Best Politician 2016 | State Representative Debbie McCune Davis | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Whether it's her determination to improve health care, get dark money out of politics, or make Arizona a more environmentally friendly place, Debbie McCune Davis has been a progressive Democrat in a pool of conservative Republicans for decades. And she's kept her head above water. She's proven to be that rare breed of politician who can remain principled, yet also compromise and work with opponents to actually get laws passed, which is why we were so sad to learn she's retiring at the end of the year.

During her time in office, McCune Davis has sponsored plenty of bills and taken up many causes worth applauding, but it's been the work she's done as a member of the Child Safety Oversight Committee in the last two years that has really stood out. Time and again, she's the committee member holding the agency's feet to the fire, demanding its leaders be held accountable for the progress they often promise to deliver. In a state with a beleaguered child-safety agency, Arizona's children are better off with McCune Davis in office. We're sorry to see her retire.

It's more than fitting that Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan has appointed Arizona historian Jack August to serve as historian and director of institutional advancement in the Division of Library, Archives, and Public Records. Though Reagan is a Republican and August is a Democrat of the old-school New Deal variety, August is a public intellectual and bon vivant who can converse with Rs and Ds as well as commoners and kings. In turn, politicos of every stripe respect the mustachioed professor for his scholarly chops and his area of expertise: hydropolitics, a subject of perennial interest in our desert state. Also, we suspect, since August has authored books on U.S. senators such as Carl Hayden and Dennis DeConcini, and other political figures, such as former Arizona Governor Raul Castro, that some of these politicians hope August will one day help plant their names in history books. Dare to dream, pols, though you'll have to rise to a certain level before August shows an interest in you.

It takes stones to take on the gun lobby in Arizona, home to a Republican Party that believes the Second Amendment is one of the Ten Commandments. This state is home to some of the laxest gun laws in the nation, where you can carry firearms concealed, have them on you at a bar or at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, and despite being a prohibited possessor, can still purchase them openly from a private dealer at one of the state's many gun shows. Any restriction, no matter how common-sense, is guaranteed to engender a backlash among gun lovers here, so U.S. Senator Jeff Flake knew exactly what he was doing when he stood in support of a proposed federal law that would stop people on "no-fly" lists from purchasing a weapon. Even in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, when an ISIS-inspired, homegrown terrorist took out 49 souls and wounded 50 others at a gay bar in that city, the bipartisan proposal failed to get the votes needed to advance. Predictably, the far right pilloried Arizona's junior Republican senator on the issue, and it likely will be remembered by his detractors when he runs for re-election in 2018. Let's hope voters see it for what it is: an act of political courage that put public safety above the demands of a myopic, selfish few.

Talk about crappy journalism. CBS 5 News reporter Jonathan Lowe was on assignment in that toddlin' town of Goodyear in May, reporting on some dude who killed his family's dog and stuffed the remains in a barbecue smoker, when he felt the irresistible call of his innards and chose to relieve himself on a nearby front yard. A neighbor witnessed Lowe fertilize the lawn in question and head back to the TV van, leaving the evidence of his crime in the open for all to see. To Lowe's surprise, the Goodyear police responded to the neighbors' call, arrested Lowe, and cited him for public defecation. When the cops asked him why he didn't drive a mile or so to a local Fry's to use the facilities, Lowe replied that he couldn't leave because he had to report the dog-barbecue story, and so had to make like a canine on someone's lawn. Thing is, eyewitnesses to Lowe's squat said that if he had just knocked on their door, they would've let him enjoy the comforts of indoor plumbing. New Times was the first local outlet to report on this stinky tale, and Lowe was shit-canned by CBS 5 after the incident. Interestingly, other local news outlets present decided not to poop on one of their own, and so ignored the matter. But would they have looked the other way if a cop or local official had made the same mess? Oh, hell no.

Citizens of Maricopa County and the rest of the state were outraged at the epic failure of the March 23 Presidential Preference Election, during which some voters stood in line for up to five hours. A few days later, protesters descended on the State Capitol. One of them was Jonathan McRae of Paulden. He was targeted for arrest by state Department of Public Safety officers in the gallery viewing area of the State Capitol; they claim he was making a disturbance. His Guy Fawkes mask probably didn't help.

In a video made of the squabble, McRae can be seen passively resisting officers as they try to arrest him. He was ultimately taken to a Capitol police facility to be searched before being transferred to county jail. And that's when a pin in McRae's shorts pricked one of the troopers. "The safety pin was attached to the subject's shorts and was pointing out so that the sharp needle end was facing outward," a police report reads. The officer had to be treated at a nearby hospital. McRae was later charged with resisting arrest and trespassing, but prosecutors refused to charge him with aggravated assault for the pin as DPS wanted. After all, he was just sticking up for his rights.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds. For lo these many years, scribbler Len Sherman has played the part of slobbering sycophant to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, co-authoring the sheriff's two back-patting memoirs, 1996's America's Toughest Sheriff and 2008's Joe's Law, which are chock-full of the kind of cock-and-bull propaganda that's helped to keep Arpaio in power for more than two decades. As one of Arpaio's hangers-on, Sherman was an unofficial advisor to the sheriff on PR matters, later scoring a part-time gig at the MCSO doing "community outreach." But with Arpaio wounded — perhaps fatally — by a contempt trial in federal court, Sherman decided it was time for a little historical revisionism, writing in an op-ed earlier this year for the Arizona Republic that the MCSO is "mired" in "corruption" and that his patron's days are "numbered." The image of a sniveling rodent taking a dive off the Titanic comes to mind. Three guesses as to who that rodent looks like.

Delusion is a powerful motivator of men, and never more so than with the flock of advisers and yes-men who lick the loafers of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, the former ice-cream magnate who squeezed through a crowded Republican primary in 2014 with a plurality and went on to score a perfunctory win against a hapless Dem in the general. Though the shrubby Ducey, with his helmet hair and robotic mode of speaking, is about as inspiring as a late-night laxative commercial, his retinue of butt-kissers refers to him as "The Natural," cultivating the pipe dream that when Donald Trump loses the White House to Hillary Clinton, a scenario Ducey's peeps are banking on, folks will be ready for a true conservative four years hence, backed by the Koch bothers, to defeat the Democrat dragon lady. Problem is, Ducey has all the charisma of a bowl of cold Cream of Wheat. Imagine Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker without the shimmering personality (sarcasm alert). If they think selling a stiff like Ducey as POTUS to the American public will be like selling Cold Stone Creamery scoops in an Arizona August, they should think again and talk to some of the franchisees who lost their shirts on a Cold Stone venture before Ducey sold the chain for beaucoup bucks.

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.

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