state constitution.
- Cost Of Litigation –Three of four letters specifically address the cost of litigation. The cost of litigation opinions range from hundreds of thousands of dollars up to millions if taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Time It Will Take to Win, If We Win – Dave Hardy sued on behalf of the Libertarian party to close their primaries. This suit (which has clear evidence of risk for the Libertarian Party of Arizona) took 66 months to the ruling. That is five and one half years. If we start something, we need to make sure we can finish it.
- Severe Burden, Evidence Of Risk – These are phrases you will see throughout all four of the attorney opinion letters. In short, what it means is we have to clearly show a severe burden or evidence of risk that independents are materially harming an election. It is important to note that calling someone a RINO and saying they are more moderate than another candidate and illustrating they received more independent votes is not evidence of risk.
The courts do not use labels and are only interested in real proof. For example, Libertarian candidates within the state have had much lower signature requirements to become a candidate. In some districts, to run for a state representative they would only need 6 – 9 signatures. Because the threshold was low and their party has below 30,000 registrations, there was evidence to show a risk of sabotage. The other argument was to make sure independent voters would not be able to vote for precinct committeemen of the Libertarian Party. Once again, being a minority party, libertarians have an easy time illustrating and documenting severe burden and evidence of risk. Each opinion letter details the need to prove severe burden and evidence of risk and some even saying it will be very difficult given the fact that Republican is still the majority party.
Once again, in an attempt to identify the severe burden or evidence of risk, I asked the Executive Committee Members three separate times for volunteers to form a committee to pull the research together to help shape our argument. A request of this nature is not trying to skirt the issue…I was asking to get the evidence so we can move forward. Only three people volunteered. They know who they are and they have done nothing to help.
Since April 18, the volunteers have NOT reported to the State Executive Committee or to me directly regarding this progress. This is a key element to be successful. To date, we have no report.
- Fundraising – Once you review the attorney opinion letters, you will have a better understanding of the process to close the primaries and the potential cost associated with the effort. The cost to sue to close the primary is potentially from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions given the length of time it may take to complete the legal process.
The Cost To Administer the Primary
The last thing to consider when addressing the closed primary is the cost of running the election. Our party is the largest party, independents are not considered a party, and there is a high likelihood that if we close the primary we will have to pay for the administration of the statewide primary election. For perspective, the closed presidential primary in Arizona is one ballot with a handful of candidates. The cost to administer one election with one type of ballot is close to $10 million.
Now, consider a full primary. If a full primary is closed, there are hundreds of different offices, over 12,000 variations or different ballots statewide. From PC to congress, from congress to fire districts, etc., etc…. Secretary Reagan said, “You will need to “extrapolate the cost up from the presidential primary.”
Secretary Reagan also said to me in a text message, “Be prepared to pay for it, because the STATE pays for primaries because they are open. If they were to be closed, the LEGISLATURE could eliminate the funding. In most states where there are closed elections, it is up to the individual parties to fund those elections and those states do not pay.”
To put this into context, over the 2013-2014 cycle, the AZ GOP had record fundraising of $4.6 million. We spent almost every dollar to assure that we would win. Martha McSally only won by 167 votes. Every dollar was deployed to win elections. It is hard to raise money, and if we have to pay for the primary, we many not have the funds to support our candidates. It is important to raise lots of money especially difficult during the presidential election.
Once again, I asked four separate times for volunteers from the Executive Committee to assist in fundraising to help close the primary. The money raised would be used specifically for closing the primary, and a separate committee would form to assure the funds were used appropriately. We had two volunteers after the fourth call for help. They know who they are, and they have done nothing to help. This fundraising committee has not reported to the State Executive Committee or to me regarding their progress.
These are not excuses but considerations when trying to operate a party. Someone has to do more than send emails and call people hurtful names. In all honesty, I am 100% behind closing the primary, but again we have to be prepared to administer the election and have the resources needed to make it happen. If we close the primary but do not have the resources to administer a successful election, we will fail on more than one front. One PC pushing for another resolution to close the primary is on the record saying, “Let’s just try and see what happens…let’s just get the process started and figure it out as we go.” This statement is frighteningly similar to Nancy Pelosi’s infamous quote to pass Obamacare and then we will see what’s in it. We have to have a mature and fact-based approach, if our efforts are to be successful.
Last thing I would like to address which I take personal offense. Mr. LaFaro asserts that I was calling for the arrest of the Precinct Committee members that were protesting in front of the AZ GOP. I want you to consider your experiences with me as State Chairman. I have met most of you in person or attended your district, county or Republican Club meetings. I hope you feel I have always treated each of you with respect and the dignity you deserve. I listen and I am responsive to your calls and emails.
Quite to the contrary to Mr. LaFaro’s report, the AZ GOP staff was handing out water and making sure everyone outside of the meeting was treated with respect. I personally called the protest organizer and further stressed that we would treat everyone with respect.
Further to this point, the Deputy Sheriff Posse Members volunteering that day were under instructions by Sheriff Joe Arpaio not to arrest anyone. Of the 20 or so protesters, a couple entered AZ GOP office during the meeting, and they were allowed to stay. No threats, only kind and productive discussions.
For the record, AJ LaFaro did not attend the Executive Meeting nor did he participate in the protest outside of the State Party. His secondhand account is flawed. Please ask members who were in attendance for the truth. It is sad that his comments are not consistent with the truth.
As we move forward into the 2016 election cycle, please consider what messages, what actions and what people are moving the party forward in a positive way. The negativity, name calling and bashing only Republicans does not win elections. Always consider the messages when they are sent to your inbox and ask the question “Is this the type of behavior that will help put a Republican in the White House?” If the answer is NO, find people that [sic] are action-oriented and work with them.
I want to assure you that I work for you. Collectively, we have lifted our party out of the ashes to win countless victories across the state, municipal and local elections. The ball is rolling and we are moving as quickly as resources allow. May God bless you and the Republican Party of Arizona!
Robert S. Graham
Arizona Republican Party
3501 N. 24th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85016
Editor’s note: The Executive Meeting Graham refers to following “Conclusion” was detailed in this post, “Need more proof of McCain chokehold on AZGOP?”
Additional background can be read in these links:
Arizona Freedom Alliance’s on-point rebuttal to Graham’s diatribe can be read here.
Arizona Daily Independent reported: Specter of McCain haunts, closed Primary resolutions pass.
McCain’s censure by elected Maricopa County GOP precinct committeemen was followed by another censure resolution against him by elected statewide Republican delegates in 2014. At the state meeting in 2015, McCain and Jeff Flake were booed and met by turned backs and walkouts. The Daily Caller reports the two Arizona Senators are the least popular senators in the entire country.
McCain, through his operatives, retaliated by attempting to purge conservatives from the precinct committeemen ranks.