Changes are coming to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, a governing panel that has become better known in the last few years because of to some serious scandals.
The five-member Board currently consists of Republicans Don Stapley, Fulton Brock, Andy Kunasek, and Max Wilson and Democrat Mary Rose Wilcox. If you've lived here for the past few years, you've likely heard how Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas targeted all five board members with a federal racketeering lawsuit. Things didn't go well for the lawmen, but Stapley and Wilcox -- both charged and later cleared of crimes -- were left with stains. Kunasek was accused of a bogus crime. Brock's wife, in an unrelated scandal, was convicted of child molesting.
Today's election will change the makeup of the board a little, and maybe a lot.
* Stapley decided to quit the Board on which he's served since 1996. Two candidates are running for his east Valley district: Republican Steve Chucri, a business owner, and Democrat David Ortega, an architect and former Scottsdale city councilman.
* Republican Andy Kunasek, a board members since 1997, is facing one of his most competitive elections against Democrat Lilia Alvarez. She's the wife of Randy Parraz, a union organizer and political activist who's made a name for himself by leading protests against Sheriff Arpaio.
* Fulton Brock, like Stapley, was also first elected in 1996. And, like Stapley, he's retiring in the aftermath of a damaging scandal. Republican Denny Barney, a lawyer who dabbles in real estate and capital investments, is the sole candidate for Brock's east Valley seat.
* Max Wilson, appointed in 2002 and elected in 2004, faces Libertarian opponent Christopher Campbell. We expect to see Wilson around next year.
* Mary Rose Wilcox, first elected in 1992, faces Ronald R. Harders, a Republican and Tea Party candidate. Wilcox's Phoenix district is heavily blue so we also expect to see her on the board next year, too.
Alvarez has been on the campaign trail for about nine months. She tells us today that she's knocked on "more than 23,000 doors" and has raised about $115,000 for her race. Her district has become more competitive for Democrats since the new redistricting plan went into effect this year, but she's facing a large name-recognition deficit against longtime supervisor Kunasek.
"The odds are not so stacked against us," Alvarez says. "It's not going to be a slam dunk."
Alvarez had a TV ad produced and aired that slams Kunasek for misspending in the county, and she -- dovetailing with her husband's aims -- has taken the supervisor to task for coddling Arpaio even as he and his deputies discriminated against Hispanics.
Kunasek says he hasn't taken Alvarez's inexperience for granted and his been campaigning heavily in his west Valley district.
In Stapley's district, where Chucri and Ortega are battling it out, Republicans have a clear edge in registration numbers. Like Kunasek, though, he's not taking anything for granted.
"My 7-year-old and I were out 'til after midnight [last night] putting up signs," Chucri says.
Chucri, CEO for the Arizona Restaurant Association, tells us he's "very conservative" and has the backing of the Tea Party, though he's not an official Tea Party member.
He says one of his goals, if elected, is to make sure county regulations and bureaucracy don't stand in the way of progress. We point out to him that the county islands we've seen, visually speaking, seem to beg for more regulation, not less, causing him to admit that "government certainly has its role." Yet he argues that if the county was once too unregulated, the pendulum has swung the other way in recent years. He hopes to lay down lines of communication with city leaders to streamline development and problem-solving.
Chucri's a lifelong friend of Kunasek, and says he was appalled by the way the offices of Arpaio and Thomas went after the Supervisor with allegations of bogus crimes -- and a possible plan to take over the Board.
"It was reckless and wrong," Chucri says of the actions against Kunasek. "It makes you think twice about running for office."
If Arpaio wins today, though, we don't expect Chucri or the other Republican Board members to hold the sheriff accountable for his antics. Even with the new faces, the political make-up of the Board will probably still be Arpaio-friendly. But given the events of recent years, the new Board should be sensitive to -- and, with luck, be able to avoid -- corruption of any kind.