A Republican member of the Maryland State Board of Elections resigned from his post Thursday after being charged with participating in breaching the U.S. Capitol amid rioting on Jan. 6, 2021.
Carlos Ayala was arrested on multiple charges on Tuesday, according to federal court records. His resignation was official on Thursday, according to a statement from Michael G. Summers, chairman of the elections board.
“The Board is committed to maintaining the security and integrity of our elections in Maryland in a non-partisan manner,” Summers said in the statement. “The State Board will remain steadfast in our mission to oversee our elections process and serve as a trusted source of information for all Marylanders during this presidential election year.”
Ayala is a Republican from Salisbury who was appointed to the board last year by Gov. Wes Moore, following a recommendation from the Maryland Republican Party. State law dictates that the elections board have a certain number of members from the main political parties. He also was confirmed to his post by state senators.
Moore declined to comment through a spokesperson.
Ayala could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Jim Trusty, declined to comment. Trusty previously represented former President Donald J. Trump in one of his court cases.
Charges based on video evidence
Federal prosecutors charged Ayala in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., with the felony charge of civil disorder as well as multiple misdemeanors in connection with the pro-Donald Trump mob that overran the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the results of the 2020 election.
Prosecutors allege that Ayala, wearing a hooded American flag sweatshirt, is seen on footage from the day climbing over police barricades and reaching the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol building.
Video footage also shows Ayala outside the Capitol waving a black flag attached to a PVC pipe with wording of “We the people” and “DEFEND” and featuring a picture of an M16 rifle, prosecutors allege.
Ayala then is seen leaning his flag into a broken window. An officer pulled Ayala’s flag into the building and moments later, a PVC pipe with no flag attached was thrown through an open door, striking an officer, according to the charging documents.
At one point, Ayala is allegedly seen on police body-camera footage exhorting to officers: “Join us!”
FBI agents learned just days after Jan. 6, 2021, that Ayala was present at the U.S. Capitol and took video. Eventually, someone who went to D.C. with Ayala shared their own video footage of the day with the FBI. That individual said they left the Capitol when things turned violent, according to prosecutors.
The FBI figured out Ayala’s cellphone number and used records from AT&T to confirm that his phone was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. They also reviewed Ayala’s Amazon account and found purchases that matched the American flag sweatshirt and flag mask he was seen wearing that day.
Agents also reviewed video footage on social media sites and from news organizations to track Ayala’s movements on Jan. 6.
Ayala is among more than 30 Marylanders charged in federal court with participating in the events of Jan. 6
Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Nicole Bues Harris said in a statement: “The MDGOP believes in the 1st Amendment and in the American principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.”
She added that Ayala resigned to ensure that the 2024 election in Maryland is not “muddled with distraction.”
Ayala’s term on the elections board would have lasted through 2027. The state will now turn to the Maryland Republican Party to recommend a new member, who — if appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate — would serve the remainder of the term.
Stepson of chicken magnate Frank Perdue
At his nomination hearing in March, Ayala was introduced by Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican who represents Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester counties. By custom, the senators from a nominee’s district typically present them to a Senate committee for approval.
Carozza could not be reached for comment.
Carozza listed Ayala’s community service with immigrants and children and called him a “very well-respected business and community leader.”
Ayala told the committee he was “humbled” to be considered for the “very important position” and that he “recognized the importance of this board.”
He said it would be “his honor” to ensure “that people have fair and equal access to the polls — super important.”
Ayala is the stepson of Frank Perdue, the former chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors, for Perdue Farms Inc., according to CBS News. Carozza shared with the committee that Ayala held key roles with the company since 1989, including vice president.
A search of publicly available campaign records showed Ayala gave thousands of dollars to former Republican President Donald Trump, one as recently as September of 2020. And since Jan. 6, 2021, he has given thousands more to U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican representative and one of 147 in Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 election results.
At the state level, Ayala donated $1,776 dollars to unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox on October 17, 2022. Cox joined forces with Pennsylvania lawyers in defense of Trump’s attempts to overturn the election. Ayala’s donation came on the same day Trump hosted a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for Cox. Tickets to the fund raiser were $1,776. Former Gov. Larry Hogan received $6,000 from Ayala in one campaign cycle.
‘Horrified’ and ‘devastated’ reaction
The good-government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland said Ayala’s arrest should be a wake-up call for state officials, who should consider changing the process for appointing members to the elections board.
“It is sickening to think that Ayala was making decisions about our elections after allegedly participating in the attempted insurrection,” Morgan Drayton, Common Cause policy manager, said in a statement.
While Ayala made it through the appointment process last year, other Republican nominees for election posts did not.
Last February, Moore rejected the Maryland Republican Party’s recommendation of William Newton to serve on the state elections board, saying he did not meet the standards to serve in the role.
Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Nicole Beus Harris responded at the time with a statement alleging the governor “is more interested in sneaky, hyper-partisan attacks than he is in ensuring that our elections are free and fair.”
And the Senate’s Executive Nominations Committee did not support the nomination of Christine McCloud to serve on the state elections board. Under questioning by senators last March, McCloud acknowledged she hadn’t regularly voted in elections and said of mail-in ballots: “I don’t think they should be allowed.”
Sen. Steve Hershey, the Republican leader in the Senate, said of Ayala: “Although arrested and charged, he has not been convicted and deserves to participate in the judicial process.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan serves as vice chair of the Senate committee that reviews election legislation. She said she worked closely with and has even had dinner with Ayala.
She was “horrified” and “devastated” to hear news of his arrest.
”I had no idea that someone that I supported to be on Maryland’s Board of Elections is an election denier and an insurrectionist,” she said.
The Montgomery County Democrat said there was a collective opinion during Ayala’s confirmation process among Senators that Ayala was different from the other “unqualified or extremist nominees” the Maryland GOP had put forward.
She recalled thinking that Ayala seemed like he would be thoughtful, collaborative and support democracy, she said.
”I don’t think any of us could have imagined that this was truly his background,” she said. “And three years after January 6, it’s hard to imagine that the FBI made a mistake. The pictures are pretty persuasive.”
Ayala’s arrest was first reported by the website Maryland Matters.