For all the jibber-jabber about the Phoenix mayoral and City Council races remaining "non-partisan," here's a thought: Why not go partisan?
Basically, Phoenix is an island of Democratic blue in a statewide sea of Republican red. Sure, Independents (or those registered with no party affiliation) outnumber registered Democrats in Phoenix slightly, but even Indies skew Democratic in the city. And the Rs come in a close third, behind the Is and Ds.
So why should Phoenix, which supported President Obama in 2008, despite the state's choosing Senator John McCain, even consider a Republican contender?
I submit that if someone flipped a switch tomorrow and made city elections partisan, GOPers would never stand a chance, not even moderate Rs.
Why? Because the Republican Party has tilted so far to the right that its primaries in this state are used to weed out moderates or to make moderates scurry to the far right.
By contrast, successful Democratic politicians in Arizona tend to be fairly moderate to conservative. Former Governor Janet Napolitano comes to mind. In any other state, she'd have been a Republican.
In a partisan campaign, if the Rs were smart, they'd nominate moderates. But as we all know, the Republicans are ruled by the titanium fists of nativists, Tea Party types, and sometimes worse. They put ideology over common sense.
Conservative stalwarts of yore — Barry Goldwater, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, even Dick Nixon, for chrissakes — would be regarded as RiNOS (Republicans in Name Only) to the current national GOP crowd.
And Arizona GOPers probably would regard them as flag-wavin' commies. That's how bad it's gotten in this state. Even more reason for Phoenix to maintain its true blueness.
The assorted sandbillies and Tea Baggers running the Republican Party here never would accept a Democrat as mayor, if this city were crimson. And turnabout is for damn sure fair play.
Which leaves us with Greg Stanton as the only avowed D in the current six-pack of mayoral candidates. I'm not endorsing the former city councilman and ex-assistant attorney general. I'm just saying he should win by default.
Because Phoenix is a Democratic city, Stanton currently leads the field. If this were a partisan race, dubbing him "Hizzoner" would be a foregone conclusion.
Particularly with the crop of Republicans and Tea Partiers he currently faces.
In the wake of the debt-ceiling brinksmanship promoted by Tea Party pols in Congress, and the resulting S&P downgrade and market instability, no politician with a speck of gray matter should be associating themselves with this lunatic fringe movement hell-bent on driving our country to economic ruin.
And yet, all but Stanton are vying for Tea Bagger votes. Even Claude Mattox, a moderate Republican if there ever was one, has attempted sweet-talking this angry, violent, knuckle-dragging minority by attending Tea Party-sponsored forums. Um, when he's not too busy soliciting union endorsements.
Sorry, Claude. You may come across as a nice, Captain Kangaroo kinda GOPer, but playing paddy-cake with this faction is on par with a politician in the '20s allying himself with the Ku Klux Klan.
We're talking about redneck trailer trash with a political bent, many kept afloat (and not working, natch) by some form of government assistance. This, contrary to their stated principles of small or even non-existent government.
Since their efforts to scuttle the raising of the debt ceiling, causing a delay now affecting anyone with a 401(k), the Tea Baggers have been referred to as the "Terrorist Party" and the "Treason Party" by those on the left.
That may be a tad strong, but they are nuts — and they are a small faction. Polls show them, at best, as less than 20 percent of the electorate nationwide. Granted, they may have some pull statewide and in Maricopa County, which is rabidly wingnutty. But in the city of Phoenix, they should be regarded with disgust and derision.
I was happy to see the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce exclude Wright and her fellow Tea Bagger mayoral candidate, Michele Bachmann wanna-be Anna Brennan, from its upcoming August 15 town hall.
The GPCC isn't inviting them because they lack the support — financial or otherwise — to be considered legitimate. Together, they might pull double digits in the election, but separately, it's highly unlikely.
Mattox is not the only candidate coddling the Tea Baggers. Wes Gullett — diehard lobbyist, longtime City Hall insider, and former employee of disgraced Governor Fife Symington and Senator John McCain — has assiduously sought, and received, the endorsement of the leader of a local Tea Bagger group.
Gullett, a cross between Gollum of the Lord of the Rings movies and actor Paul Giamatti in appearance, won't even promise to quit his freaking high-powered lobbying firm FirstStrategic if elected. Can you spell "sleaze?"
Then, there is train-wreck-of-a-candidate Peggy Neely, getting peddled to the public by none other than the dark knight of Arizona politics, Chuck Coughlin.
Need I say more? Coughlin already has state Senate President Russell Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer in his pocket. Do you want Coughlin pulling the mayor of Phoenix's strings as well?
Weirdly, Councilman Michael Johnson and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, both Democrats, have endorsed Neely, but this is only cover for her Tea Party-type talk, and for her endorsements from rightist pol and Republican Councilman Sal DiCiccio and former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen, who seems never to have met a Mexican he liked.
Not sure who slipped a Mickey into the Long Island iced teas of Johnson and Wilcox, but you can be sure they wouldn't be crossing party lines like that if Phoenix had a partisan system.
Neely has too many negatives to detail at length here. I refer you to my colleague Monica Alonzo's excellent reporting on Neely and the other Republinuts in the race. She's also reported on Stanton, but, try as she might, she's found no real dirt on the guy.
I don't like Stanton's accepting the endorsement of the Arizona Police Association, which is little more than a façade behind which the anti-immigrant Phoenix Law Enforcement Association operates. But Stanton is on record as opposing Senate Bill 1070. Also, he's a pro-choice, pro-growth Democrat.
And even if he's as exciting as watching cacti pollinate, at least he'll correctly represent the voters of Phoenix — who would rather own a donkey than feed an elephant any day.