GOP spat evident in vote over Kelli Ward's State Senate seat

Battle lines being drawn for next year's State Senate primary

Sonny Borrelli

Sonny Borrelli

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Board of Supervisors will have three Lake Havasu City residents to choose from Tuesday when members are expected to appoint someone to replace now former state Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, but not everybody is happy with the choices - or the way a meeting to choose the nominees was carried out.

Ward resigned her seat last Tuesday in order to run a fulltime campaign against Sen. John McCain for the U.S. Senate.

The nominees selected at Saturday's precinct committee members' meeting in the Lake Havasu City Library are: Sue Donahue, LaJuana Gillette and George Schnittgrund, but the process in which they were selected has some people seeing red.

"Unfortunately, only 41 of the 83 (precinct committee members) actually appeared in person, with the other 42 precinct committee members' votes by proxy - which were carried by only three to four people," said Steve Robinson, the District 1 director of the Mohave County Republican Party. "Most of those represented by proxy are from Lake Havasu City and have never attended a Central Committee meeting. It was a direct slap in the face of all active PCs (precinct committee members) who have been appointed to office, but were not eligible to vote."

The legislative district includes all of Mohave and LaPaz counties and a small portion of Maricopa, but only those who live in Mohave County could participate, since Ward lives in Mohave County.

'Orchestrated travesty'

Robinson made it clear his choice was state Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City. Borrelli and Ron Gould, a former state senator who was term-limited in 2012 and also a Lake Havasu City resident, have announced intentions to run for Ward's seat. According to Borrelli, Gould did not want the nomination because he didn't want to be beholden to the board of supervisors instead of to the public, and Gould, said Robinson, encouraged his supporters not to vote for Borrelli "so that he wouldn't have the advantage of incumbency in next year's primary election."

Robinson said Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, Donohue and Gillette "orchestrated this travesty."

When asked if he thought Saturday's meeting was a political move, Borrelli said, "Yes. It was Buster Johnson and Ron Gould."

There are a pair of Republican women clubs in Lake Havasu City, he said, and there's bad blood between the two. Borrelli said a member of the one Donohue is the president of "ran around getting proxy votes," and when those votes were made Saturday, a block of them had the three nominees' names.

From Borrelli's perspective, the proxy votes were legitimate, but that doesn't mean the people who gave their proxy knew who would be voted for.

"It's really shameful when half of the PCs don't show up," Borrelli said.

Borrelli said he is still a legislator and still the chairman or vice chairman of key committees.

"I will continue to perform and get things done, and Ron Gould will still criticize me," he said.

Borrelli also predicted Donohue would likely be picked to fill Ward's seat since she has more experience than the other two.

"She can obviously lean on Buster for advice," he quipped.

The question yet to be answered, will whomever is selected act as a placeholder for the next year or will he or she file for a full term? "Whoever the placeholder is, I hope they work with Gina and me," said Borrelli, referring to Rep. Gina Cobb, R-Kingman, who holds the other county slot in the state House of Representatives.

Attempts to contact Gould were not immediately successful. However, he told the Arizona Republic earlier this month that he thinks the appointment process "smacks of cronyism. The supervisors choose you, so you owe them. It looks like a group of good ol' boys appointing another good ol' boy, and I'm not a good ol' boy."

That didn't keep Gould from nominating Schnittgrund, who was one of a handful of people who carried several proxy votes from precinct committee members - and all of them were for him, Donohue and Gillette.

Cobb was also upset over the way Saturday's meeting went down. She also supported Borrelli, but her main concern is that whoever is chosen works with the county's representatives in the Legislature.

She was very upset with the roughly 50 percent of committee members who didn't show up, but allowed their vote to be cast by proxy.

"This is the most important thing they do," she said. "This is one of the most important votes they will make and they couldn't be bothered to show up. I don't understand it. I really don't."