(MESA, Arizona) — Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers may lose his Republican primary for an open state senate seat this week, after he testified to the Jan. 6 committee about the pressure campaign from former President Donald Trump and his associates to undo the presidential election results in the state.
Bowers has drawn the ire of the Arizona GOP, who censured him earlier this month, and of former President Trump. But he’s unapologetic about his congressional testimony and his decision not to overturn the Arizona’s results.
“If we want to base a party and an authority and move people to solve problems, you can’t base it on a lie. Ultimately, that falls apart,” he told “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview at his home in Mesa, Arizona.
Bowers faces Trump-endorsed candidate David Fansworth in an Aug. 2 primary that makes Bowers the first Republican to face voters after testifying before the Jan. 6 committee.
“I’ve had people walk up and say, you know, just cold turkey, ‘I’m ashamed of you,"” he told Karl.
Bowers says he’s also been called a “traitor” and has been told that “the price of treason is hanging.”
In his June testimony, Bowers detailed several conversations with former President Trump and his then-personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, asking him to replace Arizona’s electors with ones who would say Trump won the 2020 election.
Biden won Arizona in 2020 by almost 11,000 votes.
“Did you ever consider going along with it?” Karl asked Bowers.
“I said, this is new to me. The idea of throwing out the election of the president is like, okay, so what part of Jupiter do I get to land on and colonize?” Bowers said.
Giuliani “never” provided any evidence to back up claims that thousands of dead people voted in Arizona, Bowers said.
“You asked [Giuliani] for evidence of fraud?” asked Karl.
“Over and over, and he said, ‘yes, yes.’ And he never gave us anything. No names, no data, nothing.”
Bowers, who is term-limited in the state house, previously said it would take a “miracle” for him to win his bid for state senate. He told Karl “the demographics of my race are heavily Trump.”
In an unusual move for a state legislature race, former President Trump has campaigned against Bowers in Arizona.
“Rusty Bowers, he’s a RINO [‘Republican in name only’] 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,” he told a crowd in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on July 22.
In response, Bowers told Karl, “I have thought at times, someone born how he was, raised how he was — he has no idea what a hard life is, and what people have to go through in the real world. He has no idea what courage is, and the last place on Earth that I would want to do evil would be the state of Arizona.”
A fifth-generation Arizonan, Bowers has held state public office for 17 years. Bowers has, like other Republicans who have broken with the former President, faced harassment and threats.
“How do you explain the hold that he has, though, on, on Republicans, including a lot of Republican leaders right here in Arizona?” Karl asked Bowers.
“Well, those leaders in Arizona are an interesting group in and of themselves. They rule by thuggery and intimidation,” Bower said. “So, you know, they, they found a niche, they found a way and it’s fear. And people can use fear, demagogues like to use fears as a weapon. And they weaponize everything. That’s not leadership to me to use thuggery.”
After his testimony, Bowers faced criticism for telling a reporter that he would vote for Pres. Trump in 2024. He told Karl that’s absolutely not the case.
“So, just to clarify, you’re not supporting Trump again?” Karl asked.
“I’m not,” said Bowers. “My vote will never tarnish his name on a ballot.”
“You’re never again gonna vote for Donald Trump?” Karl reiterated.
“I’ll never vote for him,” Bowers replied. “But I won’t have to, because I think America’s tired. And there’s absolutely forceful, qualified, morally, defensible, and upright people. And that’s what I want. That’s what I want in my party. And that’s what I want to see.”
When asked if former President Trump could ever be trusted in a position of authority again, Bowers said, “I would certainly hope not. I certainly don’t trust that authority that he would exercise.”
Bowers echoed the words of Jan. 6 House committee vice chair, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump after the Capitol riot.
“Liz also said that ‘the reality that we face today as Republicans is we have to choose to be loyal to Donald Trump, or to be loyal to the Constitution.’ And you can’t be both,” Karl said.
“I don’t see a question at all there. No question. The Constitution was designed to last and be the light of freedom to the whole world. That’s not a legacy that I would want to play with,” said Bowers.
Bowers also told Karl he hasn’t been contacted by the Justice Department, which is conducting its own investigation into the Capitol attack, but would cooperate if asked to do so.
“I have nothing to hide and I want to tell the truth,” he said.
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