"It's like Hitler just invaded France," said a source in the moderate wing of the Pima County Republican Party of Joe Higgin's likely primary challenge of Ann Day for Supervisor in District 1.
That's not just Godwin's law in effect; my source only meant that a war that everyone knew was coming, and that many have been reluctant to fight, had finally arrived.
The war analogies kept coming, "what has been a cold war in the Party just went hot," said my deep throat.
As my source sees it, Al Melvin has just declared war on the establishment, pro-business, moderate Republicans with Higgin's entry into the race. Higgin is understood among Republican circles to be merely a stalking horse for Melvin with no hope of actually winning, but plenty of potential to make some joyful noise.
The newly declared war is for control of the Republican Party in Pima County. The establishment has been suffering the guerrilla attacks of the uber-conservatives for years now—taunting RINO hunts, primary challenges, a burgeoning far-right blog swarm, Graf's campaign against Kolbe and eventual nomination upon his retirement (and Kolbe's and the RNC's refusal to support that GOP nominee against a Democrat)—have all been skirmishes in the smoldering range war for the soul of the GOP in Pima and Arizona, more broadly.
Melvin's recruiting a movement conservative to challenge a GOP institution like Day was the last straw—or, more aptly, the assassin's bullet that set off a total war.
But perhaps Melvin has finally overplayed his hand. While Melvin is obviously hoping that a primary contest in the overlapping Supervisory District 1 will help stir his own base in his primary fight for Arizona Senate in LD 26 against moderate Republican Pete Hershberger, it could also finally prompt the establishment into a full scale counter-assault that could undermine Republican efforts to retake lost ground in LD 26.
If the GOP's civil war starts getting major press coverage, which a primary against Day is almost certain to attract, it could make what has been a quiet internal vendetta into a fully-fledged public feud. That could possibly distract or disgruntle voters in unrelated races where there is no primary challenge, like Bee's bid to retake CD 8 for the GOP.
Back to the military analogies: it's hard to take your objective without strategic unity of force. The Republican party nationally, state-wide, and now locally, is more divided against itself than it has been in recent memory as the cresting force of movement conservatism smashes into an establishment that has been willing to tolerate them only so long as they were winning elections.
And the movement conservatives haven't been winning, prompting movement conservatives to attack moderates even more vociferously in a zealous attempt at ritual purification of the Party to bring back the favor of the electoral gods. In reality, America is just fed up with the discredited anti-government politics of the far Right, even as anti-government dogma has become unquestionable in the GOP.
Voters' disgust plus a bewildering and vicious civil war in the Republican Party adds up to strategic advantage for Democrats at all levels. Most especially, Melvin's sneak attack on Ann Day (and by proxy the establishment of the Pima GOP) bodes well for the merry band of Democrats seeking to hold gains in LD 26.