Hell hath no fury like a trans lady scorned, as perennial candidate Kelli Ward has learned by way of a dust-up with conservative activist and former U.S. Senatorial write-in candidate Joanne Selena Lopez Cervantez.
Seems the hapless Ward desperately wanted to be a speaker at the recent Arizona March4Trump rally on the lawn of the state Senate. She was turned down, according to event organizer Barb Heller, because she already has declared herself a candidate against U.S. Senator Jeff Flake in the 2018 GOP primary.
Heller explained her reasoning during an interview for this piece: The theme of the event was unity and support for the president, and the event's sponsor, the nativist biker group, Riders USA, is a nonprofit, and cannot be seen favoring one candidate over another.
Nevertheless, as the rally date approached, Ward schemed for a turn at the mic. In a purported text message from Ward to an event participant, she practically begged for some podium time.
Then she lashed out at one of those already billed for the pro-Trump hootenanny.
"Joanne Lopez is speaking?!" reads the screenshot now being passed around Facebook. "Really? Are we now about transgender issues in the GOP?"
Cervantez, who self-identifies as transsexual, gave one of the better speeches at the Trump rally, mentioning her gender identity briefly and thanking her fellow Trumpkins for the support they'd shown her.
The Peeples Valley resident has posted the screenshot of the Ward text to her Facebook page, and has been ripping both Ward and hubby, Michael, new ones online.
In a back and forth with Cervantez on Facebook, Michael Ward called the rally "an event planned by a bunch of Kelli haters." He bragged about how much campaigning he and his wife did at the shindig.
After the exchange turned testy, Michael Ward ended by advising Cervantez to "stay off of the crack."
Cervantez has since posted a YouTube video about the Ward text message and Michael Ward's Facebook comments.
"Not only is she a bitch, and short," Cervantez says of Kelli Ward in the video, "but she also has the audacity to say that the GOP is about transgender issues? Dude, how much bile can you spew and just show your true colors?"
When I contacted Cervantez, she said she laughed when the screenshot was forwarded to her, because she knew the backstory of why Ward was not a speaker at the Trump rally.
"Seeing that I was listed as a speaker, it probably really bunched up her knickers in her ass," Cervantez told me. "She was absolutely informed ahead of time that she would not be allowed to speak, because she had already declared herself a candidate."
Cervantez went on to say that Ward "is not very popular," and that this is borne out by the support Cervantez has received from all sorts of people across the political spectrum. She said conservatives generally have been very welcoming to her after she declared her gender identity, and she painted Ward as an outlier.
"When I saw that [text], I didn't feel offended," said Cervantez. "I felt more like, 'What are you doing to yourself? Why are you giving me ammunition?'"
I called and texted Ward seeking comment for the article. A spokesman for Ward did call back, asking me to e-mail a request to him. I did this and have followed up several times, but to no avail.
[Note: The original recipient of the text has vouched for the screenshot's legitimacy and that the message came from Ward.]
Heller said she saw Ward's text as a sign that Ward is "not a very smart politician."
The organizer was also annoyed that even after being told she could not be a speaker, Ward showed up anyway, rode in with the bikers, handed out Ward for Senate stickers, and shot a Facebook live video with some of her supporters in the background.
"She tried to turn it into exactly what it shouldn't have been, a Kelli Ward political rally," Heller told me.
Granted, Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit spoke at the rally, as well. He also is seen as a possible Flake challenger, but DeWit has yet to declare. Moreover, DeWit has held high positions both in the Trump campaign and the Trump transition staff.
Unlike Ward, DeWit actually could give Flake a real challenge next year, whereas "Chemtrail Kelli" — so called because she once held a town hall concerning the conspiracy theory — has the L-mark on her forehead, after losing last year's GOP primary for U.S. Senate to grizzled ol' warhorse John McCain by 11 points.
But Ward wasn't the only person offended by Cervantez's being a speaker.
Heller conceded that Cervantez's appearance at the rally was controversial, as was the appearance of Roberta Stewart.
The Gold Star Widow and Wiccan was successful in her fight with the Veterans Administration to include the Wiccan pentacle as one of many approved religious symbols to be used in memorial plaques and headstones for fallen soldiers.
Stewart spoke briefly to the crowd on March 4, but some other speakers declined to participate in the rally, according to Heller, after learning about Stewart and Cervantez being on the bill.
"I expected shots from the other side," Heller said. "But not from within."
She recounted one tongue-lashing she gave to a person opposed to Stewart.
"Can't you get past the Wiccan part?" she recalled saying. "She's a Gold Star Widow. Her husband died for you to be a fucking bigot."
On a related matter, Heller confirmed that the private militia patrolling the state Senate grounds for the rally was the Arizona Liberty Guard.
Though the heavily armed group refused to identify themselves to reporters, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog was the first to ID the group, which has a Facebook page, with photos of the militia training in the desert.
Heller said her contact with the group was a man calling himself "Tony Roman."
There is a listing with the Arizona Corporation Commission for an "Arizona Liberty Guard LLC," for which Evelyn and Anthony Wilk are listed, respectively, as "manager" and "member."
I contacted Evelyn Wilk by phone and identified myself. She asked if I was the same guy who had been following them around filming them at the March4Trump rally.
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I replied in the affirmative, and she hung up on me.
Messages sent to the ALG's Facebook page and to the Wilks' Facebook pages have yet to be returned.
Interestingly, Heller told me that ALG was so well outfitted — with helmets, AR-15s, fatigues, and related gear — that some at the rally mistook the group for the Arizona National Guard.