Former President Donald Trump’s first rally of 2022 will be in Florence, where several Republican candidates will take the stage as well.
Trump’s appearance Saturday will be his second in the state since leaving office and underscores his continued importance in GOP circles nearly one year after departing the White House.
Follow coverage of the Trump rally by Republic reporters here throughout the day Saturday.
Trump gave a preview of the Saturday rally that suggests he will continue pushing baseless claims of election fraud.
“Look forward to seeing everyone in Arizona tomorrow! Many topics will be discussed including the Rigged Presidential Election of 2020, the fake Big Lie, the corrupt LameStream Media, the Afghanistan disaster, Inflation, the sudden lack of respect for our Nation and its leaders, and much more,” Trump said in a written statement Friday. “Big crowds, will also be covered on TV. See you Saturday evening!”
— Ronald J. Hansen
DEMOCRACY IN DOUBT:Read the series that gets inside the Arizona election review
Hours before his appearance in Florence, Trump took yet another shot at Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has become a frequent punching bag for the former president ever since Ducey signed off on the 2020 election results.
“Rumors are that Doug Ducey, the weak RINO Governor from Arizona, is being pushed by Old Crow Mitch McConnell to run for the U.S. Senate,” Trump said in a statement. “He will never have my endorsement or the support of MAGA Nation!”
Ducey often bristles at any question about whether he will seek the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., for his seat later this year.
But rumors abound nevertheless, in part thanks to high-ranking Republicans in Washington, D.C., including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who are urging establishment Republicans including Ducey to run.
But Ducey’s standard reply includes touting his day job as Arizona’s governor and pointing to early 2021, when he said he was not running for the seat. Asked early last week what his future holds after his final year as governor, Ducey said he was focused on leading the state and running the Republican Governors Association, which seeks to elect Republican governors across the country.
“My plate is full,” Ducey told The Arizona Republic. “And I have found in the past, in my career, when I have focused on the work on my desk and done it with excellence, other opportunities present themselves.”
Asked if Ducey would go to Trump’s rally on Saturday, governor’s spokesman C.J. Karamargin said Ducey had “no plans” to attend.
— Stacey Barchenger
Friday afternoon: ReAwaken America Tour leads to police calls at Dream City Church
A conservative forum in Phoenix overlapping Donald Trump’s return to Arizona opened Friday with calls to police.
Attendees at the ReAwaken America Tour at Dream City Church taunted teachers from the nearby BASIS Phoenix charter school over masks, school officials confirmed.
The tour, hosted by conservative podcaster Clay Clark and featuring Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, is scheduled to run through Saturday.
Election fraud and pandemic conspiracies dominate the itinerary, including a speech titled, “It’s the COVID-19 Protocols That Are Mass Murdering COVID-19 Patients.”
Other topics include pinpointing where the world is on the Biblical timeline, communicating after the power grid is destroyed and “Jesus is King & Donald Trump is the REAL president of the United States.”
Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, state Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, and Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward are among the scheduled speakers.
A pastor at Dream City Church confirmed about a dozen Phoenix police officers responded to the event Friday and the issue had been “taken care of.”
He said ReAwaken America rented space from the church but is not affiliated with the church. He said several armed private security guards were hired by the event.
Dream City has hosted a number of conservative events, including a June movie premiere touting 2020 election conspiracies by key operatives in the Arizona Senate’s largely discredited ballot review.
— Robert Anglen
Early Friday afternoon: Vendors gear up for Trump rally
Days before Donald Trump’s rally in Florence, merchandise vendors were staking out highway pullouts and setting up roadside stands more than 20 miles away.
Vendors dragged tents, tables and Trump gear from the backs of vehicles beginning Wednesday.
Flags and T-shirts fluttered around canopies in at least three spots within a mile of each other Friday on Hunt Highway just over the Maricopa County line in San Tan Valley.
Hunt Highway is one of the central routes for people driving from the East Valley to the Country Thunder venue, where Trump is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Passing cars gave the occasional honk as they zoomed past on Friday, earning waves from vendors. “It’s going to be good weekend,” one seller said.
— Robert Anglen