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No dog days of summer for politics this year

In 2011 politics, there were no dog days of summer. In fact, there was hardly time for us political reporters to catch our breath, as the stories seemed to multiply every week.

If Memorial Day is the traditional start of the summer season, this year’s set the tone for the next several months when opponents of Senate President Russell Pearce welcomed the holiday by submitting thousands of signatures and forcing a recall election of one of the most powerful (and divisive) men in Arizona politics.

That story brought with it legal challenges to the entire process (which are still ongoing, but should be resolved in a matter of days), a serious contender who hopes his Mayberry-esque persona will win out over Pearce’s bully tactics and allegations that the president’s supporters have propped up a candidate in the hopes of dividing the vote so Pearce can keep his seat.

Then there’s the redistricting process, where an investigation my colleagues Christian Palmer and Evan Wyloge did in mid-July into the possibility that the Independent Redistricting Commission violated state open meeting and procurement laws sparked an investigation by Attorney General Tom Horne. That story was thrust to the front of the news cycle last week when Horne announced he was asking a judge to force three uncooperative commissioners to meet with his investigators – and then told Wyloge that one of the commissioners who had been interviewed accused IRC Chairwoman Colleen Mathis of shredding public records in a closed-door meeting.

Finally, the roadside row that Sen. Scott Bundgaard had with his then girlfriend in late February seems to the be the story that doesn’t stop giving. In August, Bundgaard struck a deal with Phoenix prosecutors and entered into a plea bargain that will keep him out of the courtroom, provided he completes a domestic violence diversion program.

While that may be the end of the senator’s legal troubles, it was only the beginning of his political problems. Democrats quickly filed an ethics complaint, alleging he violated state law and broke the public trust by conducting himself in a manner that reflects poorly on the Senate. Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Ron Gould has been critical of Bundgaard and has scheduled a meeting for the panel on Tuesday at which it will decide whether to proceed with a formal investigation.

This year, at least, when someone asks me what we cover when the Legislature’s not in session, the answer is easy: everything.

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