Wadsack and supporters target critics and recall campaign volunteers

The state senator called one critic a ‘stalker’ and accused another of being a ‘registered communist’

By: - July 24, 2023 4:08 pm

Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

An effort to recall Tucson freshman Republican Sen. Justine Wadsack started in May but as the summer heats up, so have things between the senator and those looking to recall her. 

“Isn’t this fun? I’m going to be back every week,” a woman driving a pickup truck said to recall volunteers after she stood next to their table and combatively engaged with volunteers as they tried to gather signatures, volunteer Tina Kilcullen told the Arizona Mirror. On the truck was a magnet urging people to re-elect Wadsack and other Republican legislative district 17 “warriors” such as Reps. Cory McGarr and Rachel Jones. 

But the people organizing the recall are facing more than just opposition at tabling events, they say that the senator is using her clout in an attempt to silence her critics. 


Rolande Baker filed the recall in May, saying in her petition that Wadsack has targeted marginalized communities such as the homeless, attempted to create “book bans,” attacked the Arizona State Bar Association and attempted to make major changes to the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. 

Since working on the recall Baker has found herself in the crosshairs of Wadsack and her supporters. After an interaction with someone who called himself a friend of the senator at a July 4 tabling event, Baker found herself being labeled a “registered communist.” 

“To me that is so not OK. It is beyond not OK. It is not what you do,” Baker said about how she felt when she saw the tweet from Wadsack claiming Baker was a “registered communist” who had stormed the Supreme Court. 

“She hates America,” Wadsack added in her tweet. 

As evidence of Baker’s supposed communist ties, Wadsack linked to a website known as KeyWiki. The website was created by infamous conspiracy theorist Trevor Loudon who previously claimed that former President Barack Obama was surrounding himself with marxists in order to bring down capitalism. 

The KeyWiki website is wildly unreliable. Communism is not an officially recognized party that a person can register with in Arizona, and Baker says she’s been a lifelong Democrat who never stormed the Supreme Court. 

On Nov. 2, 2022, Baker and other pro-choice activists waited their turn to go into the U.S. Supreme Court and once inside, one of them stood up every three minutes and said “we oppose the Dobbs decision, women of America vote,” Baker said. 

Each woman was escorted out by police and arrested non-violently, Baker said. 

But Baker isn’t the only one that Wadsack has spread stories about online, some leading to alleged harassment. 

The same weekend that the woman in the truck arrived to bother Baker, Devin Russel decided he was going to attend an event where Wadsack was also in attendance. 

Russel, whose online persona can be admittedly antagonistic, is an open critic of Wadsack and many Republicans in the state. 

He heard about an event by a local conservative radio host that would feature failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and decided he’d check it out. The event was packed and this led to one of the first problems. 

Russel, a former firefighter and fire inspector, was concerned about the crowd size and availability of exits. He brought this up and would later be accused of trying to “shut the event down,” an accusation he firmly denies. 

Later during the same event, he saw one of his representatives, Rep. Cory McGarr with whom he said he had previously “exchanged pleasantries.” McGarr pointed out Wadsack to Russel, saying the two should meet. Russel said he thought that was a bad idea since Wadsack already had blocked him on Twitter and Russel had been highly critical of her in an op-ed in the Daily Star. Still McGarr brought Wadsack over. 

The two met, shook hands and “nice to meet yous” were exchanged, Russel said. After about 15 minutes Russel left.

At another event dubbedSave Tucson,” which focused on voter outreach, Russel would run into a much different Wadsack. This time he recorded the exchange and the senator covered her face, telling him that he could not record her before claiming he was a “Democratic infiltrator” who had attempted to shut down the Lake event and is “pro-pedophile.” 

It wasn’t much later that Wadsack would post Russel’s photo and name on Twitter, calling him a stalker who always showed up right behind her. Wadsack’s stalker post garnered over 200 retweets and more than 400 likes. Since the post, Russel said he has been the target of an influx of harassment. 

“That is not how you treat people,” Russel said, adding that she put a target on his back. One person who reached out to him mentioned Russel’s exact street in their threat. After that Russel purchased a gun. 

Other people involved in criticizing Wadsack have also faced personal attacks. 

“I think that it will make anybody rethink doing this again in the future, watching this harassment we are enduring,” Tina Kilcullen, the volunteer with the recall campaign, told the Mirror. 

Kilcullen, who is another vocal critic of Wadsack on Twitter, said that Wadsack called her real estate broker leading to her broker deciding to drop her as she didn’t want to “deal with it.” 

Kilcullen transferred her real estate license to a different broker but that hasn’t stopped the alleged harassment from Wadsack, who is a licensed real estate agent. The Tucson senator has been calling and making complaints about Kilcullen’s ethics, starting a battle between the two behind the scenes at the Arizona Association of Realtors, Kilcullen said.

“I really don’t have the money for an attorney,” she said. 

For Baker, Kilcullen and Russel, despite it all, they still intend to keep their efforts going. 

“She is not stopping. She thinks she is righteous in what she does. That is what is so scary about her,” Baker said. “I’m 71 years old, do you think I wanted to be doing this this summer? Hell no.”

The recall campaign needs to gather 30,981 signatures by Sept. 5 to trigger the recall. The volunteers are hopeful that they’ll be able to reach that goal by Aug. 31, they told the Mirror. 

Wadsack did not respond to a request for comment or to questions about her claims and connections to those who have engaged with the volunteers. 


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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.