Man, it’s getting weird out there.
Must be time for the mail-in ballots to hit the mailboxes of long-suffering voters — because it’s hard to keep track of all the strange and unexpected developments on the campaign trail.
Now, that’s not so good for voters hoping for reasoned debate and clear-cut motives.
But, hey — it’s great for a political junkie working on another layer of cynicism like a beach bunny on her tan.
So, where to start?
All right: Let’s start with juicy gossip.
POOR RICH PEOPLE
Six of secretary of state candidate Wil Cardon’s sibling are suing him, claiming he raided the family trust fund to buy a fancy house and run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Supposedly he took out $6.5 million for his campaign, then hit the family piggy bank for another $3.5 million to buy a house. His loving siblings want him to repay a total of almost $10 million.
Cardon’s now running against two former lawmakers for the Republican secretary of state nomination — Michele Reagan and Justin Pearce. They’ve each dropped by Payson a couple of times — and mostly they’re being charming and worrying that Democrats want to make it too easy to vote by mail. Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is running unopposed for the nomination on the Democratic side. So far he’s mostly talking about the tidal wave of undisclosed, unregulated campaign spending by special interests affectionally labeled “dark money.” But no one’s really paying much attention to the secretary of state race and Cardon has only put in about $133,500 of his own money into his campaign.
I know it’s an unworthy thought: But don’t you just love it when rich people have even more messed up families than you?
DARK MONEY IN GOVERNOR’S RACE
Meanwhile, speaking of campaign spending — it’s getting kind of messy and dark.
Which is to say, so-called “dark money” has made its mark in the intensely contested Republican governor’s race.
The U.S. Supreme Court a couple of years ago did what amounts to a mob hit on campaign financing reform — double-tapped the poor sucker to the head and dumped him in a swamp. Not only did the court rule that corporations are people too — but decided they don’t even have to reveal what they’re spending so long as they don’t “coordinate” political efforts with the candidate himself. Shared political consultant — no problem.
Attorney General Tom Horne got tangled up in the fine distinction during his last campaign and is still sorting through the nasty investigations and allegations as he struggles toward re-election. He’s facing a strong challenge in the primary by former Arizona Gaming Director Mark Brnovich. Whoever wins that cockfight will face Democrat Felecia Rotellini, former state banking superintendent and prosecutor.
Meanwhile, unrevealed, unregulated, unlimited corporate and special interest money has been pouring into political campaigns.
The strategy seems to be working for State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who has finally bubbled up to the top of the crowded Republican field thanks to about $2 million in donations, augmented by about $400,000 in television ads paid for by outside, mostly undisclosed interests.
Former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones has emerged as his chief challenger at the moment, with a lot of her own money dumped into the effort. She baffled political observers by launching a TV blitz early in the process, then going dark for seven weeks. Now that she’s back on the air, she’s getting hit by negative ads from various innocuously named groups with undisclosed backers — which allows Ducey to go negative without getting his hands dirty.
But the heavy TV spending in the Valley has allowed Ducey and Jones to pull ahead of the pack for the moment. The other contenders are hoarding their more limited cash stash. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and former Congressman Frank Riggs are biding their time and driving all over the state to speak to anyone and everyone. Who the heck knows what disbarred attorney and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is doing — except hoping the Ev Mecham voters will come out of hiding.
Meanwhile, unopposed Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Board of Regents Chairman Fred DuVal keeps putting out press releases asking the Republicans to adopt a “no dark money” pledge. Good luck with that, Fred.
And now that we’ve mentioned Andrew Thomas, we should note that he had a very entertaining press conference the other day, trying to keep his competitors from out-crazying him on the illegal immigration debate.
Thomas got himself disbarred for filing lawsuits and launching investigations of judges and Maricopa County supervisors, which the state supreme court’s disciplinary panel for lawyers considered an abuse of power.
Now, Thomas wants to send thousands of National Guard troops to man the border and fence all 376 miles. He conceded that the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation probably won’t want to fence its stretch of the border, since the tribe has traditional lands and communities on both sides of the international border. So he said we should basically build the fence north of the reservation, which is about 200 miles north of the border. This would essentially wall off hundreds of square miles of U.S. territory.
It would cost about $60 million to post about 3,000 National Guard troops on the border. They can’t legally enforce immigration laws, but they could radio the INS or something.
It’s unclear how much it would cost to fence 350 miles of border in Arizona. The U.S. spent $2.4 billion to fence 670 miles between 2006 and 2009. But it all depends on whether you want a single strand fence, which is easy to snip, snip and get through. A double fence with all the do-dads and snooping systems would likely cost far more.
So even in a field of candidates scrambling to get tough on illegal immigration, Thomas still manages to stand out. He said he could come up with the $60 million for the National Guard and the who-knows-how-much for fencing. Not to worry, kiddos. He’s got it covered. No new taxes. He’ll take the money from food stamps, AHCCCS and other social services.
Remember “compassionate conservatives”?
Ah, the good old days.