Arizona county Republican leader threatened to ‘lynch’ election official

A Republican in Arizona’s largest county threatened to “lynch” the top county election official during a public event three months ago, according to a newly unearthed video clip circulating on social media.

The election official, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, posted a video of the comment to X on Monday. In it, Maricopa Republican Party Vice Chair Shelby Busch points to one of Richer’s reelection campaign opponents and calls him a “good Christian man.” She then contrasts him with Richer, who is Jewish.

“If Stephen Richer walked in this room, I would lynch him,” Busch says in the video. “I don’t unify with people who don’t believe in the principles we believe in and the American cause that founded this country.”

In a statement to POLITICO Tuesday, Busch said the remark “was a joke.”

“Everyone knows that I don’t like Richer,” Busch wrote. “The statement was a joke and made in jest. I do not condone and would never condone violence against anyone. It was hyberbole.”

The remark was made during a March 20 campaign event in Mesa, Ariz., for Republican Jerone Davison, who is running for a U.S. House seat, and was first live streamed on the conservative social media platform Rumble. Davison on Monday defended Busch on X as a “woman of faith” and said she was not expressing “any kind of racial hatred.”

“No one ever knew or cared if you were Jewish or not,” Davison wrote to Richer.

Richer was made aware of the video of Busch’s remark over the weekend. He told POLITICO that he has not received any outreach or apology from her since the video made it online.

“I don’t think the word lynching should be part of your vocabulary,” Richer said in an interview Tuesday, emphasizing that Busch’s sentiment should not be supported by the Republican Party.

Busch’s comments drew condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix, which noted that Richer is Jewish and condemned “extremists” on X for amplifying “her Jew-hatred.”

The opponent of Richer who Busch singled out as a “good Christian” at the event, Don Hiatt, did not respond to a request for comment.

Busch’s remarks come amid intensifying rhetoric against election officials in Arizona, who have been “in the crosshairs” of continuing threats, the state U.S. Attorney’s Office said earlier this year. Busch is an activist with We the People AZ Alliance, a conservative group that has falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and which has been cited in the past by Senate candidate Kari Lake. Richer has worked publicly to combat conspiracy theories about elections in Arizona, including through an alliance with the state’s Democratic secretary of state.

Richer noted that Busch’s rhetoric was especially sensitive in Maricopa County, after an Iowa man was imprisoned last year after threatening to lynch the Republican county supervisor because he did not investigate false allegations of voter fraud.

Busch’s remarks, Richer said, underline how public officials need to be conscious of how what they view as a “joke” or “hyperbole” can spread online.

“Their words have reach, and they have impact,” he added.

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