The "best" politicians are those who have mastered the fine art of telling competing interests what they want to hear. Outwardly, these charlatans appear sincere, forthcoming, practical, while in reality, they are as trustworthy as Mephistopheles.

Locally, when it comes to political deception, it doesn't get much better than Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. A Republican, he ran to the hard right in 2010, portraying himself as a tough guy on immigration, with the political scene still roiling from the battle over Senate Bill 1070, which Monty supported. He won and went on to campaign virtually unopposed in 2012. Meanwhile, Montgomery sensed a shift away from the truculent nativism he had exploited previously, and began a sidestep to the middle.

To those who want immigration reform, he now poses as a relative moderate, a Sand Land GOPer who can listen to reason. But when he's at right-wing events, he talks border security and little else. Who's the real Monty? By their fruits ye shall know them, and Monty's peach is rotten and smelly. He continues the nativist policies of his disbarred, disgraced predecessor Andy Thomas, while claiming he's only following the law. And some overly credulous moderates still believe him! That's what we call an impressive pol, even if the guy doesn't cast a shadow in the sun.

Far-right political consultant Constantin Querard has always sold himself as a true believer, one willing to prevaricate his butt off and break every rule in the book as long as an ideologically correct candidate (from his point of view) gets elected. Over the years, he's backed wingnuts like recalled, disgraced ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, House members Carl Seel and Kelly Townsend, and state Senator Al Melvin.

Nearly all the wackos in the Arizona Legislature owe him something. And as this crowd is not the kind to cotton to dope smokin' of any kind, how curious it is that Querard has signed onto the pro-medical marijuana effort, headed by soulless opportunist Jason Rose. We all knew Rose would do anything for cash, and we figured CQ for a similar mentality, but we also thought CQ would keep to the far right side of the fence, where his bread is best buttered. Guess wingnut politics ain't payin' as well as it used to. Next, we'll be seeing CQ in sandals and a tie-dye, reeking of patchouli oil and calling everyone "mon." Well, maybe that is an improvement after all.

During a March appearance on Fox News, Arizona's finger-wagging, reporter-slugging, erroneously Obama-endorsing granny governor blundered once again. She appeared on the conservative television network complaining that the release of undocumented immigrants in Arizona from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody was a way for the Obama administration to "punish" the state — a ridiculous statement given that undocumented detainees had been released across the country. But even more entertaining is that as she was speaking, she got verbally stuck. This struggle to speak forced her head to bobble slightly, presumably as she willed the synapsis in her brain to spark. She pushed and finally was able to release the words from her mouth, but unfortunately, what came out was that the feds punishing Arizona was "just another notch in their belt bucket, if you will." Yes, she said "belt bucket." We have no words. Would that it were the same for Governor Brewer . . .

Carolyn T. Lowery has been an outspoken and refreshingly honest crusader for the black community in South Phoenix for decades. Her unabashed, tell-it-like-it-is persona is probably why she hasn't won any of the various political campaigns she's run in since the 1980s, including a few races for the Arizona state senate. She's too honest to be a politician.

But, she's at it again — this time running for the District 8 seat on the Phoenix City Council until she was knocked out in the August primary. While she racks up unsuccessful bids for public office, Lowery is raising awareness about the social and economic inequities her community struggles with daily. Her fight involved founding, in 1985, the Arizona Black United Fund, an organization that raises money through payroll deductions (much like United Way) to support much-needed social programs in her community. She operates several initiatives on a shoestring budget: Kids Place International, a summer program that provides 9- to 16-year-olds a safe place to learn and play; Sisters Who Care, a support group for women; and Moms to Moms, a program designed to help troubled children whose mothers are serving time behind bars.

Peacenik Sheila Ryan is an inspiration to all lefty activists in the Valley. A valiant member of the anti-war group Women in Black, she's a nearly ubiquitous presence on the front lines here in Phoenix, fighting for justice. Whether it's a demonstration in support of whistleblower Bradley Manning, the Occupy Movement, or a march against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Ryan's sure to be there wearing a smile, carrying a sign, and flashing the peace sign.

Recently, she and two others were arrested at the Capitol, peacefully protesting Governor Jan Brewer's policy of denying driver's licenses to DREAMers. Feisty, opinionated and beautiful, the ageless Ryan is one of the coolest Phoenicians we know. And whenever we weary in the fight for equality and civil rights, we think of her and keep on marchin'.

