Mike Stauffer's Biggest Supporter Is a Wrecking Ball in Sheriff's Race

As I've discussed in previous columns — and as is obvious to anyone capable of doing third-grade math — former Scottsdale Police Lieutenant Mike Stauffer's inept Independent bid for office makes it far more likely that Sheriff Joe Arpaio will win an unprecedented sixth term in office.

Why does Stauffer persist in this folly? He and his tiny cabal of supporters argue that he can top both Arpaio and his Democratic challenger, former Phoenix police Sergeant Paul Penzone, though you'd have to be certifiable to buy this line. The Patton Oswalt lookalike wouldn't even be on the ballot were it not for the $40,000 he lent his campaign to pay for the necessary signatures.

I suspect Stauffer is calculating that Arpaio will win but not serve out a full term.

Meaning the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors would pick a Republican to replace GOP Joe until a special election could be held. And who better than an avowed lifelong Republican who helped Arpaio get re-elected via an Indie candidacy intended to split the anybody-but-Joe vote?

Stauffer's sure to fail in such a scenario, as there's a much better candidate waiting in the wings: David Gonzales, the popular and far more qualified U.S. Marshal for the District of Arizona.

Many, including myself, saw Gonzales as the best chance to knock off Arpaio this time around. Ultimately, Gonzales was unwilling to abandon the GOP or run against Joe in a Republican primary, where Arpaio was bound to prevail, given the local party's worship of the octogenarian blowhard.

Gonzales will be the number-one choice should Arpaio win, then later croak of old age or simply retire. Stauffer, the Charlie Brown of Maricopa County politics, is fated to miss kicking the football yet again.

To some extent, you can judge a man by his supporters. Penzone has an army of law enforcement types, Democrats, disaffected Republicans, Independents, and DREAM Act students on his side.

Arpaio has racists, nativists, looney-tune birthers, right-wing extremists, and the Sun City crowd.

Whose support can Stauffer claim? A collection of online oddballs and goofs, a ragtag contingent of wackadoodles filled with loathing and resentment. Queen among them is DeeDee Blase.

A political gadfly with an Arpaio-like knack for garnering press, Blase founded the immigration-friendly group Somos Republicans, which now exists mainly as a website.

According to former Somos insiders, the organization imploded in 2011 under Blase's increasingly dictatorial regime.

Members left en masse to form a new group, Cafe Con Leche Republicans, which bills itself as wanting "America and the GOP to be more welcoming to immigrants."

CCLR president Bob Quasius, a onetime Somos executive vice president, said Somos members were turned off by Blase's divisive rhetoric toward fellow Republicans and Latinos and by her abrasive leadership style.

"She doesn't ever seem to be able to solve conflicts amicably," Quasius says. "It was her way or the highway. She has a long string of broken relationships behind her."

Quasius cites Blase's attacks on GOP Florida Senator Marco Rubio as an example, along with her tendency to tear down the GOP, in general, instead of going after those espousing extremist positions.

There also were questions about Somos' finances and its organization. Quasius says Somos was formed as a national PAC but never filed paperwork concerning its financials.

Also, Blase's repeated claim that Somos had 6,000 members nationwide were doubted even within the organization.

"I asked her about it," Quasius said of the membership numbers. "She told me, 'Well, there are 4,000 members in Arizona.' It just doesn't add up. Clearly, there's a lot of exaggeration going on."

Blase's still believed to be in control of the group, such as it is. Her phone number is listed as contact info on Somos' site, and the site's front page parrots postings from Blase's "Hispanic Politico" blog on the aggregate Tucson Citizen website.

(Somos was registered as a nonprofit with the Arizona Corporation Commission in late 2010, with Blase listed as director. It's since been dissolved by the ACC for delinquency in filing annual reports.)

One other former Somos member backed up Quasius' description of Blase's leadership style, speculating the "6,000 members" were those on Somos' mailing list but the ex-Somos-er declined to go on the record for fear of feeling "the wrath of DeeDee."

Which is understandable, as that wrath is gargantuan. As I've documented recently in my Feathered Bastard blog, Blase's been on the warpath, on Stauffer's behalf, against Penzone. Using my original reporting of a 2003 incident between the now-Democratic candidate for sheriff and his ex-wife, Blase's characterized the onetime frontman for Silent Witness as "an alleged wife beater" in her Tucson Citizen blog.

Blase's posts read like she's speaking on behalf of Penzone's erstwhile spouse, Susan, though the former Mrs. Penzone, who has remarried, so far has declined to comment on the altercation, which I first reported in a July 5 column ("Penzone Comes Clean").

To peruse Blase's rantings, you'd never know that Penzone reported the incident, that there were orders of protection against both Penzone and his former spouse, that he informed his supervisors of the situation, that both orders of protection were ultimately dismissed by the judge, and that Penzone was granted joint custody of his son.

Indeed, the fact that Penzone complied with his order by temporarily turning over his handguns, as is standard, is used against him by the self-righteous Blase.

Blase plays fast and loose with the facts in just about everything she pens about Penzone, in one case actually editing a public document from Penzone's personnel file to fit her accusations.

In another post, she suggested, seriously, that a 1994 car accident in which Penzone backed into an inanimate object and caused $300 in damage could be a case of "road rage."

This, despite the fact that the incident's disciplinary report — just about the only one in Penzone's door-stop personnel file — noted that he could not see the "decorative railroad tie" he banged into.

On her Facebook page and on her blog, Blase's gone so far as to insinuate that Penzone might be on the county's so-called "Brady List" of bad officers.

But Penzone is not now, nor has he ever been, on the Brady List. When I presented Blase with a copy of the list online, she scoffed at it, saying Penzone's name must have come off when he retired.

However, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office has confirmed to me that officers' names do not automatically drop off once they leave the force.

Late last year, Blase declared herself an independent and formed the National Tequila Party Movement as a sort of Latino reaction to the nativist Tea Party.

So far, Blase's TP seems largely a vehicle for her own aggrandizement.

Registered as a for-profit company with the corporation commission, the Tequila Party has held a "cigar VIP meet and greet" for Stauffer and organized protests of Arpaio at local Catholic churches, supposedly because Arpaio is a Catholic and because the Phoenix diocese does not denounce him.

Stauffer acknowledged the influence of Blase on his campaign in an e-mail he sent her in September 2011, one that Blase blasted out to friends and acquaintances.

In it, Stauffer thanked Blase for "the insight" she gave him, which "contributed in part" to his decision to run as an Independent.

Basically, Blase is a campaign political operative for Stauffer, though apparently on a volunteer basis.

Not that she needs the moolah. In the past, she's told me and others that she can devote herself full time to activism because her husband is a lawyer and she doesn't have to work.

I could overlook Blase's tendency to be a narcissistic media hog if she was not wildly distorting the record of the one guy who might have a chance of taking out Arpaio.

At the end of the day, I'm not pro-Penzone or anti-Stauffer — I'm anti-Arpaio and pro the candidate with the best shot at replacing him. By sliming Penzone with distortions, Blase clearly is carrying H2O for Sheriff Joe.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons