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Militias, the Bundy’s and a Constitutional Convention: Kelly Townsend

IREHR Special Report: Breaching the Mainstream


Militias, the Bundy’s and a Constitutional Convention: Kelly Townsend

(R-Arizona State Senate, District 16)

Before being elected to the Arizona state Senate, Kelly Townsend was already a seasoned far-right activist, having moved from anti-abortion and Tea Party politics to far-right paramilitary militia groups and efforts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution in the far-right’s image.

In 2009, three years before she won office, Kelly Townsend joined the activist-oriented Walk for Life West Coast—Official Group Page (3,728 members), a San Francisco-based group that organizes an annual anti-choice march on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.[80] In a recap of its 2022 march, the group makes clear its central aim of overturning this legal cornerstone of abortion rights:

“Energized by the impending U.S. Supreme Court case which may finally overturn the notorious Roe v. Wade decision, you came from as far away as Oregon, Idaho and Nebraska to gather in Civic Center Plaza… Our speakers were fantastic, as always. ‘I believe Roe v. Wade has been outlawed, because God remembers you,’ thundered the Rev. Clenard H. Childress, Jr. said, predicting the justices have already decided against Roe v. Wade in their private consultations.”[81]

That same year, Townsend co-founded and served as President of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party.[82]

In 2014, Townsend’s steps toward radicalization were visible when she traveled to Nevada to join other public officials in a rally supporting racist rancher Cliven Bundy, an effort backed by Richard Mack’s far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).[83] According to CSPOA, Townsend and other legislators planned to “attend the Press Conference Monday afternoon with the CSPOA and Oath Keepers along with the Bundys and other sheriffs and public officials from across the country.”[84]

After taking office, between 2015 and 2017, Townsend joined the National Tea Party #DraintheSwamp (3,927 members*), the Arizona Citizens Defense League, Group Chat (3,106 members), and TEA Party United – Let’s Organize! (13, 275 members).[85]

While proclaiming dedication to “fiscal and constitutional conservatism in government and to return our nation to its founding principles,” TEA Party United – Let’s Organize! nonetheless supported the broad range of issues associated with the Tea Party movement generally, including COVID Denial, conspiracy theories about “fake news” and the 2020 election, anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-immigrant politics, and the jumble of far-right hysteria viewed as “profound” by administrator Thomas Ash:

“I caught Dr. Stanley’s sermon this past Sunday and no more profound words and relevant words have I heard in recent memory other than John 3:16. He talked about the communists that have taken over the Democrat party and are destroying the nation from within. Specifically he was referring to the ‘Mob,’ ‘BLM,’ ‘ANTIFA,’ the ‘Cancel Culture,’ the ‘Woke,’ and the ‘1619 Project,’ and ‘Critical Race Theory’ crowd who seek to divide us, destroy our history, disrespect our flag, hate our country, and weaponize government institutions against those who don’t fit in [sic] world.”[86]

Charles Stanley, referenced here, is an anti-gay bigot who heads In Touch Ministries. Stanley, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, once said of homosexuality, “I believe that AIDS is God indicating his displeasure and his attitude toward that form of lifestyle, which we in this country are about to accept.”[87]

The Arizona Citizens Defense League Inc. is a gun-rights group that actively promotes the far-right Gun Owners of America, long led by now-Executive Director Emeritus and militia advocate Larry Pratt.[88]

In 2020, Townsend joined the Arizona State Militia Community (607 members*).  That same year, and into 2021, Townsend joined such COVID Denial groups as Arizonans for Liberty (1,750 members), the Anti-Vaxxer group Homeschoolers for Medical Freedom (1,452 members), and the Maricopa County chapter of the national School-Centered group Moms for Liberty (1,144 members).[89]

Townsend’s own COVID Denial activism included tweeting an image comparing vaccinations to the German Nazis.[90] Showing the nuances in bigotry on the far right, and despite such a display of antisemitism, Townsend also criticized Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers for her close relationship with white nationalist Nick Fuentes, writing,

“Hanging out with white supremacists, endorsing them, and declaring them the finest of patriots is all something Wendy Rogers has a constitutional right to do. But good and decent people are also free to find it repulsive and un-American.”[91]

As a legislator, Kelly Townsend led an effort for a resolution supporting an Article V Constitutional Convention, working with the far-right Convention of States to do so.[92] Townsend also introduced a bill to give Arizona’s 11 electoral college votes to Donald Trump on the claim that the 2020 election “was marred by irregularities so significant as to render it highly doubtful whether the certified results accurately represent the will of the voters.”[93]


Two: The Legislators


Four: The Far-Right Groups


[80] Walk for Life West Coast-Official Group Page. Facebook. Members.; Walk for Life West Coast. What We Do. Accessed March 31, 2022; Ballotpedia. Kelly Townsend. Accessed April 1, 2022.

[81] Walk for Life West Coast. Accessed March 31, 2022.

[82] Townsend, Kelly. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize!. October 27, 2017.

[83] Roberts, Laurie. Arizona legislators see Cliven Bundy as a hero? AZCentral. April 19, 2014.; Green, Jordan. REVEALED: Trump-anointed Arizona candidate has questionable ties to the Bundys, the Oath Keepers and the controversial ‘Constitutional Sheriffs’. Raw Story. January 27, 2022.; Center for Western Priorities. GOING TO EXTREMES: THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT EXTREMISM BEHIND THE GROWING MOVEMENT TO SEIZE AMERICA’S PUBLIC LANDS. JULY 7, 2016.

[84] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. Sheriff Mack travels with other CSPOA members to stand with Nevada rancher against the BLM. April 10, 2014.

[85] Arizona Citizens Defense League, Group Chat. Facebook. Members.; TEA Party United-Let’s Organize!. Facebook. Members.

[86] TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! Facebook. About.; TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! Facebook. Members. Accessed March 31, 2022. Webb, Kerry. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! October 11, 2019.; O’Keefe, Patrick. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! May 17, 2015.; O’Keefe, Patrick. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! June 3, 2014.; Ash, Thomas. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! September 18, 2021.; Ash, Thomas. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize!  July 30, 2021.; Ash, Thomas. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! July 5, 2021.; Fidandis, Andy. Facebook. Posted in TEA Party United-Let’s Organize! February 21, 2022.

[87] United Press International. AIDS Blamed on Acceptance of Gay Life Style. Los Angeles Times. January 18, 1986.; In Touch Ministries. About. Accessed March 31, 2022.

[88] Arizona Citizens Defense League, Inc. Facebook. Search for “goa” conducted March 31, 2022.; Gun Owners of America. MEET GOA’S LARRY PRATT IN STOCKBRIDGE! May 17, 2018.; Arizona Citizens Defense League. Pro-RKBA Organizations.

[89] Arizonans for Liberty. Facebook. About.; Homeschoolers for Medical Freedom. Facebook. About.;  Moms for Liberty-Maricopa County, AZ. Members. Accessed March 31, 2022.

[90] Weiss, Elias. This Arizona Lawmaker Displayed the Nazi Flag on Twitter, But Hates Anti-Semites. March 4, 2022.

[91] Townsend, Kelly Senator. Facebook. March 8, 2022.

[92] U.S. Term Limits. CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS RESOLUTION PASSES ARIZONA COMMITTEE. February 18, 2020.; Convention of States. AZ Rep. gives a recap of the Convention of States Simulation. July 17, 2021.

[93] Fischer, Howard. Townsend’s bill would give Trump Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. Pinal Central. January 5, 2021.

Breaching the Mainstream

A National Survey of Far-Right Membership in State Legislatures

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