Diane Douglas, the self-taught constitutionalist, former Peoria school-board member and one-issue Republican candidate, is the official winner of the race for state schools chief.
Besides the fact that her victory solidifies GOP dominance in state government, it remains unclear how much damage Douglas could do.
But if the political novice has problems, such as figuring out whom to put in important positions within her office, Douglas' campaign adviser, scandal-plagued Sandra Dowling, former Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, apparently will be there to help.
The Dowling-Douglas partnership is just one more reason to be worried about Douglas, an unabashed ideologue whose personal education seems to be in need of improvement. (The Associated Press called the race for Douglas over the weekend; Democratic opponent David Garcia hasn't yet conceded.)
Making the rounds this weekend on Facebook was a screenshot of a Fox 10 (KSAZ-TV) news report from last week's election that displays apparent crappy grammar in a statement released by Douglas' camp.
"After being outspend (sic) 7 to 1, we are please (sic) with where the vote count stands at this time," says the statement attributed to Douglas and flashed on the screen in the broadcast spot.
The TV station corrects the grammar in an article version of the piece. But the writing in Douglas' campaign-site bio also seems a bit off. Intended or not, her folksiness is sort of her schtick for right-wing supporters: She's the anti-education education champion. As her bio states, "I began studying the American education system and the federal government's ever increasing intrusion into our local control since the early 1990s. I did it on my own, for my own edification rather than through a college of 'education' in order to add letters after my name."
Dowling, on the other hand, is multi-degreed, highly experienced and savvy. She has connections and, possibly, a thirst for revenge against her former political enemies.
It remains to be seen if Douglas hires Dowling directly as an aide -- but the question isn't fully relevant to questions about Dowling's influence with Douglas. (Think Chuck Coughlin and Jan Brewer.)
Douglas has been called the "invisible candidate." She was virtually MIA during the campaign. Her single issue is Common Core standards, yet she told KTAR radio over the weekend, "We have standards now that we can't control, we can't change and we can't make sure that they work for Arizona." In other words, regarding the one issue on which she campaigned, she admits she has zero control over it. She's had a disturbing habit of avoiding news-media interviews in the last few months.
Dowling's an open book -- and it's a drama.
With her trademark short hair and her "autocratic" style of management, Dowling made national news back in the mid-1990s when the Thomas J. Pappas school for homeless children opened. But she fought bitter battles with County Supervisors, including former Supervisor Don Stapley.
Caught in the grasp of one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's politically-tainted investigations, Dowling was ultimately indicted on 25 felonies related to financial misuse of her office and other abuses. The case fell apart. A federal judge ruled Arpaio never had probable cause for a high-profile SWAT raid on Dowling's home.
In 2008, Dowling pleaded guilty to one federal misdemeanor count of nepotism. Check out the notable name from an Arizona Republic article about her conviction:
"Assistant United States Attorney Mark Brnovich said that aspect of the agreement made the case a success.
"'As the plea agreement makes clear, Sandra Dowling admitted to engaging in criminal conduct while in office and [will] give up control of the accommodation district, which includes the Pappas Schools,' Brnovich's statement read. 'We believe this is a just and fair resolution of the case.'"
We wonder how well Douglas' office will get along with the new state Attorney General, Brnovich, former tormentor of her trusted campaign adviser.
Dowling sued the county over her persecution with the help of lawyer Mike Manning. Last year, the county settled with her for $250,000.
But with the win by her candidate, Douglas, Dowling seems to be back in Arizona politics. Rumor even has it among Democratic critics that the new County Community College District board may replace Chancellor Rufus Glasper with Dowling.
Is Dowling a case of the system being unable to keep a good woman down or is it the political rebirth of an ambitious, self-enriching, powerful conservative with enemies on all fronts?
For now, when watching Douglas, we'll be sure to keep one eye on Dowling. Here's a sample of previous articles about Dowling by Phoenix New Times:
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