Rep. Giffords’ Shooting Prompts GOP Resignations in Arizona

Heated rhetoric is proving toxic for Republicans even without Democrats to blame.

By Jamilah King Jan 13, 2011

Last weekend’s shooting massacre in Tuscon is still sending shock waves throughout the nation. But politically, they’re being felt hardest among Arizona’s Republicans, a handful of whom turned in resignation papers this week. The departures prove that the state’s heated political battles are proving toxic for Republicans even without Democrats to blame.

The highest profile resignation came from District Chairman Anthony Miller, a 43-year-old black Republican who had previously worked for Senator John McCain. Miller announced his decision to step down within hours of Saturday’s attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, stating that he had begun to fear for his family’s safety. According to the Arizona Republic, he had been the subject of constant verbal attacks since he was re-elected last month, and blog posts by local residents with Tea Party ties had begun to make him worry. The final straw came after Saturday’s rampage, when his wife asked whether precinct members would shoot at the couple’s home.

"He didn’t deserve to be hounded out of office," State Senator John McCormish told the Arizona Republic.

Other members of the state’s Republican party to resign this week were newly-elected district secretary Sophia Johnson, first vice chairman Roger Dickinson of Tempe, and former Ahwatukee district spokesperson Jeff Kolb.

"I wasn’t going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday," told reporters. "I love the Republican Party but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone."

At least one, Kolb, cited Miller’s decision as their reason for departure.

"This singular focus on ‘getting’ Anthony (Miller) was one of the main reasons I chose to resign," he wrote to reporters in an e-mail.

While the state’s national political figures like Gov. Jan Brewer, Sen. John McCain, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have been blamed for inciting populist rage across the country, it seems like their home state proved to be a formidable testing ground for their rage. Battles over local party leadership have reportedly been more heated than ever.