Arizona opens vaccine appointments to everyone 16 and older

Healthcare cure concept with a hand in blue medical gloves holding Coronavirus, Covid 19 virus, vaccine vial

Arizona is opening coronavirus vaccine appointments to everyone 16 and older.

Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that appointments will be available at state-run mass vaccination sites in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Ducey said the decision was made based on an anticipated increase in vaccine supply.

Arizona is among the first states to allow anyone to sign up for vaccine appointments. President Biden has said he wants states to take that step by May 1 and seek to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot by the end of May.

About 2.9 million vaccine doses have been given to about 1.1 million people so far in Arizona, according to state officials.

The change applies only to state-run vaccination sites, which have distributed the bulk of the vaccines in Arizona but are in urban areas.

Counties and some pharmacies have their own vaccine supplies and eligibility criteria, such as a health condition or a job in an essential industry.

Health officials on Monday reported 484 new confirmed Covid cases but no deaths, marking another day of downward trends in the coronavirus outbreak.

Arizona’s pandemic totals have now risen to 836,737 cases and 16,745 known deaths since the pandemic began.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

State health officials said the number of confirmed or suspected coronavirus hospitalized patients around Arizona decreased to 647 on Sunday.
In addition, the number of ICU beds used by Covid patients fell to 180.

Arizona’s weekly percent positivity for Covid diagnostic testing, an indicator of how much the virus is spreading in the community, is at a five-month low.

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain, GOP governor

From left are former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, Cindi McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey at the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Biden. The Arizona Republican Party censured them Jan. 23. (Photo Twitter)

Arizona Republicans voted Saturday to censure Cindy McCain and two prominent GOP members who have found themselves crosswise with former President Donald Trump.

The censures of Sen. John McCain’s widow, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Gov. Doug Ducey are merely symbolic. But they show the party’s foot soldiers are focused on enforcing loyalty to Trump, even in the wake of an election that saw Arizona inch away from its staunchly Republican roots.

Party activists also reelected Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who has been one of Trump’s most unflinching supporters and among the most prolific promoters of his unproven allegations of election fraud.

The Arizona GOP’s combative focus has delighted Trump’s staunchest supporters and worried Republican insiders who have watched the party lose ground in the suburbs as the influence of its traditional conservative establishment has faded in favor of Trump. A growing electorate of young Latinos and newcomers bringing their more liberal politics from back home have further hurt the GOP.

“This is a time for choosing for Republicans. Are we going to be the conservative party?” said Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker and chief of staff to Ducey. “Or is this a party … that’s loyal to a single person?”

It’s a question of Republican identity that party officials and activists are facing across the country following Trump’s 2020 loss, and particularly after a mob of his supporters laid siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Nowhere is the question more acute than Arizona, where the state GOP’s unflinching loyalty to Trump stands out even in a party that’s been remade everywhere in the image of the former president.

Ward has relentlessly — but unsuccessfully — sued to overturn the election results. The party has used its social media accounts to urge followers to fight and perhaps even to die in support of Trump’s false claims of victory. Two of the state’s four Republican congressmen are accused of playing a role in organizing the Jan. 6 rally that turned violent.

After dominating Arizona politics for decades, Republicans now find themselves on their heels in the state’s highest offices. President Joe Biden narrowly eked out a victory here, becoming just the second Democrat in more than five decades to win the state. Consecutive victories in 2018 and 2020 gave Democrats control of both U.S. Senate seats for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Ward, a physician and former state legislator who lost two Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate, defeated three challengers to win a second term.

In a brief interview, Ward acknowledged “disappointment at the top of the ticket” but said she and many other Republicans still question the results showing victories for Biden and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Judges have rejected eight lawsuits challenging Arizona’s election results.

Ward pointed to GOP successes down the ballot, noting Republicans defied expectations in local races.

Ward said she’s a “Trump Republican” who will “always put America first, who believes in faith, family and freedom.” The way forward for the GOP, she said, is keeping Trump’s 74 million voters engaged.

“Yes, I will be radical about those things because those are the things that keep this country great,” Ward said. “The people who are complaining are the people who actually put us in this spot where we are in Arizona, people who have been mamby pamby, lie down and allow the Democrats to walk all over them.”

The censures target some of Arizona’s most prominent Republicans,

Cindy McCain endorsed Biden and became a powerful surrogate for the Democrat following years of attacks by Trump on her husband. After the vote, she wrote on Twitter that “it is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well.”

“I’ll wear this as a badge of honor,” she wrote.

Also after the vote, Flake tweeted a photo of him with McCain and Ducey at Biden’s inauguration and wrote: “Good company.”

Flake was one of the few congressional Republicans who was openly critical of Trump for failing to adhere to conservative values. He declined to run for reelection in 2018 and endorsed Biden in last year’s election.

“If condoning the President’s behavior is required to stay in the Party’s good graces, I’m just fine being on the outs,” Flake wrote on Twitter before and after the vote.

Ducey is being targeted for his restrictions on individuals and businesses to contain the spread of Covid. While it’s not mentioned in the proposed censure, he had a high-profile break with the president when he signed the certification of Biden’s victory.

“These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had,” said Sara Mueller, Ducey’s political director.

Many traditional conservatives fret that the censures and Ward’s combative style turn off the swing voters and ticket-splitters who handed Democrats their recent victories. But they say the party’s decisions will reflect only the views of about 1,500 committed activists.

John McCain was censured by the state GOP in 2014 and went on to comfortably win a Republican primary over Ward and a general election. The self-described maverick, known best for his willingness to buck his party, had strained relations with the state party for much of his career but was consistently reelected by wide margins.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed.

Arizona’s senators must reject Biden’s latest radical nominee

Colin Kahl (Wikimedia Commons)
Colin Kahl (Wikimedia Commons)

For those of us who have spent our careers defending America’s borders, and those of us who live along them, there really is no denying the border crisis the country is facing today.   

The headlines are all too familiar to us: “Hundreds of migrants set out from Honduras, dreaming of U.S.” as reported by the Associated Press. Or a recent Washington Post report that found that the Biden administration was now “holding record numbers of unaccompanied migrant teens and children in detention cells for far longer than legally allowed”. This is a crisis by any definition.    

Tom Homan

Many Americans are rightly paying attention to Biden White House policies, including its policies at the border. But they also need to be paying attention to the people he is choosing for senior positions in his administration.    

I spent a year and a half of my 34-year career in public service as acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I led and served with thousands of patriots and heroes every day. This was the high point in a career in government that started in 1983 when I was sworn in as a local law enforcement officer.    

I served under Republicans and Democrats. I served under those who prioritized border security and those who had other immigration priorities. I was even honored for my service by President Obama.   

I know what it takes to be effective in government in pursuit of the public good. And I know when someone doesn’t have what it takes to put disagreement aside, admit you’re wrong, and reach compromise because it’s good for the country.   

And that’s why I know that one of President Biden’s nominees to one of the most senior and influential positions in the Pentagon, Colin Kahl, is the wrong man for the job.   

Mr. Kahl has never met a disagreement he couldn’t further antagonize with a snarky one-liner. He’s referred to his political opponents on Twitter as being “guilty of ethnic cleansing” and described the Republican party as a “death cult”.   

His position, if confirmed by the Senate, in the Department of Defense will make him the Pentagon’s representative to the White House. He’ll not only have a voice in matters of peace and war, he will be involved in the highest-level decisions of our government on securing the border, detaining illegal immigrants, and asylum policy.    

If confirmed, Mr. Kahl’s position would require him to work with people who may disagree with him, to make compromises and see issues from perspectives other than his own. Mr. Kahl has no record of being able to do that.  

And of specific interest to me, especially given the crisis unfolding today on the border, Mr. Kahl’s record is especially alarming.    

He repeatedly opposed efforts to secure the border in the prior administration, such as building the wall and sending troops to the border to stem the flow of caravans of immigrants seeking to illegally cross the border or abuse the asylum process. Additional presence of enforcement on the border has most importantly, saved lives.   

While people like those I led at ICE were risking their lives to protect our country, secure the border, and deport criminal illegal immigrants who posed a public safety threat, Mr. Kahl was lobbing insults at them through the safety of Twitter by telling them they were dealing with a “fake crisis at the border”.   

But, thankfully, in our system, there’s a check on presidential nominees, and it’s the U.S. Senate.    

It is now up to the Senate, and Arizona’s two U.S. Senators, to do the right thing for America’s security, including her border security. Arizona’s senators pride themselves on their moderation and centrism; they pride themselves on bipartisan votes and policies. They can prove those reputations by rejecting a nominee who has shown he lacks the policy judgment and temperament to serve at the highest levels of our government.    

We are counting on Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to do the right thing and put Arizona’s interests over politics and loyalty to Biden and Majority Leader Schumer.  

Tom Homan is the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and currently a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.  

Biden warns governors against prohibiting mask mandates

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021, on the Covid response and vaccination program. Biden directed the nation’s top education official to take action “against governors that are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators” by prohibiting them from requiring the use of masks. PHOTO BY SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug 18, 2021, on the Covid response and vaccination program. Biden directed the nation’s top education official to take action “against governors that are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators” by prohibiting them from requiring the use of masks. PHOTO BY SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Biden on Wednesday directed the nation’s top education official to take action “against governors that are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators” by prohibiting them from requiring the use of masks. 

The direction to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona comes on the heels of an expanding number of states, including Arizona, making mask mandates illegal despite the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. And it comes just a day after Gov. Doug Ducey moved to financially penalize school districts that impose such a requirement. 

Biden said he expects Cardona to use “all of his oversight authority and legal action if appropriate” to bring errant states into line. 

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators who protect our children,” the president said in an announcement from the White House. And Biden charged that some politicians are seeking to turn measures to protect public safety into “political disputes for their own political gain.” 

The speech comes just hours after Cardona sent a letter to Ducey warning that the Arizona law and his decision to withhold Covid relief dollars from schools that impose mask requirements may violate federal law. And Cardona also warned he may take action against the state. 

In his letter, obtained by Capitol Media Services, the education secretary said it is a “shared priority” that students be able to return to in-person instruction safely. 

“Arizona’s actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts these goals at risk,” Cardona said. The education secretary also said the policies and laws barring school districts from requiring those on campus to wear masks may conflict with their authority to protect students and staff — something they are required to do by federal law. 

And Cardona, in a separate blog post, left no doubt that this warning is more than a hollow threat, saying his agency’s Office of Civil Rights may initiate a directed investigation “if facts indicate a potential violation of the rights of students as a result of state policies and actions.” 

What makes that important is that Cardona is enlarging the scope of what fits under those rules of how schools must act to protect the civil rights of students and teachers. 

“We’re expanding that to violations of safety,” Vanessa Harmoush a spokeswoman for the agency, told Capitol Media Services. 

