Before the September 10 primary, The Spike thought it would be fun to devote this week's column to all the wackos who lost the election. A parting shot at some folks we didn't expect to see for another two to four years -- the gay bashers, the home schoolers, the rabid pro-lifers who wear tie tacks shaped like tiny fetus feet.
Turns out, most of them won. Even Arizona Corporation Commission member Jim Irvin beat his opponent handily. That guy's got so many allegations against him, The Spike was shocked that he had the audacity to even run again.
But Irvin actually won. So did Mechamite and professional public-education basher Trent Franks, who is now all but guaranteed a win in Congressman Bob Stump's west Phoenix district, come November. The Spike wonders how Franks will feel at that first Arizona GOP caucus meeting, when he has to sit next to Jim Kolbe, the gay congressman from Tucson.
In the days before the election, The Spike had heard rumors that Franks was the front runner for Stump's seat. Apparently, Franks toned down the "God Bless You's" and left the Mecham administration off his résumé.
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But perhaps Franks needn't have bothered. Primaries traditionally draw from the far left and the far right, leaving the middle home on the couch to lament the results. With an abysmally low turnout, this year was a classic example. While the moderates yawned, the Falwell-esque group Center for Arizona Policy was spreading its voter guide all over the state, including in Catholic churches. Diocese leaders finally issued a veiled statement a few days before the election, warning that such guides did not necessarily reflect the church's views. That's how far-right these people are.
Where's John McCain when you need him? The Tony Soprano of the Arizona Republican party is notorious for weeding out primary candidates, anointing only those with the best shot at ultimately grabbing an office. The state's senior senator must've been on a book tour this year.
For the most part, the Democrats followed the McCain model this time around, leaving almost all high-profile primary races uncontested. The main exception, of course, was the gubernatorial race, in which Alfredo Gutierrez barely nudged Janet Napolitano's apple cart. (Alfredo's fortune-teller radio spots do win points for best ads of the election season so far, even though his signs looked like a logo for an Italian restaurant. But Janet's handmade-looking signs are far worse. And don't get The Spike started on her TV spots.)
The Spike did get one interesting post-primary fax from a group of anonymous Dems who were pissed that Congressman Ed Pastor campaigned for some Hispanic Democrats. The Spike says, good for you, Ed! Didn't know you had it in you to hoof for anyone.
Notably, Pastor did not endorse Gutierrez.
Gutierrez and Napolitano weren't particularly nice to each other, but their spats were nothing compared to the vicious fights within the GOP.
The lesson here was: the meaner, the better. The hate mail sent out by GOP Attorney General candidate Andrew Thomas is the most rabid that local political observers remember seeing in a long time. Thomas won.
Someone launched an "Anyone But" campaign against congressional candidate Scott Bundgaard; he barely made the boards. Bundgaard wasn't so nice to opponent Lisa Atkins, another loser. Tom Horne attacked Jaime Molera, the current state education chief, and picked him off handily.
Molera's loss prompted accusations that the Arizona Republican Party is anti-Hispanic. That may be, but the real question is whether the Arizona Republican Party is anti-Republican. His own party didn't bother to save Molera -- a huge faux pas in a world where incumbency is supposed to stand for everything -- and, with him, the GOP lost its best shot at keeping the state education job. In fact, all of the Republican winners for statewide office have huge targets on their heads.
Remember, the Democrats have awfully poor aim. That leaves the final outcome most uncertain.
What The Spike knows for sure is that a lot of moderate Republican women have a lot of thinking to do. The theory on the street this past week, among both Democrats and Republicans, is that Andrew Thomas is Public Enemy Number One -- so conservative that many mod GOPers will plug their noses and make Terry Goddard the new attorney general (breaking what is perhaps the longest losing streak in the history of Arizona politics).
But what will those ladies do with the rest of their votes? They tend to be pro-choice, so conventional wisdom holds that they'll disagree with how Janet Napolitano styles her hair, but will vote for her anyhow. A Republican friend tells The Spike that may not be so, that those women just won't be able to bring themselves to vote for two Democrats at the top of the ticket. So they'll vote for Matt Salmon, even though he's pro-life.
The real wild card in that race is Dick Mahoney, the Independent candidate who pundits keep saying could steal votes from Napolitano. The Spike's not so sure. Mahoney is like John McCain -- you like him a lot until you actually meet him in person.
With so much riding at the national and state levels, it's easy to overlook the Arizona Legislature. Don't. Many keepers of the Capitol brain trust (Democratic senators Chris Cummiskey, Ruth Solomon and Elaine Richardson, and Republican Senator Randall Gnant and Representative Roberta Voss) left to seek higher office, or aren't running at all.
Heck, The Spike will even miss Tom Smith, the snarky Scottsdale conservative. His views are wacky, but at least Smith admits them up-front. Same goes for Bundgaard. Both are leaving the Senate.
There were a few bright spots on Election Day. Republican James Kraft, whose true place in the cheese family is still unknown, lost his House seat. Democrat Bill Brotherton beat Earl Wilcox for a spot in the Senate. Phew on both counts.
The losses far outweigh the wins. Senate Democrat Kathi Foster will be missed. And The Spike was really bummed to see Republican Steve May narrowly lose his House seat. May went to the Legislature to fight for the economy, and wound up fighting for gay rights. He made the brave choice. He paid for that, many times over. Did it cost May his House seat? Hard to say. Does he even care? May didn't bother to stick around for Election Day. He was off in Macedonia, observing an election there. In any case, May was a fascinating and effective lawmaker.
But the biggest loss by far may be Susan Gerard. Gerard, a Republican, is the smartest, savviest, funniest politician the Arizona Legislature has seen in a long time, if ever. Her race was so tight that the votes were still being counted as this column went to press, but it didn't look good. First in the House, then the Senate, Gerard led a band of moderate Republicans that gained in size and stature, influencing important legislation on health care, education and other social issues. Gerard was so persuasive she could even tell her far-right colleagues how to vote, and she used to laugh about how Debra Brimhall -- the ultraconservative from Pinedale who home-schooled her kids at the Legislature -- would stand behind Gerard on the House floor and copy her votes.
The only good news is that Brimhall lost her seat, too.
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