Trump lashes out against possible U.S. Senate candidate Mark Brnovich over election audit

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
Arizona Republic

Former President Donald Trump lashed out against state Attorney General Mark Brnovich over his tepid support of the ongoing review of ballots in Maricopa County, a blow to the potential Republican contender in Arizona's 2022 U.S. Senate race.

Calling Brnovich “lackluster,” Trump said on Saturday in a written statement that Brnovich should “get on the ball” with GOP state senators. Trump repeated baseless claims that his loss was attributed to “crime.” 

“As massive crime in the 2020 Election is becoming more and more evident and obvious, Brnovich is nowhere to be found,” Trump said. “He is always on television promoting himself, but never mentions the Crime of the Century, that took place during the 2020 Presidential Election, which was Rigged and Stolen.

"Arizona was a big part and Brnovich must put himself in gear, or no Arizona Republican will vote for him in the upcoming elections. They will never forget, and neither will the great Patriots of our Nation!”

Trump continues to insist widespread fraud in Maricopa County, once a conservative stronghold, was the only explanation for his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden. 

Sitting alongside Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Brnovich was among the Arizona officials to certify Arizona's election results last year, formalizing Biden's win. 

Arizona’s Republican-controlled Senate launched the review at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum near downtown Phoenix to placate Trump and his supporters, and determine if legislative changes should be made to ensure what they view as a matter of election integrity. 

Throughout, Brnovich has noted the Senate’s independent authority to conduct the review, noting in a December amicus brief the legislature’s “broad authority to investigate the county’s administration of the election to determine whether Arizona law regarding election administration should remain the same or be changed. “

In April, Brnovich said in a Newsmax TV interview the “radical left” was trying to undermine the recount process and said it was premature to cast aspersions on the process. He said it was not his job to “micromanage” how the recount is performed and said everything must be done to ensure the public has trust in the election process. 

“It’s important that you know instead of demonizing this process instead of, you know, being hypercritical of our state Senate, we should respect the process,” he said. “And we should let the Senate go forth with its audit.”

But no matter what the review finds, Brnovich told the Washington Examiner in May it was unlikely to change the results of President Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. Biden’s margin in Arizona, about 11,000 votes, was the narrowest in the nation.

"I guess you can add one more name to the list of folks growing frustrated while awaiting results of the audit,” Brnovich spokesperson Katie Conner said Monday in a statement to The Arizona Republic.

“With such a serious issue, many people are understandably on edge. Our office certainly stands ready to review the Senate’s final report or any information they submit to our office."

Trump’s disapproval of Brnovich could be significant in a statewide GOP primary because of the former president's continued support among many Republicans.

Those close to Trump have spoken to him about how the field of potential Senate candidates is shaping up. And while it appears Trump is eager to play a role in 2022, it’s unclear how his intervention in the race would be received by the candidates — or general-election voters. 

“We have seen that sort of Trump-style-type Republican, or ones that are aligning themselves with him or ones that are pushed … to the right in a primary, is not a winning coalition in a Senate race, be it in a midterm year or a presidential year in Arizona,” said Jessica Taylor, who analyzes Senate and governor's races for The Cook Political Report.

“And clearly, Arizona's politics are changing, its demographics are changing. To deny that is political malpractice,” she said.

Taylor added of the former president: “He's almost doing the work of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for them.”

Arizona’s Senate race could complicate Republicans' efforts to retake the majority given the state’s changing electoral make-up and 2020 rejection of both Trump and former Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who twice ran for the Senate as a loyalist to Trump. She lost both times. 

Republicans are hoping to unseat Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who won last year's special election against McSally to fill the remainder of the term left after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., died. The 2022 election is for a full six-year term. 

GOP business executive Jim Lamon, a political unknown and Trump supporter, jumped into the Senate race earlier this month and is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads and mailers to introduce himself to voters. 

Lamon told Politico the recount "will help ensure that the American people have full confidence that all eligible Arizonans who cast ballots had their votes accurately counted."

Blake Masters, a Tucson Republican close to billionaire Peter Thiel, and Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, Arizona’s retired adjutant general, also are expected to get in the race.

U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who heads the House Freedom Caucus and has also falsely suggested the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud, has talked with local and national Republicans about getting in the Senate race. But Biggs does not appear to be gearing up for a statewide run.

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