Arizona US Senate Race Exactly As Wacko As You'd Expect
Yr Doktor Zoom lived in Arizona for most of his life, and the insane politics of the Grand Canyon State were a useful introduction to political nuttiness on an operatic scale. Heck, we even remember the embarrassing 15-month misgovernorship of Evan Mecham, the grinning idiot who rescinded the state's Martin Luther King Day holiday because King was a communist, you know. We aren't the least bit surprised the three Republican candidates in the August 28 primary for US Senate are a conspiracy theory fan who held a town hall on chemtrails, a racist former sheriff some consider a hero for breaking the law, and an "establishment" Republican who's taken a sharp turn to the right on immigration in hopes of fending off the other two idiots. It's a dry hate.
The three all hope to replace Jeff "Profiles In Fecklessness" Flake, who announced his retirement after taking some very principled stands against Donald Trump while still voting for everything Trump wants. In a sane political climate, Flake would cruise to reelection, because he's a conservative who votes for tax cuts and big business. In the crapsack world we've fallen into, though, Flake is hated by Arizona Republicans for not humping Trump's leg, and serious runs are being made by two rightwing oddballs: former state senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was defeated in 2016 then convicted of contempt of court for ignoring federal orders to stop profiling Hispanics. They're joined by US Rep Martha McSally, who decided a run for the Senate was a better risk than trying to get reelected in her own mostly-Democratic congressional district, a seat formerly held by Gabby Giffords.
Joe Arpaio: I Got Pardoned So I'm The Best
Joe Arpaio, for all his notoriety, seems to hope he can coast into office on his reputation for being Tuff on Crime and Tuff on Illegals, with a boost from the many times Donald Trump has hailed him as a great hero of enforcing the law by ignoring it. Trump pardoned Arpaio last year for that contempt conviction, and surely that proves Arpaio is Trump's anointed candidate, doesn't it? What Arpaio apparently didn't notice is that in every instance, Trump was simply using Arpaio's popularity with fascism-inclined dinguses for his own purposes, not particularly trying to boost Arpaio.
As for actual campaigning, Arpaio hasn't been doing a hell of a lot of it. Ward and McSally have been all over the state, but Arpaio has made fewer appearances, and -- perhaps in homage to Donald Trump -- he's been resolutely idea-free on policy, beyond pledging that he'll support everything Donald Trump does for the next six years (by which time Arpaio would be 92 years old). In an interview with the Arizona Republic last week, he explained he doesn't need any other policy stuff, because Outsider! America's Toughest Sheriff!
[Arpaio] could not fully articulate his positions on trade, health care and foreign affairs or detail a Senate agenda that he would support.
"I don't have all the answers," Arpaio said, adding, "Does Congress have all the answers? Maybe someone ought to be talking to them."
Arpaio brushes aside his complete lack of ever having served as a legislator, explaining to laughter and applause at a Republican ladies' luncheon,
I've got news for those people [...] I'm not bragging. When I get to Washington, I don't need to establish who I am. When I go to the toilet, the media will be following me.
Look how well that worked out for former Senator Larry "Wide Stance" Craig. Even though Arpaio is still very popular with the frothing right -- and a magnet for small donations from wingnuts outside Arizona -- his fundraising is well behind both Ward and McSally, and even a lot of his fans in Arizona say they're likely to vote for someone else, because 86 is kind of old to become a first-term US Senator.
Kelli Ward: Tinfoil MAGA Hats For All!
Nobody's pushing that claim against Arpaio more loudly than former state Sen. Kelli Ward from Lake Havasu City, who considers the crazy-people vote hers, dammit. Endorsed by Steve Bannon (she seems not to yell about that so much now), Ward routinely calls attention to Arpaio's age, just as she insisted in 2016 that John McCain was too old and frail for Arizonans to risk reelecting. When Ward and McSally both marched in the Frontier Days parade in Prescott, Ward suggested to reporters that Arpaio hadn't shown up because he couldn't handle the "grueling event" of walking down the street and dodging horseflop. Of which Ward has her own abundant supply.
When she was running against John McCain in 2016, Ward appeared on Alex Jones's radio show, where he warned her to watch out for McCain's assassination squads, because McCain is "just such a gangster." Ward assured him she was taking appropriate precautions against the mean old hit man McCain:
Yes, you know, I've had people who have told me that I should get an auto starter on my car, that I should never be starting my own car. I really hope things haven't gotten that far out of control that I should be fearful for my life. But we are very cautious and I always have people around me who are providing security, which is great.
In Arizona, talk of car bombs in politics isn't entirely theoretical; back in 1976, Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was murdered by explosives placed in his Datsun, after his reporting got a little too close to some powerful bad actors. Ward may not have had that in mind, but her little joke was typical of her talent for hitting exactly the right tone.
Ward first came to national attention in 2014 when, as a state senator, she held a public meeting on the important issue of chemtrails. While Ward said at the time she thought her chemtrails-obsessed constituents weren't in any danger, and has ever after insisted she only wanted to set their minds at ease, giving the conspiracy theory any public notice at all was bad enough, and mainstream Republicans had no end of fun calling her "Chemtrails Kelly." She's also flirted with other crazy ideas, as Yr Wonkette detailed t'other day: Ward and her husband are among several administrators of a Facebook group that's simply crawling with Obama-is-a-Muslim and other racist stuff, and her husband's Twitter feed is a constant stream of conspiracy theories and evil crap. Yes, of course she thinks Cliven Bundy is a great American hero.
