Arizona's Maricopa County GOP censures ex-Sen. Jeff Flake, plans vote to also censure Cindy McCain

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Cindy McCain sits on the patio at her home in Phoenix Sept. 22, 2020. The wife of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president.
Cindy McCain sits on the patio at her home in Phoenix Sept. 22, 2020. The wife of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president.

PHOENIX – Some at a Maricopa County Republican Committee meeting on Saturday wanted to censure Cindy McCain for her support of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, but the proposal did not move forward, according to Marcus Milam, who was acting secretary at the event.

The county GOP did censure former Sen. Jeff Flake, who did not seek a second term in 2018 and who also endorsed Biden over Republican President Donald Trump.

A video of the meeting shows that Walt Steiner from Arizona's Legislative District 4 proposed to add the widow of six-term Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the resolution against Flake. The proposal received cheers and applause from a largely unmasked crowd gathered for the meeting at Dream City Church in Glendale outside Phoenix.

A party member was booed after mentioning McCain's work for the church foundation, the state of Arizona and on the issue of human trafficking.

The resolution eventually passed in a 1,190-to-291 vote, but Milam clarified Saturday night that the censure pertained only to Flake because resolutions cannot be amended.

Part of the confusion came as the state Republican Party tweeted that the county had censured McCain. The Arizona GOP acknowledged its mistake later on Saturday night, going on to say: "The @AZGOP will vote on a 'Censure McCain' resolution on Jan 23."

Related: What’s a day like for shooting survivor, former AZ Sen. Giffords?

Such censure is a statement of disapproval from the party's conservative base activists and would have no practical consequence for McCain.

This talk of censure wasn't the first go-around between the McCain family and further-right Republicans in the state. The county and state GOP rebuked John McCain as too liberal years ago.

Arizona Republicans censured John McCain in 2014, citing his "continued disservice to our state and nation." The party painted him as being too liberal on issues such as immigration reform, gun control and health care.

"If anything, it fires me up," John McCain told Politico after the censure, which came two weeks after the Maricopa County Republican Party also passed a resolution to censure him on a 1,150-to-351 vote.

Cindy McCain very publicly came out in support of Biden's presidency, endorsing him in September. With her help, Biden became only the second Democrat to carry Arizona since 1948. She appeared in a prerecorded video at the Democratic National Convention that emphasized the longtime friendship between their families.

"I am a proud lifelong Republican and will continue to support candidates who put country over party and stand for the rule of law," Cindy McCain tweeted on Saturday.

Cindy McCain has said she endorses Biden's character

While Cindy McCain endorsed Biden for president, she said in an interview with The Arizona Republic she would remain a registered Republican. She attributed the decision in part to the character she sees in Biden, whom she has known for four decades, as well as his alliance with military families.

Trump publicly criticized John McCain prior to and after his death in August 2018.

McCain was known as a Republican maverick, a nickname that stemmed from his reputation for bipartisan politics. He often took stances against his party, including his 2017 thumbs-down vote against scaling back the Affordable Care Act.

The Congressional Management Foundation posthumously awarded McCain its Lifetime Achievement Democracy Award in 2019, adding to a slew of other awards, honors and military decorations that have been bestowed on him.

Meghan McCain responds

"Oh how will she ever survive such a thing?!?" daughter Meghan McCain said in a Saturday tweet responding to the county GOP's talk of censure.

"And this is THE REAL problem facing the Arizona GOP, my mom! A few days after a domestic terror attack led by maniac Trump supporters," her tweet went on to say.

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