Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward narrowly won reelection Saturday night following a video endorsement from former President Donald Trump, suggesting he still holds power over the party and that the state party's divisions still have not eased.
Ward's reelection came during a sometimes contentious meeting in Phoenix that also included party members passing three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake, and Cindy McCain, reports The Arizona Republic.
The win comes after Trump, in a recorded phone call, offered his "complete and total endorsement" for Ward, and her win is the former president's first after his promise to maintain influence after he lost the White House, reports The New York Times.
Weeks ago, Ward's reelection had been considered a foregone conclusion, but many in the party were concerned about the GOP's electoral performance and because of uncertainties heading into the 2022 midterm elections.
Ducey was censured for imposing emergency pandemic rules that the party complained worked to "restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts." Earlier this year, the governor crossed Trump by certifying the election for President Joe Biden and ignoring a call from the president.
McCain, the widow of late Sen. John McCain, was censured after she "has supported globalist policies and candidates" and "condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results." McCain endorsed Biden's candidacy.
Flake, meanwhile, "has condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests," his censure says. The party also suggested that Flake become a Democrat.
The chairmanship race had shifted after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and because the party scheduled the censure votes.
Ward got 47% of the vote in the first balloting against Sergio Arellano, her closest competitor, and then defeated him in a runoff ballot by 42 votes.
Biden took Arizona by less than 11,000 votes, and a victory by Sen. Mark Kelly now means the state has its first pair of Democratic senators since 1953.
Arellano, Ward's closest competitor, runs an arms-manufacturing company and a political consulting company, Tipping Point, LLC. After the ballot results were announced, he and Ward took the stage together in a gesture of party unity.
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