Morgaine Ford-Workman/The Copper Courier Sen. Kelly Townsend
Morgaine Ford-Workman/The Copper Courier

This is part of a series from The Copper Courier highlighting the Arizona legislators involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection or the events leading up to it. Read the rest here.

Sen. Kelly Townsend grew up in Oregon before enlisting in the US Navy. She served for four years and went on to obtain a master’s degree from Arizona State University. Townsend, who resides in Mesa, was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2013. She was elected to the Senate in 2020, representing District 16, which covers east Mesa and Apache Junction. 

Contributions to the Insurrection

Townsend was a major supporter of the “Stop the Steal” movement, which falsely claimed then-President Donald Trump won the election both in Arizona and nationally. 

Townsend, alongside numerous other state Republicans, signed on to a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to accept 11 “alternate” electoral votes for Trump or to have all of the state’s electoral votes “nullified completely until a full forensic audit can be conducted.”

She was one of the Republican lawmakers who attended an unofficial November daylong hearing at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix where Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis continuously made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.

Following the insurrection, Townsend said in a since-deleted tweet that the rioters learned their behavior from “the Left” before questioning whether they were the real culprits behind the storming of the Capitol.

In another deleted tweet, Townsend blamed Gov. Doug Ducey for the violence, saying that he failed to initiate a full forensic audit of the election. 

“(W)hen the people have had enough, you cannot act pious and holier than thou when the people revolt… (D)on’t act like this isn’t in large part, your fault,” she wrote.

Following the insurrection, Townsend and other legislators faced calls to ban them from the House and Senate.

Since the insurrection, Townsend sponsored a number of bills that would severely restrict the rights of voters in Arizona. 

One such bill would have overridden the election results because it was “was marred by irregularities so significant as to render it highly doubtful whether the certified results accurately represent the will of the voters.”

Level of Involvement: The Copper Courier identified Kelly Townsend as one of a number of lawmakers that helped shape the culture and heightened tensions that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Denzel Boyd/The Copper Courier

Instead, the resolution named 11 alternative electors—including Townsend herself— to act as the electors for the state. 

The move didn’t work. 

Another bill from Townsend sought to prohibit the return of early ballots by mail, requiring all absentee voters to turn in their ballots in person. 

How You May Have Heard of Them

Townsend has cemented her place as a controversial figure within the Arizona Republican Party. 

Her 2018 response to a constituent’s plea for more money for teachers during a 2018 statewide protest for more education and improved teacher pay went viral. Townsend wrote that they would have to take money from other items.

“I’m sure we can take it from the correctional officers pay who make minimum wage in some cases, release some of the prison population, take it from the developmentally disabled and close adult homes from the disabled, freeze Alzheimer’s research, take it from Veteran’s services, dental services for the underserved, desperately needed road funds, the university funding, and put another freeze on Kids Care health insurance. We’ll find it somehow,” she wrote.

Townsend stood by her response. 

She also offered to help those impacted by the teacher’s strike find legal representation for a class-action lawsuit. 

In 2019, Townsend said that mandatory vaccines were “Communist” and said that money should instead be put toward further research into vaccine injuries despite repeated proof that vaccines are safe. 

“The most holy and sacred last frontier of sovereignty is our own body,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Dearest friends and people of Arizona, it seems we are prepared to give up our liberty, the very sovereignty of our body, because of measles.”

She is up for re-election in 2022.

Townsend isn’t alone. See the others who played a role in the insurrection.