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Bitter legal battle over family business ends May’s congressional bid

Stay tuned for a new soap opera, "As the Family Turns." Former state Rep. Steve May will not run for John Shadegg's 3rd Congressional District seat because of an allegedly broken financial agreement between May and his parents that resulted in nasty lawsuits. When he made the decision to run in February, May said, he had just reached an agreement with his parents for them to buy him out of a natural sweetener company he owned, allowing him to devote himself full time to the race. Since that time, however, he alleges his parents have backed out of the financial agreement, forcing him to give up his campaign. And now he has three lawsuits against them in Maricopa County Superior Court. They, in turn, have sued May in Federal District Court. James and Carol May state in their suit that their son was brought into his parents' natural sweetener business, United American Industries, Inc., in 1995, and continued until 2006, when, they allege, Steve "began behaving erratically, possibly as a result of a substance-abuse problem for which he had been treated earlier that year." The parents' suit also alleges May tried to take over his parents' business with a failed buyout attempt and conspired with his father's employees to "loot his parents' business of employees and tangible and intangible assets" to help start a competing business called Sweet People, a company that sells a product called Stevia, a product on which his father says he based his business in 1982.  On March 18, May told ~The Yellow Sheet Report~ he went through rehab for alcoholism in February 2006 at the Meadows in Wickenburg, adding it was no secret since his private life has been public record since 1996. May, who is openly gay, is a member of the Log Cabin Republicans and helped defeat Proposition 107, the anti-gay marriage amendment on the Arizona ballot in 2006, when he served as co-chair of Arizona Together, the lead group in opposition to the ballot measure. He is a former chapter president of Club For Growth but was booted when it was revealed he is gay. In 1999, the U.S. Army began proceedings against May, a lieutenant, under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that forbids members from disclosing their homosexuality. Though his sexual orientation had been public record and widely reported in the media since 1996, the Army ordered him into reserve service and immediately began discharge proceedings. May fought the attempted discharge for two years until President Clinton and the secretary of the Army unexpectedly intervened and allowed him to complete his duty. An awakening in rehab "(My parents) always see my behavior as erratic because they're dishonest," May said. "Sobriety showed me that they were engaged in … evil behavior that I want nothing to do with." May said he and his parents had reached an agreement for them to buy him out in February, freeing up his time to run for Shadegg's seat. Steven Weinberger, James and Carol May's in-house legal counsel, said that's a "complete and utter fabrication." "It's a lie. There was never an agreement," Weinberger said. "We've spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars on lawyers and the best mediator in the state and every single one of them will tell you there's never been an agreement. Never. We made a proposal to him, he rejected it and that's the end of the story," the attorney said. A mediation memo in the case states May's Mormon parents never accepted Steve as a gay man. The memo, written by Steve May's attorneys, describes the story of a successful business infected by a dysfunctional family. "My parents have been abusive people our entire lives," he said of himself and four siblings. "I unfortunately thought that if I made them rich that they'd be nice to us, but that's not what happened." May said he would like to become involved in politics again if he has the opportunity to do so. Shadegg's state director Sean Noble said May called the congressman to announce his withdrawal from the race. Noble described May as "as good guy" who would have had a bright political future. So far, Shadegg, a Republican, has no primary opposition. Phoenix attorney Bob Lord is the Democrat candidate in 3rd Congressional District. Annie Loyd, an independent candidate, also is running.

   

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