“So if a parent or teacher or student feels like they aren’t able to be safe in schools because of certain laws put in place, they can file a complaint,” she said. “We can pursue the investigation and kind of go from there.” 

And a finding against the state could result in legal action to forbid the state from enforcing the newly approved law banning mask mandates. 

“Let me be clear,” Cardona said in his blog post. “This department will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to protect the health and safety of students and educators and to maximize in-person learning as the new school year begins.” 

Biden, in his announcement, said he shares that goal. 

“As I’ve said before, if you aren’t going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who’s trying,” the president said. 

Neither the president nor Cardona specifically addressed Ducey’s latest actions where he announced he is distributing $163 million in federal Covid relief dollars — but only to schools that do not have mask mandates. The governor also announced he would use federal dollars to provide $7,000 vouchers to parents of children in schools with mask requirements so they could instead send them to private or parochial schools. 

But the education secretary strongly suggested that is not the intended use of the American Rescue Plan Act dollars. 

Cardona said districts that get the funds are to “adopt a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services.” 

“Actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the CDC may infringe on a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law,” he said. 

Those guidelines, issued in the wake of the spread of the Delta variant, recommend “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” And the CDC says children should return to full-time, in-person instruction “with layered prevention strategies in place.” 

Ducey brushed aside the president’s comments. 

“What is it about families they don’t trust?” asked press aide C.J. Karamargin. 

The governor has repeatedly emphasized that nothing in state law or any of his directives prevents parents from putting masks on their children. But that could still leave them at least partially exposed to the potential of being infected by unmasked students and adults who may be contagious. 

Karamargin was similarly dismissive of Cardona’s letter and any criticism of the law banning mask mandates that the governor signed and is trying now to enforce. 

“The last thing we need is a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. telling Arizona parents what’s best for them,” he said. 

Nor does the governor believe he is breaking any law by denying a share of those Covid relief dollars to schools that require faculty and students to wear marks. 

“We are confident the program used to distribute these funds aligns with federal guidance,” Karamargin said. 







Biden’s infrastructure goals a power grab


To call President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan an infrastructure bill requires a very generous definition of the term. Or as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand apparently thinks, anything can be infrastructure. Of the $2.25 trillion allocated in this bill, only 6% goes toward what most Americans consider infrastructure. Instead of filling potholes, Biden’s bill is loaded to the brim with expansions of federal power, erosion of states’ rights, questionable economic policies and failed federal mandates. 

Alex Diaz
Alex Diaz

There are aspects of this bill that ought to be lauded. The $174 billion allocated toward building out America’s electric vehicle charging stations is praiseworthy, given the rapid development of such vehicles. But there are far more parts of this bill that certainly do not fall into any realistic definition of infrastructure. 

For example, Biden’s bill includes the PRO Act, which is designed to destroy Right to Work laws in 27 states, including Arizona, and kill millions of freelance jobs by forcing all freelancers to pay union dues to keep their job. It’s worth noting that unionization was recently rejected by Amazon employees in Alabama. This bill also seeks to force every building in America to meet onerous green standards that would raise the cost of housing around the country, at a time when demand for affordable housing keeps growing. 

The Democrats want to spend hundreds of billions for high speed rail that would be significantly slower than a cheap plane flight, one-size-fits-all federal mandates related to the Green New Deal, and billions more for expansions of the government’s role in child and elderly care. The biggest offender is the goal to increase the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28%, a figure that is projected to kill another million jobs. All of these job killing actions are being proposed at a time where employers are struggling to fill 7.4 million open positions, and the U.S. recovery from the Covid pandemic is slowing. 

And how are we going to pay for all this? Short answer: we won’t. The Biden team hopes to raise taxes by a whopping $2.1 trillion, along with increasing our debt by hundreds of billions more. 

This bill isn’t just an “infrastructure” plan, it’s a federal power grab that would fundamentally change the relationship between states and the federal government in America. By creating giant slush funds controlled by the White House, it would practically destroy the vital role that state, county and local governments play in funding and deploying infrastructure projects. 

Lost among all this spending is the real reason why new infrastructure ends up coming in horribly over budget, or isn’t built at all: America’s obtuse regulations around construction and federal hiring requirements. Required environmental studies are used to stop construction, especially projects such as affordable housing, dead in its tracks rather than actually protecting the environment. In addition, federal requirements that certain fields utilize only union labor greatly increase the price of projects. These government regulations inhibit the free market’s ability to cheaply update and modernize America’s infrastructure, and make every change, or new project, a big political fight. The free market is ready to get to work, but, as is usually the case in America, the government is the thing that stands in the way.  

Real infrastructure doesn’t take years to build. As many European governments (and more recently China, much to our detriment) have demonstrated, infrastructure can be built in months, weeks or even days. In America, new infrastructure must navigate through a maze of government agencies, jump through a labyrinth of permitting and red tape, and spend millions on costly, bureaucracy satisfying environmental studies. Going forward, we must focus on consolidating the permitting process and cutting red tape. 

Rather than trying to change the definition of infrastructure, Biden should just get the government out of the way. 

 Alexander Diaz grew up in Tucson and is a sophomore at the Catholic University of America, where he is president of the university’s branch of the American Conservation Coalition. 

Borrelli badgers woman over ballots, ridicules Republicans

File photo of Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jessica Boehm)
File photo of Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jessica Boehm)

The Arizona Senate’s Republican whip attempted to pressure a woman who went dumpster-diving for ballots into handing documents she found over to him instead of law enforcement and implied both of them could be killed for trying to expose fraud.

During the 30-minute conversation, a recording of which was shared with the Arizona Capitol Times, Borrelli called multiple other Republican politicians “corrupt cowards,” said he was the sole senator pushing to investigate the 2020 election and repeatedly told Staci Burk, a plaintiff in an losing lawsuit to overturn election results, that she could be arrested or killed. 

“I might get arrested or whatever,” Borrelli said. “I’m going to get ridiculed in the press. I don’t give a damn. I wanna save this fricking country.” 

Over the weekend, Burk posted photos of two men, one of whom has since been identified as Vietnam veteran Earl Shafer, climbing into a set of dumpsters outside the Maricopa County elections department, removing a yellow trash bag of shredded paper and piecing together documents that appeared to be completed 2020 ballots. 

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said the county’s 2.1 million completed 2020 ballots were still locked in a vault, as required by state law, adding that the shredded papers could have been ballots cast by deceased voters. 

“I have no explanation for how a voted ballot could be there and we do not believe there were voted ballots in there,” he said. “We’re 100 percent confident that they’re not part of the 2.1 million voted ballots.”

Upon learning about the incident — which was first published in right-wing websites that did not give the county a chance to respond — the Attorney General’s Office tried contacting Burk and Shafer to obtain the shredded papers. So far, they have not handed over the documents, a spokesman said.  

Borrelli did not return multiple phone calls about the recording.

Burk, after speaking to Borrelli, created a GoFundMe account asking for $20,000 to cover her legal costs and saying senators warned her that she would be killed or arrested on false charges. So far, she has raised just $200.

Burk is also self-funding a lawsuit against Gov. Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, all five Maricopa County supervisors and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. Her lawsuit, dubbed the “Arizona Kraken 2.0” made claims that ballots were delivered from South Korea.

A Pinal County judge threw out her lawsuit because Burk was not a registered voter. It’s pending appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. 

During their call, Borrelli repeatedly warned Burk that she was in danger. Arizona is the “domino” that will expose corruption across the country and overturn the election, he insisted. 

“This is so high level that they want this to go away,” he said. “They can try to silence you – you’re a private citizen. They can’t do anything to me. They can bully me all they want but they know they can’t take me out except if they whack me or I have a suicide.”

“If anything fricking happened to me, if I got hurt, if I got killed, this whole thing would go away because there’s nobody in the Senate that would push,” he added.  

During the call, Borrelli called multiple fellow Republicans, including the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and new county recorder Stephen Richer “corrupt cowards,” said he was “really disappointed” in former lawmaker and new Maricopa County treasurer John Allen.

He also mentioned Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert,  and criticized Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale. 

“Warren? Heh. I don’t want to go on and on about Warren. He’s the chairman of the judiciary committee, he inherited this and he reluctantly got involved.” Borrelli said. 

It was Boyer’s  “no” vote on a contempt resolution that stopped the Senate from sending its sergeant at arms to arrest the county supervisors for not turning over ballots and election equipment they contended they could not legally provide.

“He stabbed us all in the back,” he said. 

And he let his feelings known about the Maricopa County supervisors, who fought the senate subpoenas.  

“They’re the corrupt bastards that I want to go — I want them in freaking jail,” Borrelli said. “I want them in jail, you have no idea how much.”

He also repeatedly claimed that Attorney General Mark Brnovich, also a Republican, would let the election materials “evaporate” if Burk shared them. 

“Do you turn it over to the attorney general that’s been turning his back and not lifting a finger?” Borrelli asked. “By the way, they probably have an incentive to make it all go away. I don’t.”

Later in the conversation, he said he couldn’t get other senators, including Senate President Karen Fann, to commit to investigating and protecting Burk as a whistleblower.

“I don’t trust any of those people,” he said. “The reason why we are where we are is because I’ve been a pain in the ass in the Senate and wasn’t going to let this go. Trust me, there are people who would fold like a lawn chair if I let this go.”

Borrelli said he has been in touch with Sidney Powell and Kurt Olsen, two attorneys who worked on multiple lawsuits filed by Trump allies trying to overturn election results. Olsen told him about new technology that would piece together shredded documents, which Borrelli compared to Iranian rugmakers reassembling shredded CIA documents after seizing the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

At other points in the conversation, Borrelli lost his temper with Burk, who insisted that the Senate wouldn’t do anything to help her and claimed to have heard two weeks before the Senate’s failed contempt vote — and therefore more than a week before the Senate drafted its contempt resolution — that lawmakers had a secret meeting in which they decided to stage a 15-15 vote. 

“You don’t think this is part of a cover-up?” Borrelli asked her at one point. 

“Oh, I think it’s a cover-up,” she responded. “But I think the whole legislature is involved.”

Borrelli has insisted that the election was fraudulent since early November. On Nov. 10, he caused callers from across the country to flood a fellow senator’s legislative office, campaign phone number and personal cell phone with irate messages interrogating whether his race was proof of fraud — all because incumbent Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard won his East Valley swing district when Trump lost it. 

More recently, he has made multiple appearances on conservative podcasts and radio shows complaining that Boyer “betrayed the caucus,” contributing to a rash of threats against Boyer that got so bad he briefly moved his family out of their home.

Borrelli’s comments also run in opposition to what other Senate Republicans have tried hard to argue: that their attempts to audit the 2020 election have nothing to do with changing the results.

Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray said in a floor speech he and others were never trying to overturn the election. The Peoria Republican said he was “inundated with people’s input” and it was mostly about an audit.

“You didn’t see any of us trying to change electors,” Gray said on Feb. 4.

