With the recent election debacle, the debate has been rekindled about whether Arizona should have an open primary, closed primary, or a caucus. In the past few years, a group of Republicans formed a group called the Arizona Republican Assembly. This group claims to be the conservative wing of the Arizona Republican Party. A top priority of the ARA has been to close the GOP primary to independents and many have pushed a caucus system to give the grassroots conservatives more power.
Thayer Verschoor and AJ Lafaro, leaders of the ARA, have spent the past two years shouting, “Close the primaries! Close the primaries!” “A caucus would be great!” But, after this week’s election circus, we haven’t heard much from either man. Both have pledged their loyalty to Donald Trump, with Verschoor even finding employment with Trump. He’s been working hard to get back into politics since losing his position as Executive Director of the AZGOP back in 2012.
Anyone wonder why the silence? Here is a clip of Donald Trump, the current GOP front runner, just after the Iowa Caucuses:
CHUCK TODD: “I can’t help but notice, that you are a little humble, a little humbled by what happened in Iowa. Is that fair to say”
DONALD TRUMP: “Well, I don’t think in terms of it. You know, I worked hard there. I really liked Iowa. I liked the people of Iowa. The caucus system is a very complex system, and a lot of things can go off with a caucus system. I like the system much better in New Hampshire, where you go out, you like somebody, you vote. And you can have a ground game and all, but the ground game in Iowa is very important whereas the ground game here is different.”
Donald Trump has done better in primary elections, particularly when the primaries have been open to independent voters, many of whom showed up to vote for him in Arizona and were turned away. The Trump campaign doesn’t want to turn off potential voters for what is increasingly looking like a general election. This is smart politics for them. But where have all the principled patriots gone to speak for closed primaries and caucuses?
The recent silence of the leaders of the ARA reveals that, like Trump, these men know how to put on a good show when it benefits them. Are outwardly principled leaders like Lafaro, Mason, and Verschoor becoming controlled establishment insiders? We recently covered the flexible positions of Lafaro. From his days of admiring Bill Clinton to his pledge to bring all the factions of the Republican Party together in 2013. But what about Thayer Verschoor?
Thayer Verschoor is clearly perfect for Donald Trump’s campaign. He has a history of troubling deals, like his push for a Rock and Roll theme park in Eloy, Arizona. While serving in the Senate, Verschoor carried the water for lobbyists to build a taxpayer-funded theme park that, as evidenced by the fact that it died early in the planning stages, would have become an epic failure.
If Trump is successful, Verschoor will be a perfect lobbyist for the mogul’s Real Estate business when the campaign ends, shepherding bills to get economic incentives for Trump’s casinos and real estate deals.
The ARA has an opportunity to serve the conservative movement in Arizona, but, under its current leadership, the group is being mishandled. Look for more principled leadership in the coming years from the top team at the Arizona Republican Assembly.