Dangerous Mind

Imagine Joe Arpaio as a dewy intellectual, and you've got County Attorney wanna-be Andy Thomas

In other words, little ladies, get back to the kitchen where you once belonged.

Though no polls have emerged, most political observers view 34-year-old Andrew Pacheco as Andy Thomas' chief competitor in the Republican primary.

Pacheco has been trying of late to position himself as the "toughest" of the lot, even going so far as to call Thomas "soft" on the issue of illegal immigration.

"(Andrew) Thomas comes across as the true believer of the Republican candidate crew, an honest-to-goodness right-wing zealot."
Douglas Boehm
"(Andrew) Thomas comes across as the true believer of the Republican candidate crew, an honest-to-goodness right-wing zealot."
The front-runner: Thomas
The front-runner: Thomas

That's akin to calling Hitler soft on the "Jewish question."

Still, the ambitious Pacheco seems to be a decent sort who resigned from the U.S. Attorney's Office to run for the county post. He's won endorsements from U.S. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl, as well as from J. Fife Symington III.

His platform -- the unofficial title for which is "Focus Like a Laser," as he likes to say -- is all about being tough, tough and tougher on criminals. Can't go wrong there. But his curious embrace of the ex-Arizona governor turned pastry chef flies in the face of his otherwise stout law-and-order credentials.

In 1997, Symington resigned from office in disgrace after he was convicted of seven felonies for repeatedly misstating his net worth to financial institutions to obtain loans. The convictions later were overturned on a technicality.

Another candidate, Jerry Landau, long was a high-ranking member of Romley's unofficial "cabinet." He's well-connected at the Arizona Legislature, and most local police agencies have endorsed him, as has his former boss Romley. But many observers say Landau is so closely aligned to Romley that his own unique visions for the office -- if he has any -- are getting lost in the shuffle. That's ironic in a way because the departing Romley remains popular with the public.

Another candidate for the job has the same fixation, only from the opposite extreme. Ex-deputy county attorney Tom McCauley also ought to be reminded that Romley isn't up for reelection. His unofficial campaign platform may be summed up in four words: "Rick Romley's office sucks."

On the upside, McCauley long has helped local victims of domestic violence, and he recently won the endorsement of Denise Brown, the sister of O.J. Simpson's murdered ex-wife, Nicole. However, an aide to McCauley unintentionally provided some dark humor last month when he invited listeners at a Phoenix candidates' forum to attend a cocktail hour with "Nicole Brown." The gaffe caused someone to whisper, "Now, that's a story!"

The other candidates include Mike Bailey, who quit his job as a homicide prosecutor to run for office. Bailey doesn't have nearly as much campaign money as Thomas and Pacheco, but he has repeatedly shone during the campaign's few give-and-take debates.

Like Andy Thomas, Bailey is pro-life, pro-death penalty and against bad guys in general. But the contrasts between the two men are striking:

Thomas believes in throwing the book at everyone -- charge-the-max-even-after-you-get-the-facts.

To the contrary, Bailey recognizes that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has limited resources to perform its myriad duties. And he's become convinced that using those resources, say, to convict people of minor drug possession crimes, is inane.

"I want prison reserved for those who hurt other people physically or have taken their property," he tells New Times. "I don't know whether that plays as a Republican here, but it's how I feel. We have to put our priorities on the most serious cases or we fail. Andrew Thomas is all talk. Andy is going to be tough on everyone. What a bill of goods!"

Thomas expressed his views on the "evils" of marijuana and social change in a piece in the May 1997 issue of the periodical American Enterprise.

Titled "Marijuana and Mea Culpas," Thomas' essay includes the statement, "It is a sad, obvious fact that by sampling drugs in their youth, today's parents lost some of the natural moral high ground and filial awe that are important assets for successful parenting. Yet they can still recover much if not all of this authority, if they will acknowledge that they committed an even bigger mistake by participating in the rupturing and casting aside of the customs and moral principles that successfully guided many prior generations."

Say what?! It's hard to tell, but he could be arguing that parents must counsel their children that they were high as kites or they wouldn't have protested against the Vietnam War and listened to Country Joe and the Fish so much.

The final Republican candidate is Rick Poster, a criminal-defense lawyer who worked as a county prosecutor in the mid-1990s. Predictably, Poster joins the chorus of candidates promising to be endlessly "tough" on crime. In his instance, that means his current clients.

At least one of Poster's ideas, to set up a day-care center for employees of the County Attorney's Office with young kids, sets him far apart from Andy Thomas' Neanderthal views on the subject.

In a few weeks, Encounter Books will release Andrew Peyton Thomas' latest tome, The People vs. Harvard Law: How America's Oldest Law School Turned Its Back on Free Speech.

New Times could not obtain an advance copy, but each of his three other books -- the crime book; Clarence Thomas: A Biography; and Fighting the Good Fight: America's "Minister of Defense" Stands Firm on What It Takes to Win God's Way (he co-authored the latter with ex-football great and unrepentant homophobe Reggie White, apparently a kindred spirit both politically and spiritually) -- tell much about Andy Thomas and how he thinks.

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Looking incredulously at the antics of this latter-day Huey Long from Europe, one can hardly help feeling that in his scribblings, Thomas is precisely one of the heartless ideologues Dickens decried as "philosophers" in "Oliver Twist". Who would have thought a Dickensian character would come to life in 21st century - complete with bucket-sized crocodile tears.

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