David Schweikert blames 'populist' AZ Freedom Caucus for his quitting the House Freedom Caucus
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.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.