Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri to resign after election-related recordings released
Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri announced he will resign after recordings surfaced of him talking about the 2020 election and his county colleagues.
In the leaked recordings, Chucri bashed the other supervisors for their lack of support of the Arizona Senate’s audit of the county’s general election, and indicated he thought there were fraudulent votes cast in the election.
Chucri, a Republican who has represented the northeastern portion of the county since 2012, apologized in his statement Tuesday.
“The comments I made were during a very turbulent time,” he wrote. “My colleagues have every right to be both angry and disappointed with me. I should not have made such statements and offer my colleagues heartfelt apologies.”
Chucri said his resignation will be effective Nov. 5.
Board Chairman Jack Sellers said he was surprised by Chucri’s resignation. He said he hadn’t spoken to him about the recordings, and he didn’t believe other supervisors had, either. Sellers said he hadn’t even thought that Chucri resigning was an option — he was more confused with Chucri’s comments in the recordings than angry about them.
The majority-Republican supervisors have publicly shown a united front against the Senate’s audit and confidence in the county’s election results. Sellers said it was his goal to have county officials speak as one voice.
“Never at any time did I hear Steve tell me that he couldn’t go along with us, or wasn’t supporting us.”
Chucri initially supported an audit and was the lone vote in December against suing the Senate to try to block its subpoenas demanding the ballots and voting machines for the review. His tone changed after Senate Republican leaders announced that they had hired Cyber Ninjas in March, and has since said he does not support the audit.
Recordings reveal Chucri’s opinions on supervisors, dead people voting
In the recordings published Monday on the far-right news site Gateway Pundit, Chucri was talking to leaders of We the People AZ Alliance, a local organization that led the charge to try togain support among state and county leaders for the audit.
Shelby Busch, who founded the conservative organization in December with Steve Robinson and Eric Wnuck, told The Arizona Republic they recorded the conversations with Chucri in January and March.
In one conversation, Chucri told them he was surprised by his colleagues’ opposition to the audit.
“You know what I think it was?” Chucri said. “Gates got scared because he barely won, and Jack got scared because he only won by 200 votes, and if there was an audit and a recount, which is pretty bullshit by the way, what would happen in those two races? And that is way too self-serving.”
Chucri was referring to Sellers and Supervisor Bill Gates, who won their races by tight margins in November.
In response on Tuesday night, Gates and Sellers said their opposition to the audit had nothing to do with their own races, and they never told Chucri or anyone else it did.
“If Whitney Walker got more votes than me,” Gates said, referencing his opponent, “I shouldn’t be serving.”
Chucri, in one of the recordings, also told them Supervisor Clint Hickman wanted to have a conversation about doing an audit at the end of last year but “didn’t have the guts.”
Chucri said his colleagues “want to suck up and kiss up for your vote.”
Chucri also told them he regretted not expanding the county’s hand-count audit before certifying the vote. He indicated there was a fraud, although he offered no evidence for such claims in the released recording.
“I think it was done through dead people voting,” he said. “I think it was multifaceted. I think there is a lot of cleanup here.”
The county’s hand-count audit in November and an independent audit of voting machines the county ordered in February found that votes were counted accurately and machines were not tampered with. Multiple court cases claiming fraud were dismissed.
We the People made 5 separate recordings, leader says
Beginning shortly after the election, We the People rallied the “Stop the Steal” crowd to try to convince elected officials that there needed to be an audit beyond the county’s hand-count sample. The group supports former President Donald Trump and maintains that state and national elections have long been tainted.
Wnuck, the group’s treasurer and a longtime political operative and former Republican congressional candidate, has told The Arizona Republic he used the group’s email and phone list, coupled with his political savvy, to urge followers to bombard politicians with demands for an audit.
Wnuck introduced Busch and Robinson to Chucri.
Busch told The Republic on Tuesday that the group decided to secretly record Chucri after he privately told supporters he had questions about the 2020 election and then took public stands against the Senate’s audit. They made five separate recordings of Chucri, she said, and clips from two of them have been released so far.
Busch said Chucri got caught talking out of both sides of his mouth.
“The people deserve elected officials who stand up for what they believe in,” Busch said. “His actions did not meet his words.”
Busch said the recordings showed Chucri would say whatever he thought the people wanted to hear with no real commitment.
“If I had one question for Steve Chucri, it would be, ‘Who are you lying to? The board or the people?’”
Busch said she didn’t expect that Chucri would resign over the recordings. She said she was shocked by his announcement.
“It is sad that it has to come to this,” she said.
Robinson, director of operations for the group, said he had mixed feelings over Chucri’s resignation.
“We just want honesty and integrity from our elected officials,” he said.
Supervisor Steve Gallardo questioned the timing of the release of the recordings, a few days before the audit report was to be made public. He said the organization sat on information until it could use it to push its theory that the election was rigged against Trump.
Gallardo was critical of We the People, saying Chucri was the only supervisor who went out of his way to work with members of the group, whom he described as conspiracy theorists. He said he thought it was underhanded to record Chucri, then hold on to recordings for months.
Supervisors react to resignation
Chucri’s statement on Tuesday struck a different tone, saying, “There was no cover-up, the election was not stolen. (Joe) Biden won.”
Chucri said in his statement “the political landscape changed for the worst this year.”
“The environment is wrought with toxicity — and all civility and decorum no longer seem to have a place,” he wrote. “The fixation with the 2020 election results and aftermath have gotten out of control.”
In his statement, he called the supervisors “good, honorable and ethical men.”
Chucri, along with the other supervisors, has faced threats and harassment as they stood up to members of their own political party against the audit — a partisan activity being run by firms without election experience.
Hickman said he, too, was stunned by the resignation, “which will probably create 1,000 questions in this environment.”
Gates said that he hadn’t talked to Chucri since the recordings were released. He said while he was surprised to hear Chucri’s comments, he was prepared to move forward working with him.
“We are professionals,” Gates said. “He is a professional … We have many years of working together successfully.”
Gates said he is disappointed that the political environment has become so toxic “it would cause good people to want to leave and not serve out their term.”
Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the five-member board, said he was disappointed by the things Chucri said on the recordings.
“The Steve Chucri I knew and worked with for six years was not the Steve Chucri I heard on those tapes,” he said.
County Recorder Stephen Richer said Chucri is a good man.
“I wish him well in whatever he decides.”
Former County Recorder Adrian Fontes said that Chucri was more than happy “to throw his colleagues under the bus and stab me in the back.”
In the recordings, Chucri calls Fontes a “scumbag.”
Fontes, who lost his reelection in 2020 and is now running for Arizona secretary of state, said the recordings only confirmed what he already knew about Chucri.
“He’s two-faced,” Fontes said. “Good riddance, as far as I am concerned.”
Fontes said Chucri fought him at every step over voting issues while he was in office.
“That guy stood in the way of every single thing we did,” he said, adding there was only one reason and it wasn’t about concerns over reform. It was politics: “Because I’m a Democrat.”
Chucri is the president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association and serves on the boards of many organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
Once Chucri resigns, the supervisors will appoint another Republican to serve in his seat until a special election can take place, county spokesperson Fields Moseley said.
Voters in District 2 will elect a new representative to the seat in the August 2022 primary election.