Reasons to Welcome 2015: Governor Bruja and AG Horne-Dog Exit Stage Right, and Arpaio Could Be Held in Contempt

Compared to has-been Jan Brewer, our new governor, Doug Ducey, at least has a college degree, and is not nearly as nasty as the bruja.
Compared to has-been Jan Brewer, our new governor, Doug Ducey, at least has a college degree, and is not nearly as nasty as the bruja.
Photos by Gage Skidmore

Am I wrong to feel weirdly optimistic, here at the start of 2015?

First, there's the prospect that federal Judge G. Murray Snow finally will find Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt of court in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio.

Granted, waiting for Arpaio to get his just deserts is a little like watching cobwebs grow, but Judge Snow seems at long last to have gotten the message I've been blasting for some time now.

Which is: Until Arpaio is held in contempt, he and his office never will truly comply with Snow's rulings in Melendres. You'll recall that in 2013, Snow found the MCSO guilty of racial profiling and ordered a series of reforms, including a monitor.

The alleged May 2014 suicide of MCSO deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz has revealed a grotesque world of corruption in Arpaio's ranks, leading all the way up to Joe's senior staff and likely to Arpaio himself.

Snow recently, in open court, warned Arpaio and some of his top henchmen of the possibility that they may be held in civil, perhaps even criminal, contempt. And Snow has given his monitor, Robert Warshaw, added investigative authority to access MCSO documents.

May I suggest that Warshaw go straight to any and all records of payments to confidential informants and to any records of investigations associated with those CIs.

There, he may discover, as I've reported previously, that the MCSO has been "investigating" Judge Snow on bogus grounds, using improper and perhaps illicit means to do so.

Sadly, controversies involving Arpaio tend to be tantalizing more than anything, yielding less than satisfying results.

But the departure from office of two desiccated haters from the right is a reality worthy of celebrating, at least for the moment.

I speak of disgraced ex-Attorney General Tom Horne and former Governor Jan Brewer, more accurately known by the appellation bestowed on her by Spanish-speaking detractors: bruja, or witch.

Regarding Brewer, there's been much blather among some apologists as to her "legacy."

Case in point: A recent online essay by Brewer's longtime eminence grise, Chuck Coughlin of HighGround Public Affairs, who referred to Brewer as Arizona's "own 'Iron Lady,'" thereby comparing Brewer to Margaret Thatcher, the late, great Tory Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Granted, Chuckles, you do kind of look like comedian Louis C.K., and if that Thatcher bit had been meant as a joke, I might say you have a career in stand-up.

Otherwise, likening Brewer to Thatcher is like comparing a rusty Buick to a gleaming Rolls-Royce.


Another reason to welcome 2015: This guy, Mark Brnovich, is AG, not sleazoid Tom Horne
Another reason to welcome 2015: This guy, Mark Brnovich, is AG, not sleazoid Tom Horne

For all her faults, Thatcher was a brilliant debater, who could hold her own with Labor Party foils during Prime Minister's Question Time.

She also had a four-year degree in chemistry, worked as a professional chemist, and later became a barrister, not to mention a Member of Parliament and leader of the Conservative Party.

By contrast, the only "iron" Brewer has is in her head. A longtime political hack with no college degree, then-Secretary of State Brewer lucked into being chief executive when ex-Governor Janet Napolitano left Arizona in 2009 to become head honcho at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President Obama.

As the SOS is Arizona's version of a Lieutenant Governor, Brewer took over by default.

Don't get me wrong: I have problems with Napolitano, as well, for altogether different reasons, but you had to respect the woman's intelligence. As a lawyer, she liked to spar with the press and had weekly news conferences where all reporters could appear and ask her just about anything.

Brewer, however, was about as accessible as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, likely because of her proficiency for inserting hoof into mouth.

Remember the nonexistent headless bodies in the desert? Her embarrassing brain fart on the local Horizon TV program during the general election debate of 2010? Or her assertion that her dad died fighting the Nazis, when he really worked in a munitions plant during WWII?

Coughlin and other Brewer boosters would like us to forget that she made the state a laughingstock, signed Arizona's bigoted Senate Bill 1070 into law, and rode a nasty wave of nativism in the 2010 gubernatorial election to the Ninth Floor of the state Capitol's Executive Tower.

Millions was spent defending this odious legislation, much of which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

Add to the 1070 debacle various spiteful antics on Brewer's part, like wagging her finger in Obama's face and fighting tooth and nail to keep law-abiding DREAMers from getting driver's licenses.

Brewer never relented on her wingnut war on young undocumented men and women, who were brought to this country when they were children and are the embodiment of the American Dream.

When, in late December, federal courts finally succeeded in forcing Arizona to issue driver's licenses to DREAMers who meet the stringent requirements of the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, it was as if fate had cemented Brewer's villainous role in history.

Want me to cut Brewer some slack for her championing Medicaid expansion, or for her selling a temporary one-cent sales tax to the public in 2010?

In both cases, she gets credit for doing the least of what she could have done.


Judge Snow could make 2015 a great year by holding Sheriff Joe in contempt
Judge Snow could make 2015 a great year by holding Sheriff Joe in contempt

(As for leaving Arizona's economy lagging as she departs office, I'll give her all the credit. She actually referred to this dismal performance as the "Arizona Comeback.")

The damage done by SB 1070 -- economic, political, and social -- remains. It was all unnecessary and a direct result of a political calculation that benefited Brewer (and Coughlin) and tore Arizona in half.

What about our new governor, Doug Ducey? I agree that his public adherence to supply-side economics is sheer lunacy, but at least the guy has a college degree and seems like he can sell ice cream to Eskimos.

Also, 2015 is not 2010. Ducey did not become governor by exploiting a police state law like SB 1070.

True, he did pander to far-right Mexican haters during the GOP primary. But so did all Republican candidates, in one way or another.

I'm so happy to be rid of Brewer that Ducey's ascendance looks like a minor improvement.

Oh, liberals, spare me the recitation of Ducey's flaws, as I know them better than you and have written about them at length.

Sure, during his inaugural address, Ducey promised no higher taxes on his watch, but what did you expect?

Even Ducey's Democratic rival, Fred DuVal, said during the general election, he would not raise taxes. At least Ducey's no longer talking about cutting taxes, with a $1.5 billion budget shortfall looming.

Ducey did promise to "tighten the belt on spending," and we can expect a fight over the state budget.

But he at least made brief mention of "equal justice . . . aid to the helpless, and the defense of the weak against the strong."

We will know shortly whether these words mean anything to Ducey, a supposed Christian, or whether they are verbal camouflage for a Republican hatchet man.

Finally, on the 2015 plus side, there is the end of Tom Horne's political career, and the long, icky, snail-like trail of corruption that he left through the corridors of the AG's Office.

I know Dems are disappointed that their pick, Felecia Rotellini, fell to the same guy who stomped Horne in the Republican primary, first-time political candidate Mark Brnovich.

But Brnovich has made several initial moves signaling that he will steer the AG's Office away from the extreme partisanship of the Horne years.

For instance, he hired Democrat John Johnson to take charge of the Child and Family Protection Division of the office, and he hired former Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Conrad, who served as criminal division chief under Democratic AG Terry Goddard, to come aboard for a few months to assist with the transition.

During his swearing-in speech, Brnovich, whose mother fled Communist Yugoslavia, touted himself as "a public school kid from an immigrant family" and promised to restore a sense of "dignity and professionalism" to the AG's Office that was noticeably absent under Horne.

We live in hope. Throw in the new J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars movie scheduled out in December, and 2015 could end better than 2014.


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