A to Z

MariCo supes unanimously appointed extremist who called Latino lawmakers ‘illegals’ to GOP post

By: - November 1, 2019 3:22 pm
Jennifer Harrison

AZ Patriots leader Jennifer Harrison at Talking Point USA Culture War event at Grand Canyon University. Photo from AZ Patriots Facebook page.

Nearly 15 months after she made local and international headlines for her role in a protest at the Capitol in which pro-Trump activists called Latino and Native American legislators and staff “illegals” and told them to “get out of my country,” the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed Jennifer Harrison to a partisan position.

And three months before the supervisors voted, Harrison was barred from the Arizona House of Representatives for following a group of students advocating for undocumented immigrants into a private meeting with a Democratic legislator, claiming they were “observing.”

Harrison, the leader of the right-wing extremist group AZ Patriots, was appointed to a precinct committeeman post in April. 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. 

Harrison was one of 79 nominees for vacancies that the supervisors considered on April 24. There was no discussion of her or anyone else, and the supervisors quickly rubber-stamped the appointments.

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. 

But they also have access to voter data, which raises issues in light of Harrison’s recent arrest for identity fraud. Harrison was arrested for allegedly using a family member’s hotel rewards points without permission, and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is still deciding if she will be charged. 

Arizona Mirror also reported last month that Harrison, who presents herself as a “citizen journalist, and AZ Patriots as a media organization, falsely claims affiliation with three international journalism organizations.

“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.” 

It is unclear what kind of access Harrison may have to this database. Requests for comment from Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward and Legislative District 21 Republican Party Chairwoman Eileen Mueller were not returned. 

Lawmakers from Harrison’s district said they have had limited contact, if any, with Harrison. 

“I do believe she is a PC in our district and I have met her at a couple of our district meetings, but that is as much contact as I have had with her,” Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, told the Mirror.

Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, said he doesn’t know her.

“I don’t have any plans of working with her at all, but I guess I’ll play it by ear, because it is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. 

A request for comment from Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, the other representative from District 21, was not returned. 

Harrison refused to answer questions about whether her appointment gave her access to voter information or how her arrest would affect her duties as a precinct committeeman. 

“GET A LIFE!! Do you understand due process?” Harrison said in an email to the Mirror.

What exactly is a PC? 

The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties in Arizona have precinct committeemen, commonly called PCs. Their main duties center on registering new voters and rallying their party’s voters on Election Day. 

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 out already elected officials in their precinct. 

However, PCs also serve important functions in some instances.

For example, when Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, resigned, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors choose from three candidates who were selected by the Republican PCs in Stringer’s precinct

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 be running for his seat, state law empowered the Republican PCs in the legislative district to nominate three people to replace her. Those nominees were then sent to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, who chose Gray to finish the rest of Lesko’s term in the Senate. 

“Before I was a precinct committeeman, I didn’t even know they existed,” Payne, told the Mirror. Payne, who became a PC through the appointment process that made Harrison a PC, eventually was elected as chairman of the District 21 Republicans in 2015.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.