Feathered Bastard

No, Rick Romley Can't Run as a Write-In, Duh, and More Bad News Re: Bill Montgomery

Almost immediately after interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley's devastating loss in the GOP primary to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's pick for the position, Bill Montgomery, Democrats and disaffected Republicans alike began to whisper about Romley running as a write-in in the general election.

The theory, albeit farfetched, went like this: Sure, Montgomery scored 50 percent, with the assistance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV ads from Arpaio sliming Romley. But add Romley's nearly 38 percent to Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn's almost 12 percent, and you've got a dead heat. And that's just among tuskers.

This is assuming everyone who voted for Dunn would vote for Romley. (Dunn dropped out and endorsed Romley, but his name remained on the primary ballot.) In any case, a general election draws more people, not just the crazies who vote in GOP primaries. Independents and Dems would support Romley, and Montgomery would be denied.

If anyone still has that pipe dream going, let me disabuse you of it. State law prohibits failed primary candidates from entering the general election for the same office. So even if Romley happened to be willing, it can't happen.

And here's some more bad news: Montgomery takes over as County Attorney as soon as the final canvass of the votes is done in the general election. (No, we don't have till January.)

Yvonne Reed, spokeswoman for county elections, says the canvass should be finished about one week following the November 2 vote.

Which makes the Dems' inability to field a candidate for what is, arguably, the most powerful post in the county, ever more glaring.

Why didn't the county Dems put up a contender, or at least a place-holder, to prevent the scenario of Montgomery benefiting from a free ride to the CA's office?

Democratic County Chair Ann Wallack told me that she did approach potential candidates, but there were no takers.

"The people we talked to were very interested," she told me. "But after thinking about it, [they] would say, `You know, I just don't want to get involved in that mess.'"

She blamed the "toxic" atmosphere in the county for turning people off to running. Also, ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas waited late to announce for AG, she said, leaving a potential Democratic competitor little time to get his or her act together.

Once Romley was appointed to fill Thomas' seat, some Dems saw him as too formidable a candidate to oppose, she added.

Still, wasn't this a huge failure on the local Dems' part?

"Ultimately, yes," she replied. "And ultimately it's my fault for not being persuasive enough."

She also seemed miffed that some folks won't dust off their backsides and run.

"I do feel bad about this," she offered. "This is not new thinking to me, I've been concerned about this for months. I really think there are a lot of people -- moderate Republicans and true-blue Democrats -- that need to get off the sidelines and start to take part in local government. So things like this don't happen."

She said there were no plans to run a Dem as a write-in candidate against Montgomery.

I like Ann, but the thing is, this situation highlights the reason why Democrats are such losers in this state. If the donkey-kongs want to be taken seriously as a party here in Sand Land, they need to always put up a candidate. Particularly for offices as important as County Attorney.

Scott Phelps, former director of communications for Mayor Phil Gordon, has worked for both Dems and Republicans. He volunteered as a campaign advisor to the Romley campaign, and he agrees that not offering an option to voters is freaking stupid.

"It's always a mistake not to field a candidate," he told me. "I've seen unopposed candidates die, get indicted, drop out for family considerations -- you just never know. And there you are, without a candidate on the ballot."

Hell, even the Libertarians were able to field a candidate: Michael Kielsky, who has a snowball's chance in Yuma of taking Montgomery, but at least the Ayn Rand-worshippers bothered. Ya know?

A real Democratic party, even if it is in a red state like Arizona, needs to put up a fight in every district, every local election, every contest, even if they know the effort is a longshot.

Make the Republicans spend money, force them to justify themselves, throw rocks at 'em and make 'em dodge.

Because otherwise, all you're doing is consigning your party to the status of a non-entity. Sort of like the stooge team that always played the Harlem Globetrotters. 

Not that Montgomery is any Meadowlark Lemon. Some Dem could've given him a run, painting him as beholden to Arpaio, which he is.That alone would've offered Dems in this county a reason to head to the polls.

As it is, because the Dems are not on their game, we're stewed, stuck with Montgomery, and forced to sit around and wait for the next round of indictments. And I promise you, they will be coming.

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