Best Bad News Bears-Style Soccer Coach

Sal Reza

Phoenix human rights champion Sal Reza is known for leading massive marches against Arizona's racist Senate Bill 1070 and against bigot-boy Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but did you know he's a badass soccer coach as well? Yep, even human rights champions have some free time, and in Reza's, he coaches the coed soccer team at Esperanza High School, a charter school catering to underprivileged Latino youth.

Outgunned by charter schools Esperanza's size with deep pockets, Reza scored sponsors for the team and coached the hell out of the teens, though he himself admits that he knew little about soccer before becoming coach. Well, whatever he did worked. Esperanza went to the playoffs two years in a row. Last year, the team came in second place. And this year, it won the state championship in its division. After one early defeat, Reza told his team, "You can either soar like eagles or crawl like a snake." His streetwise players chose the former, and soar they did.

Civil rights activist Lydia Guzman's tireless efforts on behalf of undocumented families, her liaisons with the media, and her dogged pursuit of evidence of racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office have made Maricopa County and Arizona a better place and helped bring about the ACLU's win in Melendres v. Arpaio. In the Melendres decision, federal Judge G. Murray Snow found that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the MCSO were guilty of prejudiced policing toward Latinos and ordered them to stop. True, many lawyers, activists, and others helped bring about the victory in Melendres, but perhaps none so steadfast and indefatigable as Guzman, for whom the Melendres decision was a personal triumph as well as one for the entire Latino community.

"We do not racial profile," the MCSO's upper echelon has claimed over and over again, while winking at its nativist supporters. In court, the MCSO's lawyers claimed there was no proof of racial profiling. The plaintiffs? They weren't profiled or discriminated against. The ton of stats showing that they do target Latinos for stops and hold them for longer? Flawed, the legal beagles claimed. The racist MCSO e-mails with offensive ethnic humor and derogatory pics of drunken Latinos? Oh, just the guys horsing around. The destruction of evidence? A mistake. It could happen to anyone.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow wasn't buying. In a detailed 142-page ruling, he found that the plaintiffs had proved their case: The MCSO had adopted a policy and practice of biased policing toward Latinos. He ordered it to stop. And seemingly overnight, Arpaio's office began to comply. Arpaio is appealing, saying he wants to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. But these are findings of fact, not legal arguments. They are likely to stand, and in the meantime, the MCSO has to do what the judge says. We can't always count on the courts to do the right thing by the people, but in this case, Snow did, restoring our faith in the process and in American jurisprudence. The case is a major one when it comes to race and law enforcement, one that even Arpaio's attorneys concede will be cited by other courts in years to come.

Who can forget Guadalupe Mayor Rebecca Jimenez's 2008 showdown with a sputtering, enraged Sheriff Joe Arpaio? Though the square-mile town of Guadalupe is inhabited almost exclusively by American citizens of Mexican and Yaqui descent, Arpaio and his racial-profiling boys in beige went on the hunt for "illegals" and ended up harassing ordinary people who happen to have brown skin. Arpaio did this under false pretenses, so Jimenez informed Arpaio he needed to go. He nearly burst a blood vessel, promising to be back the next day, "full force," but he retreated to a staging area outside of town. A victory, yes? Sadly, the narrow-minded political elite in that burg were mad that Jimenez had ticked off Arpaio. Jimenez lost her job in the aftermath and eventually withdrew from public life to have another kid. This year, Jimenez ran against pro-Arpaio mayor Yolanda Solarez and won after a hard-fought, door-to-door campaign. She's one of the good people in public life, which is why we're proud to say, "Welcome back, Mayor."

Polished yet approachable. Experienced and savvy. The kind of guy who could bust some bad guys, then stop by Durant's for a martini on the way home from work. That's U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales, who is so good at what he does, he was re-appointed to the post by President Barack Obama, even though he's a Republican and originally was appointed by President George W. Bush.

He runs a tight ship with a crack team of deputy U.S. Marshals who protect judges and the courthouses, transport dangerous prisoners, and hunt down fugitives from justice. Formerly the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Criminal Investigations Division, he has the résumé needed to take over that bloated, corrupt behemoth of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and transform it into a modern, professional law enforcement agency. Will he ever get the chance? Well, Sheriff Joe Arpaio can't live forever. At least we hope he can't. And there's always the 2016 election.

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