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Republicans clash over presidential primary election plans

By: - September 1, 2023 3:02 pm

A polling place in Maricopa County. Photo via Maricopa County elections/Facebook

The Arizona Republican Party is refusing to call a meeting to consider opting out of the state-run 2024 Presidential Preference Election, outraging the Maricopa County Republican Party, which last week called at the AZGOP to run its own presidential primary election. 

The deadline for parties to opt out of the state-run election is 5 p.m Sept. 1. 

The Maricopa County Republican Committee passed a resolution on Aug. 26 asking the state party to back out of the state-funded primary election, and to replace it with a Republican Party-funded primary held all on one day, at the precinct level, and with all ballots counted by hand. 

But without a vote from the Arizona Republican Party, the primary will be run by county election officials and will include standard election protocols like early voting and counting ballots with tabulators.


Craig Berland, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, called AZGOP Chairman Jeff DeWit’s decision not to call a meeting to vote on an alternate election process “very disappointing.” 

DeWit said it violated the state party’s bylaws to call a meeting of its executive committee without giving 30 days notice, and providing that notice wasn’t possible, given that the Maricopa County Republicans only voted on their resolution six days before the deadline. He added that holding an alternate election could put the party at risk of lawsuits from Republicans who could claim voter disenfranchisement. 

While Berland claimed that the AZGOP has not stuck to the 30-day rule in the past, that rule is included in the bylaws posted on the state party’s website.

“The Bylaws are clear about 30-days, there were numerous complaints from members of the Executive Committee about the very short timeline given by MCRC for their demands,” AZGOP spokeswoman Dajana Zlatičanin told the Arizona Mirror in an email. “There were zero complaints from members about any of the previous meetings, and we work hard to operate within all laws and Bylaws.”

DeWit instead proposed that the Maricopa County Republican Party run its own primary election for the county, to run parallel with the state-run presidential preference primary, set for March 19. DeWit did not share details of how that process would work and did not immediately respond to a request for an explanation. 

“It is the dumbest thing I have heard,” Berland told the Arizona Mirror in an email. “Chairman DeWit has stomped on the stupid pedal and can’t find the brakes.”

The state and Maricopa County branches of the Republican Party also disagreed on the cost of a party-run election, with DeWit estimating it would cost $13 million to $15 million and Berland saying it would only cost around $1 million. 

Neither explained how they came to those numbers. 

Berland promised that the MCRC Election Integrity Task Force and the precinct committeemen that support it would continue to devote their time to “fighting for the sovereignty of our Republic,” but didn’t elaborate on what exactly he meant by that.

Berland and other members of the Maricopa County Republican Party’s executive committee believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and that wins in 2022 were similarly snatched from the hands of several statewide Republican candidates. 

Although Trump and other Republicans, including failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, have made sweeping allegations of election fraud, they have yet to produce any evidence. Many lawsuits claiming fraud changed the outcomes of close races, including Lake’s, have been rejected for lack of proof.

We can not and we will not quit,” Berland said. 

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to include comments from an AZGOP spokeswoman.


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Caitlin Sievers
Caitlin Sievers

Caitlin joined the Arizona Mirror in 2022 with almost 10 years of experience as a reporter and editor, holding local government leaders accountable from newsrooms across the West and Midwest. She's won statewide awards in Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin for reporting, photography and commentary.