Rusty Bowers’ testimony before the January 6 committee was stirring.
Bowers, a lifelong Republican and the speaker of the Arizona state House, detailed in blunt terms the pressure campaign led by Donald Trump to get him to say that the 2020 election in the state was fraudulent. He said that Trump had lied about him in a November 2020 press release, which claimed that Bowers told the then-President that he believed the election was rigged. And Bowers spoke eloquently about why he refused to cave on his belief that that Joe Biden had won the presidential race.
“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired, that this is my most basic foundational belief,” said Bowers. “And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to, is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.”
His testimony was among the most memorable offered by any witness called to date by the House select committee investigating January 6.
And now he is paying the price for it.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Republican Party executive committee formally censured Bowers. “He is no longer a Republican in good standing & we call on Republicans to replace him at the ballot box in the August primary,” tweeted state party chairwoman Kelli Ward.
That rebuke isn’t likely to surprise Bowers. Ward has pushed Trump’s false election fraud claims and she and her husband have been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice in regards their involvement in a scheme to offer up fake electoral slates following the 2020 race.
Arizona, more broadly, has become a hotbed for 2020 election denialism among Republicans.
Kari Lake, a Trump-backed candidate for governor in the state, has been a champion of Trump’s election conspiracies. Blake Masters, who is running for the Senate GOP nomination with Trump’s endorsement, has also embraced the former President’s election lies and has even questioned whether the 2022 elections will be legitimate.
Before the censure from the state party, Bowers’ political prospects in his bid for a state Senate seat this year were looking dire.
“It’s so hostile,” Bowers told NBC News recently. “If I pull this off, it’s going to be a miracle.”
Ward had already endorsed Bowers’ opponent ahead of the August 2 primary, former state Sen. David Farnsworth. (It is decidedly odd for a state party chair to weigh in on a Republican primary, but I digress …) Trump also got involved, posting on his Truth Social site: “Bowers must be defeated, and highly respected David Farnsworth is the man to do it.”
Farnsworth, in case you’re wondering, has said of the 2020 election: “This is a real conspiracy headed up by the devil himself.”
Bowers is, by all accounts, a reliable conservative vote. And he has even said he would consider voting for Trump again in 2024.
But that’s not enough for the likes of Trump, Ward and Farnsworth. Anything short of utter fealty to the former President and his lies about the election is not only unacceptable, but must be punished.