Kelly Townsend reelection bid sets up battle with Wendy Rogers

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State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, speaks at the Arizona Capitol on May 8, 2019, in Phoenix. Two high-profile Republican state senators appear ready to go head-to-head in the August primary election after Townsend filed for reelection in the same district she and Sen. Wendy Rogers ended up in after new district maps were adopted. (AP Photo/Bob Christie, File)

Two high-profile Republican state senators appear ready to go head-to-head in the August primary election after Kelly Townsend filed for reelection in the same district she and Wendy Rogers ended up in after new district maps were adopted.

Townsend’s filing for the District 7 seat with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Monday night puts the Apache Junction Republican in the race against Rogers, who lives in Flagstaff.

Both are major supporters of former President Donald Trump and have embraced his unfounded claims that he lost in Arizona due to voter fraud. But Rogers has the president’s endorsement for reelection, and Townsend had been seeking the same for her congressional bid until she dropped that effort last week.

Rogers also has been sweeping up cash donations because of her national profile as an ultra-conservative Trump backer. Her reelection campaign ended 2021 with a staggering $1.57 million in cash on hand. State filings show Townsend has a normal campaign bank account for a GOP candidate in a heavily Republican district, ending 2021 with slightly more than $13,000 in the bank.

Townsend had announced a run for the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District seat that covers parts of Tucson and southeastern Arizona in January. That decision came after a last-minute map change by the state Independent Redistricting Commission put her and Rogers in the same legislative district.

She dropped that bid last week, saying it was partly because a promised Trump endorsement had not materialized.

Rogers was censured by the full Senate last week after her embrace of white nationalism and calls for violence drew bipartisan condemnation. Townsend missed the vote but said later she likely would have backed the formal rebuke. She said she knew that criticism likely jeopardized a Trump endorsement.

Townsend said she understands she is setting up a GOP primary against another sitting senator, but she realized that last week’s events allow her to give voters a choice.

“Hanging out with white supremacists, endorsing them, and declaring them the finest of patriots is all something Wendy Rogers has a constitutional right to do,” Townsend said in a statement. “But good and decent people are also free to find it repulsive and un-American.”

She said the Republican Party is for all Americans, “regardless of their ethnicity or national origin.”

Rogers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Townsend’s decision.

Townsend chairs the Senate Government Committee, where she’s spent the current session pushing out a series of election law revisions mainly prompted by Trump’s claims of problems with the 2020 election.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.