Best Bad Omen 2023 | Rio Verde Foothills Water Fight | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

Though Mayor Kate Gallego and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce would have you believe there is zero shortage of water in the Phoenix area, the reality of the drought and climate change is as plain as Lake Powell's "bathtub ring." Gov. Katie Hobbs's announcement earlier this year of a groundwater shortage limiting development in outlying cities should be a wake-up call: It's time for all of us to work to conserve this precious resource. But there is no such call from our leaders. Which is why the Rio Verde Foothills fight for drinking water is such a bad omen for the future. Scottsdale stopped supplying H2O to the unincorporated area at the beginning of the year, and it took till June for the legislature to cobble together a temporary fix that will give Rio Verde water for about three years. So, what does the subdivision do after that, turn into a pumpkin? No, because a pumpkin, like all living things, needs water to survive. The short-sightedness and cowardice of Arizona's political class offer no solutions. It remains to be seen if average citizens can fill this void in leadership. We need to, because the politicians are fiddling while Arizona runs dry and agribusiness and developers suck up what's left of the state's moisture.

That boy ain't right. And by "boy," we mean grown-ass, 25-year-old, anti-gay, antisemitic redneck bigot Ethan Schmidt-Crockett, who's made quite a name for himself through a series of self-recorded threats, criminal acts and stunts that haven't been rivaled since baby-killer J.T. Ready was still above ground. Take a look at Schmidt-Crockett's résumé. He's on record for harassing a Mesa wig shop that caters to patients who have lost hair due to chemotherapy; trampling a Target Pride display and then trying to sell the shoes he did it with for $10,000 online; targeting local synagogues; acting the fool at a Barnes & Noble and a local Church of Scientology; promising to "hunt" LGBTQ+ people, then making the same threat about Jewish people; and so on. The dude is quite obviously "tetched," as folks say down South, and probably in need of some serious meds. Or at the very least, some quality time in the pokey, which he has so far been able to avoid. Is he just another alt-right social media troll or something more sinister? Don't let his clownishness mislead you. J.T. Ready, Arizona's most infamous neo-Nazi, had a similar reputation for media stunts. Schmidt-Crockett's combination of menace, threats and need for attention may end very badly for all concerned.

There are Republicans, and then there are Republicans who know better. Blake Masters, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2022 against incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly and lost, should know better. The Stanford graduate, venture capitalist and protégé of tech billionaire Peter Thiel sure ain't dumb, so when he embraced the far-right "great replacement theory," which posits that Democrats are trying to "replace" white folk with nonwhite immigrants to the U.S., he knows exactly what he's doing and the kind of racism and hatred that he's stirring up. During the GOP primary, Masters accused "the left" of wanting to "change the demographics of this country," adding, "They want to do that so they can consolidate power and so they can never lose another election." In other words, if you're a bigot, vote for Masters because he's pro-white, right? This is the kind of racist crap Southern politicians used to spew during segregation. We'd advise Masters, who remains politically ambitious, to do better, if we thought it'd do any good. Hopefully, his words will stick to him like Scotch tape for the rest of his career in politics.

If some wicked-ass scientist combined the DNA of Rob Zombie, Wes Craven and Clive Barker, added in some stem cells, and injected it all into an artificial womb, the result might resemble Gothic drag king Daddy Satan (real name Noelle Cañez). When the Mesa resident is not onstage drooling blood and scaring the bejesus out of audiences, she's helping to organize her LGBTQ+ pals into a pro-drag army to take on some real evil — specifically, Republican attempts to ban drag and otherwise torment the gay community with hostile legislation at the Arizona State Capitol. Cañez's Daddy Satan persona is truly heart-attack-inducing, but her message is righteous and uplifting. "Drag is all about self-expression, love and teaching people that it's okay to be gay, straight, trans, a performer — it doesn't matter," Cañez told Phoenix New Times in January. She pointed out that there is "a huge drag community" in Arizona, and that many, including straight people, enjoy the art of drag. "If drag is limited, not only will people see less art, they will not be able to express themselves." Thankfully, pro-LGBTQ+ Gov. Katie Hobbs made sure those hateful bills bit the proverbial dust. Now it's time for Daddy Satan to run for the state legislature.

Best Defamation Suit We'd Like to See the Discovery On

Norton v. Schweikert

Comic books, peach emojis, insinuations about a rival's sexuality? Hey, it's all par for the course for your average vicious Arizona Republican primary. It's also part of a lawsuit filed by GOPer Elijah Norton against U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, who bested Norton by about 10,000 votes in the 2022 Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District. As you would expect, the Norton campaign made much of Schweikert's being sanctioned by the U.S. House with an official reprimand in 2020 over the misuse of his office's funds and campaign finance violations. The lawmaker admitted to 11 allegations and agreed to pay a $50,000 fine. In 2022, the Federal Election Commission fined him $125,000 over similar accusations. All this and more was detailed in a comic book published by Norton's campaign. For its part, Schweikert's campaign put out mailers featuring a photo of Norton, his arms around another man, with the header "Elijah Norton Isn't Being Straight With You." There were also road signs featuring the photo, stating "Elijah Norton, unfit for Congress." (A peach emoji was apparently used by Schweikert loyalists online to imply ... something.) Schweikert's pulled this sort of smear in other campaigns, but this time, Norton wants him to pay. Norton hired bulldog attorney Dennis Wilenchik and filed a defamation suit, asking for $300,000 in damages, saying the smear is false and has caused emotional distress. The suit was still ongoing as Best of Phoenix went to press. If it continues, we'd love to see the discovery, especially Schweikert's deposition, because the Congressman has a lot of explaining to do.

