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Ultra-conservative GOP lawmaker vying for Maricopa County Recorder

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A state lawmaker affiliated with the conservative Freedom Caucus in the state House of Representatives announced Wednesday that he is running for Maricopa County Recorder.

With the support of many liberal members on Capitol Hill, Rep. Justin Heap, R-Mesa, spoke about his candidacy and his caucus' goal of unseating current Republican Rep. Stephen Richer of Record.

“Ensuring that voters have confidence in elections and that Election Day in Arizona is conducted honestly, transparently and securely is the civil rights issue of our time,” Heap said.

The first-term lawmaker has been one of the vocal critics of the Maricopa County Legislature in recent elections. He said one of his goals was to end the “over-politicization” of the government that existed under Richer and his predecessor Andrian Fontes.

Heap did not directly answer questions about whether he believed the 2022 election was stolen from Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, saying he would only make statements he believed were provable. After multiple reporters asked questions, he ended a press conference announcing his candidacy.

“It's clear that the current county recorder's incompetence fosters a belief among all voters that things aren't getting better. They're not crazy when they look at our system. “The whole country is looking at Maricopa County and saying why can't we hold elections like other states,” Heap said.

But he also promised to treat as sacrosanct the right of individuals of any political party to vote.

“If I run in the future and the Democrats win, at least all voters will know that they won fairly and that both parties had an equal opportunity to vote,” Heap said. Told. “That is the path our party and country should take.”

In a text to reporters Wednesday, Richer said his office is already doing what Heap is asking for with integrity, transparency and security.

Throughout his tenure, Richer has repeatedly said that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election fairly and legally, which he said was to his political detriment.

Richer said he has emphasized transparency in his tours and other positive public relations efforts during his tenure.

“Safe? Come visit our facility. It's like Fort Knox. Over the past three years, we've worked hard to strengthen the security of our voters, election workers, and ballots,” Richer said. Ta. “Those are great catchphrases, but there's no detail on (how) we're short in any capacity.”

There are currently five Republicans participating in the Maricopa County Recorder primary race, including Richer, Heap and Richer's 2020 primary candidate, Claire Van Steenwyk. Democrat Timothy Michael Stringham is also running.

Chuck Coughlin, CEO of Highground Consulting Group and a Republican consultant, said Heap's candidacy was backed by former House Speaker Rusty Bowers, former U.S. Sen. Tyler Pace, who represents Mesa, and others. He compared it to other attempts by ultra-conservative Republicans to unseat Republicans seen as more moderate. He said he expected a tight race in the primary, but he didn't think Heap had a chance of winning the general election.

“It's going to be a tough fight. Roughly half of Republican voters believe the (2020) election was stolen. He lives in a space of conspiracy theories that dominate Republican primary politics. , it’s hard to be in that space,” Coughlin said.

Mike Noble, CEO and pollster at Noble Predictive Insights, said the general election is likely to be a little more difficult due to less media coverage and spending from outside groups than other high-profile races. He said there was a chance that Heap would win. But Richer's main advantage was his name recognition and fundraising efforts for his office, which historically has been difficult to raise money for candidates, he said.

“(Richer) is not as weak as his inner-party opponents think he is,” Noble said.

Richer said he would welcome a challenge from any primary adversary.

“The more the merrier,” he said. “But the one who already has signatures, has raised more money than all the other candidates combined, has countywide name ID, and has shown he can win a competitive general election. It’s just me. I’m in this office for a reason.”

According to his January 16 campaign finance report, Mr. Richer has a balance of more than $200,000 in his campaign fund.

Mr. Heap represents the 10th Legislative District, and his father, Ralph Heap, filed on February 10 to run for one of the district's seats in the House of Representatives.

Ralph Heap previously ran for state senate in 2014, but was not nominated in the primary.

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