Ben Bethel, owner of the Clarendon Hotel, has withdrawn his name as a would-be candidate for the Phoenix City Council's District 7, blaming our blog post from yesterday about his 1996 drug convictions.
"I've decided that sensational journalism will win out over my efforts to make this a better city, so I'll focus these efforts outside of council, and I'll still get a lot done," Bethel wrote in a comment on yesterday's post.
When we called him this evening and asked if he was ending his political career (before it started) because of our little old post?
"Yeah, pretty much," he says glumly.
"I'll continue to be involved with the city -- it's my passion to make it a better place," he says.
Bethel says he knew his quest for a council seat would mean public scrutiny of his 15-year-old legal problems. Yet the guy pulls his name out of the hat after a single article. What gives?
"I figured I'd be offered the opportunity to tell my story," Bethel says. We remind him that we gave him that opportunity yesterday, before we published the article. But Bethel didn't want to come clean about what happened, or even what drugs he'd been selling.
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Court records show he pleaded guilty to two counts of selling drugs: One for dangerous drugs, the other for narcotics. In backward Arizona, "narcotics" could mean pot. "Dangerous drugs" usually means meth, LSD, mushrooms, esctasy or other so-called "hard drugs." (Not that mushrooms are all that hard.)
Rather than show us the spirit of transparency in government, this wannabe council candidate hinted that mentioning the past convictions might get us in trouble, seeing as how he got his rights restored and the convictions vacated a few years later. He says he'd hoped that if an article was written about his past, it would be framed in such a way that emphasized his recovery and how he's given back to the community in spades.
Now that he's dropped out, Bethel says he expects a highly conservative candidate to win in District 7 on election day, August 30.
In other words, we might be to blame for that, too.