Best Political Zombie 2014 | Tom Horne | People & Places | Phoenix

Why did Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne stay alive so long — politically speaking? Hey, don't blame us. New Times was the first to tell the public that Horne had hired his mistress to a top post at the AG's Office for a six-figure salary. Horne then ordered an internal investigation to cover this up. His investigator found evidence of lawbreaking. This led to an FBI investigation and a finding by two county attorneys that Horne violated campaign finance laws and must pay back $400,000 to contributors. Since then, Horne's been accused of illegally running his re-election campaign out of his public office, and he is the subject of investigations by four entities, that we know of. In any other state, Horne would have resigned by now. But still, he staggered forth, zombie-like — even refusing to concede when Republican voters finally killed him off in the state's primary.

What is wrong with Arizona that a scummy politico like Attorney General Tom Horne is the state's top law enforcement official, while the most ethical prosecutor in the state will probably never occupy that position. The latter, of course, is Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, a staunch Republican who does not let party or ideology get in the way of doing what's right. In 2009, during the darkest days of the sinister partnership between Sheriff Joe Arpaio and then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, she took a stand against the pair, referring to their antics as "totalitarianism . . . spreading before my eyes." Thomas was disbarred in 2012, in part because of the actions Polk decried. More recently, the campaign finance case against Horne landed in her lap, and she's ordered Horne and his henchwoman Kathleen Winn to pay back $400K in campaign contributions, despite Horne's winning an administrative hearing in the matter. Horne, Arpaio, and Thomas are all Republicans, but Polk's all about integrity, not party loyalty. We hope she runs for AG one day. But then, in Arizona, you almost have to be ethically challenged to win a political campaign, it seems. Sigh.

Far-right Republican state Representative John Kavanagh, who is looking to ease on over to the state Senate this year, has a couple of things going for him, from a journalist's point of view. First, he always calls us back, though he knows that New Times is likely to rip him a new one. Second, he has a sense of humor, which is more than we can say for a lot of Democrats, who are so damn politically correct that they tend to be real killjoys. Not so, Kavanagh, who took it on the chin from the liberal press for a few jokes he told at a roast of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in February. The jokes may have been offensive, but they also happened to be funny. Actually, most targeted Arpaio, like the one about Arpaio being a real "fixture" in this state: "Unfortunately, for many people, that's a urinal," said the Kav-ster. Ba-dum-pah. Our advice: Go pro on the comic stand-up circuit, K-man, and leave the politicking to the less funny.

A clash between the judge who ruled against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arpaio himself was inevitable. Federal Judge G. Murray Snow decided against Arpaio and his office in 2013, essentially finding the MCSO to be guilty of racial profiling. Later, Snow enumerated a long list of requirements for the Sheriff's Office to meet, and in early 2014, Snow appointed a monitor to oversee the MCSO's compliance. But Arpaio and his command staff were caught telling lies about the judge's decision to their underlings and the public, with Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan infamously calling Snow's ruling "crap." Snow ordered that Arpaio disseminate a "corrective statement" and have the MCSO brass read his decision and attest that they had done so. But the MCSO continued to drag its heels, and only when it seemed that Arpaio might be found in contempt, did the MCSO comply. Forget the carrot, only the stick works with Joe, and Snow was right to use it. Our question is, how long will it take before Joe gets birched again?

Let's be honest, no one really likes U.S. Senator John McCain all that much. (Self-love aside.) So is it any wonder that far-rightists in the Arizona Republican Party would hate the guy, too? GOP hard-liners regard McCain as a RiNO (Republican in Name Only), particularly for his support of comprehensive immigration reform, despite his having taken an anti-immigrant stance when he was running for re-election in 2010. Still, Arizona's senior senator is regarded as a rock-ribbed conservative outside the bubble of state GOP politics. So the successful resolution to censor him, which passed a voice vote of the AZ GOP's mandatory January meeting, showed the nation just how insanely far-far-right Sand Land's ruling party really is. No Reagan-like Big Tent here, just intolerance, hate, and spite, which was on full display, and harmed the Republicans' outreach to younger, less nutty voters. Take gun, aim at foot, pull trigger was the order of the day.

CAP's Cathi Herrod acts like she owns the place, meaning, of course, the Arizona Legislature, where her anti-LGBT initiative, Senate Bill 1062, backfired big-time, with a statewide and nationwide backlash that forced Governor Jan Brewer's hand and resulted in a veto. Herrod was rightly demonized, but we've got some bad news for ya: She ain't goin' anywhere. Sure, her Bible-thumping anti-abortion, anti-gay activities are retrograde, antediluvian, and embarrassing to the state, but she leads a very successful conservative juggernaut, and her failure with 1062 is merely a bump in the proverbial road. True believers are always the hardest to fight. And true believer lobbyists with law degrees and six-figure salaries, even more so. As long as AZ remains a red state, Herrod's influence, as nefarious as it may be, will persist.

Tyler Montague works from home for a national banking firm. Politics is not a profession for him. It's a hobby, one that he just happens to be very good at. During the recall campaign against former state Senate President Russell Pearce, he was one of the Mesa Republicans who helped recruit and raise money for victorious Pearce rival Jerry Lewis. Montague was hooked, and began the AZPIA as a way to knock some moderate sense into his chosen party. Among his targets has been Attorney General Tom Horne. Montague raised more than $600,000 to run ads statewide against the embattled AG, an impressive amount for someone who only draws a salary on his day job. Montague is also one of the shrewdest analysts not in the business. And his heart is on the side of the angels, which is why we dig him.

Matt Roberts is the hardest-workin' man in state government. The communications director for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett left his post in June to help his boss run for governor, and he was missed almost immediately by the local Fourth Estate, which had counted on him for years to explain abstruse campaign laws or provide us with public records posthaste. Roberts made it look easy, treating reporters like pals and getting us what we needed, when we needed it. Bennett lost (badly) in the primary, so Roberts is back at his post — for now. Here's hoping that wherever he lands after Bennett leaves office he's appreciated.

If you actually want to know what's going on around Arizona, the local PBS station's Arizona Horizon is the only place on TV to find it. Instead of the short mash-up of soundbites that make up so many local TV news programs, Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons brings the sources into the studio for in-depth on-air interviews. In addition, every Friday, the newspaper reporters behind some of the state's biggest stories come on the show for a roundtable discussion with Simons, who's so knowledgeable about the issues at hand that you're actually bound to learn something watching this show. Because Simons has such a good understanding of Arizona's current events, Simons knows what to ask and how to get the answers that people need to get the complete picture of a story, making Simons a very rare breed in the world of local TV news.

Sometimes you have to wonder if the Valley's TV newscasters are robots who just get unplugged at the end of the program every night and stuffed in a storage closet until they get plugged in again at 6 p.m. the next day. Not 3TV's Carey Peña. She's a competent news reader as well as reporter, especially in her role as the co-host of Channel 3's weekly political news program, Politics Unplugged, which included her moderating of debates among political candidates this election year. She's also a good follow on Twitter, @CareyPenaTV. Plus, she's easy on the eyes, which is oh-so-important in the TV news world.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of