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The Daily Agenda: A county attorney litmus test
Don't call the skinny budget skinny ... You can't run an Arizona campaign on the cheap anymore ... And a clothing line for the ages.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors interviewed the three Republicans running to be the next county attorney in a closed-door meeting yesterday, as supervisors hope to appoint one of them until January to avoid a messy process of finding a short-term interim leader during election season to replace Allister Adel.
But the power of incumbency comes at a price: Supervisors would only consider appointing a candidate who denounce the Big Lie. And in a GOP primary where voters are still obsessed with Donald Trump’s 2020 loss, saying Biden won the election in Maricopa County could be damaging.
Still, the appointment would be a big boost to any candidate, granting them the power of incumbency heading into the August primary. That would allow them to rack up earned media, name ID and experience on the job, not to mention the campaign help from the supervisors’ bully pulpit. If one candidate stood out in the interviews, supervisors could make an appointment as early as Wednesday.
And maybe that’s why the three candidates were so clear in their written responses to the board’s question about whether supervisors erred in certifying the 2020 election, even after two of the candidates were wishy-washy about whether the 2020 election was free and fair when AZFamily reporter Dennis Welch asked them all. In that interview:
Former Ninth Floor attorney Anni Foster took a page out of her boss’ playbook, repeatedly dodging the question and saying only that “it’s resolved as to who the president is.”
Goodyear prosecutor Gina Godbehere leaned into election integrity when asked if the election was fair, saying there were “discrepancies” in the election results.
Only longtime sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell clearly announced that President Joe Biden won Maricopa County and the state fair and square, saying there’s been “no finding that state law was violated by anybody in Maricopa County.”
But in their answers to the Board yesterday, all three candidates said the supervisors were right to certify the election results and that subsequent inquiries, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s interim report, didn’t include anything that would call the election into question.
The county attorney is the board’s attorney, and supervisors’ fixation on the issue is justified, considering they’ve faced threats of jail time and their last attorney was noticeably absent during key moments in the now yearlong fight with the Senate. Then of course there’s Brnovich and the Republicans vying to replace him, who are already trying to distinguish themselves as tougher on fake fraud than the incumbent.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump yesterday took shots at Brnovich for “kicking the can down the road” with his report and announced he would endorse someone else “in the not too distant future!”
Perhaps the county attorney candidates learned a lesson from Brnovich, who last week went on Steve Bannon’s podcast to spread more election disinformation, this time the easily debunkable claim that the county uses artificial intelligence to adjudicate ballots.
That lesson is, no matter how much you compromise yourself to appease the election deniers in your party, it’s never going to be enough.
The Arizona House of Representatives introduced a doomed “skinny budget” yesterday afternoon in an apparent attempt to get the stalled budget process unstuck, but it has no chance of passing the House and Senate, let alone getting signed into law.
Still, lawmakers seem ready to push ahead with a vote this week, doomed or not. There’s word the Senate may put a skinny budget up for a vote this week as well.
Rep. Regina Cobb, the House Appropriations Committee chair, argued passing a continuation budget would be the responsible solution, considering lawmakers haven’t been able to come to any sort of budget agreement so far and a resolution seems far off. Passing a budget is lawmakers’ only constitutional duty, she noted, and they’re not doing it. (She didn’t like the term “skinny budget,” noting it wouldn’t be all that skinny, considering it’s essentially just reinstating this year’s roughly $13 billion budget with some tweaks as required by law.)
“Taxpayers are paying us to not vote, to not do anything right now. We're sitting down there getting paid to do nothing. And that's what we're doing,” she said, adding that voters will be satisfied with a continuing budget. “I think voters will be tickled that we’re doing our job.”
But Ducey wouldn't be tickled by a skinny budget, his spokesman C.J. Karamargin said.
Karamargin initially offered up the obligatory “we don’t negotiate the budget through the press” when we called him. But he couldn’t resist giving a real answer when asked if Ducey is ready to throw away his plans for a blockbuster final year as governor in favor of a continuing budget while the state sits on a surplus of more than $5 billion.
“We have inflation eating away at Arizonans’ hard-earned incomes, we’ve got a broken border, we’ve got a water crisis,” he said. “Now is not the time to talk about a skinny budget. Now is the time to work together on our shared priorities.”
The Arizona Agenda’s annual budget is skinny, too, but not by choice. Help us beef up the bottom line by becoming a paid subscriber for $8 per month or $80 per year.
Best way to make money is to already have money: Campaign finance reports show that the people who raised the most money are the people you suspected raised the most money. In the crowded governor’s race, GOP candidates Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson have the biggest war chests (with Taylor Robson self-funding) and Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs leads the other side. Wendy Rogers and Mark Finchem continue to line their pockets by promoting election conspiracies. It’s not just candidates bringing in bucks: An anti-Finchem group is throwing down dollars, and so is Chicanos Por La Causa on Latino voter outreach. And if you think the amount of money pouring into Arizona now is a lot, just wait until 2024, when we’re one of the six states that could determine the presidency.