Fontes, the former Democratic Maricopa County recorder who lost his re-election bid, said Borrelli should apologize. 

“Mr. Borrelli’s suicide jokes during this incredibly stressful pandemic are irresponsible and lack the maturity, empathy and leadership we should expect from our public officials,”  he said. 

Bowers: ‘delicious’ irony group failed to recall him

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers

A recall of House Speaker Rusty Bowers won’t make the ballot because the right-wing group behind it didn’t fill out the forms correctly.   

The Patriot Party of Arizona had been trying to recall the Mesa Republican, citing his failure to convene a special session to deal with Covid or to support efforts to overturn President Biden’s narrow win in Arizona. The signature deadline was Thursday, and they filed 2,040 petition sheets with about 24,500 signatures, a little more than the 22,331 valid signatures that would have been needed to trigger the recall. 

However, none of the petition sheets had a date-stamped application for a serial number attached to them, which is required under law. An attempt to recall Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski failed to make the ballot in 2018 for the same reasons, a denial upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court. 

“No sheets were eligible for signature review by the Secretary of State’s Office,” State Elections Director Sambo “Bo” Dul wrote in a letter to the applicants Thursday. “Therefore, there are zero signatures eligible for verification by the County Recorder.” 

Since the petitions were rejected, the Secretary of State’s office didn’t review the signatures to determine if they are valid – it is normal for some signatures to be thrown out on grounds such as the signer doesn’t live in the district or isn’t a registered voter. 

Bowers said he thought the group would be able to get the signatures and that he would face a recall election. 

“These are very cruel, mean, angry, disrespectful, deceitful people,” Bowers said. “What they said to get the signatures – I had all kinds of, I would say literally, well I didn’t take 100 calls (but) there were dozens and dozens and dozens of people who said they ran into them. It was all intimidation, saying I was a pedophile, I wanted boys to have sex with boys. And when they came to my house, the III Percenters were there with them. This guy had a gun jammed in his pants, screaming out to my neighbors that I’m an effing pedophile. So, if you’re asking that I would rather avoid them, yes, I’m glad it happened.” 

Bowers said the criteria for getting a recall on the ballot were tightened by the Legislature after Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican best-known for crafting the controversial anti-illegal immigration bill SB1070, which passed in 2010, was successfully recalled the next year. To date the Pearce recall is the only successful recall of a legislator in Arizona history. 

“After the last recall that was of note in my area, that particular group of people really wanted to tighten up the recall statutes, which was done, and this was the result, and I find an irony in that I can tell you,” Bowers said. “It’s delicious.” 

Bowers said he is still tempted to take some action against some people who “said horrible, horrible things about me and members of my family,” but added “we’ll wait till I’m ready.” 

The state’s campaign finance data, which is only current through the end of April, shows $36,609.22 in independent expenditures this year opposing Bowers. The Patriot Party said in a statement after turning in the signatures that their recall effort had received “crucial help” from Tomi Collins, executive director of the pro-Trump group America Restored.  

Collins, the statement said, in turn enlisted the aid of former Trump lawyer of “release the Kraken” fame Sidney Powell and My Pillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell, both of whom have been active in spreading conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 election and supporting attempts to overturn it. Lindell declared support for it in a phone call that was publicly released in mid-May, and Powell promoted the recall on her Telegram channel. 

“Rep. Bowers is responsible for not protecting Arizona from Election Fraud, allowing Governor Ducey to act as a tyrant, and his desire to lessen the punishment for sexual predators,” the statement said. “The Patriot Party of Arizona is calling for Rep. Bowers to do the honorable thing, and resign, thus allowing his Legislative District to choose his replacement, and not risk allowing a Democrat to steal the seat.” 

After receiving the news that the recall won’t make the ballot, the Patriot Party tweeted “the matter has been turned over to our attorneys, no further comment will be provided at this time.” 




Boyer kills Senate bid to force supervisors to comply with subpoenas

Paul Boyer
Paul Boyer

A Republican senator single-handedly killed a resolution that could have sent Maricopa county supervisors to jail, arguing that the Senate and the county need more time to reach a compromise over a proposed election audit. 

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, joined all 14 Senate Democrats to vote against the contempt resolution, killing it with a 15-15 vote. If it had passed, the resolution would have authorized Senate President Karen Fann to send the chamber’s sergeant at arms to arrest the five members of the GOP-controlled county board.

Supervisors have been in the county’s crosshairs since shortly after the election, when they certified election results that many legislative Republicans refused to accept. Boyer was the first Republican lawmaker to publicly state that the election was over and call for his peers to accept President Biden’s victory. 

Boyer said he had made up his mind last week to vote for the resolution, but he changed it after thinking about the contempt vote all weekend. His vote will buy more time for the two parties to work out an agreement, he said. 

“Today’s ‘no’ vote merely provides a little bit more time for us to work together charitably and as friends for the sole purpose of gaining more clarity,” Boyer said. “This is not a final determination, nor is this the end of the process.”

It took his fellow Republicans by surprise, and clearly irritated Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who summoned Boyer to her desk to privately lecture him and then used part of her own speaking time to plead with him to change his vote. 

“I am hoping someone might change their vote and let this pass so we can move forward,” Fann said.

Boyer looked up from his cell phone and shook his head near the end of the debate as a failed Republican legislative candidate tweeted his personal cell number and urged her followers to inundate him with calls . 

Fann’s plea followed more than an hour of debate, during which Democrats stayed silent while Republicans tried to alternately cajole and coerce Boyer into changing his vote. Republican Sens. Rick Gray, Vince Leach, J.D. Mesnard, Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Warren Petersen each spent several minutes kneeling beside Boyer’s desk or bending over to talk to him.

Petersen said the county has no interest in working with the Senate and accused the board members of lying. As Senate Judiciary committee chairman, he has been most involved in the months-long court battle with the board of supervisors.

“When it comes to obstruction, lies and deception, the Maricopa County Board gets an A-plus,” he said.

Petersen also spoke directly to Boyer, asking him whether the supervisors fulfilled the subpoena the Senate issued. The supervisors maintain that they cannot legally turn over ballots because of an Arizona law that states that ballots must be kept private. Absent a court order, the supervisors have declared they will not share the materials.  

 “They thought they could peel off one of our Republican Senators. It sounds like they may have. I hope that’s not the case,” Petersen said.

Sen. Kelly Townsend, participating by Zoom because she refuses to wear a mask in the chamber, chimed in “They did.” She berated Boyer during her own comments as well. 

“If you say you’re going to vote with your caucus and you don’t, your word is never going to be trusted again,” she said.

And in a statement several senators took as an incitement to political violence, Townsend ended her speech by saying the public would take care of what the Senate wouldn’t. 

“This shouldn’t fall into the hands of the public… when they’re so lathered up. So public, do what you gotta do,” she said. 

Her on-mic comments followed an offhand utterance from Sen. David Gowan that the county supervisors should “vote right” after Boyer said no elected officials should face harassment at their homes or receive death threats. 

While the contempt resolution is dead — at least for now — the battle over legislative subpoenas and audits continues. Supervisors have asked the Maricopa County Superior Court to weigh in on whether the Senate’s subpoena is lawful, and the two parties are expected to return to court in the coming weeks. 

Meanwhile, the county’s own audits into election equipment, which began last week, continued today.  

Congress should reject tax hike on families, business

Electricity Pylon against clear sky

Corporate tax rates directly impact utility ratepayers. A line item on bills called the Tax Expense Adjustor Mechanism automatically increases, or decreases utility rates when officials in Washington increase, or decrease the federal corporate tax rate.   

As an Arizona public utility commissioner, I have seen no more direct and immediate impact to utility rates than increases and decreases to corporate tax rates at the federal level.  

In 2017, for example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the corporate tax rate by as much as 18 percentage points for some corporations. It also allowed more than 100 public utilities across the nation to return $90 billion to customers.   

This resulted in many of Arizona’s largest utility providers—including Arizona Public Service Company, Tucson Electric Power Company, EPCOR, Liberty Utilities, and Southwest Gas to pass savings directly to customers and reduce rates.   

In Arizona, those savings totaled over $189 millionAPS customers saw average reductions of $5.40 on their monthly bills as a result of $119 million in corporate tax cuts for APS. 

I understand the impacts of corporate tax reform go both ways. When federal lawmakers increase the corporate tax rate, they also increase customers’ bills.  

Lea Marquez Peterson
Lea Marquez Peterson

President Biden has repeatedly promised he would not increase taxes on anyone earning under $400,000 annually. Due to the way public utility rates are set, however, corporate tax hikes would flow directly to customers and result in an indirect tax on anyone who simply pays their monthly utility bills – including anyone earning under $400,000 annually. 

While corporations in other industries can sometimes absorb these increases and keep their prices competitive, public service corporations such as electric and water utilities cannot make the same adjustments because their rates are set by state utility regulators, not corporate executives.  

As a result, raising federal corporate taxes by seven percentage points, as the White House has suggested, will increase millions of Americans’ energy and water bills. It will also make it harder for state public utility commissions to authorize legitimate rate increases, such as for infrastructure, thereby putting health and safety at risk.   

As many Americans struggle to recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, it concerns me Biden is asking federal lawmakers to raise the corporate tax rate by as much as 33%. 

The increase would undo the gains we’ve made over the past four years. It would increase out-of-pocket costs and have a direct and immediate impact, making it more expensive for low-income families to cool their homes and small business owners to run their businesses. It will increase the amount everyone has to pay for monthly utilities, including water and electricity, which powers our economy. It’s going to affect public utility customers across the nation. 

While Biden’s vision to “build back better,” and his commitment to invest in the nation’s aging infrastructure is promising, there are better ways to pay for it—like closing tax loopholes to ensure all businesses pay their fair share, improving the regulatory climate in state public utility jurisdictions, and growing the nation’s economy.  

Raising the federal corporate tax rate at this time is not the answer, and, in fact, it would undermine the Administration’s mission to protect hard-working citizens and vulnerable populations, which spend a disproportionately larger part of their income on utility bills.  

It is now incumbent on Congress to stand up for utility ratepayers across the nation and say “no” to indirect tax hikes on our families and small businesses. I urge Arizona’s Senators to vote “no” on any unjust and unreasonable increase to the U.S. corporate tax rate.  

Lea Márquez Peterson is the Chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The Commission will be hosting a public workshop in the near future on the impact of federal administration programs and proposals on Arizona ratepayers.  



County supervisors defy Senate subpoenas

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates answers questions Monday about the board's decision not to respond to the latest Senate subpoena. With him is Chairman Jack Sellers (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates answers questions Monday about the board’s decision not to respond to the latest Senate subpoena. With him is Chairman Jack Sellers (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Maricopa County won’t surrender the latest batch of documents and equipment the Senate demands.

At least, not most of what was subpoenaed.

County officials did not show up at the Senate at 1 p.m. on Monday as commanded by President Karen Fann with the items in tow. In fact, they didn’t show up at all.

