Paul Boyer is done with the Arizona Legislature

The veteran lawmaker decided against running for re-election in the Arizona Senate, saying he just wants to be a regular guy again

Republican Arizona Sen. Paul Boyer, best known for his role as the lone Republican vote against holding the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt of a Senate subpoena for election equipment, is not seeking re-election next year. 

“But for the record, they're stuck with me for another year. I'm not resigning,” he said over breakfast recently after he made the decision.

Boyer said a host of factors contributed to the decision, including anger at Senate Republican leadership (and Senate President Karen Fann specifically), disillusionment with the direction of his party and a decennial redistricting process that offered a natural splitting point. 

The birth of his first son in 2019 and the death threats he received in the past year for standing up to the lie that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election in Arizona also played a significant role, he said. After voting against a motion to hold county supervisors in contempt and possibly jail them, Boyer had to get police protection and he and his young family had to temporarily leave their home. He still receives threats that he forwards on to police.

“I had to put security doors on my home because of some of the threats I was getting. Nobody should have to have that worry just because of a vote you’ve taken or didn’t take,” he said. 

While he often feuds with his own party leaders, Boyer insists he is no moderate, much less a Democrat, as his critics sometimes allege — he’s a lifelong conservative Republican and devout Christian who rarely crosses the aisle against major conservative policies. 

But Boyer has been one of the few Republican senators to publicly criticize the audit, telling the New York Times earlier this year that he was embarrassed to be an Arizona senator because of it. As Fann led her caucus down the path of crying election fraud and carrying out what Boyer calls an “illegitimate” audit, he has served as a backstop against Senate Republican leadership’s base instincts. 

While he said he wasn’t pushed out by Trump’s opposition, he acknowledged his re-election would be a lot harder with the former president’s personal grudge against him and the farther-right wing of the Republican Party’s bloodlust for anyone who doesn’t toe the Trump line on election fraud. 

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Still, Boyer has withstood three censure attempts from his local Republican committee in Legislative District 20 and two recall attempts from activists. A five-term veteran of the legislature, Boyer was a House staffer and a lobbyist for the Department of Corrections before being elected in 2012.

He seems to genuinely enjoy engaging his critics and for a while, set up his email to auto-reply to the loads of angry Republicans sending him messages with information debunking election conspiracies and explaining his opposition to the audit. After Trump called him out personally, he taunted the president.

That is to say, he likes a good fight. And he still believes he could win a Republican primary if he was willing to put in the work. 

“It would be a good challenge, especially in the primary, but my heart’s just not in it,” he said.

That has been the case since his 2020 re-election, he said, but he ran again last year because he thought he was the GOP’s best chance at holding his seat in his rapidly changing Glendale district. He fended off more than $1 million in Democratic spending to hold the seat while his seatmate and sometimes-nemesis Anthony Kern lost his seat to a Democrat, the only Arizona House Republican to lose in the general election in 2020. 

Kern later joined the mobs outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, spread disinformation about the election and volunteered at the audit until he was spotted by a reporter and barred from the building

Kern has already filed paperwork to challenge Boyer in the GOP primary for the Senate seat in 2022 — and received a personal shout-out from Trump backing his campaign. 

Fann recently held a fundraiser with Kern and previously attempted to recruit Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick to run against Boyer, according to text messages turned over in response to a public records lawsuit about the audit. It’s beyond taboo for a Senate president to recruit or fund a challenge to one of her own members — playing in primaries has toppled at least one Senate president in the past.

There were many moments in recent months that showed how frayed his relationship with his entire caucus had become, like when his Republican colleagues moved his desk on the Senate floor to make him sit with Democrats or when they removed him from their caucus text thread. 

Part of his rationale for announcing he won’t seek re-election is a hope that another Republican will step up and keep the seat from Kern, though he knows his bowing out of the race makes Kern’s nomination a near inevitability — “unless he gets arrested,” Boyer said with a laugh. 

Either way, Boyer is done with the Arizona Legislature after next year. The former teacher of classics and current master’s student in humanities and classical education realizes he’s letting some people down, while others will rejoice. 

He struggles with what his departure says about the state of politics and his own party and says maybe he’ll have clearer answers and a deeper analysis once he’s gone. For now, he just knows he can’t stomach the job anymore.

“This is not a ‘woe is me’ moment, but in politics and being elected, it's pretty damn lonely,” he said. “Because most people are trying to leverage your vote. And you never know if they’re (being nice) because you're handsome, and you're charming, and you're buff, and you know, whatever. I'm looking forward to being just average.”