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Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward has declared invalid an effort by state GOP activists to redo the state party elections after multiple complaints of mismanagement, calling it a “failed and dishonest sham.”

Using the rhetorical style of former President Donald Trump, Ward accused organizers of lying, using state committee people’s names without permission, and engaging in fraudulent behavior in their efforts to gather enough signatures to call a special meeting on April 24. 

Ward’s combative approach to a wide swath of the GOP base seemed to put the party on course for a lawsuit and plunged the organization into further turmoil, even as the 2022 statewide races are starting to take shape and donors are sizing up how they will make political contributions in a post-Trump environment.

It is unclear if Ward, who narrowly won reelection as chair in a runoff race, would win again.

“A disgruntled few who lost their elections have attempted to divide our Party by any means possible,” Ward said in a written statement.

The Arizona GOP activists denied Ward’s assertions and maintained Tuesday they had gathered more than enough signatures from state committee people needed to move forward with asking the party’s faithful if they supported a do-over of the party’s Jan. 23 election.

Those activists mounted a rare effort to try to force a redo of the party’s election after Ward and other party representatives dismissed repeated calls to audit the results and procedures of the election. It mirrors the same demands Ward has made in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

Tim La Sota, an attorney representing the activists, told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday they would be filing another lawsuit as soon as possible if state party officials did not move forward with calling a special meeting. 

“If we don’t get a reversal of course today by close of business today, we’re going to file suit,” he said.

Organizers have said they gathered an estimated 352 signatures from state committeemen from 11 Arizona counties. Of the estimated 1,400 state committee people statewide, 20 percent must agree to call the special meeting, they have previously said.

The AZGOP news release said the party’s secretary, Yvonne Cahill, received the organizers’ signature forms, which included electronically submitted signatures, last week. 

Republican state committee people whose names and electronic signatures were included in the records given to Cahill have claimed their names are being used without permission “and that any ‘signature’ from them is fraudulent,” the state GOP news release said.

Others have told state party representatives they did not understand what a “special meeting” involved, and asked that their names be removed from supporting a new meeting, the state GOP news release said. 

Jack Wilenchik, an attorney representing the state party, said the complaints from state committee people arose during the state party’s verification process of signatures.

Ward’s news release linked to a list of hundreds of GOP state committee people — including state lawmakers — who signed onto the effort to call a new election, publishing their names, legislative district and home county. 

“That is McCarthyism at its finest,” said Bill Beard, one of the organizers of the effort to force a new election.

Beard ripped Ward on Tuesday for her handling of the situation and called her claims “ludicrous.” Organizers compiled signatures on paper and electronically in an ethical manner, he said. 

“This is desperation by someone clinging to power any way she can,” he said. “Personally, I believe she should resign. Her integrity, her transparency, her ability to conduct the affairs of the Republican Party in the state of Arizona have been rendered useless and frankly destructive.”

Beard and GOP activist Sandra Dowling sued earlier this month, asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to require the state party to explain why it shouldn’t conduct an audit of the January election results.

Have news to share about Arizona politics? Reach the reporter on Twitter and Facebook. Contact her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com and 602-444-4712.

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