Instead, board Chairman Jack Sellers sent a letter to Fann and the other senators blasting the “audit” — the quotes are as he stated it — and telling them to get on with it.

“The board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land,” he wrote, saying that the 2020 election was run as required by state and federal law.

“There was no fraud, there wasn’t an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment,” Sellers said. “It’s time for all elected officials to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracies.”

And Sellers told the senators to release whatever report they’re going to produce “and be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds in court.”

At a separate press conference explaining the board’s decision, Sellers took a slap at the Senate — and Cyber Ninjas, the firm that Fann hired.

“A lot of the questions that have been raised in the current subpoena are because the unqualified, inexperienced people they hired to do this audit don’t know what they’re looking at,” he said. “So they keep asking us to verify things or explain things that if they knew what they were doing they would already know the answers.”

Senate President Karen Fann (Photo by Kyra Haas/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate President Karen Fann (Photo by Kyra Haas/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Senate had no better luck with a separate subpoena — and that 1 p.m. Monday deadline — for Dominion Voting Systems to produce various passwords, tokens and other ways to get into the programming of the equipment it leased to the county for the election.

Attorney Eric Spencer, in a written response to the Senate, said the demand violates his client’s constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure. And he said while the Senate has the power to conduct investigations, there is no “valid legislative purpose” to what Fann wants.

Both denials now shift the burden to the Senate which has to decide whether to pursue the matter.

“We are weighing our options,” said Fann in a prepared statement. But she said that it is the fault of both that the audit of the November election is not yet complete.

“It is unfortunate the noncompliance by the county and Dominion continues to delay the results and breeds distrust,” Fann said. And she accused the county of doing a “slow walk” of a separate public records request for documents about a possible breach of the voter registration database.

Supervisor Bill Gates, a Republican like Sellers, said that a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate to hold board members or officials from Dominion in contempt and potentially jail them is unlikely.

“We all know from public statements now that they have even fewer than 15 senators who are in support of this operation,” he said, noting the earlier objection from Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale and the more recent conclusion by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, that “the audit has been botched.” Anyway, Gates said, the Senate would have to be in session to even consider a contempt resolution.

Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, answers questions Tuesday at a hearing of sorts to discuss the issues with the current Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa County election returns.
Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, answers questions May 18, 2021, at a hearing of sorts to discuss the issues with the current Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa County election returns.

But it does not preclude Fann from seeking a court order as she did after the supervisors balked at earlier subpoenas.

In that case, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomasson said the lawmakers have a “valid legislative purpose” in seeking the 2.1 million ballots and the election equipment.

He pointed out that the Arizona Constitution gives legislators the power to enact “laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.” And Thomasson accepted the Senate’s explanation that it needed the ballots and equipment to determine if changes are needed in state election laws.

County officials ended up complying at that time. In fact, the ballots and equipment that were produced now have all been returned to the county.

But it now appears the supervisors are ready for a new fight over what more the Senate and Cyber Ninjas insist they need.

In a separate letter to Fann, County Attorney Allister Adel ticked off objections she has to what the Senate requested.

For example, she said there is no need for the actual envelopes in which early ballots were mailed since the county provided images. Anyway, Adel said, the Senate has provided no assurance it could actually protect those items.

But beyond that, the county attorney said the latest subpoena is “an abuse of process or designed merely to harass.”

Still, Adel said the county might provide some information — and on its own schedule.

For example, she said that the county might provide details about a breach of a voter registration web site last year operated by the County Recorder’s Office even though she said it was never connected to election tabulation equipment and is irrelevant to the audit. But Adel said that county officials are busy and they will respond to a parallel public records request for the same information when they have the time.

But the supervisors called the whole investigation little more than “political theater.”

“They’re not acting seriously,” said Gates, saying that the Senate is not doing anything to make voters confident about the electoral system.

“They’re focused on tearing it down, he continued. “They’re focused on raising all sorts of doubts that are going to do nothing but erode at our democracy.”

And then there’s the timing of this, the third subpoena issued by the Senate in its self-proclaimed inquiry into whether the results of the 2020 election — the one that saw Joe Biden outpoll Donald Trump in both the county and the state — were accurate.

All that goes to Gates’ conclusion that this is a political versus a legal issue.

Exhibit No. 1 is the demand in that third subpoena for the county’s routers, essentially equipment that directs computer traffic between the county’s own computers as well as the internet.

Auditors have claimed, without any proof, that election computers were somehow hacked and the results altered. And they have not been convinced by two separate investigations conducted for the county which found the election system is air-gapped and was never connected to the internet.

Yet he said the conspiracy theories remain.

More to the point, Gates said, is the timing of this new subpoena and the demand for those routers.

“They waited for former President Trump to come to town, talk about routers 10 times, and then issue a third subpoena,” he said. “This isn’t serious.”

And Gates said the people behind the audit are “more interested in scoring political points and driving the conspiracy theories held by many of the members of the state Senate.”

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include comment from Senate President Karen Fann. 

Ducey accuses Biden of creating border crisis

Set up in front of the border fence in Douglas, Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday blames the Biden administration for the crisis along the border. With him is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, who flew in for the event and a 20-minute border helicopter tour. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Set up in front of the border fence in Douglas, Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday blames the Biden administration for the crisis along the border. With him is Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, who flew in for the event and a 20-minute border helicopter tour. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Surrounded by Republican politicians, Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday insisted that everything that is now going wrong on the border is the fault of President Biden, his administration and the Democratic Congress.

Using sometimes blistering words, Ducey called the current influx of migrants “a man-made crisis caused by elites in Washington, D.C. who are totally divorced from the reality on the ground.

It starts, the governor said, with the administration’s decision to repeal the “migrant protection protocols.” In essence, this program required anyone seeking admission to this country, even with a claim of asylum, was required to wait in Mexico.

“The repeal of these protocols have directly resulted in a significant influx of unvetted individuals into the United States from Central America,” Ducey said. “And we know it’s going to get dramatically worse before it gets better.”

The governor cited figures from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that the Border Patrol is on pace to reach the highest number of apprehensions in 20 years.

“Yet where has the secretary been?” Ducey said, chiding Mayorkas by saying “this is where the action is, not Washington, D.C.”

And then there’s the fact that Biden ordered a halt to further wall construction.

“It’s clear that this administration is anti-wall and AWOL, absent without leave,” the governor said.

“They have been absent from the field,” he continued. “And their bad policies and lack of leadership have resulted in this crisis.”

Ducey brushed aside questions about data that showed there already was an increase in people trying to cross the border last April, when Republican Donald Trump was still president.

“This was largely solved a year ago,” he said.

“The system is broken,” the governor declared. “Joe Biden has broken our border.

The governor’s assessment got support from Florida Sen. Rick Scott, also a Republican, who flew in for the event which included a 20-minute helicopter tour of the border and discussions with local leaders. Scott said there was a 23% increase in apprehensions by the Border Patrol between January and February, coinciding with the change in administration — and policies.

“This all started with Joe Biden,” Scott said.

“His amnesty plan makes no sense at all,” he continued. “We’re a nation of laws. Follow the law.”

Both acknowledged that the House has approved some measures designed to deal with border issues, including one to provide a path to citizenship for “dreamers” and another to provide a legal and steady source of agricultural workers. But that, the governor said, misses the point.

“The Biden administration confuses immigration with border security,” Ducey said.

“This is a border security issue,” the governor said. “That’s Step 1. Then we can talk immigration.”

More to the point, at least politically, Scott said those House-passed bills are going nowhere in the Senate. While the Democrats control 50 seats — plus the vice president to break a tie — most legislation needs 60 votes to clear any threat of a filibuster.

Scott said GOP senators have proposed legislation to deal with security, only to find they have been swatted down by Democrats.

“The Democrats don’t want to do anything,” Scott said. So the result is the House approving measures without Republican support knowing that makes them effectively dead on arrival in the Senate.

“They want to leave immigration out there as an issue,” he said of the Democrats. “They do not want to solve the problem.”

Ducey denied that the all-Republican press event at the border was little more than a political photo-op to bash the Biden administration. He said the trip also includes conversations with border officials, Douglas Mayor Don Huish and ranchers in an effort to find the facts.

“And the facts are, this needs attention from Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Ducey and Scott weren’t the only Republicans at the fence-side event. Ducey also invited several legislative Republicans and the Republican sheriff of the county, Mark Dannels.

Yet while the governor said this is a problem that requires the attention of Congress, there was no invite for the Democrats in that body. That led to questions about the decision not to ask Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, the state’s two senators — and both Democrats — to come to the event and participate.

“They’re welcome to come any time they like,” Ducey said. “They don’t need an invitation.”

The governor did not deny policies during the Trump administration resulted in children who came across the border being separated from their parents. And Ducey said that kind of thing should not happen.

But he said the current policies of admitting unaccompanied minors has resulted in about 13,000 youngsters currently being detained while being processed.

“And 13,000 children in custody is not humane,” he said.

Ducey says he’s prepared to send Guard to border

Brig. Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck discusses her promotion by Gov. Doug Ducey to the state's adjutant general, also making her the top officer in the Arizona National Guard. The appointment occurred as the governor said he is weighing the sending Guard soldiers to the border to deal with the flow of migrants. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Brig. Gen. Kerry Muehlenbeck discusses her promotion by Gov. Doug Ducey to the state’s adjutant general, also making her the top officer in the Arizona National Guard. The appointment occurred as the governor said he is weighing the sending Guard soldiers to the border to deal with the flow of migrants. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Taking a new slap at the Biden administration, Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday he is prepared to send the Arizona National Guard to the border – even if it means at state expense. 

“We’re going to use every tool, authority and resource that we have,” the governor said after announcing his pick of Kerry Muehlenbeck as the new state adjutant general. The attorney and former deputy Pima County attorney will be the first woman in charge of Arizona’s 8,300 Guard soldiers. 

“To be successful on the Southern border, we need to work in partnership with the federal government,” Ducey continued. “But Arizona’s going to act regardless.” 

The governor said that, as far as he is concerned the border was “largely stable not that long ago.” Since then, he said, there have been 180,000 people apprehended and nearly 18,000 children in the care of the federal government. 

“And the federal government is not very good at being a parent,” the governor said. 

“So this is something where we need federal support,” Ducey said. “We’re trying to get the Biden administration to realize that the border’s part of the situation that their White House is responsible for.” 

But even as the governor said he was going to be speaking to the president to talk border issues, he took a swipe at the president’s choice of Vice President Kamala Harris to be the point person on border issues.

“Vice President Harris has equated ICE with the KKK.” 

That refers to a Senate confirmation hearing in 2018 for Ronald Vitiello, President Trump’s nominee to head ICE. 

Harris had a line of questions about the Ku Klux Klan. Vitiello responded that it is a “domestic terrorist group” because it “tried to use fear and force to change political environment” and that was “based on race and ethnicity.” 

“Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws, and do you see any parallels?” Harris asked. 

Vitiello said he did not. 

Ducey has become one of the top Republicans tossing barbs at the Biden administration. That included not only a photo-op trip to the border last month but multiple radio and TV interviews on border issues, including two appearances in as many weeks on Fox News – one before his Thursday press conference here – to take shots at how the situation is being handled. 

“The border traditionally is a federal issue and a federal focus,” the governor said during the press conference. “The Biden White House has ignored the situation at the border in Arizona and I think across the southern United States.” 

Ducey said the state already is doing what it can. 

“We’re working with ranchers and border sheriffs and leaders at the county level,” he said, saying he is hoping for more from the White House on what will be the next steps from Washington. 

“But the National Guard will be part of this solution,” Ducey said. “And we will have action taken.” 

Muehlenbeck’s appointment as adjutant general also makes her director of the state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. 

Muehlenbeck came to Arizona in 1993 to serve as assistant staff judge advocate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Four years later, after separating from the active military, she joined the Arizona Air National Guard where she also served as both a wing-level and headquarters staff judge advocate. 

She became the state’s deputy adjutant general in 2018. 

Muehlenbeck described her service as a “traditional, drill-status Guardsman,” meaning she also had full-time outside employment, including a stint with the Pima County Attorney’s Office. 

She currently is a professor at Mesa Community College, a job she apparently will have to give up in her new position. 

“The historical importance of being the first female adjutant general in Arizona is not lost on me,” she said. 

“But I do hope that what I’ve done and who I am is more important than simply my sex,” Muehlenbeck continued. “I never considered myself a female member of the military. I was always just another member of the military.” 

She replaces Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire who is retiring after 37 years in the military. McGuire, a Republican, is weighing a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2022 where he would try to unseat Democrat Mark Kelly. 




Election audit draws more GOP politicians

Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election, are brought in for recounting at a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Some of the 2.1 million ballots cast during the 2020 election, are brought in for recounting at a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Three Pennsylvania lawmakers were in Arizona on Wednesday to check out the state Senate GOP’s partisan audit of the 2020 election. 

They’re the latest Republicans to make a pilgrimage to Phoenix, ground zero in the “stop the steal” movement’s push to find support for conspiracy theories suggesting the election was stolen from former President Trump. 

U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz cheered  the audit at a rally just outside Phoenix last month. The next day, several prominent Trump supporters and conspiracy promoters were advertised as speakers at a Phoenix megachurch. Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys extremist group, recently posted a short video of himself at the Arizona Capitol.  

Political pilgrimages are nothing new to Arizona, where Republican politicians have long enjoyed photo ops in front of the Mexico border wall. But now, the draw is the Arizona State Fairgrounds, site of a former basketball arena where a Trump supporter who has promoted election conspiracies is overseeing a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County. 

The latest visitors are Pennsylvania Sens. Doug Mastriano and Cris Dush, and Rep. Rob Kauffman. They met with Arizona legislators at the Capitol before traveling to the audit site to get a briefing from the auditors.  

“Transparency is a must (in) our republic,” Mastriano wrote in a news release posted on Twitter. “Every citizen should be confident that their vote counts.” 

As Trump and his allies claimed without evidence last year that his Arizona loss was marred by fraud, the Arizona Senate GOP used its subpoena power to get access to all ballots, counting machines and hard drives full of election data in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60% of Arizona’s voters.  

They handed all of it over to a team led by Cyber Ninjas, a small consulting firm with no prior election experience for a hand recount and analysis of vote-counting machines and data. 

The effort will not change President Biden’s victory, and election experts have pointed to major flaws in the process. But it’s become a model for Republicans in other states hoping to turn up evidence supporting conspiracy theories.  

“It’s my belief that Arizona will be the launch pad for elections audits and election integrity efforts all over this great country,” Gaetz said. He listed the swing states where Trump lost in 2020. 

Greene said the audit was the reason she and Gaetz chose Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, for the second stop on their tour of America First rallies. 

“Matt said, ‘You been following that Arizona audit?'” Greene said. “I said, ‘Yeah I’ve been following it.’ He said, ‘Lets go to Arizona.’ I said, ‘Count me in.'” 

Mastriano has become a one-man force in conservative politics in Pennsylvania, leading anti-mask protests last year, pushing to overturn Trump’s re-election loss and showing up outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. 

In November, Mastriano organized a hearing in Gettysburg that featured Rudy Giuliani and a phone call appearance by Trump in which the president claimed the election was rigged and urged state lawmakers to overturn the result. 

All three visiting Pennsylvania lawmakers were among the 64 Republican legislators who signed a letter asking the state’s congressional delegation to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes being cast for Biden. 


Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed. 


Environmental Justice Makes Return to EPA

In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)
In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, speaks during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)

ThU.S. Senate has made history by confirming Michael Regan as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Biden. Not only is Regan the first African American man to lead the agency in its 50-year history, he also brings a distinct environmental justice focus to the role, in line with Biden’s commitment to centering justice and equity in his plans to tackle the climate crisis. At a moment when the window to meaningfully act on climate change is narrowing before our very eyes, and as low-income and communities of color continue to bear the brunt of environmental catastrophe in increasingly horrific ways, this is the vision and leadership we need to turn things around. 

Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood
Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood

Our relationship to our environment underpins every other relationship we have: to ourselves, to God, to our neighbors, to the world. Climate justice is an integral part of social justice. In working together to fight climate change, we take responsibility both for our own contributions to climate change and for our brothers and sisters around the world. A strong EPA, led by a hand that can attend to the intersection of Earth stewardship and care for our neighbor, is the exact prescription that is needed.  

 We know that the impacts of climate change are not felt equally across communities. Environmental injustice plagues Arizona just as it does every state. In our urban areas, communities of color face disproportionate levels of air pollution, leading to higher rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses. The drought sweeping through the southwest has especially dire implications for small farmers and migrant workers. The push for fossil fuel development constantly brings our state’s Native lands under threat. Many of the communities impacted by these injustices are among our congregants, and will continue to suffer unless provided with resources to adapt.  

 As we feel the impacts of climate change across the breadth of our ministries, we need the EPA and other governmental agencies to help us address the root causes of climate change by embracing clean energy. The call for a just 100% clean energy economy and environmental protections is also a call to center the voices and needs of the most marginalized as we seek climate solutions together. 

 Michael Regan understands this dynamic well. He spent his career fighting for clean air and water on behalf of frontline communities, both nationally and in his home state of North Carolina. Regan’s leadership is the shift we need to return the EPA to doing its job — which is to protect air and water, the environment, and public health.  

 Regan will take a leading role in President Biden’s bold and unprecedented climate policy by reinstating and expanding pollution safeguards, jumpstarting our clean energy economy, and placing an emphasis on equity and environmental justice. A driven and fully-functioning EPA will be key to fulfilling the promises of President Biden’s early executive orders. 

 We applaud Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema for their role in ensuring the swift confirmation of Michael Regan to lead the EPA. However, the work is far from over. Congress must work to confirm Janet McCabe as deputy EPA Administrator so that Regan can get to work right away with a fully staffed EPA. They must also fulfill their obligations to protect our communities, the environment, and public health by taking bold actions to address climate change and working alongside a revitalized EPA to make true progress on the crisis.   

Our notion of the common good calls us to be in solidarity with those impacted by climate change while avoiding the temptation to pass this problem along to future generations as a result of our own neglect or narrow interests. This is why as a nation we — including Members of Congress —  must prioritize action on climate. 

 Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood is the Executive Director of the Arizona Faith Network. She has spent her career building impactful communities who work to transform our world for the common good. Follow AFN on Twitter at @AzFaithNetwork. 


Limit immigration to fight climate change

Carbon footprint and nature

Arizona’s CO2 emissions keep risingdespite environmentalists’ best efforts to shrink the state’s carbon footprint. Total emissions rose 4.5in 2018, according to the most recent available data from the federal Energy Information Administration. 
The problem isn’t a lack of individual resolve. Arizonans are eating less beef, using more clean energy, and choosing to have smaller families. Americans in general have slashed their per capita carbon footprints 15since 1990, thanks to such environmentally conscious decisions.   

Leon Kolankiewicz
Leon Kolankiewicz

Yet total U.S. carbon emissions have increased over that same period. That’s because the U.S. population has soared 24in the past three decades, from 250 million in 1990 to about 330 million today. Arizona’s population grew from 3.7 million people to 7.3 million, basically doubling in size. 
Simply put, there are more of us energy consumers and carbon emitters than ever before  and as a result, unsurprisingly, our collective emissions keep rising. If current trends continue, 447 million people will call the United States home by 2060  117 million more than today  with several million of them projected to live in Arizona. They’ll continue pumping more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, where they trap heat and accelerate climate change. 
Unless we and other countries stabilize our populations, we’ll never halt climate change. And since international migration  not natural reproduction  drives most U.S. growth, the only realistic way to stabilize America’s population is to humanely reduce future immigration levels. 
The United States admits more than 1 million immigrants each year  quadruple the number it brought in throughout much of the 20th century. In Arizona, immigration has been the single largest factor driving population growth. It accounted for 44% of the state’s population growth since 2000; the rest of the increase stemmed from native-born citizens moving from other states and from births outpacing deaths.  
These foreigners often adopt the energy and carbon intensive American lifestyle. Indeed, that’s why many move here in the first place  to increase their standard of living. Think multiple gas-guzzling cars, single-family houses in the suburbs, and beef-heavy diets. When individuals from developing countries move here, their carbon footprints typically quadruple. 
While on average, immigrants emit somewhat less carbon per capita than native-born Americans, they still account for at least 637 million metric tons of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions annually. If they had remained in their countries of origin, they’d generate only 155 million metric tons. 
In other words, our immigration policies cause an extra 482 million metric tons of annual global carbon emissions. That’s like adding 104 million passenger vehicles to the roads each year. 
Explosive population growth doesn’t just make it impossible to combat climate change  it lays waste to open spaces, too. Since 1982 alone, developers have bulldozed more than 44 million acres of wetlands, woodlands, farmlands, and other natural habitats in the United States. That’s an area larger than Florida. 
In Arizona alone, we’ve lost 1.1 million acres since 1982  an area more than triple the size of Phoenix  to development. How will the state prevent endless sprawl, especially in the Phoenix metro area, when faced with perpetual population growth? 
We don’t have to accept this environmental degradation. 
For starters, Arizona’s local leaders could adjust permissive zoning codes. Some outdoor spaces should always remain off-limits to development. 
But even well-planned development is still development. Ultimately, stabilizing the U.S. population is the only way to truly reduce our aggregate carbon emissions and habitat destruction. 
Legislation such as the Raise Act would let immigrants sponsor their spouses and minor children  but not their extended, still-overseas family members  for green cards. The bill would humanely trim migration by 50%, without harming any of our immigrant friends and neighbors who are already here. 
Unfortunately, President Biden has proposed an immigration plan that would double today’s legal immigration numbers. It would also extend amnesty to 11 million undocumented immigrants and drastically increase the number of family-sponsored visas. In total, this proposal is expected to increase our population by 37 million permanent legal residents over the coming decade alone. It would put us on an unsustainable trajectory toward 500 to 600 million Americans by century’s end. 
There is an inherent tradeoff between economic growth and environmental sustainability, and if we want to fight climate change, we must acknowledge this reality. We needn’t feel guilty about humanely limiting immigration to protect our environment and quality of life. 
Leon Kolankiewicz is vice-president of Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization, whose mission is to improve understanding within the U.S. scientific, educational and environmental communities of the fact of overpopulation and its social, economic and environmental consequences at both national and global levels. 

