Best Defamation Suit We'd Like to See the Discovery On 2023 | Norton v. Schweikert | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

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.

Laurie Roberts is about the only reason we bother to read The Arizona Republic these days. Let's be real, Gannett has nearly sucked the Rep dry of all value, and in about five years or less, there will be nothing left but the husk and E.J. Montini. Worry not for the ever-acerbic Roberts, though. She's been there long enough that her buyout will no doubt be fat, and if she goes the route of many journos these days and signs up for Substack, people will actually pay to read her columns. (Novel idea, that.) In recent years, Roberts has targeted mostly Republican stupidity. But as our purple state trends blue, you can expect her to shift like a mood ring to assailing Democrat inanity, of which there will be plenty. Roberts, thankfully, is an equal-opportunity cynic.

Russell Pearce's death on Jan. 5, at age 75 epitomizes a famous line from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar": "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones." So it is with Pearce, author and primary pusher of Arizona's racist "papers please" law, SB 1070, which effectively turned local police into immigration agents with a green light to pull over brown people on the flimsiest of excuses and then inquire into their immigration status. Passed in 2010, the law sparked a boycott of Arizona, multiple lawsuits and a wave of anti-Hispanic hatred across the state. Pearce's buddy Sheriff Joe Arpaio used it to terrorize communities of color, while the rest of the country looked on in horror. Pearce became president of the Arizona Senate and ruled with an iron hand. But not for long. Against all odds, Pearce's opponents forced a historic recall election in his Mesa district, and Pearce was defeated by fellow Republican Jerry Lewis. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out much of SB 1070, but let the section allowing local police to do immigration checks remain, with certain restrictions. Pearce's name became a byword for racism. He never regained office.

Bigoted laws and bad policy ideas are constantly emerging, zombielike, from the muck of the Arizona legislature. Yet during the 2023 session, Arizona's Republican lawmakers launched new and particularly vicious attacks on LGBTQ+ people in the state: bills targeting drag performers, bills limiting health care for transgender people and most of all, bills affecting LGBTQ+ youth. Arizona's schools — and students — were a key target for lawmakers. They proposed bills this year that would prevent teachers from using students' pronouns and bar transgender pupils from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender. Most of these bills didn't make it past the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs. And that was thanks in part to activism by students across the state, including Support Equality AZ Schools, a student collective led by Chandler high schooler Dawn Shim. Beginning in September 2022, after former Gov. Doug Ducey signed several anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law, and continuing through 2023, Shim helped organize walkouts out at their own school and high schools across the Valley, drawing awareness to the anti-LGBTQ+ bills flooding the legislature; the anti-LGBTQ+ crusades of Tom Horne, the new Arizona education chief; and the hostile school environments that queer youth often encounter in Arizona. Hundreds of students took to the streets — and schoolyards — as a result of SEAZS's organizing. But it was, of course, deeply unfair that the walkouts were necessary at all. In the words of one student organizer at a rally, it proved that Arizona had devolved into "pseudo-apocalyptic bullshit."

Carlos Garcia cut his teeth as an activist fighting Arizona's bigoted immigration law, SB 1070, and helping lead the fight against Maricopa County's racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Typically, you would find Garcia in the streets, leading protesters and demanding an end to the mistreatment of his community by law enforcement. In 2019, he became a politician, winning a special election to represent District 8 on the Phoenix City Council. There, he broke all of the rules, often wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Stop Police Brutality" and spearheading a successful drive to create a civilian review board to oversee the Phoenix Police Department. In doing so, he butted heads with Mayor Kate Gallego, who engineered a challenge to Garcia by cop-friendly attorney Kesha Hodge Washington. Backed by the Democratic establishment and the real-estate crowd, she handily beat Garcia in a runoff election. So now, we're back to a City Council dominated by status-quo Dems, but at least Garcia tried to change things in a town run by cops and developers. For a moment, he gave us hope.

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