Best Politician 2018 | Athena Salman | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Progressive state representative Athena Salman has been killing it this year. To start, she represents Arizona's 26th legislative district, which includes the cities of Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. She gained further notice from those not already paying attention when she introduced House Bill 2222, otherwise known as the #LetItFlow campaign, which highlighted how incarcerated women were given just 12 sanitary pads a month. Salman, an Arizona State University magna cum laude graduate, has continued the year supporting the #RedForEd movement, LGBTQ equality, women's rights, and many more issues.

Some power couples seek out fame and fortune. This duo just want to make Arizona more equitable for everyone. Often spotted in the halls of the state Capitol, Marilyn Rodriguez is a founder of the progressive lobbying firm Creosote Partners, and works tirelessly to advance environmental causes and criminal justice reform. Meanwhile, Joel Edman runs the Arizona Advocacy Network, a nonpartisan group fighting voter suppression. The do-gooders got engaged last December, and we couldn't be happier for them — and their adorable rescue dog.

With so much craziness emanating from the White House, it can be tough to keep up to date with what's happening closer to home. That's why we're so grateful for The Breakdown, a weekly podcast in which some of Arizona's sharpest political reporters help us get caught up with the latest developments at the state Capitol. Host and producer Katie Campbell got her start in public radio, and her peppy delivery keeps us coming back for more. Listeners agree, with one iTunes reviewer calling it "an Arizona-only version of the NPR Politics podcast, detailed, objective, and entertaining." Whether the topic is opioid addiction or education funding, the discussion is always informative, but never overly wonky or insider-y.

When he's not busy fighting for the civil rights of Arizona's growing Muslim population, CAIR-Arizona president Imraan Siddiqi is dunking on conservatives on Twitter, where he excels at deploying sarcastic one-liners and finding the perfect GIF for any situation. With over 38,000 followers, he's one of the loudest voices in the state when it comes to speaking up against all forms of discrimination. He's used his platform to raise money for a vandalized Jewish cemetery, and to fight for the prosecution of two women who filmed themselves mocking Muslims and stealing Korans from a Tempe mosque. But he's also just plain funny. "E-coli will be a great time, after I finish my stint in the hospital for salmonella," he cracked in response to a conservative commentator's claim that Nikki Haley would make a great first female president after Trump's first term.

Bob Stump spent 26 years representing Arizona in Congress before he died in 2003. Then, in late 2017, Bob Stump announced that he'd be running for the seat vacated by Representative Trent Franks, possibly to the confusion of elderly voters in the 8th Congressional District. No, Bob Stump hadn't risen from the dead — this was Christopher Robert Stump, a Hawaii-born Harvard graduate who conveniently started going by "Bob" right around the time that he got involved in Arizona politics. After Bob Stump's widow accused the younger Bob Stump of misleading voters, his mother jumped into the fray, insisting that he had every right to use the name. Their feud ended after the Republican primary, when Stump received less than 6 percent of the vote. Name recognition only gets you so far.

"We Need a Mom to Clean Up the House." That's the tagline that Milena "Millie" Bucci, a Democratic candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives, chose for her campaign to replace Representative Don Shooter, who had been accused of sexual harassment by numerous women. While the play on words was undeniably clever, the slogan also smacked of gender essentialism — after all, in 2018, do we really want to assume that only women and mothers are capable of doing basic household tasks? Before she could land a spot on the ballot, though, Bucci dropped out of the race. And Shooter ended up getting ousted from the House after Speaker J.D. Mesnard called for his expulsion — proving that men, too, are capable of rolling up their sleeves and dealing with a mess.

Arizona's departing junior senator has a weird knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time — or the right place at the right time, depending on how you look at it. First, there was the baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, where a lone gunman opened fire and shot Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise. Flake immediately rushed over and applied pressure to the wound until paramedics arrived, then called Scalise's wife so that she wouldn't find out about the shooting through the news. Then, in January, Flake was on his way to a GOP retreat in Virginia with other Republican lawmakers when their train collided with a garbage truck. Unscathed, he immediately began helping to treat the injured passengers. What's next for Flake after his retirement from the Senate is unclear, but we're guessing that it might mean some volunteer stints as an EMT.

Smack-dab in the middle of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and general male asshole-ism, Republican Congressman Trent Franks got caught in a sexual misconduct scandal and resigned. Steve Montenegro and nine other GOP candidates decided to run for his seat, and for a while, Montenegro was the leader. He'd had a short but successful career in the Arizona Legislature, with a stint as Republican Majority Leader of the Senate. If you think a holier-than-thou politician who works part-time as a preacher has something to hide, you'd be right. The family man was sharing bawdy text messages with the Senate's social media coordinator, who used her skills to send Montenegro at least one topless photo on Snapchat. Montenegro looked like the biggest boob in town for a week or so after someone leaked the texts to the media. Who leaked it and why? The answer proved elusive. But the damage was done when the story hit the papers, and Montenegro's star fell. Voters elected Debbie Lesko to Congress. Hint to other high-profile Don Juans: Just because you put your sex fantasies on Snapchat doesn't mean they'll disappear. But your political aspirations just might.

Sixty years of newspapering under the moniker Scottsdale Progress came to a screeching halt 10 years ago when, in October 2008, the parent company of the local East Valley Tribune announced devastating changes to the local journalism scene. Besides laying off half the staff, the Trib dropped coverage of Scottsdale and Tempe, though it had carried the banner of the old Scottsdale Progress and Tempe Daily News. In a surprise announcement this year, Steve Strickbine of Times Media Group, the new publisher and owner of the East Valley Tribune, said he planned to bring back the Scottsdale Progress, with new editions hitting the racks starting on September 16. Now, will the new Progress be like the one where Pulitzer Prize winners Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin worked in the mid-2000s? No, at least not at first. Instead of a daily newspaper, it'll be a weekly freebie on Sunday. Strickbine as yet has been focused on selling ads and keeping his newspaper-acquisition operation alive, with editorial that hasn't tried to set the world on fire. Still, if anyone tells you that print's dead, show them a copy of the resurrected Scottsdale Progress.

Arizona has had several #MeToo issues by this time. But the case of Don Shooter helped set the bar at proper Arizona depth. Shooter had a good run in the state Legislature, but only because Harvey Weinstein had not yet happened. Shooter was known to be a serious horndog and lech — a guy who never let an emotion come between him and a crass wisecrack, especially if the target was a woman. As former Arizona Republic publisher Mi-Ai Parrish later related, when he met her, he quipped that his one regret in life was failing to nail "Asian twins." But she didn't say anything. It wasn't until well after Weinstein, but just before Matt Lauer, that women, starting with state Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita, finally came forward publicly to out Shooter as the harasser he was. The Legislature commissioned an investigation that released a damning report in January that concluded Shooter had created a hostile work environment at the state Capitol. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard asked Shooter to resign, but, true to form, Shooter stood his ground and tried to play the part of a political victim. The House voted 56-3 to oust him, forcing Shooter to take his disgraced nameplate back to Yuma. One problem: The law didn't prevent Shooter from running for office again, which he did. Voters chose the clear solution and sent him packing in the August primary election.

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