Steve Chucri, CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, announced plans today to run against Don Stapley in 2012 for a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
"It's time for new ideas ... it's time for a new day at the county," says Chucri, who's been head of the restaurant association since 2002. Prior to that, he worked for six years as legislative liaison for former (and maybe future) Congressman Matt Salmon.
Chucri, like Stapley, is a Republican. That means he has a chance, at least, in the county's heavily conservative District 2 in the East Valley. Probably more than a chance, considering all the baggage clinging to Stapley, who's been on the board since 1997.
Stapley was vindicated, mostly, following three separate criminal indictments based on tainted investigations by the offices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. His name was still tarnished after the smoke cleared: Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores believes that, if not for the lawmen's unethical actions, she could have successfully prosecuted Stapley for a scheme in which he raised money for a non-competitive position with the National Association of Counties.
Perhaps even worse, from the point of view of potential voters, Stapley's suing the county for $15 million because of the failed prosecutions. Still, the longtime Supervisor has said he intends to run for re-election in 2012.
"It's hard to ask for someone's vote, all the while suing them," Chucri says. "I think there's a fundamental disconnect."
Stapley's latter-day reign has been full of "distraction," and Chucri hopes to
Chucri shies away from bashing Stapley too much in a brief interview with New Times, saying his goal for now is to meet more District Two constituents and figure out how to break down barriers for job creation. The big question is "how do we get people back to work," he says.
Before filing his candidacy paperwork with the county's election department, Chucri met personally with Stapley, Arpaio and the new county attorney, Bill Montgomery. Chucri says he didn't ask Arpaio for an endorsement, but that if the sheriff wanted to endorse him, that would be fine.
We ask him if he believed the sheriff didn't know about abuses and ethical problems with the attempted prosecutions of Stapley. After all, if Chucri wins and somehow gets on Arpaio's bad side, perhaps it would be Chucri with multiple (and bogus) felony counts against him.
Chucri bobs and weaves at the question: "Let's not look in the rear-view mirror. Let's look to tomorrow."
We remind him that while Thomas may be disbarred by the time of the August 2012 Republican primary, Arpaio -- who's running for a sixth term -- may well be part of the view from the windshield, not the rear-view mirror. Is worried about Arpaio's reputation as someone who keeps an "enemies list?"
"I don't want to speculate on that," he demurs.
Since Chucri's the son of Lebanese immigrants and Arpaio's a good ol' boy who directs his deputies to conduct immigration sweeps and commonly refers to his daughter's adopted children as "black, Mexican and Chinese," we wish we'd been there for the introductions.
Chucri's a conservative, though, so he and Arpaio's immigration enforcement ideas might not be so far apart. Chucri believes that SB1070 "has run its course," referring to court battles against it, and that "now are focus is on ensuring the border is secure" and for businesses to use E-verify to determine the status of potential employees.
The Business Journal produced a short profile of the restaurant association boss back in 2010, if you're interested. We learned that Chucri lives in Mesa, has a wife and two kids, like country music, has a strong religious faith and received his B.A. in business administration from the University of San Diego. Earlier this year, he talked to aznow.biz about the challenges in the restaurant industry during a down economy.
Stapley's not going to give up without a fight, naturally. He's won his previous four terms without breaking too much of a sweat. When Republicans go after other Republicans, the results are often nasty.
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A Chucri-Stapley match-up sounds like fun.