Open law book with wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom

A sculptor and artist by trade, a politician by choice, Speaker of the Arizona House Russell “Rusty” Bowers has long been a puzzle: 

A quiet Mesa father of seven with a big title, an avoider of the limelight, Republican to the core, an arch conservative suddenly this week cast as an archvillain—a coward” and “a traitor”—by the red-hatted MAGA-teers.

Why? Because Rusty Bowers, who has helped lead the GOP during parts of four decades, has steadfastly refused to undermine the Arizona Constitution and throw the 2020 election to Donald Trump.

For that—and for adding some rare dignity to our state’s Legislature—I’d say Bowers deserves not the steady diet of hatred he’s been getting on social media but a medal.

Something with gravitas, like the statues of firefighters Bowers made with his bare hands-on display at the State Capitol in Wesley Bolin Plaza. I have been to the Arizona Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial often, and always I depart impressed by Bowers’ talent. 

Now add to that my admiration for the man’s adherence to principle.

One way you can judge Bowers’ dignity is by casting his demeanor against the insanity of his attackers, like Kelly Townsend, who has served as the Legislature’s village idiot since 2013, and Phoenix City Council candidate Nicole Garcia, who will likely lose her March runoff election and hopefully return to the political swamp from which she crawled.

Townsend egged on the Bowers haters when the speaker shuttered the Legislature after multiple unmasked members met for hours with one-man superspreader Rudy Giuliani.

Townsend went next level after the speaker, as is his prerogative, rejected her requests to convene the House Election Committee for yet another proofless dog-and-pony show purporting to uncover election fraud.

Garcia, who appears to have been born incensed, posted Bowers’ cell number on social media. A Townsend follower posted Bowers’ home address and called for a protest outside his house. 

“I cannot condone this action,” Townsend tweeted, a directive far different than saying, “Are you people nuts? Don’t do this.”

Bowers remained silent through the tumult, which isn’t surprising: He’s avoided the press since he was elected in 1992. Bowers’ first legislative go-round lasted until 2001. 

He lost a Republican Congressional primary in 2010, then returned to the Legislature in 2014.

How reliably conservative is he? Well, the American Conservative Union has given Bowers a lifetime score of 92. Kelly Townsend? She rates a 90.

This election, Bowers was A-rated and endorsed by the National Rifle Association meanwhile scoring 14% from the Sierra Club and 42% from Planned Parenthood.

However you feel about Bowers’ politics, say this much for Mr. Speaker: He does not back down from his principles, even in the face of vicious attacks.

“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election,” Bowers explained in a statement. “I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him. But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.

“I and my fellow legislators swore an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona. It would violate that oath, the basic principles of Republican government, and the rule of law if we attempted to nullify the people’s vote based on unsupported theories of fraud.”

Bowers ended by quoting Ronald Reagan, who reminded us that in the eyes of the world, America’s peaceful transfer of presidential power is “nothing less than a miracle.”

Equally miraculous nowadays? An elected leader who maintains grace and his oath of office in the face of furor.