Arizona state Rep. Rusty Bowers (R), who gave emotional testimony describing former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, was defeated Tuesday in the Republican primary for a state Senate seat by a Trump-backed candidate.
Former state Sen. David Farnsworth easily won the contest for the seat representing areas east of Mesa. Bowers served in the state legislature for 17 years and is speaker of the Arizona state House. Farnsworth had a lower profile in the state and less campaign money but had a powerful weapon: Trump’s endorsement.
“Rusty Bowers is a RINO coward who participated against the Republican Party in the totally partisan unselect committee of political thugs and hacks the other day and disgraced himself, and he disgraced the state of Arizona,” Trump declared at a rally in Prescott Valley last month, using the acronym for “Republican in name only.” He endorsed Farnsworth on Truth Social earlier in July, saying Bowers needed to lose and that “highly respected David Farnsworth is the man to do it.”
There were relatively few policy differences between the two men, save for their starkly different views on the 2020 election. Bowers’ defeat is another road sign on the Republican Party’s journey toward a fully anti-democratic entity willing to brush aside fair elections, fueled by a personality cult fully dedicated to Trump and his political fortunes.
During a recent debate, Farnsworth said of the 2020 presidential election results: “This is a real conspiracy headed up by the devil himself.” He has also expressed positive views of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory that holds most Democrats are in thrall to a global network of pedophiles. “I have talked to quite a few people who really believe they are good people who are trying to bring out the truth,” he said in text messages to a then-friend who revealed the exchange in 2020.
Bowers became an instant object of scorn among Trump-aligned conservatives when he testified before the House select committee in June. The Arizona GOP’s executive committee formally censured Bowers in July. “He is no longer a Republican in good standing & we call on Republicans to replace him at the ballot box in the August primary,” tweeted state party chair Kelli Ward.
President Joe Biden won Arizona by only about 10,000 votes, which made the state an immediate focus for Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the election. There is zero evidence that any meaningful voter fraud occurred, and subsequent Republican-backed audits found that Biden actually won the state by more than the initial November tally.
Bowers told the Jan. 6 committee that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuilani initiated an extreme pressure campaign immediately after the election, urging Bowers to use his powers as House speaker to substitute Biden electors with electors loyal to Trump to change the Electoral College count. During a phone call, Bowers said, he pressed the duo for their evidence of voter fraud, but they provided none. “We’ve got lots of theories, but we don’t have the evidence,” Giuliani ultimately admitted, according to Bowers’ testimony.
Bowers refused to play along, and he appeared to choke up when he explained to the committee why. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to,” he said. “How else will I ever approach [God] in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask of this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take?”
Democrats did not put forward a candidate in this heavily Republican district, so the November election will be a formality for Farnsworth.