That’s light regulation for you: The Republic’s Ryan Randazzo expensed some medical-grade weed, tested it for contaminants found that it has high levels of a pesticide, despite passing lab tests required by state law. The state oversees the labs that test marijuana products, but doesn’t spot-check the products themselves, unlike other states with legalized pot. In other weed news, medical sales declined as recreational sales increased, and you can get a ride from the airport directly to a dispensary on a new shuttle.
Rough circumstances for organisms that need water to live: The state’s dire water prospects pose a “health and safety” issue for those of us who have to drink water to survive, the state’s top water official told 12News’ Brahm Resnik. And Arizona’s poor water situation made the pages of Governing, where the magazine contrasts the lack of water in Rio Verde Foothills with the abundant water rights of the Gila River Indian Community and tries to predict what a future Arizona could look like. In other hellscape news, cactus, which can withstand our hot and dry climate, might not be able to contend with climate change.
The sourcing here is hilarious: GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake knocked on voters’ doors to try to get them to vote for former Democratic President Barack Obama, the Washington Free Beacon reports, based on a conversation between one of Lake’s former Fox10 colleagues and former Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu that the news outlet caught wind of. (An active employee of a legitimate media organization would be barred by journalistic ethics and company policies from contributing to and volunteering for a candidate or campaign.)
Let the rocket dockets begin: Yesterday was the deadline to challenge candidates’ qualifications for office, and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer spent the day tweeting a running tally of challenges.
Didn’t expect noise … on a college campus: Mirabella at ASU, a senior living complex near Tempe’s raucous Mill Avenue, won a lawsuit against Shady Park, a club just below the high-rise, over noise levels. While Shady Park is appealing the Maricopa County Superior Court ruling, the music spot said it might have to close for good if the judge’s ruling holds.
A longread worth your time: The legacy of housing discrimination practices like redlining and deed restrictions still reverberates today in South Phoenix, where Black and Latino residents have low homeownership rates and missed out on building home equity, the Republic’s Catherine Reagor and Megan Taros report.
Cities can’t afford to live here either: Rising inflation is adding millions to city construction projects across the Valley, making public proposals like swimming pools and parks more costly and cramping city budgets, the Republic’s Renata Cló and Maritza Dominguez report.
New statues just dropped: A bill signed last week by President Joe Biden will put statues of Arizona’s own Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, as well as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Capitol. Despite O’Connor’s status as the U.S. Supreme Court’s first female justice and as a longtime Arizona Republican, U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar voted against the bill.
The hierarchy of seeking refuge: Ukrainian refugees wanting to enter the country at the U.S.-Mexico border are getting helped quickly while asylum seekers from elsewhere continue to face long waits, the Republic’s Rafael Carranza reports.
Secret juries: An Arizona Supreme Court hearing set for today will weigh the ability of the state to withhold the names of jurors, which has happened in two criminal trials in Cochise County where journalists tried to access the jurors’ names without success, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports.
Better safe than sorry: The recount of Salt River Project’s elections didn’t change the winners, but did identify a few discrepancies, Randazzo reports.
Blast from the past: Ed Buck, once a heavyweight Democratic donor in Arizona, received a 30-year prison sentence in California last week after he was convicted of distributing meth to two men who then died of overdoses at his apartment, CNN reports.
Remember her?: Complaints over donations to superPAC DefendArizona, which supported Martha McSally’s failed U.S. Senate bid in 2018, could lead to a crackdown on some donations to superPACs, Politico reports.
Surprising no one: Gateway Pundit fabulist Jordan Conradson allegedly pushed his girlfriend and broke some of her stuff, court records show, per the Republic.
Gov. Doug Ducey and lawmakers moved swiftly this year to fix a very serious problem that may or may not exist.
Ducey declared in his January State of the State speech that “government bureaucrats” were finding “a way around the law” to charge victims up to $800 for rape test kits. He pledged to “crack down on this government abuse.”
But University of Arizona student and Don Bolles fellow Gloria Gomez couldn’t find a single facility charging victims for rape kits, nor a single county attorney who’d heard of the practice in recent years. She tracked down the origin of the claim in a letter from the Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women to Ducey in support of a budget allocation to the Department of Economic Security.
Still, Ducey’s office has refused to say where this is happening, and the commission that sent the letter doesn’t want to say either, because the problems may be the result of “misunderstandings” that the bill now resolves, the Republic reported last week.
Senate Bill 1593 passed both chambers unanimously, and Ducey signed it into law last week.
Remember Tim Jeffries?
Perhaps you better remember him as “Director J.,” the smiley-face aficionado and video-montage master with a cult-leader-like aura who once ran the Arizona Department of Economic Security. He was eventually fired after going on a firing spree against “bullies” in the department and after buying booze for his staff and sending them prayer-collecting emails and hoarding guns and ammo at the department that offers services to the poor. (Before firing Jeffries, Gov. Doug Ducey defended him, and his staff claimed the governor wanted to “clone” Jeffries.) After his firing, he sued the state (then dropped the lawsuit), threatened to run against Ducey and eventually ran a failed campaign for the Arizona Senate.
Well, if you thought that chapter of his life was wild, wait until you see what he’s up to now.
“Director J.” has been reborn as “Wolverine” AKA “Flatliner” and he’s making some very edgy Christian clothing (though he goes shirtless in his headshot for the brand’s website).
Just click the link.