Arizona Republicans – Picking Winners and Losers?

Robert Graham

There seems to have been widespread complaints from experienced precinct committeemen, in specific districts, of a total disregard of statute and bylaws in their election of State Committeemen. AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham apparently believes there’s more than rumor and sent the following letter to all chairmen:

Dear GOP District and County Chairmen,

We’ve received numerous accounts from precinct committeemen throughout the state regarding the organizational meetings taking place. Based on what we’ve heard, we need to remind all chairmen about the guidance provided by the state party over the years to ensure all organizational meetings are conducted with the full participation and authority vested in the PCs and state committeemen.

As you know, these party committee organizational meetings are referred to as “statutory” meetings because they are governed by state statute and therefore differ from normal monthly business meetings typically held by party committees. Normally, district and county parties operate with a great deal of autonomy, but in the case of the statutory organizational meetings, the state party has an important stake in the outcome of the elections. Not only are most of the state party’s executive committee members being elected at the organizational meetings, but all of the state committeemen are as well.

Our party is only as legitimate as the claim we make to represent Republican voters and only if we do so according to the law. From the primary election where PCs are elected, to the organizational meetings and ultimately the state party organizational meetings, all of our credibility and authority depends on having a process according to the rule of law. For example, the organizational meetings are not private. A chairman may certainly limit the meeting activity to the elections themselves, and has no obligation to allow the public any role other than to observe. But the committee has no legal authority to exclude the public from the meeting if they simply wish to observe.

We’ve also received complaints from PCs who did not receive a call letter at least ten days before the meeting. Some have complained that proxies they were carrying were not accepted by the chairmen, and others that their proxy documents were not considered to have the full legal effect of a proxy. Others were concerned that “alternates” were elected, when there is no such office, and anyone not elected outright as a state committeeman has no standing or claim to be “next in line.” Still others complained that the committee leaders and nominating committees operated a “closed shop” and deliberately excluded many eligible PCs from having their names printed on the ballot to run for a state committeeman position. Lastly, some committees prohibited nominations from the floor.

Some of these are serious concerns. Committees which do not reasonably follow the legal process of electing state committeemen risk having them fail to be recognized by the state party for the January 2017 meeting. In fact, any election with serious enough violations could be completely disregarded, leaving all the county or district’s positions considered vacant.

Of particular concern is the denial of a PC’s rights to participate by proxy. A lawful proxy carrier, with a completed form signed and dated and witnessed, is considered the legal representative of the proxy giver and the giver’s “attorney-in-fact.” That entitles the carrier to act on the proxy’s behalf, which includes voting, nominating and even being nominated for election to office. Any rule, bylaw or act that suppresses the proxy rights of a PC is not just violating the PC’s rights, but is offensive to an open and fair election process.

I will be working with our legal counsel to address the concerns presented to us to date. In the meantime, if your organizational meeting is yet to occur, please ensure your committee is following the rules and the law.

AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham

 


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