SINNERS, PSYCHOS, SKUNKS: Tom Horne Bites the Mat, and Republicans Offer Up a Baggage-Laden Doug Ducey for Governor

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Of the many joys of primary day 2014, the top of my list and the most satisfying was Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's delicious seven­-point defeat by former state gaming director and fellow Republican Mark Brnovich.

The only thing I'd enjoy more would be watching Horne, outfitted in prison stripes, as he breaks rocks in the hot sun with one of those cartoony ball­-and-­chains tied to his legs and The Clash's version of "I Fought the Law" cranked up for background music.

Okay, this may be too much to ask Santa for. But with at least five active investigations into his myriad shenanigans by state, county, and federal agencies, I still might one day witness Horne and his co­-conspirators getting led away in steel bracelets.

Until then, Horne's defeat by a guy whom he outspent 5-­to-­1 will have to suffice.

Even this achievement (the outspending part) merely was testament to the deep-­purse love of the AG's rich sister, Christine Newman, who lent Horne $300,000 during this campaign cycle.

The rest of Horne's supporters collectively donated less than Newman's total, a pathetic haul for an incumbent AG..

Now a political Gollum, Horne admittedly once was useful to us all, back when he eked out a win over now­-disbarred former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a genuine right-wing fanatic, in the 2010 GOP primary for AG.

Four years ago, the skunk prevailed over the psycho by 899 votes, but then we had another problem: ridding ourselves of one stinky polecat.

I did my part during Horne's first year in office by writing about Horne's hiring his mistress Carmen Chenal to a $108,000 job as an assistant AG, for which she was not qualified.

Horne aided his political demise by ordering an internal investigation to cover up the scandal. But his handpicked investigator, Meg Hinchey, instead discovered evidence of campaign-­finance skullduggery, which she dutifully turned over to the FBI.

What followed was the AG's FBI-­witnessed vehicular hit­-and-­run en route to a love nest with his honey Chenal and, after many twists and turns, an order by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that Horne and his outreach director, Kathleen Winn, pay back almost $400,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

You'd think this would have been enough to finish off the Elmer Fudd of Arizona politics, but come primary time, the scandal was old, by political standards, and somewhat complicated to explain.

Fortune favored us, though, in the form of one brave young lady, former AG employee Sarah Beattie, who accused Horne of illegally running his re­-election campaign out of the AG's executive office.

Beattie, a gifted GOP fundraiser, had more than her word; she had physical evidence up the wazoo: e­mails, internal documents, and a three-­ring binder of potential donors, which Horne intentionally had mislabeled "Border Patrol" so that it could sit, so disguised, in his office.

With the assistance of the white­-haired King Kong of election law, attorney Tom Ryan, who took Beattie's case pro bono, Beattie turned over the docs to the proper authorities and to the press.

What did Beattie get out of this? She became persona non grata in GOP circles, her name was dragged through the mud, and she lost close friends and prospects for work.

Without her coming forward, it's quite possible that Polk would not have continued to pursue her earlier claim against Horne and Winn.

Beattie's allegations gave Polk, a Republican, the necessary cover to do what was right.

They also resulted in new investigations of Horne by the FBI, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, and two attorneys (one a retired judge) appointed by Arizona's Solicitor General.

This piling on was crucial to Horne's downfall.

Additionally, Mesa Republican Tyler Montague's work in educating the public on Horne's misdeeds, via his Arizona Public Integrity Alliance, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that's been around for two years, helped the cause of good governance immensely.

For running TV ads blasting Horne's ethical and legal failings, most of them far in advance of the run-­up to the primary, his group was derided as "dark money." In reality, the AZPIA has been playing by the rules and staying true to its core mission of opposing corruption wherever it finds it.

Finally, Brnovich and his supporters are to be congratulated, because without a GOP foil, Republicans probably would have united behind Horne, making it more difficult to extricate the scallywag.

Some Dems like to argue that Felecia Rotellini, the Democratic contender for AG, would have coasted to victory over a stumbling, zombie-­like Horne in November, and so, better that he remain in power for a while longer.

That's like a Dem arguing in 1974 that Dick Nixon shouldn't face the threat of impeachment because Vice President Gerald Ford, another Republican, would become president and prove a better candidate down the road.

I understand the calculation, but law-­breaking politicians should not be allowed to advance their careers.

Plus, this way, whoever prevails in November in the AG's race will do so on his or her own merits, not because they are not Tom Horne.

Less historic, but still gratifying, was state schools' Superintendent John Huppenthal's nearly 17-­point loss to Republican loony tune Diane Douglas, whose sole issue is her unwavering opposition to Common Core standards for schoolkids.

This race is now Democrat David Garcia's to lose. A Ph.D. and an Army veteran, Garcia is an able communicator. I easily could see him running for even higher office, as long as he doesn't muck up this sure thing.

Garcia's got two men to thank for sittin' so pretty.

First is former congressional candidate and fellow Democrat Bob Lord, who along with his co-­scribes at Blog for Arizona did the detective work that outed Huppenthal as operating online under the sock puppets "Thucydides" and "Falcon9."

Second is Huppenthal himself, who must've had a political death wish. Huppenthal never masked his IP address when posting outrageous statements to various blogs, though there are free proxy servers out there that easily could have cloaked his identity.

But Huppenthal's biggest mistake was crying at his confessional press conference over his sock­-puppetry.

Huppenthal's weeping, real or crocodile, made the issue a much bigger story, guaranteeing widespread mockery.

Americans don't like to see politicians cry. Google Ed Muskie, people.

In the GOP primary for governor, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith proved that the best man often does not prevail.

He trailed the winner, former ice cream peddler Doug Ducey, by a whopping 15 points.

Two pollsters -- one Democratic-­leaning, one Republican­-leaning -- show the general election contest for governor tied between Ducey and former Arizona Board of Regents chair Fred DuVal.

Which is why the Republican Governor's Association moved in quickly after primary day with a massive TV ad buy targeting DuVal. Define your enemy before he can define himself, natch.

Ducey comes laden with massive baggage, from his record of pitch­-and­-switch vulture capitalism as CEO of Cold Stone Creamery to the employment of accused child molester and ex­-minuteman Chris Simcox at his Scottsdale company iMemories, which transfers analog home movies to a digital format.

Former GoDaddy exec Christine Jones, who spent more than $5 million on her vanity bid for Ninth Floor of the Capitol only to place third, has warned voters of an "October surprise" with a Ducey candidacy, and there are rumors about this swirling, which if proved true, will be catastrophic for state Republicans.

Normally, I would never underestimate the Arizona Dems' near­-inherent ability to fail. But Ducey is a deeply flawed candidate who scored a mere 37 percent plurality in the six-­way GOP primary.

To win, DuVal and those who support him must incessantly attack and counter­-attack.

For example, tie the Center for Arizona Policy's bigoted, anti-­gay Dr. Evil, better known as Cathi Herrod, around Ducey's neck, since she is part of his kitchen cabinet.

In other words, paint Ducey as a disaster-in­-the-­making for Arizona.

Shouldn't be too hard.

E­mail stephen.lemons@newtimes.com.

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