More members of extremist “patriot” groups serving as PCs




women's march patriot movement
A group of Patriot Movement AZ members walk along the Women’s March Phoenix in support of President Donald Trump while others in the march hold signs rejecting him. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Jennifer Harrison, the right-wing extremist leader of AZ Patriots was appointed to a precinct committeeman position earlier this year, but she isn’t the only member of her group who holds this partisan position within the GOP. 

Jeremy Bronaugh, who along with Harrison and others settled a federal lawsuit this year brought against them by several Valley churches for harassment, is a PC for Legislative District 4 and was appointed to the position in July. 

Richard Hopkins, the Republican chairman of Legislative District 4, said Bronaugh’s name was referred to him by another district chair, and that he was unaware of the lawsuit at the time he nominated Bronaugh for a PC appointment.

“There’s not been any issues with him since he has become a precinct committeeman with us,” Hopkins said. 

Much like Harrison, Bronaugh’s name was forwarded by the Republican chair of his legislative district to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which unanimously approved his appointment as part of a list of precinct committeeman nominations. 

State law requires the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party to submit names to the board of supervisors to fill vacant precinct committeeman spots, and the board is then tasked with considering those nominees.

Bronaugh was one of 89 nominees for vacancies in legislative districts from across the county that the supervisors considered on July 31. There was no discussion of him or anyone else, and the supervisors quickly rubber-stamped the appointments, which is standard practice for precinct committeeman appointments.

But the board is now looking into whether it has any oversight abilities over the appointments in the wake of Arizona Mirror reporting, according to Maricopa County Board Supervisor spokesman Fields Mosely. 

“To what extent are we supposed to vet this list that comes from the political parties?” Mosely said, adding, “We aren’t really sure of that right now.” 

The board is currently having its lawyers determine what the law states it can and cannot do in an oversight capacity for PC appointments. 

The law states that if a precinct committeeman position is vacant then “the vacancy shall be filled by the board of supervisors from a list of names submitted by the county chairman of the appropriate political party.”

At the board’s Wednesday meeting, Supervisor Steve Gallardo called the Mirror’s reporting on the matter “silly” and a “gotcha piece,” but added that he wants the board to look into why it’s involved at all. 

“As long as the party chairs are approving the precinct committeemen I don’t know why we need to go and approve it a second time,” Gallardo said before the board voted on a round of PCs. “It’s really lower level politics and it’s hard to justify why are we getting involved.” 

Supervisor Bill Gates agreed with Gallardo’s sentiments, adding that the names are sent up to them by the party chairs. 

Hopkins said that criminal background checks are not done and generally speaking, PCs are found by people who are looking to help out with their respective party. The district party mainly checks only to ensure prospective PCs are registered voters and “if they seem ok,” Hopkins said.” 

Before Bronaugh and Harrison were a part of AZ Patriots they were a part of the similar Patriot Movement AZ. One of their fellow members, Rich Osiol, also became a PC earlier this year. 

In a March 27 meeting, the board approved of Osiol along with 135 other PCs in a quick vote with no discussion. Osiol is now a PC for Legislative District 18 and was investigated by U.S. Capitol Police along with others after showing up outside U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s house to protest earlier this year. 

 

Precinct committeemen are voting members of a political party’s legislative district organization. They are the foot soldiers of political parties, and they primarily do things like registering voters, canvassing neighborhoods for their party’s candidates and other grassroots activities.

They also have access to voter data. 

“As a Precinct Committeeman, you will have access to the GOP Data Center either directly, through your LD or County Chairman, or PC Captain,” according to the Arizona GOP’s PC Handbook. “GOP Data Center provides tools that enhance understanding of voter history, enables creation of call lists and walking lists, and helps connect you with voters in your precinct.” 

 

PCs can get specific information on voters such as “absentee voting information and the availability of transportation to the polls and babysitting services,” according to the Arizona GOP’s PC Handbook.

For the most part, PCs knock on doors, hand out literature on candidates running for office or help incumbent elected officials in their precinct. 

However, PCs also serve important functions in some instances.

When a legislative seat becomes vacant, PCs from the former lawmaker’s district party organization select three candidates as potential replacements. The county board of supervisors appoints a new legislators from that list. 

This occurred most recently when the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors selected Steve Pierce from the list of candidates provided by PCs to replace Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, who resigned in March.

A similar situation happened in District 21 prior to Harrison’s tenure. 

When Congressman Trent Franks resigned and then-state Sen. Debbie Lesko announced she would run for his seat, state law empowered the Republican PCs in her district to nominate three candidates to replace her. Those nominees were then sent to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which chose Rick Gray to finish the rest of Lesko’s term in the Senate. 

The Mirror took the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office database of PCs and turned them into a searchable document for readers curious to see who is a PC for their political party in their neck of the woods. 

The Mirror’s analysis of the data found plenty of recognizable names in the list such as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Gov. Doug Ducey, Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio and the Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes all serving as PCs in their respective districts. 

Bronaugh and Osiol did not return messages from the Mirror. Requests for comment to the Maricopa County and Legislative District 21 party chairs also went unreturned. 

 

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.