Both Republicans tapped to replace Liz Harris are closely aligned with her

One ran with her as a team last year, while the other is a dyed-in-the-wool election denier like Harris

By: - April 24, 2023 4:49 pm

Steve Steele (center) and Earl Schaefer (right) speak with Liz Harris on a video she published. Screenshot by Arizona Mirror

The two Republicans nominated to replace expelled lawmaker Liz Harris both have strong connections to the conspiracy-pushing lawmaker. 

Harris, a real estate agent, built an online fan base by pushing unfounded conspiracy theories around the 2020 election and rose to newfound fame during the partisan hand-count of the 2020 Presidential election in Maricopa County. 

Last week, the GOP precinct committeemen from Harris’ District 13, which covers Chandler and Gilbert, met to nominate three candidates to fill the vacant seat she left after she was booted from the House of Representatives for a committee hearing in which government officials and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were accused of a litany of crimes

Harris lied to the House Ethics Committee, telling members that she was unaware of Jacqueline Breger’s testimony, despite evidence showing she both knew what Breger would say and helped hide it from GOP leaders before the hearing as well as her own statements.

The nominees to replace Harris ended up being Harris herself, Steve Steele and Julie Willoughby. 

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors must pick among the three to select the person to fill the remainder of Harris’ term, though it’s unclear when the GOP-led board will do so. Although Harris has been nominated, there are legal questions about whether she could even be selected as a replacement.

During Harris’ tenure as a star in the world of election fraud media personalities, she would hold livestreams where she would bring on “experts” and put on the live feed cameras of the audit floor with a song dedicated to failed inventor Jovan Hutton Pulitzer on repeat for hours for audit enthusiasts to watch. 

It would be on these live streams that Steele would make known his thoughts on the election and show his connections to Harris. 

The canvasser 

Although Steele previously refused to tell the Arizona Mirror if he was an ally of Harris’, the Mirror’s analysis finds he is close to the ex-lawmaker and shares her distrust of Arizona’s election process and has disavowed Joe Biden’s win over Donald Trump in 2020.

In a video Harris posted in April 2021, she praised Steele and the man who rummaged through a Dumpster for shredded ballots that were allegedly evidence of fraud, but in fact were never counted because they were ballots from dead voters that were returned unvoted by family members. 

Harris, on top of being a semi-influencer for the election fraud world, is also known for a voter “canvass” effort in Maricopa County that was initially meant to be part of the Arizona Senate’s partisan “audit,” but was later scrapped due to intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice.  

Harris ultimately did the “canvass” on her own. It was riddled with flagrantly incorrect findings, and major portions of it were shot down almost as soon as it was published. Harris’s report was full of other allegations about alleged fraud or suspicious votes in the 2020 election, though none were attached to any voters’ names or addresses that could be used to verify them

Only two claims from the report included information that could be used to verify them. Both were shown to be demonstrably false within minutes of their release. 

One of those claims was featured on the cover of the report: A photo of a Goodyear address that supposedly was a vacant lot from which votes were cast. However, the large lot had a house on it — the photo focused only on a vacant portion of the lot — and county property records clearly listed the owner. 

“You are spouting lies from the left-stream media,” Steele told the Mirror in a phone interview when asked about the falsehoods in the canvass report. Steele said he’d stand by the report in court. 

In the livestreams with Harris, Steele also called Biden “fraudulent,” claimed that the 2020 election was a “bogus election” and brought up debunked claims of ballots in suitcases in Georgia as evidence. 

When asked if he still believes these statements, Steele at first told the Mirror he didn’t believe he ever said these things. But when informed that he said it on a livestream, he recanted and said “yes,” adding that the “canvass” he conducted with Harris solidified his beliefs. 

Steele has also called Democrats “communists,” falsely claimed that illegal immigrants in California can vote by getting a driver’s license and that the “deep state” has infiltrated both parties to initiate a “global agenda.” 

In the phone interview, Steele also confirmed that he believes in an outlandish conspiracy theory that a November 2020 fire at a Hickman’s Family Farms chicken farm was connected to the shredded ballots. 

Steele went further and said that he and the man who found the shredded ballots had allegedly spoken to a firefighter who had seen evidence of burned ballots at the Hickman farm. Steele then went on to push another conspiracy theory about Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, asking the Mirror to inquire about a “bonfire” the Republican representative had allegedly had after the February testimony that Harris arranged, and which ultimately led to her ouster. 

When the Mirror asked why Steele believed there was a bonfire at Toma’s residence, Steele ended the call. 

Conspiracy theorists have latched onto the idea that ballots from the 2020 election were burned at the Hickman chicken farm due to it being owned by Maricopa County Chairman Clint Hickman. There is no evidence at all supporting those claims

The anti-mandate nurse 

Julie Willoughby ran as a team with Harris in 2022, and narrowly lost to Harris for the district’s second House seat. She also campaigned alongside failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and received her endorsement, as well as the backing of failed Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem. 

Willoughby is the chief nursing officer for Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa, and also ran unsuccessfully in 2018 for the legislature. 

On her campaign website, Willoughby wrote that she does “not support mandates, especially for American citizens.” She added that “we are a free people and mandating requires a part, if not all, of our freedoms to be given up.” 

During a short speech during Memorial Day last year alongside a plethora of other candidates, Willoughby elaborated a bit more on that stance. 

“I remember when this whole COVID thing started and they were talking about two weeks to slow the curve, and I’m like, this is a take-over,” Willoughby said. “They’re not doing this for two weeks, it’s going to be way longer than two weeks.” 

Willoughby also added she had friends who “lost their jobs” for not getting the vaccine. 

“There was a complete overtake of our rights and our freedoms, and it all needs to be restored,” Willoughby said before adding that she was “excited” to be running with Harris. 

Willoughby did not respond to a request for comment on if she still believes that COVID was a “take over.”


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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined 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. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.