Sen. John McCain has orchestrated a major purge of Arizona Republican Party officials who backed his embarrassing censure earlier this year.
According to Politico, McCain’s team has been working to reshape the state party, knocking hostile Tea Party-aligned members from local GOP offices and replacing them with allies ahead of the senator’s 2016 re-election bid.
Under the byzantine rules of Arizona Republican Party politics, these elected officials, known as precinct committeemen, vote for local party chairmen. The chairmen, in turn, determine how state and local GOP funds are spent, which candidates are promoted in an election year, and which political issues are highlighted — all matters of central concern for McCain heading into 2016, when the threat of a primary looms.
Prior to Aug. 26, when the races for the party offices were held, the vast majority of the 3,925 precinct slots were filled by people McCain’s team considered opponents. Now, after an influx of candidates were recruited by the senator’s allies, around 40 percent of those offices — 1,531 to be exact — will be held by people McCain’s team regards as friendly. They will have the power to vote down hostile Republican chairmen in each of their respective localities.
“There’s been a huge organizational effort that I’ve never seen before,” said Gordon James, an Arizona public relations executive and longtime McCain confidant. “A lot of the party folks who were hostile to John McCain have been marginalized, and that’s a good thing.”
The biggest foe to fall: Timothy Schwartz, the man who authored the McCain censure resolution. Earlier this month, Schwartz was ousted from his post as a GOP legislative district chairman by a group of newly elected precinct committeemen who voted in favor of a McCain-aligned candidate. Another outspoken McCain detractor, A.J. LaFaro, recently announced that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection to the Maricopa County Republican chairmanship, a tacit recognition that he didn’t have enough support to win.
Two years after losing to President Barack Obama in 2008, McCain overcame one primary challenger in 2010, but has found himself at odds with the Tea Party swell, notably calling Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz “wacko birds” last year.
The Arizona Republican Party made its feelings known 10 months later with a censure resolution that specified that he has “associated with liberal Democrats.”
“It’s very clear what’s going on,” Schwartz told Politico. “Look, John McCain has prominence and money and influence and because of that he thinks he can ramrod us.”
LaFaro likened McCain’s actions to “ethnic cleansing.”
“For John McCain to have been so vindictive in his actions … It’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s been all-out war.”
It’s not over for McCain opponents, however: They still hold a majority of precinct committee slots in the state and appear to be readying a counterstrike.
“They think it’s over,” Schwartz told Politico. “But the fat lady hasn’t sung.”
Read more at Politico.
(H/T: Hot Air)