LAURIE ROBERTS (Arizona Republic) opines: The Arizona audit may bring down a politician after all. As pressure builds on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to start jailing people for non-existent election crimes, audit fanatics seem determined to ensure that Sen. Mark Kelly wins re-election.
It’s a rough time to be the Republicans’ best hope of knocking off Sen. Mark Kelly.
Brnovich soon may have to make a choice:
- Do I abandon my oath and my ability to look in the mirror in order to win next year’s Senate Republican primary?
- Or do I abide by the rules of evidence that require actual evidence before accusing people of crimes?
The fact that there is even a question shows just how far the far right wing of the Republican Party has descended in its freefall from reality.
Brnovich wants to overcome Trump’s criticism
Brnovich, these days, must be watching his political life flash before his eyes. He is the best known Republican in the Senate race, the candidate best positioned to win back the seat his party held for 52 years, until Kelly’s defeat of Sen. Martha McSally in 2020.
But Brnovich was put on notice in May by ex-President Donald Trump, who called him out for the cardinal sin of refusing to buy into the delusion that Trump really won Arizona.
“The lackluster Attorney General of Arizona, Mark Brnovich, has to get on the ball and catch up with the great Republican Patriots in the Arizona State Senate,” Trump said at the time. “As massive crime in the 2020 Election is becoming more and more evident and obvious, Brnovich is nowhere to be found.”
Brnovich’s sin? He hadn’t thrown in with the conspiracy crowd and the grifters who convinced a shockingly high number of Republicans that Arizona’s election was stolen. The AG even acknowledged in November that Joe Biden won, a statement that is a sacrilege in some GOP circles.
Since getting hit with the “lackluster” tag, Brnovich has been working overtime to out-Republican the competition in the crowded Senate GOP primary. He’s turned the Attorney General’s Office into a campaign annex.
The man’s a daily fixture on Fox as he rails against mask mandates and vaccine mandates and “Biden’s Border Crisis” and whatever he else he can use to rally the ranks and perhaps put the Senate once again in Republican hands.
Will he investigate (non-existent) fraud?
But ahead lies one massive pothole in his path to the Republican nomination:
Brnovich is expected to buy into the delusion that Senate President Karen Fann’s audit of Maricopa County’s election turned up evidence of massive voter fraud and he must act upon it.
Never mind that even the auditors acknowledge they found no evidence of fraud, only “anomalies” for which there may be logical explanations. (There are.)
Despite that inconvenient fact, far-right fanatics – hoping to ride the audit into higher office or greater fame or fatter wallets – are putting pressure on Brnovich to start arresting people.
“With all of the evidence of incompetence and criminality that’s been presented to the Arizona Senate, to Congress and now to the Arizona Attorney General, the Maricopa County election should not be allowed to stand,” state Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed candidate for secretary of state, said on Saturday during Trump’s Iowa rally.
Others in the GOP are pushing him to do it
Kari Lake, the Republican frontrunner in the governor’s race, wants Brnovich to file criminal charges against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
“She’s basically the mastermind of the 2020 election … ,” Lake said during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s podcast in late September, shortly after the audit results were released in late September. “We have proof and evidence and he (Brnovich) needs to, right now, make it a crime scene.”
“Frankly, I think she should be locked up,” Lake said during an Oct. 2 rally in Cave Creek.
State Sen. Wendy Rogers wants to arrest the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
“I am about to go scorched earth if I don’t see progress from the Arizona AG soon,” state Sen. Wendy Rogers tweeted on Friday.
“Start calling and emailing the Arizona Attorney General,” Rogers tweeted on Tuesday. “Tell him to do his job and make arrests of the people the Arizona Senate caught deleting election files.”
Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward’s on board with that.
“They admit they hid evidence! #Crime,” Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward tweeted on Monday.
Either way, Brnovich will likely lose
Here in the real world, the supervisors have admitted that they moved election data to the archives, clearing space in the county’s election management system in February as they prepared for the spring elections. So not deleted, merely archived – meaning available for anyone to see who presents a subpoena.
But alas for Brnovich, the real world is not the space that he must occupy if he’s going to have a shot at Mark Kelly. Every day, the calls grow louder for him to start arresting people.
Brnovich is in a tough spot.
He’s sworn to follow the law and besides that, he’s saavy enough to know he can’t repeat the mistakes of McSally, who lost – twice – because she tied herself too tightly to Trump.
But he also needs to survive the primary, which means he must cater to the conspiracy crowd.
And the arrest-‘em-all fanatics don’t seem content with mere appetizers thrown their way in the form of a promise to investigate. They are demanding generous, juicy slabs of red meat – the bloodier the better.
Unfortunately for Brnovich, the blood left on the floor may, in the end, be his own.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurieRoberts.