Pick me! Pick me! That was former state Senator Kelli Ward's not-so-subtle message when she suggested that she ought to replace ailing Senator John McCain. Never mind that McCain has insisted he'll remain in the Senate, despite the fact that he has glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. In her comments to an Indiana radio show — awkwardly delivered just days after McCain's diagnosis — Ward appealed to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who has the authority to appoint someone to an open Senate seat. She added that McCain should "step away as quickly as possible." There's no love lost there — McCain trounced Ward when she challenged him in the 2016 Republican primary. Ward has yet to give up on her senatorial dream. Until that call comes from Ducey, Ward plans to face off in the 2018 primary against Arizona's other senator, Jeff Flake. Looks like she might just have the backing of a certain POTUS.

Forget for a moment about Donald Trump and the pardon. Finding out that ex-lawman Joe Arpaio had become a convicted criminal was sweet. Not to mention that Arizona U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton made the right call. Arpaio certainly did have contempt for the 2011 ruling by another federal judge that under his leadership, the sheriff's office discriminated against Latinos. For many, that ruling was a disappointment because it left Arpaio in power. Even when voters kicked the sheriff out of office in November, many wanted more. And more came on July 31, with Bolton's decision following a bench trial that Arpaio was guilty of a crime. At the least, and despite the fact that it was only a misdemeanor, the conviction symbolized the idea that justice had finally been served on a corrupt bigot of a sheriff who had gotten away with his crimes for far too many years. Even Trump's pardon can't take that away.

It's not a bird or a plane — it's a public official's middle finger. State Representative Don Shooter swears he was just scratching his nose, but video from news channel KTVK shows the representative staring at the camera and smiling as he scratched his nose multiple times with his middle finger back in April. Observers say Shooter, who represents Arizona's 13th district, blatantly and intentionally used the forbidden finger while making eye contact with a reporter doing an investigative piece involving him. Good for you, Representative Shooter. We've often dreamed of doing the same.

Mud fight? Try mud war zone. For Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, and other conservative state leaders, legal cannabis is an evil that should be defeated at any cost. On one side was the Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Like Alcohol, headed up by a dispensary operator who stood — along with others who "owned" the nonprofit dispensaries — to make millions if voters approved Prop 205. On the other side, the group formed to oppose the effort, Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, took campaign ads to new lows. Ducey was the guest of honor at anti-Prop 205 parties. He encouraged people to give generously to ARDP, and boy, did they — outspending the $5 million kicked in by the national Marijuana Policy Project and the self-interested dispensaries by a few hundred thousand dollars. Discount Tire magnate Bruce Halle gave ARDP $1 million. A lot of other people who hope the governor feels indebted to them also gave big bucks. Insys Therapetics, now under criminal investigation for the way it marketed the dangerous drug fentanyl, donated $500,000 to ARDP. ARDP turned to alcohol distributors, the electric utility, and even a popular pizza joint. The gambit worked, and possession of any amount of marijuana in Arizona remains a felony offense.

Speeding down Indian School Road or other thoroughfares in east Phoenix in 2016, motorists probably couldn't read everything on Leonore Driggs' campaign sign. However, they would have noticed the large judge's gavel above her name, and possibly the words "justice of the peace" and "experienced." And they would have noticed the photo of Driggs dressed in what looks like a black robe. No doubt, many motorists who glanced at the sign briefly would have thought something like, "A judge wants my vote for re-election." But the gavel was just clip art. The "experience" part — Driggs later said — referred only to her life experience, which did include some time working as an assistant at the office of her husband, attorney and former State Senator Adam Driggs. The black outfit? Just a black dress, which Driggs said she wore in the photo because it was "slimming." Driggs said she hadn't meant to mislead anyone. Whether that's true or not, the campaign sign was brilliantly misleading. Not that it mattered when election time came. Driggs and her husband investigated her two competitors for the Arcadia-Biltmore precinct JP post and got both of them kicked off the ballot on technicalities. Voters, having no other options at the ballot box, gave Driggs a real black robe and the $102,000-a-year job.

Spend enough time in public office without disgracing yourself, and you're bound to wind up with a park or an elementary school named after you. Doug Ducey, however, has a horse. Like, an actual living, breathing animal. Back in February, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group announced that the first wild colt of the year had been born — and, in a transparent bid for attention, named it after the Arizona governor. "Without Governor Ducey's support for the thousands of citizens who stood up for the Salt River wild horses when the federal government threatened to round them up, little Ducey might not have been born wild and free this year," the group explained in a cloying press release. Their stunt apparently was successful, since it was Ducey the horse, not Ducey the governor, who dominated the evening news that night. And we have to admit it: He's pretty cute.

Often, it seems like The Satanic Temple exists solely for the purpose of trolling the Christian right. The group frequently makes headlines by proposing to start After School Satan Clubs at elementary schools, or requesting to give invocations at city council meetings. While reminding public officials about the separation of church and state is a worthy objective in its own right, the Satanists have recently been showing off their more philanthropic side with a campaign designed to make sure that disadvantaged women and girls have access to menstrual products. "Menstruatin' With Satan" collected sanitary pads, napkins, and menstrual cups for the YWCA, which in turn distributed them to women's shelters and community groups across the state. The fact that many women can't afford to buy basic hygienic supplies is a glaring problem that's frequently overlooked by would-be do-gooders who are too squeamish to acknowledge the existence of menstrual blood, and it's one that we're glad to see our local band of civic-minded Satanists taking on.

The 2017 Academy Awards ceremony will live in infamy as the year that Warren Beatty announced the wrong freaking Best Picture winner (our mouths remain agape), but the metro Phoenix theater community will remember it as the time a local director was thanked from the winner's podium. Emma Stone won Best Actress for her role in La La Land, and among the list of people she mentioned in her speech was Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director of Valley Youth Theatre. Stone, a Scottsdale native, performed in a number of VYT productions as a child before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 15 to pursue big-time acting dreams. We must admit, we felt a thrill of local pride not only to see the first Arizona-born actor take home an Oscar, but to hear her give love to one of our own.

Damon Dering is a talented director and the founder of and driving force behind one of our town's best alt theaters. He chooses mostly provocative and underproduced gems, and has helmed some of the better productions in Phoenix theater history. But it's Dering's heartfelt and amusing curtain speeches that continue to stay with us. Few troupes offer much more than an annoying prerecorded welcome ("... and if you're going to unwrap any hard candy, do it now!") these days, but Dering continues to receive his audiences with personal stories about the production we're about to see. He's shameless about asking for support, fearless when admitting how tough it can be to work as an artist these days, and effusive in his praise of casts and crews and those who bother to come out to see what they've created. Perhaps a festival of Dering's 30 best curtain speeches is in order for next season.

Spring Awakening is a 2006 rock musical based on an 1891 German play, a coming-of-age story that hits hard on themes like sex education, homosexuality, suicide, teen pregnancy, and abuse. Not your typical high school production. It was amazing to consider the timelessness of the themes, and, frankly, a little unnerving to see them brought to life by kids. But everything from the acting to the singing to the staging of this production was top-notch — including the "talk back" portion after the play, designed to address stirred-up feelings. Bravo to ASA for taking a risk and nailing the results.

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