Arizona GOP chair's fundraising email creates potential conflicts and opportunities in upcoming election

Illustration by Christian Ayala

A fundraising email was sent out by the Arizona Republican Party chairwoman Kelli Ward to her supporters calling for a large fundraising haul to combat Mark Kelly's senate campaign.

“Support the Republican Party of Arizona today and, together, we’ll stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks,” the Sept. 5 email stated.

Ward is known as a former state senator and loyalist to President Donald Trump. She won in a landslide to become the next chairwoman of the Arizona GOP and has a more right-wing vision for the state.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kelly is a senate democratic vying for the seat held by Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat after her surprisingly close loss to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema last year.

The email sent out by Ward stands out as Kelly’s Senate campaign is focused on advocating for gun control after his wife, former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, survived a 2011 assassination attempt while meeting with constituents in a Tucson grocery store.

The attack on Giffords led the couple to establish Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super political action committe that advocates for gun control. Gun control is an issue that the Arizona GOP is strongly against.

Jacob Peters, a spokesperson for Kelly, criticized Ward's email.

"This dangerous rhetoric has absolutely no place in Arizona and is what's wrong with our politics," Peters stated in an email to Kelly's campaign donors. "Mark Kelly is running for Senate to overcome this type of nasty divisiveness that does nothing for Arizonans."

As Ward’s email conversation started to spread on social media and many news organizations, Ward defended herself on Twitter calling the controversy ridiculous.

"I don’t wish harm on Mr. Kelly. We disagree politically on the Constitution and the #2a, and I’m well aware of the harm his policies would cause should he ever be elected,” Ward tweeted.

Rep. Ruben Gallego called out Ward's remarks on Twitter as "disgusting" and called on Sen. McSally to demand for Ward's immediate resignation.

Ward's assertions were defended on Twitter by Rep. Paul Gosar who called out "leftist fake news" for overanalyzing her remarks.

"Differentiating between idioms, slang, analogies and metaphors from statement of facts is learned in childhood. For supposed adults to feign ignorance as to @kelliwardaz meaning is a demonstration of ignorance. Ignore #FakeNews and its handmaidens of stupid outrage," Gosar tweeted.

While Ward continued her defense on Twitter, Sen. McSally criticized the GOP chairwoman’s comments during a KTAR-FM interview Sept. 9.

“I certainly wouldn't have chosen those words," McSally said during the KTAR-FM interview. "I think there's better ways for us to have discussions on these topics when we disagree and just be deliberate with the words we're choosing."

NAU political science professor Fred Solop does not see Ward's comments affecting McSally's chances of winning the Senate seat in 2020.

"Kelli Ward is not saying things as a candidate but rather as the chair of the Republican Party in Arizona, so the candidates won't be held to the standard of what the chairperson has to say," Solop said. "However, it is very easy for a candidate to distance themselves from the party itself."

Kelly’s campaign is using the controversy as a way to bring attention to his own campaign and to spark a large fundraising haul. Jen Cox, Kelly’s campaign manager, wrote a fundraising plea Sept. 9 asking supporters to donate.

In an email, Cox called upon Kelly's donors and supporters to overcome "nasty divisiveness." Cox said Kelly's campaign will continue building a movement that will have the strength to go the distance in defeating Sen. McSally come 2020.