At face value, it may not seem especially remarkable that a Republican who’s been repeatedly attacked by Donald Trump would announce that he would not vote again for the former president. But when it comes to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, it’s not quite that simple. Talking Point Memo reported:
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) on Sunday clarified that he does not plan to vote for former President Trump again if he were to launch a re-election bid in 2024, a month after saying that he would vote for Trump if the former president challenges President Biden in 2024.
Bowers became a more prominent national figure in June, when the Republican legislator provided gripping and powerful testimony about Trump and the former president’s team pressuring him to violate his oath of office and help overturn the results of the 2020 election.
As we’ve discussed, Bowers spoke with great eloquence about his disappointment with Trump’s illegal scheme and its consequences. In fact, the Republican lawmaker shared painful details of Trump’s rabid followers, fueled by the former president’s lies, going after Bowers, his family, and even his neighbors.
He spoke of video panel trucks with videos that accused him of being a pedophile. Trump followers blared loudspeakers in his neighborhood. An armed man, fueled by conspiracy theories, threatened a neighbor. His gravely ill daughter, who died early last year, was distraught by the drama unfolding outside their family home.
Bowers, however, stood firm. He wrote in his diary, “I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.”
All of which made it extraordinary when the Arizonan told the Associated Press that he was prepared to vote for Trump again anyway — despite knowing that the former president pressed him to help him cheat and told lies that led to his own family being harassed by radicals.
Six weeks later, Bowers sat down with ABC News, and effectively told Jonathan Karl that he’d changed his mind.
“I have thought at times someone born how [Trump] was and raised how he has no idea what a hard life is, and what people have to go through in the real world,” the state House Speaker said. “He has no idea what courage is.”
Referring to the preferred political style of Trump and his acolytes, Bowers added, “They rule by thuggery and intimidation. So, you know, they found a niche, they found a way, and it’s fear — and people can use fear, demagogues like to use fear as a weapon, and they weaponize everything and we all know it — but that’s not leadership to me, to use thuggery.”
Asked about the near future, the Arizona Republican concluded, “My vote will never tarnish his name on a ballot…. I’ll never vote for him.”
The electoral context is of particular interest: Bowers, facing legislative term limits in the state House, is currently running for the state Senate, where he’s facing a Trump-backed rival.
In other words, it’d be in Bowers’ political interests to toe the party line, but he’s choosing not to. The primary is today, and the former president continues to lash out at the legislator.
Bowers recently told NBC News, in reference to his chances in the GOP primary, “If I pull this off, it’s going to be a miracle.”