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Arizona GOP chair runner-up calls for audit of party elections

Tucson businessman Sergio Arellano congratulates Kelli Ward after she defeated him in the race for chair of the Arizona Republican Party on Jan. 23, 2021. Arellano later requested an audit of the state party elections, as have other Arizona GOP members. (Twitter Screenshot/@AZGOP)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Republican Party, whose leader has repeatedly questioned the validity of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory in the state, is under internal scrutiny over its own elections.

Tucson businessman Sergio Arellano, runner-up to incumbent Kelli Ward in the election for chair of the state party, has requested an audit of Saturday’s results.

Arellano said he doesn’t expect the outcome of his race to change, but he wants the audit done because the wrong winner was initially announced for another position.

Here is how Arellano, a member of the Latinos for Trump advisory board, explained his audit request Wednesday night in a Facebook post:

I fully expect any audit to confirm the results that were announced at the State Meeting, but in light of the errors that were made in the CD8 Member-at-Large election and the reversal of the stated results have created an environment where a number of state committeemen are raising concerns and reaching out to me to ask for an audit because only a candidate for party office can do so.

I’ve done that and we’re waiting for a response that lays out the when, where, and how of that process. I anticipate the State GOP will do a solid job here and provide election officials around the state with an example of how to conduct a timely audit and how important ballot security and paper backups are.

According to the Arizona Republic, Sandra Dowling said she was told she won the 8th Congressional District election but later found out she lost. Ward blamed the mistake on human error, according to a friend of Dowling’s, the newspaper reported.

Ward, a physician and former state legislator who lost two Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate, won a second term as party chair in a four-way race. None of the candidates won the necessary majority in the first round of voting, but Ward beat Arellano in a runoff by 42 votes. More than 1,200 party members voted.

After the final results were announced, Arellano congratulated Ward onstage and called for party unity.

Ward has been an outspoken and at times controversial figure in the party, gaining national attention for her attacks on the integrity of the November election, delighting supporters of Donald Trump but turning off more moderate Republicans.

Ward was a prolific promoter of baseless theories of election fraud and filed several lawsuits that were tossed by judges for lack of evidence.

Republican dominance in Arizona has been waning, with Biden’s victory and both of the state’s U.S. senators now Democrats. The GOP held control of both houses of the state Legislature, however.

The governor is also a Republican, but the state party and Doug Ducey aren’t on good terms. During Saturday’s annual meeting, the party voted to censure Ducey along with two other prominent members: former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of longtime U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Ducey was targeted for his restrictions on individuals and businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19. While it’s not mentioned in the censure, he had a high-profile break with the president when he signed the certification of Biden’s victory.

Flake and McCain were censured for endorsing Biden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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