Four weeks ago, Phoenix police arrested State Representative Mark DeSimone for hitting his wife. Allegedly. Records show she made a 911 call, then displayed a cut lip; police also had an eyewitness.
Three weeks and six days ago, the Democratic Party announced that DeSimone was resigning, even though he contested the charges. His lawyer confirmed it.
I actually believed them.
Last week, I found out that they were full of . . . well, you know what comes after "full of." Mark DeSimone has not, in fact, resigned. (As of press time, that is.)
He continues to draw his salary. He and his family continue to stay on the health, dental, and life insurance plans for state employees, according to state records. They're eligible for those perks only while he's a member of the House.
At first, I thought it was a mistake. Maybe DeSimone forgot to resign. The House isn't currently in session, and perhaps in the stress of fighting the domestic violence charge against him, DeSimone didn't realize he had to submit a letter to the Speaker of the House and make it official.
Turns out DeSimone's non-resignation has been something of an open secret over at the Capitol. No, he doesn't plan to run again this November — but the word on West Washington is that he doesn't plan to resign any time soon, either.
Do you think that decision has anything to do with the perks of office? And no, I'm not talking about the honor and glory of serving one's constituents.
By my calculation, if DeSimone stays on the House payroll 'til his term is up in December, that's another $11,000 in the bank, not counting insurance benefits — enough, perhaps, to pay for the lawyer at Quarles & Brady fighting the domestic violence charge.
There's good reason the Democratic Party decided, within 24 hours of DeSimone's arrest, that the first-term representative needed to quit. The police report is heartbreaking.
The couple's 5-year-old daughter witnessed the whole incident.
It was June 26, and the House had just approved a $9.9 billion budget, by the narrowest of margins: 31 to 29 votes. DeSimone voted yes.
The House adjourned at 8:41 p.m.; police were summoned to DeSimone's house in Sunnyslope just three hours later. DeSimone, who owns Bruno Mali's bar in central Phoenix, admitted that he had been drinking. His wife, Mali, said she'd had a few drinks, too.
Mali DeSimone apparently called 911 after an argument got out of control — and, she said, her husband "grabbed her by the shoulders with both of his hands . . . [threw] her to the floor in the bedroom . . . sat on top of her around the stomach area and started punching her with his closed right hand in the face and arms." That's straight from the police report.
And the kid was right there.
The little girl told officers that she was lying in bed when "she heard her mom and dad arguing and saw Mark sit on top of [his wife] and hit Mali in the face with his hand." Never mind that Mali DeSimone says she doesn't want to press charges; their daughter's testimony is damning.
Mark DeSimone did not return calls for comment.
The Honeymooners aside, nothing about domestic violence is remotely funny. There's a reason alcohol is nearly always involved. Throwing around a much smaller person, punching her in the stomach — that isn't the way any decent man could behave while sober.
But there is one humorous bit in the police report, and that's this: For some reason, the officer who arrived on the scene wasn't sure if he was allowed to arrest a state representative. Seriously, the arresting officer apparently thought DeSimone might have diplomatic immunity or something.
The officer, Robert Tulchinsky, writes that after learning DeSimone was a state representative, he checked his department's policies.
"Upon checking operations orders, I found that legislators were not immune from arrest for misdemeanor crimes," Tulchinsky wrote. A lieutenant later confirmed it. "If there was probable cause for an arrest," Tulchinsky reports his supervisor saying, "immunity from arrest would not be a factor." Ah, so state representatives aren't treated like visiting diplomats? Glad we could clear that up, boys.
So DeSimone was booked. And by the time he was arraigned the next day, the word was already out: He would be resigning. DeSimone's lawyer, John Sandweg, told it to reporters, as did Emily DeRose, spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party.
It was a smart move, and not just from a good government standpoint.
It's Public Relations 101: Don't give your enemies the joy of hounding you. You don't want a headline one day saying you're a thief, another the next day denying it, and a third saying that you'll return the money. Get out there in front of it: "Yes, I've made mistakes, but I promise to give all the proceeds of my mistakenness immediately to the Boys & Girls Club of America" et cetera, et cetera. Good spin doctors know that reporters can't keep putting you on the front page unless you give them fresh ammunition. Much better to give 'em the gun, the bullets, and an admission of guilt, all in one news cycle.
The problem is, even though the Democratic Party got out in front on this one, Mark DeSimone wasn't with the program.
He wasn't going anywhere. Screw the spin; the alleged wife beater is still in the House.
DeRose, the Democratic Party's flack, suggests that the initial information was, in fact, correct: "All I know is that he intends to resign and he's taken his name off the ballot." But it's hard not to be skeptical about that whole intends-to-resign bit.
It does not take a full month to say "I quit."
Beyond bad public relations, DeSimone's arrest could have serious repercussions for the Democrats' plan to take the House.
And that's because, regardless of whether he actually gets around to quitting before November, DeSimone will definitely not run again this fall.
I can say that with authority because, in this case, DeSimone actually yanked his nominating petitions. He'll be on the ballot for the primary in September, but any votes he receives will not count. And no matter what happens in September, the Secretary of State's office says that DeSimone will not be on the November ballot. (Trust me, I checked.)
That leaves two Republicans on the ballot, incumbent Adam Driggs and Jon Altmann, who is familiar to residents in the north Phoenix part of the district thanks to his hard-fought race against Maria Baier for city council last fall.
Democrats know they need to pick up four seats (plus keep this one) to take the House. That won't be easy.
But the Dems are not about to roll over. In fact, they've settled on a write-in — Eric Meyer, a physician turned stay-at-home dad who's also a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District board. If he can get 301 write-in votes on the primary ballot in September, Meyer would not only make it to the November ballot but would have the ability to qualify for clean elections funding.
That would also be true of Phoenix attorney Jon Hulburd, who's also filed to run as a write-in.
I can't imagine that the Democrats will be able to pull this off, as well as pick up another four seats. But the fact that the party moved so swiftly to find a candidate is a good sign. Despite DeSimone's non-resignation, the Democrats will be just fine, going forward. It's the DeSimone family I'm not so sure about.
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