By JONATHAN J. COOPER and BOB CHRISTIE
PHOENIX (AP) — Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed the Republican running against Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who last week gave powerful testimony to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Bowers, who is blocked by term limits from seeking another term in the Arizona House, is running for an open seat in the state Senate. Trump praised his GOP primary rival, former Sen. David Farnsworth, for supporting the lie that the 2020 election was marred by fraud.
“Bowers must be defeated, and highly respected David Farnsworth is the man to do it,” Trump said in his endorsement. “He will straighten things out and secure your Border.”
In his testimony last week, Bowers walked through what started with a Trump phone call on a Sunday after he returned from church. The defeated president laid out a proposal to have the state replace its electors for President Joe Biden with others favoring Trump.
“I said, ‘Look, you’re asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, ’” Bowers testified.
Bowers insisted on seeing Trump’s evidence of voter fraud, which he said Trump’s team never produced beyond vague allegations. He recalled Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani later told him, “We’ve got lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Bowers earned national acclaim with his folksy recitation of the pressure he faced from Trump and his allies, including angry and noisy protests outside his home as his adult daughter lay dying inside from an extended illness.
His performance also drew scorn from Trump allies. Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward tweeted her own support for Farnsworth the next day.
Bowers said in an interview with The Associated Press that day that he thinks the voters will back him because of his honesty.
“Frankly, we feel good that this will will bring out a large independent group who finally see somebody that they feel they can put some confidence in as Republicans” Bowers said. “I think that’s our strongest part.”
The Legislature’s 2022 session ended last week and early ballots will be mailed out next week for the Aug. 2 primary. Bowers said he’s focused on winning the seat in the east Phoenix suburb of Mesa.
He said the voters will decide whether it is him or Farnsworth they want in the state Senate.
“But it’s not David Farnsworth — it’s Donald Trump,” Bowers said. “David is just a surrogate. And if they want Donald Trump in this position, they they should vote for David.”
Bowers did make some waves when he told the AP before he testified in Washington last week that he would vote for Trump again if the choice were between him and President Joe Biden.
That comment ended up in national headlines, since it came in the same interview where he called the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election unconstitutional. He said that Trump’s actions have hurt the nation and created distrust in elections, which he said are fair.
He has worked to clarify that remark since it was published. He told the AP that he’s even more opposed to Trump after appearing before the commission investing the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. He said he was floored while hearing first hand what Trump did to other officials, including pushing Georgia Secretary of State Brad Brad Raffensperger to find the 11,000 votes Trump would need to reverse is loss in the Peach state.
“I want a robust, open, fair, honest primary election, and I want choices other than Donald J. Trump,” Bowers said. “And there are some great choices available, and I hope we can get them over a finish line and not him.”
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