Even though I'm on deadline for this week's column, I couldn't miss today's action by the Russell Pearce-recall group Citizens for a Better Arizona, during which organizer Randy Parraz attempted to deliver to the state Senate President his first ever (to my knowledge) unemployment "check" dated December 5, 2011. That would be after the likely date of Pearce's impending recall election.
And it is impending, and may well happen in November instead of March, as many had anticipated. The numbers Parraz revealed to the press, before walking into the state Senate building with about 50 CBA-ers, were tantalizing.
I confirmed these, by the way, with Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, whose office is still counting the 16,949 signatures on Pearce recall petitions that the Arizona Secretary of State's Office turned over to the county, per state statute, on June 3.
Of those, 9,942 have been checked, according to Osborne. She said 6,067 signatures have been deemed valid, so far. The rest of the checked sigs, or 3,875, are invalid.
This is positive for the recall effort for two reasons. First, it means the county is on schedule to complete its validation process before its August deadline. This, Parraz contends, could ensure a November recall election, given the other deadlines involved.
Second, it means that around 61 percent of the sigs checked are turning up valid. If that trend continues for the remainder of the count, more than 10,000 signatures will be found to be legit, well past the statutory requirement of 7,756 signatures needed to force Pearce's recall.
I should point out that CBA submitted 18,315 sigs to the SOS's office, but the SOS tossed a couple of thousand. Parraz told me that he will challenge the fact that some of the John Hancocks were put aside.
He says they are being discounted for niggling problems, such as not having the year "2011" next to the person's name, even though the date is otherwise correct and the year appears on the official petition sheets.
As I pointed out in my recent column, despite the chattermonkeys in the local Fourth Estate pooh-poohing the entire effort and predicting its failure, there will be a recall election. It may indeed be in November, and Pearce is as vulnerable as he's ever been, particularly following the Republican Legislature's bonehead move of adjourning without approving an extension in unemployment benefits for jobless Arizonans.
Phoenix journos, and I use that term loosely,* such as the Arizona Guardian's Dennis Welch, the assorted nobodies at the Capitol Times, and hack loser Howie Fischer, will all have to eat their words. Know why? Because I plan to serve each verb and adjective up to them, fricasseed.
Fischer was present today, mocking CBA's presence at every turn, suggesting that the action was only newsworthy if Parraz got arrested. This, though Parraz was not breaking the law by entering the Senate with other CBA members.
At one point, I told Fischer he should bug off if he thought there was nothing to report. When of the recall, he stated, "I'll believe it when I see it," I had this retort:
"When you see it, and you will see it, will that finally shut you up?"
The veteran sycophant had no reply. Nor did he to most of my other verbal attacks, which I applied whenever he insulted the assembled citizenry, many of whom happened to be Pearce's constituents from Legislative District 18.
You see, there is a Capitol press corps to which Fischer and these other reporters belong. This means they are in close contact with the Legislators every day, and woe be it to them if they should step too far out of line.
It's an exclusive little club, and when I asked state Senate Sergeant at Arms Joseph Kubacki who could join, he replied that the Legislature was not considering additional applicants. Though, he offered, anyone with press credentials could go onto the state Senate floor.
Which essentially proves my contention that this lame cabal of scribblers is in cahoots with the political status quo and will never adequately challenge it.
In any case, Parraz & Co. went to the second floor of the state Senate building, but were denied access to the politicians who presumably represent them. A security guard called Pearce's office, but he was too busy to come out, natch. The security staff guy reluctantly called the office again, to inquire if anyone from Pearce's staff would come out and take the "check."
Capitol police showed up, and Arizona Department of Public Safety plainclothes officer J. Gentry Burton kept a watchful eye on the proceedings. But other than ask the delegation to move away from the elevators, they did nothing.
The CBAers decided to wait for a little while to see if Pearce or anyone else would emerge from hiding. But after about a half hour or so of kibitzing, they called it quits.
Parraz thanked everyone for coming, and noted that it was a "very somber time in Arizona," what with all the economic hardship, and a state Legislature indifferent to the needs of those suffering the brunt of it. He also observed the way they had all been treated while visiting an assembly established and paid for by them, state taxpayers.
He admitted they did not have an appointment with Pearce, though many from CBA had tried to call the Senate President's office to make such an appointment. Still, he stated that lobbyists and others with business at the Capitol often did not make appointments, but simply waited in the hallways, attempting to buttonhole Legislators.
"You come in here, play by the rules, and get looked at kind of weird, like...asking them to make a phone call [to have Senator Pearce come out] is asking them to do too much for you," he said of the state Senate employees.
"[Or] to have a staff person just meet you and say, `Thank you for coming, yes, I'll take that back to the Senator,'" he added. "We can't even get that kind of decency out of the President of the Senate.
"Someone like [Pearce] is too extreme. [People say] why is the recall gaining traction, why is that being successful? Because this kind of behavior should not be tolerated by anyone, whether you're a Republican, an Independent, or a Democrat."
There was a tense moment when the Sergeant at Arms initially refused to take the "check" from Parraz's hand, telling him to leave it on the security desk. But Parraz didn't budge, and Kubacki eventually relented and took the paper for later delivery to Pearce.
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SHOW ME HOW
The Capitol should have been filled with citizens today, angry over the Legislature's ineptness and the state Senate President's intransigence. And there were some others there, including one fellow from a local veterans association, who was worried that the lack of action on unemployment would mean more vets on the street.
But other than CBA and a few other folks, there was no one there to challenge the politicians. So-called "progressives" in this burg talk a big game, but the only people achieving results right now are in Parraz's group. Word to the Dems: speeches are not enough. Look to Wisconsin, AZ Ds, and learn a tough lesson.
*Note: Unlike the others, Welch has serious journalistic chops. And I actually like him on a personal level. That doesn't mean he's not full of it on the Pearce recall. He is. I just want to help him see the error of his ways. Fischer, on the other hand, is a committed hack, and will never rise above that rank.