Ward has drawn on her own experience as a doctor to insist John McCain should step down so she could be appointed to fill out his term, because there's no "I have brain cancer" in "TEAM." Also, as a physician, she happens to know that Obamacare is exactly the same as slavery. So she knows her stuff, you betcha. Would you take your kid to Dr. Ward? Sure thing -- she happens to know that taking migrant children away from their parents is simply good public health policy, since it will encourage Central Americans to stay home and be killed by gangs rather than put their children at risk on the dangerous trek to el norte:
I think the zero tolerance policy is one of the most humane things that we can do because we are creating a real deterrent for families who want to try to traipse across multiple countries to get here.
Message: She cares. About appealing to anti-immigrant voters.
Martha McSally: I, Too, Can Appeal To Crazies
Then there's the "normal" Republican, congresswoman Martha McSally, who initially seemed a safe bet to take Flake's seat, because she's got the support of the state and national establishment, and as Republicans go, could pass as a "moderate" -- she even tweeted this overt criticism of the Great Man after the Access Hollywood tape came out in 2016:
McSally has gotten a lot of mileage out of being the Air Force's first female fighter pilot in actual combat, and we're happy to note one pretty cool thing about her. Where many Republican political ladies wear a little cross pendant, in McSally's official congressional portrait, she wears something that looks at first like a little gold cross, but is actually a tiny A-10 attack jet like the plane she flew:
She's also opposed to testing cosmetics on animals, which is nice. Beyond that, she's your bog-standard Republican, and to burnish her appeal to the GOP primary crowd, she's campaigning as a Trump loyalist, moving far to the right on immigration. Last year, she co-sponsored a bill to offer a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, but after starting her run for the Senate, she formally removed herself as a sponsor, a move she explains to WaPo with this very convincing bafflegab:
[McSally] said she pulled her support from the bill in May to make clear her opposition to legislation strictly to protect the young undocumented immigrants. She said she wanted to address the "root causes" of their population at the same time.
Instead, McSally voted for both of last month's Republican immigration bills, neither of which offers a chance of citizenship for DACA recipients, just extended protection from deportation -- while also cutting back on legal migration and restricting sponsorship of immigrants' family members (Sorry, Melon). Ward has condemned both those terrible bills as "amnesty," and McSally is trying to send down the memory hole any hint that she might feel empathy for DACA recipients. In June, McSally disappeared a video from her congressional website in which she had said dangerously humane things about DACA kids, who she said were brought to the US though no fault of their own. Apparently, she decided this sort of thing could give rightwing voters a reason to detest her:
"I want to urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deal with reality – forget about ideology or how we got here," McSally said during a Homeland Security Committee hearing. "But now we're dealing with reality and we've got to solve this problem based on what's practical and what's compassionate and also upholding the rule of law and the precedent."
Egad! Creeping bipartisanship! Hide your children! The trick for McSally will be for her to somehow run in the general after her rightward lurch during primary season; Donald Trump only won Arizona by 4 points in 2016, and the state's increasing Hispanic voter registration -- much of it the result of the massive effort in Maricopa County to oust Arpaio -- doesn't bode so well for an immigration hard-liner.
Why Yes, There Are Arizona Democrats!
Things are, at the moment, looking very good for likely Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema, who in June polling was comfortably ahead of all three Republican candidates -- in fact, the NBC News-Marist poll had her up substantially over all three in head-to-head matches: 11 points over McSally (49 percent to 38 percent), ten points over Ward (48-38), and a whopping 25 points over Arpaio (57 - 32).
Such margins aren't at all likely to hold after the primary, but Sinema is doing all she can to appeal to a wide swath of voters -- she's even let it be known that if she's elected, she won't vote for Chuck Schumer to remain the leader of Senate Democrats. And after he convinced almost all the other Dems to clear out of the race for her, too. Such is campaigning. She's also moved strategically to the center, at least rhetorically, which seems calculated to appeal to Arizona independents.
Sinema's centrist footsie game hasn't endeared her to everybody -- progressives complain she's sold out, and conservatives portray her as a commie in moderate's sensible running shoes (she's also a triathlon coach). At least House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer thinks she's cool:
Other members in the caucus praise Sinema, saying her independent streak and the fact that she doesn't fit neatly into a box — she's the first openly bisexual member of Congress, a former Mormon who now claims no religion — gives her widespread appeal.
In an interview, Hoyer described Sinema as a "force of nature," highlighting her colorful résumé — from a homeless kid who once lived in an abandoned gas station to a social worker and lawyer with multiple graduate degrees turned lawmaker — as an asset in the race.
"Kyrsten really is such an unusual talent," Hoyer said. "It's a year in which people are going to vote very much for the individual candidate and with a bias towards making sure there's a check and balance on the president of the United States, even in Arizona."
(Also, get well soon, Rep. Hoyer).
Sinema does have a single challenger in the primary, although she doesn't have anything like Sinema's funding and endorsements. Deedra Aboud, an attorney and civil rights activist who converted to Islam when she was 20, is running the most outsider-y campaign in recent Arizona history, talking social democracy while wearing a veil, and her campaign logo is just lovely:
Aboud made some waves last year when she posted a video talking about the Founders and her Facebook page was flooded by idiots telling her the Founders didn't want no Muslims in America (Jeff Flake told her to "hang in there" and not be deterred by haters. Then he retired because too many Republicans are haters). Her Facebook page also features fun campaign moments like this'n:
We like her! She ought to run for the state legislature and shake things up. We also like Kyrsten Sinema, who has a real chance to become the first Democratic Senator from Arizona since basically forever. You should send Sinema some money!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.