Media to get day in court over Senate election audit

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, talks about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit ordered by the Republican lead Arizona Senate at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a Cyber Ninjas IT technician demonstrates a ballot scan during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden’s victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A judge on Tuesday said he has yet to be convinced that the rights of Maricopa County voters are being protected in the audit being conducted at the demand of the state Senate.

In a wide-ranging ruling, Judge Daniel Martin affirmed that the Senate has the authority to review the 2.1 million ballots and the machinery used to tabulate them as part of its legislative function. But he rejected claims by attorneys for the Senate that its members are constitutionally immune from being sued over how the audit is being handled by an outside contractor.

“The manner in which that audit is being conducted must be balanced against the constitutional rights of the voters in Maricopa County, including the rights to secrecy and confidentiality of information,” he said.

Martin acknowledged that not all the procedures in state law and the official Election Procedures Manual for handling the ballots and protecting the security apply in a post-election audit, particularly one that has no possibility of overturning the results. Whatever comes out of the audit will not affect the fact that President Biden outpolled President Trump in Arizona.

“Certain of those procedures, however, plainly apply, and require the application of at least minimal safeguards to the audit process,” the judge said. And that means neither the Senate nor Cyber Ninjas have a free hand to do what they will with the ballots and the equipment.

All that, Martin said, means the outcome of the challenge by the Arizona Democratic Party will depend on what kinds of policies and procedures have been implemented.

It starts, the judge said, with what is required by the Senate which, in turn, communicates with Cyber Ninjas through former Secretary of State Ken Bennett who Senate President Karen Fann has tasked with being her voluntary liaison with Cyber Ninjas.

At the same time, Cyber Ninjas is claiming that Bennett has ultimate responsibility for physical security at Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the audit is being conducted as well as the security of the hardware there.

Daniel Martin
Daniel Martin

“To date, there has been no showing of how Mr. Bennett intends to achieve these goals,” Martin said.

All that, in turn, goes to the question of whether Cyber Ninjas has to share with challengers — and with the public — its policies.

On Tuesday, Martin gave the First Amendment Coalition the right to intercede in the case. That came over the objection of attorneys for both the Senate and Cyber Ninjas who argued not only that the policies used to conduct the audit should be kept confidential but that any hearing on them should be closed.

That ruling allows attorney Dan Barr to argue that the public has an interest in knowing exactly what is happening at the audit site and, more to the point, how the ballots and equipment are being protected — or not.

“I question whether there are any trade secrets here to begin with,” Barr told the judge. “I find that fairly dubious to begin with.”

Beyond that, he said there is a constitutional right of the public to observe and assess the proceedings.

“I can’t imagine a higher public interest here than the validity of the vote, the care that a private company gives to live ballots which are protected by the state constitution,” Barr said.

But the judge put off until Wednesday any ruling the question of whether the policies and procedures that are being used by Cyber Ninjas are subject to public disclosure.

Hanging in the balance is whether the hand count and examination of both the ballots and equipment will continue, and under what conditions.

Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, right, talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix. The equipment used in the November election won by President Joe Biden and the 2.1 million ballots were moved to the site Thursday so Republicans in the state Senate who have expressed uncertainty that Biden's victory was legitimate can recount them and audit the results. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Cyber Ninjas owner Doug Logan, left, a Florida-based consultancy, and former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, right, talk about overseeing a 2020 election ballot audit at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, during a news conference Thursday, April 22, 2021, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Fann said the audit will help resolve concerns by constituents about whether the results of the 2020 election — and the vote for Biden — were accurate. But the legal position of the Senate is that it needs the review to determine if there are weaknesses in current election laws that need to be addressed.

It was that argument that resulted in Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason concluding two months ago that the Senate had the right to enforce its subpoena.

But Thomason made it clear that did not overcome his concerns about the confidentiality of the materials. And attorney Roopali Desai who represents the challengers said there is enough evidence of problems to bring the process to a halt unless and until questions are answered.

For example, she told Martin that Cyber Ninjas and the people it hired have access to voter files.

“They say that there are qualified people trained to handle the ballots,” Desai said. “We’re asking who are these people, how they have been hired, have there been sufficient background checks done, and are they trained?”

She also said Cyber Ninjas has said it has an earnest desire to comply with the law.

“Well, what steps are they taking to make sure that their desire is a reality?” Desai said.

But Alexander Kolodin who represents Cyber Ninjas told Martin that an injunction against proceedings, even for a day, “may derail this audit.” He pointed out the Senate has possession of Veterans Memorial Coliseum only through May 14.

Anyway, he argued, there’s no basis for a court to intercede, especially on a complaint by the Arizona Democratic Party.

“This audit is the will of the Senate, the people’s elected representative,” Kolodin said. “A political party should not get a heckler’s veto by filing a late action to stop the legislature from carrying out the people’s work.”

Martin, however, said the Democratic Party has standing to raise the questions about the procedures being used to review the ballots and equipment. And he rejected arguments that the lawsuit, filed just a week ago, came too late.

Ninja report insinuates wrongdoing, Fann calls for probe

Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, center, is flanked by Ben Cotton, left, founder of digital security firm CyFIR, and Randy Pullen, right, the former Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, prior to the Arizona Senate Republicans hearing review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County at the Arizona Capitol, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Senate election auditors provided no evidence of widespread fraud Friday but dangled enough insinuations of impropriety to give Donald Trump supporters an inkling of hope that future investigations will uncover wrongdoing in connection with the 2020 general election in Maricopa County. 

The auditors’ presentation did not divert significantly from draft copies of their report obtained by the media the day before the presentation, which showed, among other things, that the Cyber Ninjas’ hand count of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots found Biden won by a slightly larger margin than what is included in the official county canvass. The hand count added 99 votes to Biden’s total and took away 261 Trump votes. 

In a statement, however, Trump said the audit “shows incomprehensible fraud at an election changing level. 

“Arizona must immediately decertify their 2020 presidential election results,” he said, though no one, including Trump, has explained how that is even a legal possibility. 

But the report also highlights various concerns the auditors have with the county’s elections processes, which drew criticism from election experts and Maricopa County officials. 

Senate President Karen Fann said she turned over all audit reports to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and it is now up to him to investigate the auditor’s claims to determine if further actions are necessary. 

“He has access to a lot more rolls than we do; access to social security numbers; access to more death certificates,” she said, pointing to the legislature’s decision in recent years to fund the Attorney General’s election integrity unit. 

“He’s got the staff; he’s got the money – I want him to do it,” she said. 

Fann also did not rule out the possibility of a special session to draft new legislation based on recommendations from the auditors. 

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, right, smiles as she is joined by state Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, prior to the Arizona Senate Republican hearing on the review findings of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County at the Arizona Capitol Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

She said the Senate’s Judiciary and Government & Ethics committees will review the information and begin drafting legislation “so we can get it done as quickly as possible.” 

“If there are some things that we can specifically get done that is reasonable – that we know we’ve got the votes on – we’ll reach out to our governor and say ‘would you mind calling a special session at least to get us the basic things in place before the next elections,’” Fann said. 

It does not appear Gov. Doug Ducey, who would have to call the special session, would comply with such a request, though. Fann also does not likely have the votes to support calling a special session without Ducey, which would require the support of two-thirds of both chambers. 

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Ducey wrote, “Any meaningful policy recommendations identified should be addressed in the next session of the legislature.” 

The governor’s spokesman did not respond to a request to clarify his stance on a potential special session. 

In his thread, Ducey said trust in the election system has eroded in recent years, but declared the audit and 2020 election are “over” and “there will be no decertification of the 2020 election…” 


The Cyber Ninjas’ report listed one finding as a “critical” concern and two as “high” concerns, but elections experts quickly refuted the claims. 

The report’s recommendations, based on its findings, also largely overlap with practices already in use in the state.  Amy Chan, Clean Elections commissioner and former elections director under former Republican Secretary of State Ken Bennett, noted the overlaps.. 

“It’s not that these are bad recommendations; it’s more that they’re telling on themselves that they don’t know we already do them,” Chan said. 

The report’s recommendation to compare voter rolls to Electronic Registration Information Center lists, or ERIC lists, for example, is unnecessary because Arizona is already an ERIC member state, Chan said. ERIC is a nonprofit that helps states maintain accurate voter rolls. Thirty states and D.C. are members. 

Elections in Arizona also already use paper ballots and create a paper trail for ballots cast by individuals with disabilities in an alternative format.   

Cyber Ninjas said its finding regarding mail-in votes from previous addresses was “critical.” The report said they found 23,344 ballots that “may have met this condition.”  

They claimed that the only way the correct person could return the ballot was if it was improperly forwarded or if the voter knew the current occupant of their previous address. 

That’s not true, the county and elections experts said.  

People wait in line before being allowed inside the Arizona state senate building to watch the election review hearing proceedings at the Arizona Capitol Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Phoenix. The final report of the election review in Arizona’s largest county by supporters of former President Donald Trump found that President Joe Biden did indeed win the 2020 presidential contest. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“Cyber Ninjas still don’t understand this is legal under federal election law,” the county’s Twitter posted. “To label it a ‘critical’ concern is either intentionally misleading or staggeringly ignorant. AZ senators should know this too.” 

Chan said there are a few reasons someone may vote and the address tied to their registration is different from where they’re currently living. Military and overseas voters can cast federal-only ballots linked to their stateside address, and people move all the time.  

The county added that it had 20,933 one-time temporary address requests for the November election. It also noted that snowbirds and college students may have forwarding addresses while they’re out of the county. Ballots are not forwarded. 

The Cyber Ninjas came to their previous address voter number and other figures in their report by comparing the final voted file to a commercial database. Tammy Patrick, a former federal compliance officer for the Maricopa County Elections Department, said using commercial databases is problematic and that those products can be “some of the lowest quality” — outdated and inaccurate. Patrick is now a senior adviser to the elections program at the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation that advocates for the U.S. democratic system. 

“One of the most critical, critical pieces of this is they are relying a lot on that commercial addressing service,” Patrick said. “Traditionally, that is not a path that most people go down.” 

