The Daily Agenda: Cochise back in the spotlight
Two jobs is probably too many ... Public letters are way more fun ... You gotta commit to the bit.
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens has a new job, in addition to his elected one.
The county’s board of supervisors voted yesterday to give the former lawmaker control over the elections department and make him interim elections director. Stevens has said he didn’t seek the added responsibilities. Instead, he’s cast himself as the only person qualified to do the role ahead of a May special election.
Typically, Arizona counties divide election responsibilities between an elected county recorder and an elections director who’s appointed by the county supervisors, giving both entities control over different parts of elections.
The move comes after former director Lisa Marra resigned when she could no longer handle the harassment and the board undermining the county’s elections. And it’s just the latest decision by two county supervisors, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, that has election observers worried, following the supervisors’ delay in certification and attempts at hand counting the vote last year.
The decision also came after legal warnings that it might not comply with state law, similar to warnings (and subsequent lawsuits) the supervisors received on the certification vote and hand count plan.
The state’s solicitor general, Joshua D. Bendor, sent a letter to the county attorney on Monday to say Attorney General Kris Mayes has “serious questions about the legality of the Board’s intended course of action.” Bendor noted that the board was effectively offloading its statutory duties to another elected official without clear authority that it can do so.
Judd and Crosby were undeterred. The board voted 2-1 to give Stevens more power over elections after hours of testimony from residents, some of whom noted Stevens’ election skepticism and ties to leading election deniers.
“It’s not accusatory enough,” Judd said of the letter from the AG’s office. “It's almost like Kris Mayes didn't actually know what to tell us. She just wanted to tell us something to stop us.”
Ann English, the lone Democrat on the board, tried to delay a vote on the issue until the county could understand any potential legal implications, but she was unsuccessful.
“I think that we are acting in an inappropriate and ill-advised manner today when we have been advised by the attorney general that there are problems with this agreement,” English said.
The battle over elections has taken on a near-constant presence in Cochise, with the two supervisors frequently calling meetings to plan for and make changes to elections.
In those meetings, Crosby, who some local residents are trying to recall, has grown combative in response to public commenters and at times to county staff. He’s been told by the county attorney’s office on multiple occasions in recent meetings that his comments were violating open meetings laws.
Mayes’ office confirmed it has received “multiple such complaints” about open meetings violations, which the office is looking into.
Tuesday’s decision proves you can’t take your eyes off Cochise County for a second. Just like we made the case for Pinal County’s newsworthiness, we also think Cochise deserves close attention.
Public letters > private ones: Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma sent a letter to Gov. Katie Hobbs yesterday saying they were “struggling” to reconcile her public announcement of wanting to flip the Legislature blue with the need to work together on a budget. In the letter, the legislative leaders, who recently sent a one-party budget without any of Hobbs’ priorities to the governor for a swift veto, said they are “open to meeting” on the budget. They previously met with Hobbs on the budget once before. They said they could see a budget that includes most of their priorities and some of Hobbs, as long as they’re “reasonable,” specifically citing additional funding for school facilities, developmental disabilities and transportation projects.
Doesn’t sound very democratic: Meanwhile, House Democrats voted against all bills yesterday in protest of a new unwritten rule that will prevent the House from voting on bills unless they have support from a majority of Republican representatives. House Democratic Leader Andrés Cano said the caucus was told that Democratic bills that have already passed through Committee of the Whole with bipartisan support won’t get a final vote unless 16 of the 31 Republicans in the chamber sign off in favor of it. That would basically require Democratic bills to have a supermajority of support in order to get a final vote.
“For example, one of the bills debated today has our full caucus support plus 12 Republican signatures. Over and over, this member was told by a Republican on this floor 'I'll be the 16th signature, come to me when you have 15 signatures,’” Cano said in a press release.
