PHOENIX — Any Republican planning to run against President Trump next year might just as well skip Arizona.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers tucked a provision into the state budget that allows any political party to opt out of the state’s presidential preference primary simply by sending a notice to the Secretary of State’s Office by Sept. 16. And county election officials would be required to honor that request.
The Mesa Republican conceded to Capitol Media Services that the legislation came at the request of the Arizona Republican Party.
But he said there’s nothing undemocratic about the move. And he denied that Arizonans who are members of the GOP would be denied a choice.
“We don’t feel we’re denying anybody a primary choice,” he said.
“We have a choice,” Bowers continued. “It’s our sitting president of the United States.”
A choice of one?
“It’s a choice of Mr. Trump,” he said.
State GOP spokesman Zach Henry said the language added to the budget was designed “to confirm that political parties — in this case, the Arizona Republican Party — may reserve the right to opt out of the presidential preference election in 2020.”
But Henry pointed out that his party’s decision is not without precedent.
In 1996, Democrats, with the benefit of Bill Clinton in the White House, chose not to participate in the primary process that year. Ditto in 2012 when Barack Obama was seeking re-election.
And Republicans did the same thing in 2004 when George W. Bush was going for a second term.
In years when there is a presidential primary, Arizona law allows anyone to submit paperwork to run. In fact, Arizona has a long history of local wanna-bes who had no illusion of winning but decided perhaps it would be nice to say they ran for president.
In that 2012 primary for example, Arizona Republicans had the option of voting for Tempe attorney Wayne Arnett, Cesar Cisneros from Mesa or Tucsonan Simon Bollander. They submitted their names by the deadline, along with more familiar names like Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, who ultimately became the party’s standard-bearer that year.
But the chances of any Arizonans actually getting to the White House seem infinitesimally slim — and not just because local residents lack the funding of higher-profile contenders.
In fact, Arizona has had its share of those who did have name ID — and some money — in prior races, including Barry Goldwater, Morris K. Udall, Bruce Babbitt and, most recently, John McCain. But the record is so bad that several have repeated a quip originally attributed to Udall that “Arizona is the only state where mothers don’t tell their children they can grow up to be president.”