The Cyber Ninjas also labeled “high” their finding that 9,041 more ballots were returned than were received. But that finding and a finding that the official result totals don’t match the Final Voted File can be explained by protected voters, whose addresses aren’t included in the Final Voted File to protect their safety. 

“Standard stuff from this camp,” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer tweeted. “Conveniently ignores the fact that there are protected voters who aren’t produced in these reports. Because, you know, we care about law enforcement, judges, domestic violence victims, etc.” 

Logan said his team asked the county about the discrepancy a week or so ago. 

“The day before we were to present results, they decided to tell us that those were actually protected voters,” Logan said.  

Logan said his team wasn’t able to determine if that was true before presenting its report, and he blamed Maricopa County for not cooperating sooner. 

The Cyber Ninjas’ third top finding was that 10,342 voters may have voted in Maricopa County and in other counties because they shared the same full name and birth year as someone who voted elsewhere. The report acknowledged that some people share that information but said it was not common and that the list should be reviewed. 

The county and experts disagreed. 

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are being examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

“There are dozens of people with the exact same name,” Patrick said. “Every year you see what are the most common baby names this year. Well, in 18 years, that means those people with the common baby names are all going to be registering to vote.” 

The county gave an example: There are seven active voters in Maricopa County named Maria Garcia who were born in 1980. There are 12 statewide. 

“To identify this as a critical issue is laughable,” the county tweeted. 


Despite the county’s criticism, audit supporters appeared elated with the presentation. 

They burst into applause on multiple occasions, despite the fact the auditors never once uttered the word “fraud” or made claims the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. 

One of those moments occurred when CyFir CEO Ben Cotton mentioned they had photos of Maricopa County employees at computers when information was supposedly deleted. 

Throughout his testimony, which focused on supposed cybersecurity issues with Maricopa County’s elections systems, Cotton alleged tens of thousands of security logs and other files containing election-related data were deleted from county scanners, servers and other machines. 

“So, I’m going to assume at this point that it’s not available for us to look at or else they would have turned that over to us,” Cotton said, referring to some of the security logs in question. 

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, May 6, 2021, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

He then told Fann and Petersen that the audit team obtained video footage of county workers using the machines at the time the logs and other files were deleted. 

While Cotton did not accuse those unknown workers of fraud, the mere insinuation was enough to elicit cheers from most of the non-media attendees packed into the Senate gallery. 

The celebrations died down considerably when Cotton said he would not reveal the identity of those individuals. 

Maricopa County officials quickly refuted Cotton’s claim on Twitter, explaining that county elections staff archived the data that Cotton thought was deleted. 

“Maricopa County strongly denies claims that (elections department) staff intentionally deleted data,” the county posted on its official Twitter account. “As we’ve stated, staff were conducting the March election & compiling info required to comply w/ Senate subpoena. We have backups for all Nov. data & those archives were never subpoenaed.” 

Cotton also claimed he found evidence that multiple county elections devices were connected to the Internet – a point of contention for election fraud theorists who believe that connection could have allowed a bad actor to alter vote tallies. 

To back up the claim, Cotton cited documentation he included in his presentation showing some devices he examined accessed outside webpages or IP addresses between January 2020 and February 2021. 

Again, Maricopa County refuted the claims that those logs proved anything nefarious occurred. 

“None of this is the election system. This is all the voter registration system. Sigh. This is so irresponsible,” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer posted on Twitter. 

For instance, one of the devices cited by Cotton – named “REWEB1601” – was connected to the Internet, the county said on Twitter, because it is the server for the Maricopa County Recorder’s website. 

“Despite what Cotton is saying right now, none of this matters on an air gapped network,” the county posted. 

The term “air gapped” refers to a network that is not directly connected to the Internet or any other device that is connected to the Internet. 

Throughout the presentations, the audit team, Fann and Petersen repeatedly hedged allegations by pointing to the fact that the county did not cooperate with the audit, withholding items like routers and Splunk logs that the Senate subpoenaed. 

The routers would show whether election equipment was connected to the Internet at any point during tabulation. 

The Senate and county have since agreed to a settlement under which the county will provide those materials to a special master – former Congressman John Shadegg – and a team of IT professionals, who will then answer the auditor’s questions. 

The third major prong of the auditors’ report focused on the validity of signatures on mail-in ballots. 

Shiva Ayyadurai, a former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts who claims to have invented email, was hired by the Senate to review signatures on early voting ballots. In his presentation, he said he found numerous discrepancies, including possible duplicate voting, 9,589 ballots that should not have been counted due to missing or scribbled signatures and a too-low rate of ballots being rejected due to signatures. Ayyadurai called for an audit of the county’s signature verification process. 

“Amazing report from Dr. Shiva,” tweeted state GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward. “Many questions for Maricopa County as well as exposure of incompetence & possible malfeasance. A FULL SIGNATURE AUDIT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY!” 

Maricopa County officials dismissed Ayyadurai’s conclusions and said there were innocuous explanations for the discrepancies he highlighted. 

“Reminder that — under court supervision (where you can’t lie willy nilly) as a part of 1 of 8 unsuccessful court cases — Kelli Ward’s handwriting expert looked at a sample of the signature affidavits and found … 0 signs of inaccuracy or fraud,” Richer tweeted. 


In her letter to Brnovich, Fann listed several changes to election administration she would like to see. Much of her letter criticized Maricopa County and its non-cooperation with the audit. 

Mark Brnovich

“Laws should require transparency and affirmative cooperation from every elections official,” Fann wrote. 

Fann said elections officials must be required to preserve evidence so a “top-to-bottom audit” can be done. 

“Arizona voters deserve an unimpeachable electoral process — and the State Senate is already working hard on new legislation to deliver that,” Fann wrote. 

At the end of the hearing Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who is the chairman of Senate Judiciary and who presided over the hearing along with Fann, criticized the county for fighting the audit. 

“How much money have they spent trying to stop our audit?” he asked. “Has to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” 

He listed areas he would like to see investigated further or addressed, such as cybersecurity issues related to election systems, unsigned ballot envelopes and reconciling the numbers in the various counts. 

“I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the Attorney General in any way to resolve these issues,” Petersen said. 

Fann said, if nothing else, the audit has taught us that we need more audits. 

“We need to do audits to some extent, we need to do bigger audits on every election just to make sure people are following the rules,” Fann said. 

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers issued a statement after the presentation, noting that “the auditors buried this fact: their ballot recount was nearly identical to the County’s count, and the official results stand.” 

He criticized the auditors and Senate leadership for “falsely” and “recklessly” accusing county workers and officials of potential crimes. 

“Today’s hearing was irresponsible and dangerous,” he wrote. 

Wendy Rogers

Followers of Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers on the alternative social media site Gab made death threats against county officials during the presentation. 

“Drag them from their houses to the town square and hang them on every lamp post!!” user Jeffrey DeYoung wrote. 

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said the audit was meant to “allow for really radical right, extreme members of the (Republican) Party to use as a fundraising tool,” to rally Trump supporters and to provide justification for more legislation in 2022 that, Bolding fears, would make it more difficult to vote. 

“I imagine there’s a long list of pieces of legislation they’ll look at to make it actually more difficult for people to participate in democracy,” said Bolding, who is running for Secretary of State. 

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who has been a loud proponent of stolen election conspiracy theories and who is one of three sitting GOP lawmakers running for Secretary of State, has been calling for a door-to-door audit of the voter rolls.  

Bolding said he considers this voter intimidation and would be strongly opposed to it. 

“When you look at the Voter Rights Act, when you look at our Constitution, when you also look at what we should be doing as elected officials, one thing is we should not be intimidating voters by having third-party individuals knock on people’s doors to intimidate them,” Bolding said. 

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.  

Ninja report likely to spur election legislation

Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, Thursday, May 6, 2021 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. The audit, ordered by the Arizona Senate, has the U.S. Department of Justice saying it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

As the first reports of the Arizona Senate’s review of 2020 general election results in Maricopa County are released, progressive voting rights groups worry about how the findings will be used as the basis for legislation next session. 

Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona, said she expects Republicans to use the reports as justification to introduce a slew of voter suppression bills next year. 

“We’re in a place now where we can be confident that the Cyber Ninjas’ report is going to be the starting point for a whole series of bills, such that we are just making law based on the right-wing conspiracy fever dream that is the Cyber Ninjas report,” Kirkland said.  

Cyber Ninjas’ report is set to come out Friday – five months after the Arizona Senate’s review began at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Some Senate leaders are scheduled to meet Friday with contractors and others involved in the audit in public on the Senate floor.  

Kirkland said that while she has seen some Republicans look to restrict voting rights in the past – even before former President Trump won in 2016 – the 2021 legislative session was different. She expects much of the same in 2022. 

“Now, it is the attempt to make elections illegitimate after they have happened and to overturn the results of elections that trusted local officials have conducted and have verified after they have happened,” she said.  

Kirkland said the review wasn’t a one-time thing, but “a new reality” in terms of how elections are viewed in the future.  

From the beginning, Senate President Karen Fann has said that the audit was “all about” checking to see if election officials are following current law and determining whether new legislation is needed. 

“Do they (the laws) need to be tightened up? Do they need to be tweaked?” Fann asked. “Or, do we need to add some new laws because we’ve got things falling through the cracks?” 

Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director for All Voting Is Local, characterized the Cyber Ninjas review as part of a bigger strategy to preserve political power, noting the Senate’s style of election review has been exported to other states.  

“It’s a cancer,” Gulotta said. 

He said that the best recourse is for audit critics – both Republicans and Democrats – to take “affirmative and serious action” to treat it, namely by voting out those promoting the idea the election was stolen. 

“We need to think about, once the people who are in control change, how do we fix this? This can never happen again,” Gulotta said. “How do we fix our systems so that this arbitrary exercise of power can’t ever be allowed to flourish, the way it has been after this election?”  

Kirkland said she doesn’t plan to go point-by-point through the report because she said it’s already known that Cyber Ninjas’ conclusions are based off a partisan process that didn’t follow “any kind of best practices.” 

Gulotta said that when he looks at the report, his attention will be limited to what claims it makes that could be used in drafting legislation next year.  

“Those will be the things that we will want to take a look at to be able to say, ‘Well, actually, this is not real, and this is why this is not real,’ ‘Maricopa County has already established that this is not real,’ etc., etc.,” he said. “We’re going to want to do those things to the degree they’re trying to take negative action that can impact people’s ability to vote.” 

The Friday reveal doesn’t mark the end of Cyber Ninjas’ involvement.  

The Florida-based contractor will also participate in the Senate’s review of Maricopa County’s routers and Splunk logs, though they won’t physically possess the county materials under a settlement reached between the Senate and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on September 17. 

Instead, Cyber Ninjas and the Senate will pose questions about the routers and logs to be answered by former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg and a team of up to three computer experts he hires to assist him.  

The county and Senate agreed to designate Shadegg, a Republican, as special master as part of their settlement. 

