Arizona official resigning after secret recording released

PHOENIX (AP) — A recording that emerged of a Republican elected Arizona official criticizing his GOP colleagues for opposing a partisan review of the 2020 election result in Maricopa County led him to announce his resignation just days before the state Senate’s review is set for release.

During the meeting recorded surreptitiously last March, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri suggested two fellow Republican county supervisors opposed the review by Senate Republicans because they nearly lost their own 2020 races.

Chucri apologized in a statement announcing his resignation late Tuesday and said he shouldn’t have made the comments, adding “the political landscape has changed for the worst this year.”

“The environment is wrought with toxicity — and all civility and decorum no longer seem to have a place,” Chucri said. “The fixation with the 2020 election results and aftermath have gotten out of control.”

Fellow Republican board member Bill Gates said Wednesday that he was surprised by Chucri’s decision to step down. He suspects the comments his colleague made to leaders of a group trying to recall the board were an attempt to ingratiate himself with them.

“I would chalk it up to an example of someone telling people what they want to hear. I really do,” Gates told The Associated Press. “Those were the two that led that recall effort against us. And so I think that he thought that’s what they wanted to hear.”

Chucri did not return calls or emails seeking comment on his decision to resign, which is effective Nov. 5.

Maricopa County has become Ground Zero in the effort by supporters of former President Donald Trump to use false accusations of fraud to cast doubt on the 2020 election results. Chucri’s resignation comes as Trump supporters hired by the state Senate Republicans prepare to release their findings from an unprecedented partisan review of the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, the machines that counted them and a variety of other data obtained through a legislative subpoena.

Now-President Joe Biden beat Trump in Maricopa County by 45,109 votes, and won the state with a slim 10,457 vote margin.

Chucri said his comments about his colleagues are being wrongly used to paint a picture “about a cover-up, scam and other nonsense,” and he vouched for the accuracy of the results.

“There was no cover-up, the election was not stolen,” Churci said. “Biden won.”

He said he’s disagreed with his colleagues, but he’s known them to be “good, honorable and ethical men.”

Chucri’s in his third term representing the eastern portion of Maricopa County, the nation’s fourth largest and home to the Phoenix metropolitan area. While in office, Chucri has remained the head of the Arizona Restaurant Association, an influential lobbying group.

The secret recordings were published Tuesday on the conservative website Gateway Pundit, which said they were recorded during a meeting on March 22 with leaders from a group called We the People AZ Alliance as well as a Jan. 22 phone call.

All five members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, including Chucri, have been highly critical of the Senate’s election review, led by consultants with no experience in election work and who have promoted baseless theories that the 2020 election was marred by fraud.

But in the March meeting, Chucri said Supervisors Jack Sellers and Bill Gates were scared by the idea of an election review because their own races were close.

“What would happen in those two races?” Chucri said. “And that is way too self-serving.”

He said Supervisor Clint Hickman “just didn’t have the guts” for an election audit. Hickman and Sellers are also Republicans. Supervisor Steve Gallardo is the sole Democrat on the five-member board.

Gates said in an interview that he and Chucri got along and worked well together, as did the board as a whole. And he said the review did not even look at county races, so the thought that he and Sellers were scared was completely misplaced.

The board will appoint a replacement after Chucri’s resignation takes effect, and in the meantime Gates expects all five members will continue to work together.

“It’s unfortunate, because Steve and I work well together,” Gates said. “I think we had a successful time on the board together; we got a lot accomplished.”