Best Political Loon 2016 | "Chemtrail Kelli" Ward | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Let's face it, without its political fruitcakes, Arizona might be a lot saner, but oh, so dull. Whether it's Arizona Governor Evan Mecham in the 1980s claiming to be divinely inspired to be the state's chief executive, or current state Senator Sylvia Allen contending that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, Arizona politics is known for its (mostly far-right) wackos, and this election season, it's Kelli Ward, former state Senator, and primary challenger to U.S. Senator John McCain, who has stepped up to the plate. Not only did Ward once host a public forum in her district to address constituents' concerns that they were being poisoned by "chemtrails," she's also appeared on Texas conspiracy titan Alex Jones' radio show, where she suggested that the McCain forces might be out to do her physical harm. More recently, she accused a McCain staffer of attacking her mom, when all the guy did was bump into the lady while videotaping Ward. Is Ward, a well-educated physician, really meshugganah, or is she just playing to her fan base, which is decidedly woo-woo? Doesn't matter, because, as expected, McCain flattened her in the primary with all the subtlety of a sumo wrestler sitting on a walnut.

Few Arizona cannabis advocates are as committed as Kathy Inman. Her organization, MomForce AZ, leads outreach efforts explaining the benefits of legalizing medicinal and adult-use cannabis around the state. Inman chooses not to focus just on mobilizing the community of cannabis users who already understand and support the legalization effort; instead, she reaches out to groups that tend to be some of the staunchest opponents of cannabis use: the elderly, parents, and law enforcement. She teaches continuing-education courses about the benefits of medical cannabis, and stages events and rallies around the state. One of her biggest victories so far was getting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to attend one of her events last October in Sun City. At the event, Arpaio affirmed that cannabis was medicine and could be used by those with a prescription from their doctor. Inman selflessly volunteers her time for the benefit of the Arizona cannabis community. As she says on her website, "I am not a paid lobbyist. I am just a mom. The more ordinary people stand up for what is right, the less there will be that is wrong."  

For claiming the medical marijuana led to a spike in heroin overdoses, calling U.S. Navy veteran Don Ream an "enemy" because of his cannabis use, and accepting $8,050 in donations from big alcohol to campaign about the "dangers of marijuana," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is Arizona's best cannabis prohibitionist. There couldn't be a better example of a completely hypocritical and out-of-touch politician weighing in on the issue of cannabis legalization. He and his cronies Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and conservative talk-radio host Seth Leibsohn are joining forces to oppose the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group sponsoring the recreational-use proposition that will be on the November 2016 ballot. These people are not blowing smoke.

As long as Arizona remains a one-party state, or anything close to it, Frosty Taylor's MCRC Briefs, a daily newsletter regarding all things AZ GOP, will remain required reading for politicos, sort of like The Arizona Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet, 'cept the MCRC Briefs ("MCRC" standing for Maricopa County Republican Committee) is as free as the beer at a frat party. Taylor, once the award-winning editor of the erstwhile Paradise Valley News-Progress, fills her tusker tip-sheet with the latest gossip, statements from Republican politicians and party activists, links to innumerable articles of interest to GOPers and those who follow them, and coverage of Republican activities in the state. For reporters, it's a gold mine of possible stories on the Republican ruling class on one side, grassroots Tea Partiers on the other, and everyone in between. 

In the age of cellphone cameras, you should probably always assume that if you say something offensive, even in private, it will come back to bite you. Such was the case when a video surfaced showing Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski making homophobic and anti-LGBT remarks despite having publicly stated he supported same-sex marriage and equality in the past. "I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or that people are allowed to go into the same bathroom as my daughter. ... This world is changing, and it's time for us to take the leadership and change it back to the way it should be," he was caught saying. It remains unclear who exactly filmed the speech, but it was sent to local activist Leonard Clark, who posted it to YouTube. Within hours, the local LGBT community called for Nowakowski's resignation, and the mayor and other public officials condemned his remarks. While Nowakowski issued a public apology and refused to step down, the video at least serves as a good reminder that two-faced politicians will be caught, and that the greater Phoenix community has the back of the LGBT community. 

