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Arizona Republicans could pick new leader at annual meeting

Republicans from across the state will meet on Saturday and could select a new chairman for the Republican Party of Arizona.

The meeting will take place just days after AZ GOP Chairman Jeff DeWit stepped down after a leaked recording revealed he tried to bribe Kari Lake not to run for U.S. Senate.

Republicans were only scheduled to vote on who will fill lower level positions, like first vice chairman, at the annual meeting at Dream City Church in north Phoenix. Now, party rules will allow members to make a motion to vote on DeWit’s replacement, according to a party spokeswoman.

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Jim O’Connor appears to be a front-runner. O’Connor ran for party chairman in 2017, losing to current Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines by just 37 votes, according to Arizona Capitol Times.

In recent years, O’Connor has made headlines for promoting disproven conspiracy theories about voting machines and accusing election officials of malfeasance without evidence.

A flier circulating online names O’Connor as the “ultra grassroots” candidate to lead the party. And an apparent leaked memo from a Corporation Commission attorney obtained by reporters shows O’Connor requested an opinion on whether he could remain on the commission and serve as party chairman — though Corporation Commission staff did not respond to a request to verify the document’s authenticity. 

The memo indicates O’Connor was asked to serve as the chair of the party. But it was sent on Jan. 8 —  more than two weeks before the Lake recording prompted DeWit to resign.

O’Connor and Corporation Commission staff did not respond to requests for comment. 

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.