The activist group Citizens for a Better went to the state GOP headquarters in Phoenix to demand an apology after Maricopa County Republican Party chairman A.J. LaFaro accused the group of voter fraud.
LaFaro drummed up nationwide controversy by implying he witnessed voter fraud when someone with Citizens for a Better Arizona dropped off some voters' completed ballots at the Maricopa County elections headquarters, which is actually a completely legal practice.
"LaFaro started the rumor," CBA organizer Ramiro Luna said to state GOP executive director Chad Heywood, who greeted the protesters in the lobby yesterday. "The Republican Party, the extreme right has been spreading that rumor so much that it has caused much harm. My young canvasser right here, the cops got called on her. We have another canvasser who got put in the back of a cop car because of these statements."
This is something CBA has done for several years now as part of its voter-outreach efforts. When a canvasser speaks to a voter who requested and completed an early-voting ballot, but didn't mail it back, the canvasser will volunteer to bring it to the county election headquarters. Back in 2012, for example, CBA dropped off a couple hundred early ballots amid the successful recall of then-Senate President Russell Pearce, who's currently the First Vice Chairman of the state GOP.
LaFaro had implied that the practice was illegal, and claimed that CBA was taking unfinished ballots from voters and completing them for the voter. Plus, he called the canvasser he ran into at election headquarters a "violent thug," and said he was too scared to follow him out to the parking lot to get his license plate number.
Indeed, it's hard to believe the guy in question comes off as a "violent thug." The man on the video, Ben Marin, is an ASU graduate who's been accepted into a master's program at Grand Canyon University, according to Luna.
"These are my canvassers," Luna said, pointing to the young activists. "By no means are they violent thugs."
"Is this a reflection of the Republican Party?" CBA President Randy Parraz asked the GOP's Heywood. "Do you stand by A.J. LaFaro? Do you stand by those comments? Do you stand by that behavior -- despicable behavior?"
CBA didn't get what it was looking for, but the GOP employees agreed to give their requests to party leadership.
The group also repeated some of the YouTube comments made online in response to LaFaro's account and video, in a demonstration of what LaFaro's caused.
"I want to find this illegal-loving scumbag and kill him," one of the comments said. Later, CBA played some voicemail messages left for CBA president Randy Parraz, which were equally vulgar.
LaFaro's comments and the ensuing hate directed at CBA only seem to have motivated them to ramp up their voter-outreach efforts.
"We have nothing to hide," Luna said. "Unlike them, whenever they get criticism, they hide -- they don't answer to their critics. We're there to show our faces, to say stop, and continue walking, and continue canvassing and continuing to get out the vote. Somebody's here to attack our campaign, to attack our canvassers, we're here to answer back. What we're doing is something to benefit our community and we're not going to let anyone trample on our work."
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The group is planning more action if it doesn't get an apology from LaFaro.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.