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David Schweikert blames ‘populist’ AZ Freedom Caucus for his quitting the House Freedom Caucus

By: - February 2, 2023 1:56 pm

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert at an October 2020 “Make America Great Again” campaign rally for Donald Trump in Scottsdale. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus when it formed in 2015 to undercut then-Speaker John Boehner and pull the broader Republican conference further to the right.

But now that the group has more power than it’s ever had  — as evidenced by the concessions its members wrung out of current Speaker Kevin McCarthy last month — Schweikert has quit the group, ostensibly because he was sick of being confused with the members of a similarly named far-right group of Arizona state legislators.

Schweikert told Punchbowl News that he left the House Freedom Caucus because he doesn’t want to be associated with the Arizona Freedom Caucus, which was formed last year, because it is “much more populist” and not truly conservative:

“There’s a difference between conservatism and populism. These people are operating much more on their passions than protecting all the gains they made in the last couple of years in the state legislature. So I had people yelling at me, ‘You’re a member of the Freedom Caucus’ and I keep saying, ‘I’m not a member of the state Freedom Caucus. I go to Washington.’”

In particular, Schweikert seems to be concerned that any association with the group of state legislators is bad for his political brand — something he’s keenly intent on protecting after facing his toughest general election campaign since he defeated incumbent Democrat Harry Mitchell in 2010 to win a seat in Congress.

Schweikert defeated Democrat Jevin Hodge last year by just a single percentage point in a new district that was decidedly more purple than the one he represented before redistricting.

“(T)he more difficult thing in my district is actually explaining the difference between my state Freedom Caucus from the federal one,” he told Punchbowl reporter Jake Sherman. “It’s just so hard to explain that they get to use our name, but they’re not us.”

Schweikert didn’t respond to a text message requesting an interview. A message sent to the email listed on Arizona Freedom Caucus press releases bounced back because the email address does not exist, and a request for comment sent to a D.C.-based political consultant who represents the group was not immediately returned.


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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.