Arizona GOP chairman resigns after audio of conversation with Kari Lake released

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(The Center Square) – Jeff DeWit is resigning as the Arizona Republican Party chairman.

An audio recording of a conversation from earlier in 2023 was released on Tuesday, in which DeWit was speaking with Senate candidate Kari Lake about people “back east” not wanting her to run. He said that people were willing to give her money or a job instead while waiting out for a possible 2026 comeback run for governor, according to the recording published by the Daily Mail.

“There are very powerful people who want to keep you out, and what they’re willing to do is put their money where their mouth is in a big way,” he said at one point to Lake.

In his statement, he said that the conversation was a “set up” by Lake while she was an employee at his company between her run for governor and Senate. It’s unclear which companyor what her job was at the time. Her campaign’s “war room” account tweeted that her being an employee to DeWit is “false.”

“Contrary to accusations of bribery, my discussions were transparent and intended to offer perspective, not coercion,” DeWit said, thinking the conversation was an “unguarded exchange between friends” at her house.

However, DeWit said that because she was an employee, there are “serious legal and moral concerns” with the conversation being recorded.

“I can’t be bribed. I can’t be bought. I’m only in this for my children and the state of Arizona,” Lake tweeted on Wednesday after news of his resignation broke with a link to donate to her campaign.

DeWit also alleges that Lake’s campaign threatened to release a “new, more damaging recording” that he was “truly unsure of its contents,” but it prompted him to step down.

However, two of Lake’s senior advisors, Garrett Ventry and Caroline Wren, said in a statement that DeWit is making false claims.

“No one from the Kari Lake campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit,” they said, adding that “the tape speaks for itself.”

“It is unfortunate that DeWit hasn’t recognized how unethical his behavior was and still hasn’t apologized to Arizona Republicans,” they continued.

Lake is expected to discuss the situation in a Rumble livestream on Wednesday night.

The timing of the leak comes as the state party’s annual meeting at north Phoenix’s Dream City Church will be on Saturday. Before the meeting, former President Donald Trump will speak at the church on Friday evening. DeWit was elected to a two-year term at last year’s meeting, succeeding Kelli Ward.

He previously worked on Trump’s presidential campaign as Arizona’s treasurer from 2015 to 2018 and was the Chief Financial Officer of NASA from 2018 to 2020 under the Trump administration. As for DeWit’s replacement, expelled state Rep. Liz Harris’ name was floated, but she told Axios on Wednesday that she does not want the job. Axios is also reporting that the party could elect a new chair at the Saturday meeting.

Former state Rep. Jill Norgaard is currently serving as chair.

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