As rumors go -- and this one comes to us from sources inside the Maricopa County Attorney's Office -- it's a doozy. Yet it's not implausible.
We're hearing that ambitious County Attorney Andrew Thomas (seen here canoodling with an elderly supporter) is thinking about resigning from office in the next several months (we heard April) to free himself up to run for Arizona Attorney General in the 2010 Republican primary.
Word has it that Thomas doesn't want his probable primary opponent, Arizona Superintendent of of Public Instruction Tom Horne, to get a huge jump on him time-wise, so he'll simply quit the post to which he won re-election just a few months ago to focus on his AG campaign (which would, no doubt, emphasize new ways to imtimidate Mexicans).
Here's where things get even juicier, rumor-wise: The county Board of Supervisors, with whose members Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are embattled, would get to appoint a lawyer to replace Thomas for the remaining three-plus years of his term.
Our sources tell us that the early favorite for the gig is Jim Keppel, a Superior Court judge with a top-drawer resume as a real prosecutor in the County Attorney's Office long before blathering Andy was around. Keppel's been working as a Juvenile Court judge for a few years after a stint as presiding Criminal Court judge (more on his unfortunate departure from that post in coming blogs, if this thing plays out).
The half a dozen folks we spoke with about the rumor each (and separately) volunteered that Keppel's first act after being sworn in as County Attorney, should it actually happen, would be:
Dismissing Barnett Lotstein, the powerful "special assistant" to Thomas, who's proven to have nine lives at the office (he also worked for Thomas' predecessor, Rick Romley).
Should Thomas leave office, we doubt the Supes could find anybody more loyal to the ancient gentleman pictured above than Thomas. Nor would they be looking for another Joe Arpaio ally, given the shocking and questionable Arpaio/Thomas-driven criminal indictment of one of their own, Don Stapley.
Suffice it to say, Judge Keppel would be no sycophant to the sheriff.
If Andy's really thinking about leaving early, we're sure Arpaio's doing all in his power to persuade him to stick around as a buffer against all things anti-Joe. No telling what could happen by the time another Attorney General's sworn in -- Paul Rubin