Whatever the national environment is, the Arizona GOP is in a meltdown and doing everything they can to help Democrats in the Copper State in 2010.
Exhibit one, of course, is the continual failure of the legislature and Governor to produce a budget. Republicans have controlled the Arizona legislature since 1964, and during most of that time have also run the Governor's office. For most of that time we've had a steady diet of tax cuts, lax regulations on business (and of course right-to-work and the worst workers comp rules in the nation) and well below the national average in per capita state spending. And even when the Governor has been a Democrat Arizona has either had gridlock or compromise. The decades long Republican domination of the legislature has guaranteed that liberalism has never had its day in Arizona, certainly not since Barry Goldwater swept the GOP into control of the legislature when he carried the state against LBJ in 1964. So if conservatism was the panacea, Arizona would be about the most prosperous state in the nation right now. Only it's not, because conservatism doesn't work.
Remember too that Jan Brewer has now been Governor since the day after President Obama was inaugurated and Janet Napolitano was confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security, and it's not surprising that her record of failed leadership (including leaving the state as a special session she had called collapsed into chaos) has caused her standing even in her own party to fall into the cellar. Say what you want to about Janet, but she always managed to work with the Republican legislature to get a budget done. Things got so bad between Brewer and her own party leadership in the legislature this year that it featured bizarre lowlights like the Governor going to court to get the legislature to send her the budget so she could veto it, and the leadership turning off the clocks on the last night of the regular session so they could claim that it had not yet struck midnight until well after the sun was up the next morning.
Remember in June Arizona voters gave the legislature lower marks than even Congress (notoriously unpopular) was drawing. And that was before the end of the regular session. Four special sessions later and the year has been marked by complete failure as the majority party could not get their own members together to put together a budget. Remember that in the Arizona legislature there is no filibuster so the Democrats have been irrelevant (particularly since the GOP leadership has not bothered to actually negotiate with them, with house speaker Kirk Adams just telling them to vote for what he worked out.) The biggest hangup has been GOP members of the legislature who are so ideologically rigid that even after making enormous cuts in schools and services in the face of a huge budget hole, they have refused to refer a proposed temporary sales tax to voters unless it is coupled with permanent tax cuts. In some cases they have refused to refer the sales tax even with the tax cuts (though it is amazing that they tried to cut taxes at all given the present fiscal reality-- largely caused by years of huge GOP-backed tax cuts that kept state budgets on a shoestring even in times of relative plenty.)
More recently we've seen the most popular Republican in the state, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his best buddy, county attorney Andrew Thomas (a.k.a. the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John) openly flouting the law, arresting and filing spurious charges against political opponents, including the majority of the county Board of Supervisors and a judge who had issued some rulings they didn't like and was scheduled the next day to hear the case of Adam Stoddard, one of Sheriff Joe's Henchmen who was shown on national media openly and brazenly taking documents out of a defense attorney's file during a court hearing (if you haven't seen the video by now you should-- it's truly bizarre.) In fact, the charges that Sheriff Joe had chief Supervisor Don Stapley arrested and taken to jail for were so flimsy and contrived that they couldn't even find an attorney in Arizona willing to prosecute it and had to hire someone from outside the state. And after that fell through it appears that Thomas will try and get Stapley himself. And just to protect himself, he's filed a pre-emptive ethics complaint against Attorney General Terry Goddard (the most powerful political opponent he has in the state) to ensure that Goddard will be hamstrung in any attempt to prosecute this obvious and illegal power play by Arpaio and Thomas due to a 'conflict of interest.' Even conservative columnist Robert Robb, who rarely criticizes Republican officeholders, took issue with the way the duo are engineering what is effectively a coup against county government:
What's happening in Maricopa County government isn't a circus. And it's not a joke.
Not anymore. It's now a deadly serious business.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio are alleging that there is a massive corrupt conspiracy involving at least four Superior Court judges, the entire Board of Supervisors and senior county management.
If Thomas and Arpaio are wrong about the existence of such a massive conspiracy, they are themselves guilty of an assault on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Maricopa County.
I'm glad I don't live in Phoenix, but if this stands it could endanger everyone in the state (especially with Thomas mulling a run for Attorney General.) Arpaio may get most of the press but Thomas is the more dangerous of the two.
And a lot of people are realizing how dangerous they are, and that the term, 'loose cannon' may not even describe a cannon which is deliberately being aimed directly at the main masts of government.
Of course in addition to that Sheriff Joe is still running saturation patrols which may be popular with the nativist crowd (who will turn out and vote anyway if predictions for next year are right since most of them are also 'tea partiers') but by arresting dozens of American citizens simply because they are Hispanic and forcing them to prove their citizenship before being released he's certainly guaranteed that even if Hispanic turnout next year lags last year's total everyplace else, that probably won't be the case in Arizona because they will have at least one really good reason to come to the polls and vote Democratic.
Now, we learn that Brett Mecum, the Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party, who has in the past been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior towards women, is facing felony charges for misusing information in voter registration files to stalk a woman and show up at a party at her home without being invited or told otherwise where she lived. I've been a precinct committeeman for years and I know exactly what the law is regarding voter files and who can access them and for what purposes, and it is incomprehensible that the executive director of the state Republican Party didn't know what the restrictions were (I mean, even common sense dictates that his personal life isn't an authorized use of the file!) Further she has said that she didn't tell him where she lived precisely because she found Mecum to be creepy and didn't want his advances.
Remember that earlier this year Mecum was clocked driving 109 mph on an urban freeway in metro Phoenix. Yes, folks, this is the executive director of the Arizona GOP.
Maybe the national climate is shifting to favor Republicans (though it may be radically different by next November) but here in Arizona it's hard to imagine voters wanting more of this next year.