Delivering a strong rebuke to U.S. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republicans passed a resolution to censure the one-time presidential nominee for what they characterize as a liberal record that has been "disastrous and harmful" to the state and nation.
While McCain is a political star on the national stage, for years he has had to contend with vocal critics in his home state, who accuse him of betraying the Grand Old Party's principles.
Saturday's censure came two weeks after the Maricopa County Republican Party passed a resolution to censure the senator on a 1,150-to-351 vote.
The state GOP party's censure passed by acclamation, meaning by a voice vote. It has no practical effect, but serves as an attempt to embarrass the senator.
McCain and his office have not commented on the county censure although his supporters point to the party's reputation for ultra-right partisanship. The senator's office on Saturday declined comment on the state censure. McCain is considering seeking a sixth Senate term in 2016.
Former three-term U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., dismissed the anti-McCain resolution as "wacky."
"I've gone to dozens of these meetings and every now and then some wacky resolution gets passed," Kyl, the former Senate minority whip, told The Arizona Republic on Saturday. "But most people realize it does not represent the majority of the vast numbers of Republicans."
Kyl noted that McCain has been repeatedly re-elected despite opposition over the years by many GOP activists.
"Do these guys ever get elected? It's John McCain who gets elected," Kyl said. "To say that John McCain doesn't work with Republicans, doesn't have a conservative voting record - that's just baloney. I served with him in the Senate for 18 years, 26 years all together, and we didn't always vote alike, but his record is very conservative. It's just wacky to say otherwise."
While many McCain allies expressed support of the senator, a wing of anti-McCain activists gathered enough support to have the resolution heard Saturday, on the floor of the state party's annual mandatory meeting at a Tempe church.
"Only in times of great crisis or betrayal is it necessary to publicly censure our leaders," the resolution said. "Today we are faced with both. For too long we have waited, hoping Senator McCain would return to our Party's values on his own. That has not happened."
McCain's offenses cited in the resolution included working on comprehensive immigration reform, or "amnesty," and not going along with last year's conservative strategy to "defund" President Obama's signature health-care law.
The resolution condemns McCain "for his continued disservice to our state and nation," and said state Republican leaders "will no longer support, campaign for or endorse John McCain as our U.S. Senator."
About 1,300 Republicans convened at the Grace Community Church in Tempe. Candidates handed out campaign swag. Committeemen voted for party leaders. And elected officials - including Gov. Jan Brewer, Rep. Matt Salmon and Sen. Andy Biggs - rallied Republicans, saying they needed work together to undo damage by the President Barack Obama's administration.
Speakers criticized the federal government's spending, bulk collection of telephone data by the National Security Agency, and the 2012 terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Timothy Schwartz, who authored the censure, said McCain "has abandoned us" and called on party leaders to hold him accountable.
McCain always works with Democrats but not with Republicans," Schwartz said, speaking in support of the censure.
But Carole Klein, of Scottsdale, urged members to vote against the censure. She said she regrets her earlier vote in support of the county's censure of McCain. While she is unhappy with McCain, she thinks Republicans should focus on the party's good work.
"The entire media and those people who are independents and the Democrats look at this and say, 'Oh, look at the Republicans - they don't even know who to bring and put in as their person. And then they censure them. They don't know which way they're going."
Ed Boers, 72, of Mesa, was struggling up until the last minute with how he would vote on the censure. He did not support the county's Jan. 11 censure of McCain.
"I'm torn because the Republican Party is chastising its own people," Boers said. "It doesn't look good. He's a warrior. But I don't know if that qualifies him to be a senator. I'm not happy with a lot of things he did."
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