Arizona Stories Of The Year: 2013, Politics Edition

By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings


Note to BfA readers: this list is solely mine.  The other writers who contribute to BfA will almost certainly have their own lists.  My focus is on the goings-on at the state capitol, so this list is heavy on things that have an impact there, or at least in Maricopa County.

Many media outlets, pundits (and wanna-be pundits), and other observers of current events compile "Year End" or "Best Of" lists.

Since this blog focuses on Arizona politics, the list compiled here will focus on…wait for it…


Arizona politics.


I know this is really, truly, deeply, genuinely, shocking.


Anyway, on to the reason that we are all here – the list, counting down from the fifth-most significant/interesting story related to Arizona politics to number one.

Interesting but unplanned-for common characteristic:  I expect all of the following to have an impact in years beyond 2013.


5.  Coming in at number five, the ongoing travails of Tom Horne, Arizona's scandal-plagued attorney general.

He avoided serious repercussions stemming from a hit-and-run accident that he committed in 2012 while leaving his girlfriend's home after a (alleged) nooner.  Paid a small fine for a citation issue in the incident, avoided sanctions from the state bar association over his behavior, and even got his girlfriend to leave her taxpayer-funded job (something that would have looked bad for an AG candidate, much less one running for re-election).

However, he still has that pesky campaign finance violation case hanging over him.

This one will have an impact in 2014, as Horne faces a primary challenge from a GOP establishment insider.  Apparently, even they have a limit to their tolerance for embarrassingly wayward GOP elected officials.

Not that they have a problem with the "wayward" part, but the "embarrassing" part could impact them in the general election, holding down the rest of the ticket.


4.  Joe Arpaio faced the first serious pushback of his political career.

In May, US District Court Judge Murray Snow ruled that the Maricopa County Sheriff (and the office he leads) engaged in racial profiling in his anti-immigrant witch hunts "operations".

In October, the same judge imposed a number of requirements on Arpaio and the the MCSO to ensure their compliance with his ruling.

While he is still appealing the order, his office has become, if not more "professional", more circumspect and less ostentatious about the way they conduct their operations.

3.  Late in the year, news broke that Arizona's Child Protective Service simply ignored more than 6500 reports of child abuse.

Once the news broke, the finger-pointing began, with absolutely no one taking responsibility.  There is an ongoing "investigation", conducted by appointees of the governor.

So far the director of the agency still has not lost his job, the governor still has not faced up to her lack of oversight of the office, and the legislature still hasn't accepted responsibility for its chronic and deliberate underfunding of CPS.

If this scandal had broken earlier in the year, it might have been higher on this list, but most of the fallout, politically speaking, will occur in 2014.

What remains to be seen is how deep that fallout will be –

At what point will the director of CPS lose his job?  Best guess: when he starts to have more value to Governor Jan Brewer as a sacrificial lamb than as a distraction (his real current role in her administration).

At what point will Brewer step up and take responsibility for her administration's failure to do its job properly?  Best guess: Never.  That's what underlings are for.

At what point will the legislature start doing its job by providing the resources that CPS needs in order to do its job properly?  Best guess: Never.  That would require the legislature to have concern for children after they are born.


2.  In June, the state and the country were horrified when 19 "hotshot" firefighters were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

Of the 19 fallen hotshots, 13 were "seasonal", or part-time employees.  Their families aren't eligible for most of the death benefits received by the survivors of the six hotshots who were full-time employees.  Lawsuits have ensued.

In and of itself, not a political story.  However, the aftermath has become political.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, many elected officials, even those that had previously been openly contemptuous of public servants, lavished heaps of posthumous praise on the fallen hotshots.

Now, after a few months have passed and other events have occurred, distracting people who weren't directly affected by the Yarnell Hill tragedy, not so much.

From a press release sent out in early July over the names of Andy Tobin and Andy Biggs, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and the President of the Arizona State Senate, respectively (for context, the full story from here) –

"Arizona is in a deep state of mourning over the loss of 19 of the finest young men ever to serve as emergency first responders."

From an Arizona Republic story published in late December on excuses and rationalizations on why legislative efforts to address the disparity in the treatment of the hotshots' survivors - 

Tobin said there are just too many questions right now.

β€œThe members want fairness. But the lawsuits just create an awful lot more questions,” he said. β€œDo we have to wait for the lawsuits to go through? If we pass a law now, does that mean we have to negotiate with the families?”

Nice touch there – Tobin, an erstwhile candidate for Congress in 2014, passing the blame for the lege's inaction to the families of the fallen.


…Drum roll please…

And the number one story in Arizona politics in 2013 was

1. The restoration of AHCCCS (AZ's Medicaid program) eligibility to the levels previously approved by the voters.

During the waning days of the legislative session, things got a little testy when a coalition of Democrats and Jan Brewer-led Republicans put language restoring AHCCCS eligibility to previous level into a budget bill and then pushed it through over the objections of the Republican leadership in the lege and the TP-est of the tea party types in the rank and file of the R caucuses.

After the measure passed, there was an effort to overturn it by referring it to the ballot in November 2014.  The effort was led by two wingnut former legislators, Frank Antenori and Ron Gould.

The effort failed miserably.

During, and after, the session, there were promises of payback directed at the R apostates.  Whether that happens remains to be seen, but primary season should be interesting.  Many of the Rs who supported Medicaid restoration are from districts that are competitive or are close enough that a primary challenge that results in a "bay at the moon" type becoming the GOP standard-bearer could result in a D pickup. 

As far as payback during the upcoming session, so far most of what I've heard of is restricted to certain committee chairs promising that they will not hear, much less vote for, any bills proposed by the apostates.

There have also been rumors of committee membership shuffling, removing apostates from their favorite assignments, but I don't expect things to be over-the-top nasty –

It's an even-numbered year, and all will be focused on the election, whether they are running reelection to the lege or for another office.  Putting too much effort into intra-caucus knife fights will distract them from their highest purpose –

Staying on the elected official gravy train.



Preview of this post's 2014 edition:  Whatever it may turn out to be, the outcome of the referendum on the voter suppression proposal from the lege will affect elections in Arizona for years, maybe decades, to come.  More so than any of the individual races.


Up next:  a preview of 2014.  Considerably more tongue-in-cheek than this post. πŸ™‚

One response to “Arizona Stories Of The Year: 2013, Politics Edition

  1. Nice round up. I’m hoping for a saner 2014 in AZ, although my hopes for a Dem governor are probably unrealistic.