Go to any political event, protest, or important public meeting, and there's 12 News reporter and anchor Brahm Resnik, holding a microphone, ready to talk about the situation at hand. To us, Resnik's talent as a reporter goes much deeper than his ability to cover a wide variety of topics and break news — we think it actually stems from his determination to hold local politicians and government agencies accountable. Case in point: In one of the most controversial local stories of the year, Arizona's March 22 presidential primary fiasco, Resnik's coverage was spot-on. Not only was he the first to tweet a map showing the 60 percent reduction in voting sites in Maricopa County, and the first to get County Recorder Helen Purcell to admit she "screwed up," but Resnik continued to advance and deepen the story on his weekend TV show, Sunday Square Off. At a time when most TV news reporters tend to gloss over important details or fail to ask tough questions in interviews, we're glad to know the Valley has a reporter like Resnik reporting the news.  

Sure, KJZZ is home to fantastic syndicated programs from NPR — we're big fans of Jesse Thorn's weekly pop-culture talk show, Bullseye, and the Moth Radio Hour — but the station really makes its bones as Phoenix's go-to audio news source. Home to thoughtful reporting and insightful commentary, the station's reporters dig into economic trends, cutting-edge ASU research, and of course, our always-turbulent political frays. Hardworking local reporters offer analysis and deep dives that distinguish the station from its news radio competition. 

Gone are the days when Republican political operative Shane Wikfors' Sonoran Alliance blog was the center of ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' world, spewing endless streams of pro-Thomas screeds written by anonymous writers many believed to be Thomas' henchmen. Thomas was disbarred in 2012 for his many ill deeds, and since then, Sonoran Alliance, like the Arizona Republican Party in general, has taken a turn toward relative (and we do mean relative) moderation. That is to say, it ain't no vitriol-spitter like Seeing Red AZ (a past winner of this award), but that's a good thing, at least for diversity of thought. Wikfors himself is a gentleman of the highest order, and unlike many of his peers, can talk to Democrats and journalists without foaming at the mouth. In other words, he's one of the potty-trained Republicans, and despite this, his site remains a must-read for local political junkies, providing a mix of news, opinion, and press releases from selected politicians.

She is liberal, hear her roar. Local lefty firebrand Donna Gratehouse is an unrepentant Democrat and feminist in a state dominated by Republicans hell-bent on doing everything they can to restrict women's reproductive rights as well as pissing on the poor every chance they get. No wonder Gratehouse is ticked off all the time, and she takes all of that righteous anger, wads it up, pours gasoline on it, lights it afire, and sends it hurling like a flaming bocce ball into the Republican night. Granted, her kills are purely rhetorical, but in a state dominated by Koch-brother suckups, ammosexuals (you know, gun nuts), and anti-abortion fanatics who wear lapel pins made to resemble little fetus feet, Gratehouse holds aloft the progressive flame like an Arizona version of Lady Liberty. Only, she's more likely to take that flame and jam it up the backsides of some sexist pig tuskers, if given the chance. Rock on, Gratehouse. Rock on.

Best Blog About Phoenix By Someone Who Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Jon Talton's Rogue Columnist

Former Arizona Republic columnist Jon Talton now lives in Washington state and writes about economics for the Seattle Times, but the Grand Canyon State remains very much on his mind. His David Mapstone mysteries are set in Arizona, and he maintains a regular blog on all things Phoenix, entitled "Rogue Columnist," where he opines on everything from Phoenix's lost (or about to be lost) architectural gems, to the unsolved and unresolved Don Bolles case, to the Republican's misplaced faith in tax cuts, and so on. Consider this: He writes the blog pro bono publica, despite having to churn out several columns a week for the Seattle paper. Now that's love, baby. True love. Because it's obvious from Talton's blogs that he cares deeply about Phoenix and Arizona and the quality of life here, and so expends a terrific amount of intellectual energy on serious discussions of Phoenix's past, present, and future. We hope Talton never grows tired of writing about Arizona, because we know we'll never grow tired of reading him.

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