Republicans in Arizona appointed Jeff DeWit as the party’s next chairman Saturday. The selection comes as Republicans in the battleground state hope to unite under new leadership and win back statewide elections.
DeWit, a former Trump aide who worked on both of his presidential campaigns, will replace Kelli Ward, a Trump ally who has embraced and echoed his election denial claims.
He won 70% of the votes over several other nominees, including Steve Daniels, who vowed to drastically change the state’s election system by requiring all votes to take place in person on one day, with ballots counted by hand.
“I’m going to work for you, and we’re going to unify,” DeWit said after his victory. “And we’re going to get back to beating Democrats and winning elections.”
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DeWit was supported by Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor but became an influential voice in the party; Mark Finchem, a former candidate for secretary of state; retired Gen. Michael Flynn and others.
Lake said DeWit also received a last-minute endorsement from Trump, but the former president did not post the endorsement on social media, which he regularly does.
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During Ward’s four-year tenure as party chair, Republicans lost three U.S. Senate races and elections for governor, secretary of state and attorney general. She has called for Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs for potential wrongdoing during her campaign. She has also faced criticism over the party’s spending.
DeWit was elected state treasurer in 2014 and resigned in 2018, just before his term ended as he was confirmed as chief financial officer of NASA under Trump. He led Trump’s Arizona campaign in 2016 and was chief operating officer of Trump’s 2020 campaign.
Arizona Democrats elected Yolanda Bejarano, a senior national official in the Communications Workers of America union, to be their party chair.
The selection was the first contested election for the Democratic chair in 12 years.
Bejarano was backed by most of the state’s elected Democrats, but Hobbs supported Steve Gallardo, the only Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Outgoing Democratic Chair Raquel Teran declined to run for another term. She is also looking to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Ruben Gallego, who’s running for the Senate. The seat is safely Democratic.
The 2024 election includes several races with national implications including the presidential race and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.