How did the dodgiest Arizona Attorney General of recent memory slime his way back into public office, besting incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman to become Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position Horne once held before moving over to the AG's office in 2011? Hoffman was a bright, fresh face, a former teacher and speech-language pathologist — not a professional politician. And her administration earned plaudits from educators. Horne, on the other hand, was plagued with ethical issues and accusations of using the AG's office for campaign purposes. The low point of his tenure as AG was an FBI tail on his car as he headed for an alleged nooner with his alleged mistress. Agents spied Horne-dog hitting another car in the parking lot adjacent to a Pita Jungle. He later pled no contest to a vehicular hit-and-run, a misdemeanor. Horne's wrong-way, down-ballot win in 2022 can be blamed on two factors: name recognition and the laziness of our local Fourth Estate, which failed to inform the public of Horne's checkered past. Has Horne grown an ethical bone in recent years? Don't bet on it. At least he's not taking up space in the AG's office, where he could do far more damage.

At age 91, will former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio just go away already? After his office was found guilty of widespread racial profiling of Latinos in the Melendres v. Arpaio civil rights case, Arpaio defied a federal judge's injunction and was later found guilty of contempt of court. At last count, complying with the court's orders in Melendres has cost taxpayers $253 million. Since being drummed out of office in disgrace in 2016, Arpaio continues to linger on the body politic like a bad case of psoriasis. After losing a 2022 comeback bid to be mayor of Fountain Hills to Democratic incumbent Ginny Dickey, Arpaio refused to fade away, selling his signature pink underwear at gun shows and recently announcing that in 2024 he will again be a candidate for Fountain Hills' top spot. Dare to dream, huh? Arpaio runs for spite, saying he wants to end Fountain Hills' contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services. Supposedly, this would be his revenge against the man who beat him like a snare drum in 2016, Paul Penzone. Fortunately, the voters seem wise to this washed-up has-been's scam, and Arpaio will end his days as a loser, no matter how many times he runs for mayor.

KTAR legal analyst and Twitter personality Barry Markson doesn't sound like a lawyer, and that's a good thing, though he plays one in real life. Indeed, Markson in no way reminds us of the classic lawyer joke, "What does a lawyer get when you give him Viagra? Taller." We kid. In reality, Markson truly is the "speaker of common sense" that he bills himself as on Twitter, where he's been having a field day trying to knock some sense into Republicans regarding Trump, the "stolen" election of 2020 and the "stolen" midterms, with Kari Lake, AZ's one true governor, still waiting to be crowned the Empress of Arizona. Markson Tweeted recently, "Kari Lake is getting to the point where she can't talk without saying things [that] aren't true. The MAGA fantasy bubble must be the best high ever." Go get her, Barry, and keep preaching to the conservatives on KTAR. You might even convert a few.

The Real Thelma Johnson is the meemaw Arizona Republicans love to hate. Posing as a kindly grandma who should be fretting about her bursitis, some unknown comic genius has been skewering GOPers repeatedly since 2018 with barbs and memes aplenty. Whether it's a GIF of Kari Lake jumping a shark a la Fonzie from "Happy Days," reimagining prosecutor Jack Smith as Billy Jack, or joking about Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk's massive head being used to block the sun, Thelma rattles off more burns than a seatbelt in July. Mark Finchem, Donald Trump, Anthony Kern — they all get their whacks. Her series of fake endorsements for Lake's candidacy from the likes of Jim Jones, Joseph Stalin and Joseph Goebbels are the stuff of legend. Nor is she above the occasional groaner: "Watching Trump reminded me I got arrested once for stealing a kitchen utensil from Target. I knew that might happen but it was a whisk I was willing to take." Don Rickles may be dead, but his spirit lives on in The Real Thelma Johnson.

Podcaster, commentator and man-about-town Jon Gabriel, editor-in-chief of, is a throwback to the days when conservatives were smart — like, William F. Buckley-smart. Once upon a time, conservatives quoted ancient texts and made sly jokes at the expense of their adversaries and themselves. On Twitter, Gabriel's given to mockery, like when he quoted a pompous David Brooks after Brooks began a Tweet by referring to himself as a member of the "educated class." Gabriel wrote, "From now on, I'm beginning every article with 'We in the educated class ...'" He also offers self-owns like "Just submitted an article that will be a cultural touchstone for the next few decades." You may disagree with his political columns, but you cannot say they lack reason or wit. More conservatives like Mr. Gabriel, please.

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