Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a prolific Twitter user, deleted his personal account amid speculation that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey might appoint him to the U.S. Senate seat held by the late John McCain.
A cached version of Montgomery's account (@Veritas_ad_res) shows he had tweeted around 3,800 times. By Monday morning, the account had gone dark.
Montgomery is a West Point graduate who leads one of the largest county prosecutor's offices in the country. He has argued against the legalization of marijuana and has opposed most sentencing reform efforts in the Arizona Legislature aimed at reducing the state's prison population.
Montgomery's name has been floated as one of the people Ducey could tap to fill McCain's Senate seat. Other names in circulation include unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally, former Arizona Board of Regents president Eileen Klein, and Ducey's own recently departed chief of staff, Kirk Adams.
Ducey appointed former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl to fill the Senate vacancy in September, but at the time Kyl hinted that he might not serve beyond the end of the year. As expected, on Friday, Kyl announced that he would step down effective December 31, revving up more speculation about yet another Ducey decision.
An article from a conservative publication published on Friday night that dug up Montgomery's old tweets in light of the Senate rumors might have prompted the county attorney to delete his account.
The Washington Examiner found tweets from 2015 in which Montgomery criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. During an early Republican presidential debate, the Examiner reported, Montgomery wrote, “Trump unforced error #1: failing to commit to supporting Republican nominee. You’re fired!”
In another tweet, Montgomery wrote, "Waiting for Donald Trump to take credit for inventing the Internet. Most interesting man in the world?"
Montgomery used his personal Twitter in a much more freewheeling way than his office's official Twitter account, @Marcoattorney. When he wasn't retweeting quotes attributed to the English writer G.K. Chesterton, Montgomery occasionally used his Twitter account to make controversial pronouncements.
On September 28, during the Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Montgomery tweeted, "Do you know the difference between a pack of hyenas and the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee? ... Neither do I." He added, "#ConfirmKavanaugh."
The tweet led to immediate backlash. Not content with logging off, Montgomery started arguing with his critics and even debated the racial politics behind the modern Republican Party.
In a press conference last week, Montgomery denied that he is campaigning for McCain's Senate seat.
"Quite frankly, as a Catholic, I'm where I'm at because this is where God wants me to be," Montgomery said. "And [if] he wants me somewhere, well, then those opportunities may arise later. But there is no focused effort on my part to create an opportunity."
However, at least one friend of Montgomery has been whispering in the governor's ear to advocate for his appointment. In November, Phoenix New Times published text messages obtained under public records law that show Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, a libertarian, urged Ducey to appoint Montgomery to the Senate seat two days after McCain's death in August.
When asked about the messages, Bolick claimed that he messaged Ducey in his capacity as a private citizen and did not consult Montgomery beforehand.
The county attorney has a blanket policy of not responding to requests for comment from New Times, so Montgomery's office did not respond to a question about his Twitter account. Montgomery didn't respond immediately to a direct email.
Before he deleted his Twitter account, Montgomery had blocked New Times and most of its staff.
Update, 4:03 p.m. Amanda Steele, a spokesperson for Montgomery, replied to say that the county attorney has no comment. "However I can let you know it was a decision to leave the platform because of the environment on the social media platform…. not in response to any article," Steele wrote in an email.
Interestingly, Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror captured a screenshot of something Montgomery wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday afternoon announcing that he was leaving Twitter the day after the Examiner story published.
"If I was in a room where the conversation mirrored tweets, I'd leave the room, too," Montgomery wrote.
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