(UPDATE: See below for more comments from Patterson, the husband of candidate Farhana Shifa, and Sal DiCiccio's spokesman, Sam Stone.)
Greg Patterson, a longtime fixture in Arizona politics who left the Board of Regents amid scandal, is planning a return to the state Legislature.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio broke the news in an email to the public on Wednesday afternoon seeking support for Patterson's bid for a seat in Legislative District 18 of the House. DiCiccio asked Republican and Independent voters to sign Patterson's online petition to run in the Republican primary in August for the seat.
Patterson, a Tempe resident, called back after publication — scroll down to read what he said.
He hadn't even announced his run publicly himself yet, nor put together a campaign website or Facebook page. Neither his old blog site, the conservative, media-ripping, often fun-to-read EspressoPundit.com, nor his Twitter site have been updated since 2017.
Patterson is an accountant and attorney who previously served in the House from 1991 to 1995. Since then, as DiCiccio covered in his email, Patterson has been a former chief of staff for State Senator Brenda Burns (now an Arizona Corporation Commissioner), a director of the Residential Utility Consumer Office, and a board member of the Maricopa Integrated Health System.
Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appointed Patterson to the seven-member Board of Regents in 2012, and he served as chair until 2017.
What DiCiccio's email didn't mention was that Patterson resigned from the board following public outrage over statements he made in a recording that disparaged a sitting lawmaker, Mark Finchem, a Republican from Oro Valley.
In a February 2017 meeting with Finchem and another legislator, Jill Norgaard, about the cost of higher education, Patterson criticized Finchem's cowboy fashion, including his "Sunday-go-to-meeting" tie and mustache.
"I would start by saying the costume doesn’t work," Patterson told Finchem. "You know, trim that down, buy a suit. Decide where you want to be, but this isn’t it."
Patterson secretly recorded the meeting, then emailed a copy of it to the board's staff, writing "Gather around the computer at lunch and play this please."
The Arizona Republic obtained a copy of the recording and published it, leading to Patterson's resignation three years before his term ended. Patterson apologized for the rant in a blog post, which he since deleted, saying he had been in a "caffeine-induced rage."
DiCiccio, in his email, called Patterson "a pillar of our community" and an Arizona State University supporter.
Patterson will be vying for a seat with incumbent Norgaard and several other candidates for the two seats in District 18, and each needs to collect 500 signatures, DiCiccio said.
Norgaard, who lives in Ahwatukee, believes that Patterson should have let others in the meeting know he was recording it. She's forgiven Patterson for his transgression and vows to work with her fellow legislator, no matter who it is. Still, she added that although political discussions may get heated, "at the end of the day, people don't engage in ad hominem attacks — they should be able to work together."
Besides Norgaard, Republican Farhana Shifa has filed her nominating signatures and is running in the LD18 GOP primary.
On the Democratic side, Representative Mitzi Epstein (who's running for reelection), Jennifer Jermaine, and Ladawn Stuben have launched campaigns for the LD18 House seats.
UPDATE: Patterson called later in the afternoon to talk about his candidacy and qualifications
"For the last 30 years, I've been in public service almost continuously," he said.
Besides his aforementioned service history, he noted that his last bid for public office wasn't his unsuccessful 1994 run for the Corporation Commission, but his 2008 victory getting on the board of the Maricopa Integrated Health System.
His focus in the Legislature, should he make it there again, would be "all education and health care," considering his experience in those fields.
Besides Patterson, Raphel Ahmed, husband of Farhana Shifa, also got back to Phoenix New Times after seeing this article. They're miffed that DiCiccio didn't mention her in his letter, instead appearing to back a late entry to the GOP primary race instead of one of the two people (Shifa and Norgaard) who have already submitted their nominating signatures. Both Ahmed and Shifa are GOP precinct committeemen who worked on his reelection campaign last year, he said.
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"Obviously we are disappointed," Ahmed said of DiCiccio's apparent oversight. When Ahmed alerted Shifa to the New Times article and DiCiccio's letter, she turned around and said "this is politics" before leaving for a meeting.
Asked about Shifa's concerns, DiCiccio spokesman Sam Stone wrote that the relationship of Patterson and DiCiccio goes way back, and Patterson was "instrumental in Sal's first campaign."
Besides, he added, Patterson asked for DiCiccio's support.
"And as the sitting representative — someone we work with extensively in our office — Sal wanted to make sure Jill Norgaard was included," Stone went on. "Sal will wholeheartedly support our nominees regardless of who comes out ahead in the primary."