The Arizona Republican Party selected a new Trump-endorsed chair on Jan. 27 after the former party leader resigned following a bribery controversy.
Ms. Swoboda was elected at the annual GOP meeting held at Dream City Church in north Phoenix on Jan. 27, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. Previously, only elections for the party’s lower-level positions were scheduled for the day.
Three candidates were initially nominated: Ms. Swoboda, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jim O'Connor, and Mesa resident Verl Farnsworth, who ran for the office of president of the United States in 2012.
“Arizona is the key to the presidency,“ she wrote. ”I was proud to have the support of President Trump in this victory to lead the AZGOP into the most important election of our lifetime. Now it’s time to turn out every last vote for the 47th President, DONALD J TRUMP!”
“She is an outstanding person with incredible passion for our Party,” he wrote.
“President Trump and I were VERY proud to endorse Gina. We look forward to restoring Arizona’s faith in elections and winning BIG in 2024.”
The ControversyThe bribery scandal that led to Mr. DeWit’s resignation came to light after The Daily Mail published a recording from March 2023 featuring a conversation between him and Ms. Lake.
In the recording, Mr. DeWit says that “very powerful people” want to keep Ms. Lake out of the Senate race for two years.
“They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is in a big way. So this conversation never happened,” he said.
“This is crazy though. They should want me. I’m a great candidate. People love me. These people are corrupt,” Ms. Lake responded. “This is about defeating Trump, and I think that’s a bad, bad thing for our country ... This is about the final death blow to Trump, and I don’t think that’s good for our country.”
Mr. DeWit agreed: “It’s not ... but at the same time I’m not even sure Trump can win again.”
“Just say, is there a number at which—” Mr. DeWit says before being cut off by Ms. Lake.
“I can be bought? That’s what it’s about,” she says.
Mr. DeWit suggests that he might be killed if the powerful figures behind him offering the bribe were to be exposed.
“Don’t tell anybody we had this conversation,” he warns Ms. Lake.
After the recording was published, Ms. Lake said in an interview with NBC that Mr. DeWit has “got to resign.”
On the same day, Mr. Dewit said he resigned from the post of Arizona GOP chair. In a statement, he accused Ms. Lake’s team of secretly recording their controversial conversation and leaking it to the media.
“I said things I regret, but I realize when hearing Lake’s recording that I was set up,” he said. “I believe she orchestrated this entire situation to have control over the state party.”
During the Jan. 27 election, when Ms. Lake took to the stage to nominate Ms. Swoboda, some audience members booed in an apparent rebuff to her involvement in the bribing scandal.
In an interview with AZCentral, Arizona Speaker of the House Ben Toma said that the recent turmoil was “unfortunate” for the party.
“I hope we can find a way to get united as a party very soon because I think that matters a lot,“ he said. ”It'll make a big difference by the time we get to the general election.”
J.D. Watson, a state committee member from Scottsdale, said he was concerned about the corruption exposed by the scandal.
“I believe that [DeWit] did something wrong. ... He needs to own up to it and stop being the victim.”
Mr. Watson also said he appreciated that Ms. Lake turned down the bribe and potentially leaked her conversation with Mr. DeWit.
“We’re talking six figures, possibly, and she could not be bought.”