Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce-Conqueror Jerry Lewis Endorsed by Eddie Basha, Paul Johnson; Democratic Lies Denounced

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Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, praises Lewis as "a bipartisan guy who supports education and is in public service for all the right reasons," even though Stanton went on to endorse Ableser

I've addressed the first three allegations previously, but the last is a particularly devious smear, along the lines of the phony "backpack-gate" that Tea Party types ginned up against Lewis last year, claiming, falsely, that Lewis had swiped money intended for homeless kids.

This was a lie, of course, the sort of shameless prevarication of which supporters of former state Senate President Russell Pearce were guilty throughout the 2011 recall.

This year, Democrats and a union-backed I.E. have targeted Lewis with attacks that are blatantly dishonest, depicting Lewis as Public Enemy Number One when it comes to education.

That should grate on all those who are aware of Lewis' work with Children's First Academy (formerly the Thomas J. Pappas School for the Homeless), where he once served as the school's principal.

As Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts noted recently, state funding for education increased $64 million for 2012-2013 over the year before.

But because Lewis voted against a number of Democratic floor amendments to the budget that would have restored funds cut in previous years, some Dems and the Arizona Accountability Project believe this allows them to broadly paint Lewis as anti-education.

Generally, Dems were opposed to putting $450 million into a rainy day fund, as the Rs did in their budget, instead of using that money to pay for various needed programs.

Lewis tells me that he and other moderate members of the Republican caucus fought to get that $64 million in funding restored, including $40 million for a program called Move On When Reading, that seeks to improve the reading skills of Third Graders.

"We tried," Lewis told me recently. "We got some of that funding moved up. [Other Republicans] wanted to put it way off into 2013. We were like, no, you have to start that now in October of 2012."

Lewis was a yes vote on the budget, and a no vote on the Dems' floor amendments, including one to restore funding to KidsCare, a medical program that covers children.

"Before the budget can be voted on it has to go through all these floor amendments," he explained. "[The Democrats want] to get people like myself on record to say, he voted against this, this and this. Well, I was in those budget negotiation meetings. I know what went on, I'm not going to go against my word."

Following the same line of reasoning, if Dems want to blame Lewis for all of the floor amendments to the budget that failed, then Ableser would have to be held accountable for voting against a budget that included $40 million in funding for the Move on When Reading program.

Would that be fair? Well, if Lewis were playing by the same rules as Ableser, he would fire back on the D with this ammo, and be just as sleazy.

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