The current Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is a savvy politician. He knows what red meat smells like and he knows his constituents’ feeding schedule. And he has skillfully used ballot propositions to position himself with voters and to shape the debate on crime and immigration.
He created and sponsored a proposition in 1996 that established his cred as a crime fighter in Arizona. Prop 102, the "Stop Juvenile Crime" measure, didn’t stop juvenile crime, but it did change our constitution to allow the eventual abolishment of the juvenile justice system. I guess the idea is, "If no more juvenile justice system, then no more juvenile crime."
So far, legislators have been content to use the power inherent in Thomas’ proposition to increase the power of prosecutors to transfer violent juvenile offenders to the adult criminal justice system. But the power to abolish the juvenile system remains dormant, waiting for a someone like Thomas to use it to score political points when running for Attorney General or Governor.
More recently, Thomas hatched Proposition 100 in 2006, which denies bail to undocumented immigrants. Thomas is now using it to try to force the recusal of judges from ALL cases before his office if they don’t interpret the proposition the way he likes. It is an unprecedented attack on judicial independence by a public attorney, and it comes at an ideal time to begin whipping up his base for another run at state-wide office.
Let’s hope Thomas doesn’t get a chance to handle the Attorney General’s or Governor’s office the way he has handled the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. He’s virtually outsourced his civil division to the law firm of Dennis Wilenchik, the Phoenix attorney-ideologue who supported Thomas through his law firm while Thomas ran for the County Attorney position. Now that favor is being paid back with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of contracts granted to Wilenchick’s firm by Thomas, not to mention Wilenchick’s status as Thomas’ unofficial consiglieri and political hatchet man.
It was Wilenchik who held off indicting State Representative Trish Groe on Aggravated DUI charges for months until the legislature was out of session. It is Wilenchik leading the witch-hunt against Maricopa Superior Court Judge Ryan over immigrant bail status. It was Wilenchik at the heart of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s smear of opponent Dan Saban, and is behind Thomas’ and Arpaio’s scheme to embarass and harrass Terry Goddard over a allegations that disgraced State Treasurer David Peterson bribed him by paying statutorily-mandated legal fees in connection with the Attorney General’s investigation of his office on civil fraud charges.
Arpaio, Thomas, and Wilenchik have formed a law-enforcement powered political machine that stands ready to abuse their official powers to trounce anyone who challenges their control and stands in the way of their ambitions. How much more corrupt and powerful will this cabal become if Thomas gets his mitts on the Attorney General’s office, or the Governor’s office?
I don’t want to find out.