Protests and more gubernatorial candidates

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Before jumping into the next group of candidates for governor, I would like to comment on the protest of the unaccompanied immigrant children that put Oracle on the national news on Tuesday, July 15. The protest by all appearances was orchestrated by Sheriff Paul Babeu. It was political theater to take his border security message nationwide and promote his fundraising campaigns. Part of it worked and most of it has backfired. The media is hammering him. Pinal County and Arizona are national jokes. This political stunt could have gotten someone hurt. He needs to be held accountable. Pinal County Supervisor for District 1, Pete Rios has come out and commented on the issue and even visited the announced statewide Tea Party protest on Saturday, July 19 that was to be held at Peppersauce Canyon. The planned protest turned out to be a bust with a small attendance. The bill for the cost of all the police presence on both days should be sent to Babeu and the Tea Party.

It has come out in the news that on the same day as the protest on July 15, it was announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not renewing their contract with the Pinal County Jail to hold detained immigrants. The jail was named one of the 10 worst immigration detention facilities in the country by the Detention Watch Network in 2012. Poor oversight and a miscalculated contract were costing Pinal County nearly three million dollars a year. More than 100 jail workers could lose their job.

During all this Babeu has been running around the state and country promoting his border agenda, his political ambitions, receiving awards and campaigning for others. He has pandered to the right wing of the Republican Party especially the Tea Party faction. It is time he become the sheriff for everyone in the county. There needs to be more law enforcement and less politics. His officers’ do a good job under trying conditions, he shouldn’t make their job harder or embarrass them.

As for Bob “Paul Revere” Skiba, he did not need to expose Oracle to those militia members and racists from out of town. Oracle does not want to be associated with Russell Pearce. This is not Joe Arpaio country and never will be!

I cannot let Christine Jones, candidate for governor slide on this incident. She was with Babeu at her border security plan meeting in SaddleBrooke on Monday, July 14 helping to stir up the crowd. She made a comment about how her border plan is, “also about stopping trafficking, drugs, children, sex, dangerous goods and potentially God forbid, terrorists!” She also said, “At what point does one of these backpacks that typically hold a drug come across with elements for a dirty bomb.” A campaign of fear and hate, isn’t Arizona tired of this?

Now the remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates: Frank Riggs is a former member of the US Congress from California. He moved to Arizona in 2005. On his Frank Riggs for governor website he says he will protect public safety and, “finally secure the border.” He will fight federal overreach and prevent the “Obaminization of Arizona” by repealing Common Core on day one and stopping Medicaid expansion. He brags about being endorsed by Russell Pearce, the former state senator that became the first legislator in the history of Arizona to be recalled. Pearce was also the main author of Senate Bill 1070 and has ties to white supremacists. So if Riggs is elected expect more anti-Mexican rhetoric, Tea Party pandering and show me your papers. I believe he and Pearce were at the recent protest of the imaginary bus in Oracle. They also brought along members of the Arizona State Militia (not connected to the state government, yet) as their security team. Riggs will be bad for the image of Arizona, business and the economy in my book. I don’t believe he is electable.

Ken Bennett is currently the Arizona Secretary of State, one heartbeat away from being governor. Too bad Jan doesn’t have one! Just kidding, Governor Brewer has done some good things and even gone against her party now that she doesn’t have to worry about being re-elected. Ken does not make the border the center of his plans for Arizona, which is refreshing; instead he lists healthcare, education and economy as his priorities. He says he will restructure AHCCCS and Medicaid. In his education plan he says he opposes Common Core and will rescind it if elected governor. Bennett was a member of the first state charter schools board in 1995-98 and approved hundreds of charter schools.

Bennett’s plan for the economy includes getting rid of state income tax for individuals, families and corporations and replacing it with a consumption tax. It sounds good but corporations have a way of avoiding taxes through loopholes in the laws. He will make it easier for businesses to relocate in Arizona by eliminating “red tape”. I have been told by some people who have met Bennett that he is a nice guy and compassionate.

My concerns with Bennett was how he pandered to the “birther” movement by saying that he would take President Obama’s name off the ballot for the 2012 election if the state of Hawaii did not provide a long form of his birth certificate to his office. It was just plain wrong for a secretary of state to do this. He recently made a comment about the kids fleeing violence in Central America that he would order the arrests of ICE employees bringing in the children to Arizona, which would be illegal. Then there is his association with Richard Stephenson, a wealthy businessman and a major player with the right wing political group FreedomWorks which is closely tied to the Koch brothers who have never seen an election they wouldn’t try to buy.

Bennett sits on the board of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a for profit company. Since becoming secretary of state in 2009, Bennett has received a salary of $2,000 a month for his services on the board. He has also received campaign donations from other board members. Richard Stephenson founded the company in the 1980s. Stephenson sits on the board of the Tea Party political group FreedomWorks in which the filthy rich Koch brothers have an interest. Stephenson was also involved in the mysterious secret donation of $12 million to a FreedomWorks Super PAC through two “shell” corporations that were formed six weeks before the 2012 election and provided donations to Tea Party politicians. There is nothing illegal about this nor is it a conflict of interest with Arizona’s weak conflict of interest laws and the Citizens United ruling that blocks transparency in many political donations, but it brings up the question of ethics and how much influence the TeaParty/Koch brothers will have on Arizona politics if Bennett is elected governor.

Scott Smith is a businessman and former mayor of the City of Mesa. He was elected mayor in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 but left the position to run for governor. He was appointed president of the US Conference of Mayors in 2013. In an interview with a Tucson newspaper he said that his main priorities if elected will be jobs, education, infrastructure and public safety. He supported Jan Brewer’s decision on Medicaid expansion and it has been reported that he backs Common Core and that Governor Brewer may give him her endorsement. He appears to be the most moderate of all the Republican candidates.

Smith as mayor of Mesa stood up to Joe Arpaio in 2008 when the Maricopa County Sheriff’s SWAT team in full paramilitary gear raided city hall and the library in the middle of the night. The janitors armed only with mops and vacuum cleaners were no match for the MCSO. Three alleged illegal immigrants working for a contractor were arrested. Smith condemned the tactics and felt it was politically motivated by Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas. If Smith is endorsed by Governor Brewer, he could become a major player in the race.

The Republican primary election is too young to call. Ads are starting to appear on television and the mud slinging is just beginning. I encourage everyone to read up on the candidates and follow the money if you can. Remember it’s not what politicians say but what they do that counts. Look at what they have done in the past as a guide.

Author’s Note:

I have been given the opportunity to express my opinion and viewpoints on politics, national, state, and local issues as well as life in general. I hope to inform you as well as entertain you, make you smile or make you mad. I will use humor, sarcasm and occasionally anger to express my views. My intention is to hold politicians accountable sometimes bringing some heat on them and if my views make you angry or hot, remember that like my humor, it is a dry heat. These opinions are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of Copper Area News Publishers.

John Hernandez (126 Posts)

John Hernandez lives in Oracle. He is retired and enjoys writing and traveling. He is active in the Oracle Historical Society. He covers numerous public events, researches historical features and writes business/artist profiles.


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