Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House who delivered gripping testimony earlier this summer to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, lost his bid for a state Senate seat on Tuesday to a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump, NBC News projected.
Armed with Trump’s endorsement, former state Sen. David Farnsworth held a lead of more than 20 points over Bowers in their bid for Arizona’s 10th District as of 1:15 a.m. ET.
Bowers, who testified to the committee of the effort by Trump and his allies to get him to overturn the 2020 election in his state, told NBC News last month it would be difficult for him to pull off a victory in his state Senate race.
“It’s so hostile,” Bowers said then of the political environment in a phone interview, noting the overwhelming pro-Trump preference of his state Senate district, Arizona’s 10th. “If I pull this off, it’s going to be a miracle.”
Just weeks after Bowers’ testimony, the Arizona Republican Party censured him, saying he “has demonstrated he is unfit to serve the platform of the Republican Party of Arizona and the will of the voter of the Republican Party in Arizona” and called on voters “to expel him permanently from office.”
It is highly unusual for a state party to make such a proclamation ahead of a contested primary.
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Trump attacked Bowers on Monday on his Truth Social platform, writing: “Remember Arizona, your so-called ‘Speaker,’ Rusty (an appropriate name because he is Rusty, just like steel gets rusty and weak) Bowers, is absolutely terrible.”
He called on Arizonans to “Vote him out!”
Bowers, who has served a combined 17 years between Arizona’s state House and Senate, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award this year for his handling of the post-election period. His race served as the first and possibly only test this cycle of whether a Republican can publicly cross Trump before the Jan. 6 panel and still win a GOP primary — one that took place while Bowers’ testimony was still fresh in voters’ minds.
Weeks ago, the conservative legislator told the committee he knew Trump and his allies were pursuing an unconstitutional effort in trying to have him invalidate the 2020 election in his state, which President Joe Biden narrowly carried.
“It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired, that this is my most basic foundational belief,” Bowers, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the committee. “And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to, is foreign to my very being; I will not do it.”
Speaking with NBC News, Bowers described the response to his testimony in his district as mixed.
“Among my friends and people that I know personally in the district, it’s been good,” he said. “But generally, it is not seen as good. It’s been: ‘There you go. The traitor.'”
He also said he disagreed with people who tell him his decision to testify took courage.
“I don’t see me having some courageous Don Quixote-esque [moment]. Maybe that’s it, but certainly not a Joan of Arc,” Bowers said. “But I did what I had to do. I knew that there might be consequences, and in some cases, I knew that it would end relationships. But I have to tell the truth. That’s it. Beyond that, nothing else.”
Soon after Bowers’ public testimony, Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of Farnsworth.
Bowers described Farnsworth as a back-bencher who “did exactly zero” while previously serving in the state Senate for eight years.
The House speaker promoted legislative wins from his most recent term, including overseeing the passage of a budget package with bipartisan support and legislation intended to bring new water sources to the state — one in which conservation issues loom large.
Farnsworth touted his Trump endorsement prominently, while also claiming to be the best candidate to tackle inflation, migration at the border and overhaul elections.
Asked what a Farnsworth win would say about the state of the party, Bowers said then: “It says that Mr. Trump has, there’s a very, I would almost call it cultic appeal.”