The chairman of Arizona’s Republican Party, Jeff DeWit, has stepped down following the release of a leaked tape where he appears to be trying to persuade Senate candidate Kari Lake to withdraw from the race. On the recording, DeWit discusses the possibility of Lake taking a political “pause” as influential figures desire her exit. While he denies any bribery, Lake, an ally of Donald Trump, narrowly lost the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race and is now aiming for a Senate seat.
The leaked tape, recorded at Lake’s house 10 months ago, captures DeWit alluding to unnamed “very powerful people” from the East who want to keep her out of the race. He suggests placing her on company payroll in exchange for a two-year hiatus, urging her to keep the conversation confidential. Despite these discussions, Lake rejects the idea of being bought.
The concern among Arizona Republicans is that Lake’s confrontational political style may alienate moderate voters, jeopardising the party’s control of the Senate. In the recording, DeWit expresses doubts about Trump’s chances in the presidential election due to fundraising issues, a point of disagreement with Lake.
In response to the controversy, DeWit resigned, citing an ultimatum from Lake’s team: “Resign or face the release of a new, more damaging recording.” He accuses Lake of being on a mission to destroy him but maintains that his discussions aimed to offer perspective, not coercion.
This development follows a trend of changes in Republican leadership within states. In Florida, chairman Christian Ziegler was voted out amid sexual assault allegations, even though he was cleared by police. In Michigan, Kristina Karamo was removed as party chair due to internal conflicts and fundraising challenges.
Lake welcomed DeWit’s departure, emphasising the need for ethical leadership and addressing corruption within and outside the party.