Kelli Ward, chair of Arizona’s GOP, was in the news last week — and, as per usual, for all the wrong reasons.

First, the Arizona Republic revealed Ward and the GOPs plans to bypass next year’s Republican presidential preference election in hopes of sparing President Donald Trump any sort of primary challenge (read: embarrassment).

Then, on Friday last week, the Republic unearthed a fundraising email sent by Ward the day before that had been directed at Mark Kelly, the former astronaut and Navy captain currently running for Martha McSally’s Senate seat.

"We'll stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks," Ward wrote.

Kelly is the spouse of former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in her head during the Jan. 8, 2011 mass shooting that claimed the lives of six others and physically wounded 18 more.

Based solely on the above facts, Ward’s email comes off as one of the most tone-deaf, obtuse statements made in modern Arizona politics in some time. Due to that, you can understand why such a crass comment would draw just a tad of criticism.

Justifiably, Ward faced that criticism from all across the political spectrum.

"This dangerous rhetoric has absolutely no place in Arizona and is what’s wrong with our politics," said Jacob Peters, a spokesman for Kelly's campaign. "Mark Kelly is running for Senate to overcome this type of nasty divisiveness that does nothing for Arizonans."

Even McSally, whose campaign the email in question was sent in support of, came out against Ward’s messaging.

“As you know in this climate, I think we all need to be deliberate with our words," McSally said in a KTAR interview. "Look, I don’t agree with Mark Kelly, I think he’s out-of-step with Arizona on this issue, but those are definitely the words that I would not have used."

Ward has been characteristically defiant to the condemnation, insisting she meant nothing by the use of the term “dead in his tracks.” Indicative of the times, she took to Twitter to defend herself.

“Utterly ridiculous! I don't wish harm on Mr. Kelly,” she tweeted. “We disagree politically on the Constitution and the #2a, and I'm well aware of the harm his policies would cause should he ever be elected. Dishonest stories like this are dangerous and irresponsible!”

With Ward, it’s tempting to chalk this latest statement up to her propensity for gaffes, especially considering this is the same person who insinuated John McCain was dying to take publicity off her train-wreck of a Senate campaign.

However, when taking into account Ward’s “target” in this missive, it’s obvious that her use of the idiom was at best irresponsible, and at worst deliberately directed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It’s no secret that Kelly and Giffords have become the face of common-sense gun control in this country, and the couple has leaned into that image by helping start the non-profit Americans for Responsible Solutions — which has evolved into Giffords: The Courage to Fight Gun Violence, and advocates for reform and supports candidates sympathetic to the cause.

Ward’s statement plays into a trumped-up, anti-government narrative where Kelly, Giffords and Democrats are bad guys who need to be dealt with. It’s false, dangerous and contributes nothing positive to the body politic.

But it probably hit its target.

Opinion Writer

Edward graduated from the University of Arizona and started at the Star in 2019. He was born in Tucson, but grew up in Casa Grande and Chandler. Previously, he was a reporter and editor for Pima Community College's Aztec Press, and the UA's Daily Wildcat.