Republican Maricopa County elected precinct committeemen assembled over 1,400 strong (in person and by proxy) Saturday for their mandatory meeting, presided over by chairman Chris Herring. In addition to voting on bylaws amendments, resolutions and electing five members-at-large, the gathering provided a showcase for candidates and elected officials to see and be seen. Nominating petitions and pens got a workout, with earnest handshaking in abundance. This is the foreplay to the 2018 election cycle, which is guaranteed to be unlike any other in memory.
Arizona is staring both of its U.S. Senate seats in the eyes, as Jeff Flake, seeing his bottom-dragging polling numbers in the wake of his repeated attacks on President Trump, has decided to take himself out of the race, rather than be unceremoniously kicked to the curb by the electorate he’s enflamed with his sneering insolence directed at the Republican president. John McCain is battling what has been described as an “aggressive” form of brain cancer, first revealed in July 2017. He’s been undergoing debilitating treatment and few expect him to return to Washington.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (CD 8) on the heels of an abrupt retirement was no where in sight, but was the recipient of hearty applause as District 4 County Supervisor Clint Hickman reminded those in attendance that he deserved thanks for his years of service. At last count, Arizona was closing in on two senate vacancies and one in the U.S. House prompting numerous candidates to announce.
Taking to the podium were Gov. Doug Ducey, U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs (CD-5), Paul Gosar (CD-4) and David Schweikert (CD-6). County Attorney Bill Montgomery, County Assessor Paul Peterson, County School Superintendent, Steve Watson, and Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Steve Chucri all gave speeches — strictly limited to 2 minutes. Clerk of the Superior Court, Michael Jeanes, surprised many with his announced intention to retire after two decades, effective Feb. 5. Gov. Ducey will appoint his successor.
Schmoozing outside the auditorium, were Martha McMcSally, who bungled into the senate race with her bizarre Friday announcement telling the GOP to “grow a pair of ovaries.” Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, also newly announced in the senate race, was frequently surrounded by groupies and reporters. Conservative Dr. Kelli Ward maintained a dominant presence, with abundant signs and volunteers circulating nominating petitions.
But the most telling segment, taking the pulse on the mood of the day was the speech by Member-at-Large candidate Joe Neglia, who tossed the routine, “I will work hard for you” speech in favor of asking the assembled committeemen if they were happy with Sen. Jeff Flake’s donation to the Democrat in the Alabama senate race, if they liked Flake pushing for the confirmation of an Obama nominated Democrat to the U.S. Supreme Court, and if they liked Jeff Flake routinely tearing down Pres. Trump. His questions were met with loud replies of, “No!!” The same negative response followed his question concerning John McCain voting with the Democrats to retain Obamacare. Neglia followed that by questioning the silence on these treacherous acts from the state GOP chairman.
Joe Neglia won — both in winning a MAL seat and in capturing the frustration of political conservatives who loyally volunteer for the Republican Party.