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Trump endorses AZ Congressman who isn't a MAGA Republican. GOP consultants say it helps them both

Man in suit in front of American flag
U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani on Feb. 8, 2024.

Last week, former President Donald Trump endorsed Arizona Congressman Juan Ciscomani. Democrats claim that will harm Ciscomani in a competitive district where he needs the support of some moderates, but Republicans say it’s helpful across the board. 

Ciscomani is known as a traditional conservative and not as a far-right or MAGA Republican.

Ciscomani worked as an intern and fellow for two Democrats before serving as a senior adviser in former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s office. 

As for why Trump decided to endorse Ciscomani this year, and not in 2022, longtime Republican consultant Stan Barnes said it’s hard to know. 

“You’ve got to crawl around inside the head of Donald Trump to understand that, and I do not understand it, but I do understand why today,” Barnes said.

He sees the endorsement not as a sign that Ciscomani has drifted to the right, but that Trump wants to align himself with a popular conservative with a good record.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with Juan Ciscomani’s performance in Congress, I think it’s a lot more the other way around. The president is locking arms with Republican incumbents in swing states he cares about,” Barnes said.

Ciscomani is running for reelection in competitive Congressional District 6, encompassing southeast Arizona. 

Democrats seeking to oust Ciscomani pounced on the endorsement, calling it an indication that he is too extreme for the district where he will need to gather the support of moderates. 

Unlike most Trump endorsees, Ciscomani didn’t mention the endorsement on his social media or campaign website.

In a statement, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee attributed Ciscomani’s silence to the endorsement being a “deeply unpopular ‘losing touch’” action.

“Arizona voters understand that a Trump endorsement and divisive MAGA beliefs go hand-in-hand, and they’re fed up by Ciscomani’s constant betrayals,” DCCC spokesperson Lauryn Fanguen said in the statement.

However, Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesperson for Ciscomani’s campaign, says Ciscomani is grateful and supports Trump in turn.

“Juan is grateful for the endorsement. It’s mutual — he’s endorsed President Trump and looks forward to both of them winning in November!” Scarpinato said in a text.

Ciscomani stands out among the other Trump endorsees for Congress in Arizona; Eli Crane, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and Abe Hamadeh.

Crane, Gosar, and Biggs are all partof the far-right congressional Freedom Caucus and all have either said the 2020 election was stolen or, in Biggs’ case, simply said the results can’t be trusted. 

Hamadeh hasn’t been elected, so he’s not a member of any caucuses, but he too has claimed many times that the 2020 election was stolen. He’s also argued that his loss to Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes in 2022 was the result of fraud.

Ciscomani on the other hand doesn’t call himself a member of the Freedom Caucus and skirts away from claims of election fraud.

“He does not comport himself in the same spirit as Congressman Gosar, Biggs or Crane but he’s also not serving their districts,” Barnes said. “He’s serving his district, and his district is a different district.”

Ciscomani has even earned the ire of some far-right Republicans in the past like Tyler Bowyer, the COO of conservative activist organization Turning Point USA’s political arm. Bowyer was recently indicted as one of Arizona’s 11 “fake electors.”

“Somebody prominent needs to step up & primary Juan Ciscomani. You would get the Trump + grassroots endorsements & annihilate his short Congressional record,” Bowyer tweeted last year.“Easy to win district with turnout in Presidential for a conservative. May be equally as important than the AZ Senate race!”

But this is a new year.

In 2020, Trump lost CD6. But in 2022, Ciscomani won it. It’s a key area for the 2024 election.

Republican consultant Matt Kenney grew up in CD6 and believes the endorsement is mutually beneficial. 

“Currently, Trump is winning CD6 given his statewide numbers. Biden won it by 400 votes, and you could most certainly find 400 people who have changed their mind. No question — this helps Juan,” Kenney said in a text.

Trump endorsed Arizona candidates for statewide office in 2022, but they didn’t do well. Trump endorsees Kari Lake, Hamadeh and Mark Finchem, along with U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, all lost their elections. 

Democrats are betting that this year will be the same, but Republicans don’t think that in Ciscomani’s case.

Barnes predicts that both Trump and Ciscomani will be successful in their elections this year.

“Supporting the Republican incumbent, who happens to be a border congressman, is good politics for the president and I believe it is good politics for Juan Ciscomani,” Barnes said.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.