The Gila County Republican Committee this week launched a nearly unprecedented attack on Wendy Rogers, who is seeking to unseat State Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) in the Aug. 3 primary election.
The Republican committee urged voters to support Sen. Allen, claiming Rogers doesn’t technically live in District 6 and has falsely claimed endorsements from prominent Republicans.
However, Rogers has raised some $400,000 for the race, mostly with fundraising appeals saying hateful, socialist Democrats will destroy the country if they’re not stopped. Few of her fundraising appeals have mentioned any local or state legislative issues.
Gila County Republican Chair Gary Morris in a release concluded, “it’s the committee’s opinion that anyone with practical logic, and an open mind, can see that candidate Roger’s claim of a legitimate primary residency in Flagtaff is a scam. With much of the $400,000 in contributions coming from out of state, who will Rogers be beholding to? Roger’s history of fowl (cq) ethics in previous, and in the current campaign, hurt the reputations of all Republicans and the Gila County Republican Committee cannot support her campaign tactics.”
The Rogers campaign dismissed the allegations as a “smear” based on “lies.”
“This is nothing but a bunch of losers trying to dig up fake dirt on Wendy,” said Eric Frizzell, the campaign’s “Fake News Response Director.”
He said that Rogers does live in the Flagstaff mobile home and only visits her home in Phoenix now to visit her grandchildren.
Frizzell said Rogers has collected 1,350 donations from Arizona residents “drastically more than Sylvia has, that’s for sure. Also, Sylvia has donations from over 40 PAC’s and lobbyists. Wendy has zero.”
State law requires state legislative candidates to live in the district they represent. Rep. Brenda Barton is now running to regain her District 6 seat, but when she served in the district previously, reportedly maintained both an apartment in Payson and a home in Safford. Democratic opponents tried to raise that issue unsuccessfully. Currently, Rep. Paul Gosar’s Republican primary opponent – former teacher and businesswoman Anne Marie Ward – has insisted Gosar lives in a Flagstaff home outside the district rather than a rented apartment in Prescott that’s inside the district. However, federal law does not require congressmen to live in the district they represent.
Rogers has mostly campaigned on national issues. In her most recent fundraising appeal, Rogers said “make no mistake, the Left wants to take our country, our property, our faith, our safety, and our very country. I mean to stop them. The extreme Socialists have arrived – and they will not negotiate or have mercy on any citizens. Remember how merciless Stalin and Mao were to those who opposed them? These extreme Democrats are the modern-day equivalent of Stalinists…The Democrats hate America. Socialism always arrives by the ballot box but leaves by the bullet box. We cannot let this happen!”
The appeal doesn’t mention what office she’s seeking.
A retired Air Force fighter pilot and business consultant, Rogers has run for office five times without success. In 2018, she won the Republican nomination to run against Democrat Tom O’Halleran, who went on to win the seat for the district that represents the White Mountains, the Apache and Navajo reservations and most of eastern Arizona.
The Rural Arizona PAC has run ads boosting Rogers and attacking Sen. Allen. The ads claim that Sen. Allen has failed to support police by not voting for bills protecting Good Samaritans who rescue children from danger, providing police officers mental health treatment if they suffer trauma on the job and providing benefits to permanently injured officers. The fine print in the ad cited House Bill 2502, House Bill 2190 and House Bill 2492. The bills by that number on the state’s legislative tracker all passed by huge margins with virtually no one in opposition, which suggests Sen. Allen merely missed the roll-call vote. Allen’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations in Rogers’ ad.
Meanwhile, the American Federation for Children maintains a website attacking Wendy Rogers and boosting Sylvia Allen.
The US Supreme Court has overturned most restrictions on outside spending by special interest groups, individuals, corporations and political action committees, making it increasingly difficult to figure out who’s paying for political mailings and advertising.
The Gila County Republicans normally don’t take a position in a party primary.
However, the letter indicated that the committee considered Rogers such a flawed candidate that she might lose in the general election.
Retired Army nurse, medivac pilot and colonel Felica French is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the district, which runs from Flagstaff, through the Verde Valley and Rim Country and on into the White Mountains. The seat’s considered one of the state’s most competitive, with registered Independents accounting for a nearly a third of the voters. French has so far run a low-key campaign, interrupted by a three-month trek on the 800-mile-long Arizona Trail and work as a nurse on the Navajo Reservation to help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic there. She has stressed bolstering the state’s schools and improving both the public health system and environmental regulations.
Morris’ letter blasted Rogers’ for claiming endorsements from various Republican officials, including former US Congressman Matt Salmon, former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Rep. Debbie Lesko and retired US Sen Jon Kyl. The endorsements apparently stemmed from her race for Congress in 2018, not from the current effort to unseat Allen.
“If she wins the primary, she will be a weak candidate going up against a Democrat in November general election who will most certainly campaign on these irregularities. Concerns about her legal residency could result in Rogers removal from the race,” wrote Morris. The letter from Morris also claimed Rogers had not been endorsed by the National Association for Gun Rights Political Action Committee.
The allegation Rogers claimed endorsements she hadn’t received grew out of a story on the website Arizona Monitor. The Roundup briefly posted a story based on that story, but took down the article when several of the people who supposedly endorsed Rogers said they had not done so. The Roundup never printed the story and Rogers campaign has not apparently claimed the endorsements.
“Those other endorsements were from 2018 and were listed on an archived page from the last cycle that has never been announced or said this cycle,” wrote Frizzell.
Frizzell provided a letter with an endorsement from the National Association for Gun Rights Political Action Committee.
Sen. Allen has spawned controversy in the past, but rarely for a lack of outspoken conservatism.
The offspring of a pioneering White Mountains Church of Latter Day Saints family, the Snowflake Republican has championed the school choice movement and founded and for a time operated a charter school. Allen came to politics initially through the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” a push to force the federal government to turn over its lands to the states. She’s made national headlines from time to time, including declaring the Earth to be 6,000 years old, suggesting increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would mostly make crops grow better, seeking to ban the word “homosexuality” from school curriculum, suggesting immigration was leading to the “browning” of America, suggesting the country would be better off if people were required to go to church, suggesting the “feminist” movement was destroying American families and pushing for programs to increase the amount of public money going to private and religious schools.
She has also risen to the top ranks of legislative leadership, advocated for rural counties and towns and pushed for education reforms – including eliminating Common Core and other national educational standards.