Dems shake it up: U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s run for U.S. Senate continues to reverberate in Democratic politics, with Senate Minority Leader Raquel Terán stepping down from her leadership position in the chamber to explore a run for Gallego’s House seat (though she’s not resigning her office yet). Senate Minority Whip Rosanna Gabaldón also announced she’d leave her leadership role, though she cited a need to focus on “personal affairs.” Sen. Mitzi Epstein, the assistant Dem leader, said she will run for the top post, the Arizona Mirror’s Caitlin Sievers reports.
Why he deserves a monument: As we continue the fight to get a monument honoring journalist Don Bolles at the Capitol, Axios Phoenix’s Jeremy Duda dives into Bolles’ death and the work he did as a reporter, which often resulted in consequences for powerful people in elected offices or crime syndicates.
Unintended consequences: With the state’s voucher program expanded by lawmakers last year, families of special education students say they’re now having a hard time getting access to services their kids need, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. The parents, organized into a group called the Arizona Coalition of Parents for Equal Student Access, spoke to the State Board of Education Monday to share how the expansion was affecting their kids and how they feared the program was nearing a “breaking point.”
Investigations ain’t cheap: The external investigation into what went wrong with printers on Election Day in Maricopa County is costing the county almost $1,000 per hour to pay for a team of people to look into the problems, Votebeat’s Jen Fifield reports. An internal report on the problems is yet to be released to the public.
Booms need water: NPR zooms in on Buckeye, the swiftly growing Phoenix ‘burb where growth doesn’t yet seem deterred by the lack of water, as an example of the metro area’s ongoing growth vs. water problem. While a state report released by Hobbs showed groundwater for the area was already allocated, Buckeye officials say they’re looking for other sources that could be imported while increasing conservation.
Everyone’s talking about ASU: A New Yorker piece on the decline of students majoring in humanities, like English and history, because of the increased cost of college and practical decisionmaking centers on Arizona State University. And a conservative columnist at the Washington Post praises ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, a darling of the Republican Legislature, for the way it has “avoided taking one side of contemporary debates.”
Kids under threat: Parents who brought their young children to the drag story hour that got shut down by a bomb threat said the experience has them shaken and upset at the GOP lawmakers who continue to try to restrict drag performances, LOOKOUT reports. Drag story hours are not sexualized, but rather a way to improve literacy through storytelling, though the story hours have been under constant threat from groups protesting, including the Proud Boys.
“I didn't know if we should stay or not, because I don't want to show my kids that we give into this kind of terrorism,” one parent said. “But, like, I also want them to be safe.”
First guv border visit: Hobbs visited Yuma for the first time as governor on Monday and met with local leaders and border officials. After the meeting, Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls told KTAR that Hobbs had fulfilled a promise to him to visit the border within her first 100 days, though it “remains to be seen” what she will do on border issues. During her Yuma visit, she also defended ousting the whole Arizona-Mexico Commission, saying it was not in any way tied to her meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador but instead a sign of more to come on boards and commissions, the Republic’s José Ignacio Castañeda Perez reports.
Republican lawmakers will love this: Flagstaff could consider a local resolution that could discuss ways to support its police department on how to respond to potential abortion law violations and affirm the council’s support of access to abortion care, the Arizona Daily Sun’s Abigail Kessler reports. Tucson adopted a similar resolution last year.
One man’s trash: Treasure hunters often flock to the Arizona Department of Revenue’s unclaimed property auctions, looking for good deals on items that people abandoned in safety deposit boxes, Cronkite News’ Izabella Hernandez reports. You can check to see if you have unclaimed property so that your precious goods don’t end up in these auctions using this website.
A heavy job: The state uses volunteers to help monitor kids placed in foster care as part of a program called Foster Care Review Boards, the University of Arizona Bolles Fellow Isabela Gamez reports. The volunteers review cases and report their observations in one board meeting per month. There’s a need for more volunteers who can commit to taking on this work; interested people can apply here.
At the end of the day: The Republic’s editorial board said former Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s failure to release his office’s findings on the 2020 election “cannot go unpunished,” pointing to the barrage of State Bar complaints filed against him since the news broke.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Arizona Agenda to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.