PHOENIX — Conservative Republicans furious with some members of their own
party for supporting Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan are targeting a
half-dozen lawmakers in next week’s primary in a nasty intra-party battle.
The campaign is particularly vicious in Chandler, where Rep. Bob Robson was
accused of removing signs opposing his re-election and now faces misdemeanor
tampering charges. He has denied the allegations.
Robson is among the lawmakers who supported Brewer’s Medicaid expansion last
year and are now being targeted by tea party Republicans and a group called the
Alliance of Principled Conservatives. In response, Brewer is spending cash from
her Arizona’s Legacy political action committee to back her supporters.
The Medicaid expansion plan pushed by Brewer in the 2013 legislative session
fractured the party, with a handful of Republicans splitting with the
conservatives and voting with Democrats to approve her plan. The move angered
tea party Republicans, who found it offensive that the state embraced a
centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“They’re causing irreparable financial damage to the state of Arizona for one,
and No. 2 they ran on the platform of the Republican party they asked for the
party’s nomination and then they basically violated probably the core principals
of that party platform,” said Frank Antenori, a former state senator from
Tucson and co-chair of the group. “They’re free to run with what their true
label out to be – and that’s as a progressive, not as a Republican. And
particularly not as a conservative Republican.”
Besides Robson, those targeted include Reps. Doug Coleman, Kate Brophy McGee,
Bob Worsley, Frank Pratt, T.J. Shope and Heather Carter. Rep. Jeff Dial, who is
running for Senate, is also on the list.
Brophy McGee, who backed Brewer and has benefited from more than $12,000 in
spending by her PAC, said the primary fight within the Republican Party is very
tough but “we need to refocus on what we need to get done, not just now and in
November but also on the national stage in 2016.”
As for the tea party Republicans, “I would say that they are entitled to their
opinion but it does not represent a vision for the future of Arizona in any way,
shape or form,” McGee said. “They’re angry and they’re upset, but they’re not
and never have offered solutions.”
The fight among Republicans is brutal and intense, said A.J. LaFaro, chairman
of the Maricopa County Republican Party,
“It’s just one of the nastiest primaries I’ve experienced in my life,” LaFaro
Carter, who is among the Brewer backers targeted by conservatives, agreed.
“When I’m out knocking on doors it’s probably the first thing people talk
about,” Carter said. “Even before they talk about issues, they talk about how
frustrated they are that there is so much mud being slung and so many lies being
In Robson’s District 18, “Voted for Obamacare” signs with arrows pointing to
re-elect Robson signs were placed by precinct committeeman Mike Richardson of
Mesa. Richardson said more than a hundred of those signs were destroyed and
removed, so a volunteer replaced them and then began watching the area. On the
evening of Aug. 9, the volunteer spotted Robson driving up in his truck, and
another person getting out and removing them.
Robson declined to comment beyond his denial when asked about the allegations
last week. He did not immediately return messages seeking additional comment on
Tuesday. Chandler police closed the complaint for lack of evidence, but the
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigated and issued a citation to Robson on
Monday night on a misdemeanor charge of tampering with campaign signs, Lt.
Brandon Jones said. The class 2 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of four
months in jail and a $750 fine.