I want to thank Minuteman Civil Defense Corps founder Chris Simcox from the bottom of my little black heart for his decision to run against Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2010 Republican primary. In doing so, Simcox is giving me a year-plus of material to blog and comment on. Talk about job security. This must be what reporters in Louisiana felt like when ex-Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke ran against Edwin Edwards for Governor of the Pelican State.
I'm not suggesting a close parallel between Duke and Simcox, but there are similarities. Sure, Simcox's nativist beliefs, while despicable, are not on par with those of the avowed racist Duke. Yet, each represents a cleaned-up, better coifed and better spoken example of the far-right, lunatic fringe they represent.
Simcox cannot beat McCain in a Republican primary in Arizona, despite the dissatisfaction Maricopa County's GOP wing-nut division has with our senior Senator. McCain continues to support some sort of immigration reform, which includes securing our border with Mexico as a prerequisite. Simcox represents the "nyet" side of the Arizona Republican party, the modern-day know-nothings, those who want to round up the 500,000-plus undocumented in the state and fling them across the border, perhaps with some jail time under their belts.
(Note: I smell a Joe Arpaio-endorsement in the offing, as well as one from neo-Nazi hugger and state Senator Russell Pearce.)
For years now, Simcox has been positioning himself for just such a run, moving to the center of a movement that normally rewards the most extreme point of view. For example, he's expressed sympathy with those wishing to sneak into the country to better their lot in life, while dismissing any possibility of amnesty. He's also stated that those born in the U.S. have a right to citizenship per the 14th Amendment to the Constitution -- a right assailed by many in the nativist camp, who label children born to undocumented parents "anchor babies." Even if these are insincere statements, ones that have evolved and might change again, the mere fact that he's expressed them has set him apart from his anti-immigrant compatriots.
But this sort of calculated posturing will not rid him of all the baggage he's accumulated in his weird journey from L.A. kindergarten teacher to self-avowed border patriot in Cochise County, and now Scottsdale resident and seeker of public office. He is widely loathed in his own movement for his high-handedness, hence the nickname, "The Little Prince." Defectors from his ranks have regularly accused him of financial shenanigans, shenanigans he's denied. According to the few financial records MCDC has online, Simcox draws no salary from the organization he leads, which raises the question as to the source of his personal income.
Simcox cannot write off these complaints and questions as coming from sore losers, traitors and plotters of internal coups. In 2006, the conservative Washington Times published a stinging expose about Simcox's lack of financial accountability as president of MCDC. The article pointed out that former MCDC-ers were "questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in donations."
Then there's the problem of his criminal record. In 2004 Simcox was convicted in U.S. District Court of carrying a semi-automatic handgun onto a national park, and giving a "false or fictitious report" to a federal park ranger about the incident. He received 24 months of supervised probation and a fine of $1,000. The gun carrying stuff might play well with his followers, but his conviction for giving a "false or fictitious report" could raise concerns about Simcox's credibility.
The minuteman honcho's ex-wives have also called into question Simcox's character. According to a 2005 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine Intelligence Report, Simcox's first ex-wife accused him of trying to sexually molest their 14-year-old daughter. His second ex-wife, accused Simcox in court of having a mental breakdown and of sometimes violent, erratic behavior.
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"He once took a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill himself," the second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar testified in court, according to IR. "When he was angry, he broke furniture, car windows, he banged his head against the wall repeatedly and punched things."
Simcox has, of course, denied these allegations.
Critics in and out of his movement have assailed MCDC's promises to build "Israeli-style" border fences on private land near the border. In 2007, Fountain Hills resident James Campbell sued MCDC in an attempt to get back $100,000 he had donated for the construction of just such a fence. Campbell, who had mortgaged his property to raise the $100K, accused Simcox and MCDC of diverting the money for other uses. According to a report last year in The Sierra Vista Herald, Campbell said that he "allowed the civil case to be dismissed because he did not want to continue to fund the litigation."
With such a checkered personal and public history, you'd think Simcox's run for Senate could be dismissed as a joke candidacy. But to return to the David Duke analogy for a moment, in that Louisiana campaign for governor, Duke lost, but he still ended up drawing around 40 percent of the vote, quite a respectable showing for a white supremacist. Similarly, Simcox doesn't have to beat McCain to win. All he has to do is show well against the political powerhouse, and claim victory for himself, the minutemen, and the nativist wing of the Republican Party.