As of September 23, there was no timeline or cost estimate for Shadegg’s work, a sore point for Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the board’s lone Democrat and the only one who voted against the agreement. 

Under the settlement, the Board of Supervisors agreed to foot the bill for Shadegg’s services, whatever it turns outs to be. 

“Normally when you agree to a contract, you know how much it’s going to cost you — you know the how, you know the length, the scope,” Gallardo said. “This is an open-ended contract where John Shadegg will be able to tell us what he is going to charge us versus the other way around.” 

Supporters of the settlement noted that it keeps the routers and Splunk logs out of Cyber Ninjas’ possession – alleviating the security concerns the county brought up when the Senate subpoenaed the materials in January and July – and helps the county keep the roughly $700 million in future state-shared revenues it risked losing by ignoring those subpoenas. 

Fann said that additional review will check and confirm the work of one of Cyber Ninjas’ subcontractors, CyFIR. Afterward, she said they will likely issue a supplemental report.  

“We know that there’s no way we can get all that information from the routers and the Splunk logs by Friday,” Fann said. 

Additionally, a couple of the subcontractors working under Cyber Ninjas have not completed their work, Fann said, so more information will trickle in from them as well. 

“We finally just had to draw a line,” Fann said. “We have a lot of people that are just anxious to get this report out; they’ve been patient for a long time. To delay it another month waiting for the subcontractors to finish up the last bit on their reports, we just couldn’t do it.” 

Cyber Ninjas’ report will come after months of delay. The company’s original statement of work said the final report would be delivered shortly after the completion of the other phases, originally expected to wrap up in May. 

A handful of audit insiders received a final draft report on September 20, former secretary of state and audit liaison Ken Bennett told conservative radio host John Fredericks.  

That group included Bennett, Fann, Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, a group of attorneys and former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen, the audit laison. 

Bennett said the group received bits and pieces of the final report over the past few weeks.  

“We are vetting that to make sure that everything adds up, and we’re not withholding anything,” Bennett told Fredericks. 

In addition to Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan, subcontractor CyFIR CEO Ben Cotton was also scheduled to present the report on Friday.  

Bennett said Pullen would discuss the Senate’s third count of 2.1 million ballots, which took place in the Wesley Bolin Building at the state fairgrounds this summer.  

“Essentially we came up with the same number,” Pullen said. 

Bennett said he would discuss instances in which he believes Maricopa County didn’t comply with state statutes and elections procedures.  

Shiva Ayyadurai, who was hired by the Senate to review ballot envelope signatures, is also set to present. 

Bennet also said Fann has requested to review the report that came from unsuccessful LD17 House candidate Liz Harris’ months-long “independent” canvassing effort. The report, quickly debunked by elections experts, claimed large numbers of “ghost” and “lost” votes affected the election results. 

Canvassing was initially part of the plan for the Senate’s review, but Fann nixed the effort after the U.S. Department of Justice warned it may violate federal laws. 

Fann said the Senate will turn over information from the review to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. 

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.  


Now in Arizona: Hope Delivered Every 10 Seconds

Drivers wait in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The Arizona Cardinals' stadium opened as a vaccination site Monday that will be a 24-7 operation. (AP Photo/Terry Tang)
Drivers wait in line to get the Covid vaccine in the parking lot of the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The Arizona Cardinals’ stadium opened as a vaccination site Monday that will be a 24-7 operation. (AP Photo/Terry Tang)

By all accounts, Arizona has had a rough time through the Covid pandemic. A staggering loss of more than 15,000 Arizonans, punctuated by devastating economic and mental health impacts, left our state reeling.

Vaccinations mean that hope is here, and Arizona’s recovery has been jumpstarted with one of the highest-volume, 24/7 vaccination sites in the country at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. With more than 8,000 vaccines administered every day…about one every 10 seconds…Arizonans have come together in a colossal act of love.

Pam Kehaly
Pam Kehaly

This is exactly why, when state leaders called on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to get involved in early January, we said “yes.” In less than two weeks, we mobilized our team to join the single largest and most important public health effort our nation has seen during the pandemic. We mobilized to assist. We mobilized to serve. And most importantly, we mobilized to deliver hope.

We anticipated the huge effort, and are humbled to be part of this highly effective public-private partnership. What we did not anticipate was how much we would be touched by witnessing the absolute best of humanity in action. Thousands of individuals, most of whom are volunteers, have worked around the clock to help administer a dose of hope to more than 300,000 Arizonans in less than six weeks.

Working nine-hour shifts, some overnight, on their feet in the rain, sun, cold, and even desert hailstorms, these volunteers tell us how honored they are to serve in a role that has so much purpose. They experience words of thanks and tears of joy and relief every day, along with being witnesses to a monumental time in our country’s history.

President Biden and Vice President Harris recently took a virtual tour of the vaccination operations at State Farm Stadium. Calling the 24/7 vaccination operation “amazing,” President Biden and Vice President Harris pointed to the teamwork as an example of unity, saying, “We have never failed as a country when we’ve done things together.” Administering more than 20% of all Covid vaccines in Arizona, the impressive vaccination results at State Farm Stadium to-date would not have been possible without a tireless team.

Together with federal partners, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard, along with state leadership from the Governor’s Office, the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, and the Arizona Department of Health Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona employees and their families and friends have volunteered to help make this a national model of an efficient and streamlined vaccination clinic. We joined hospitals, the Arizona Cardinals, Arizona State University, Walgreens, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, the City of Glendale, and more with the shared goal of working together to win the COVID battle.

A true testament to the grit and resilience of our community, Arizona has managed to move from a time of hopelessness and uncertainty to becoming a role model of strength and unity. While we need to stay vigilant and still have a long road ahead, standing shoulder to shoulder against an enemy we cannot even see will lead us to victory. This is genuine, authentic love in action, and it changes us all for the better.

Pam Kehaly is president and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ).


PRO Act hurts workers, threatens economic recovery


Arizona’s economy is recovering slowly but surely, but there’s still a long road ahead before local businesses and industries are back on firm footing. Lawmakers in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., should be working to pass commonsense solutions that help strengthen American businesses and put folks back to work. 

Steve Trussell
Steve Trussell

Instead, some in Washington seem to be more focused on passing a pro-union agenda at the expense of workers and businesses alike. The cleverly but misleadingly titled “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (PRO Act) under consideration in the Senate is crammed full of radical provisions that would threaten workers’ rights, stifle job creation, and upend decades of established labor law — all so union bosses can increase their flailing registration numbers. 

We are grateful, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly are two of three Democratic senators who have refused to sign on as cosponsors to this dangerously misguided bill. They should continue to remain firm in order to protect Arizona’s economic recovery and ensure local businesses and employees are not stripped of any rights. 

Under the PRO Act, workers would no longer be able to vote for unionization by a secret ballot. Instead, they would have their right to privacy and freedom of choice violated by being forced to make those decisions in front of other employees, their employers, and even union organizers. Union-organizing election timeframes would also be cut drastically shorter in order to cut-off debate about the potential disadvantages of unionization in a workplace, giving unions the upper hand. 

On top of that, this bill would give the federal government the power to actually force unionization on employers and employees. It would essentially allow a government arbitrator to step in and mandate binding contract terms if employers and employees are unable to reach a collective bargaining agreement within 120 days. Neither side would be given an opportunity to vote on whether they approve their new contract and employers would not be able to contest contract terms, even if they cannot afford them. This would be a disaster and could end up hurting local businesses and threatening local jobs. 

Arizona is a proud right-to-work state — it’s even written into our state Constitution — and the PRO Act would rescind all right-to-work laws here as well as in the 26 other states that have voted to implement them.  That means Arizona workers would be forced to pay union dues, regardless of whether they voted for unionization or support a union’s activities. It is difficult to see how any of this would help workers.  Right to work states have enjoyed more economic prosperity as a result of good policy, why would anyone want to change that?   

All the PRO Act would do is help union leaders increase membership numbers by infringing on the rights of employees as well as employers. Taking away employee choice on whether to join a union, how much a union takes out of their paycheck, what happens to their private data, and whether they even have a job is not the answer. This bill could make it significantly harder for local businesses and industries to get back on their feet, all at the expense of the workers the bill is supposed to help. Senators Sinema and Kelly should oppose this dangerous legislation. 

Steve Trussell is executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association.   


Promises to complete border wall iffy

The old border fence, below grade, which allowed animal migration into Mexico, remains in place as a construction worker walks along a section of new border wall in San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Douglas. President Biden ceased further construction of the wall that former President Trump started and now GOP gubernatorial candidates are promising to finish the job. PHOTO BY MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Standing in front of tall concrete bollards along a remote section of the U.S.-Mexico border last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake surveyed the end of a segment of border fence built during the Trump administration.  

As governor, she told a pair of Border Patrol union leaders and a correspondent for the conservative channel Right Side Broadcasting Network, she would finish the job.  

Kari Lake (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

“I really am a big believer, we need to start building this wall immediately,” she said. 

Matt Salmon has made similar promises. “When I get elected governor,” Salmon said during a panel discussion earlier this year, “the first press conference I do is with a post-hole digger on the border, because if the feds aren’t going to do it, we’ll get it done.” 

Seizing on one of the most potent and polarizing symbols in national politics, some GOP candidates for Arizona governor are promising to finish the wall along Arizona’s border with Mexico. But it’s an idea that could be both complicated and costly. 

“Immigration is the top issue in the state of Arizona for Republicans by a significant margin and has been for an extended period of time, so it’s not surprising that these Republican candidates are trying to find ways to address that issue and appear tough on immigration,” said Paul Bentz, a pollster at the GOP firm HighGround. “Hardline stances like cracking down on illegal immigration, deporting immigrants and building a wall work very well among Republican primary audiences.” 

In addition to Lake and Salmon, Karrin Taylor Robson said in an emailed statement that “a completed wall is at the heart of a secure border.” Taylor Robson, however, stopped short of saying she’d build it herself, instead saying that “it will be my priority as Governor to work with the federal government – this administration or the next – to complete this critical job.” 

Matt Salmon

For Lake’s competitors, Bentz said, talking about building the wall is a way to align themselves with former President Trump – who remains a popular figure among GOP primary voters – while dancing around the fact that he endorsed their opponent. 

But there would be some seriously thorny details for a governor trying to continue border wall construction without the help of President Joe Biden, who campaigned on the promise that “there will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.”  

Biden ordered a stop to wall construction in the first week of his presidency, though the Department of Homeland Security indicated this week that it plans to do more work to “clos(e) small gaps that remain open from prior construction activities.” 

Millions per mile 

The first challenge for the state would be getting the cash together. Trump redirected several billion dollars from the Department of Defense to fund wall-building projects. For comparison, Arizona’s entire state budget for 2022 was nearly $13 billion. 

In Arizona, contracts procured through the Department of Defense totaled almost 200 miles of fence and were set to cost more than $4 billion, according to information provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Additional contracts were procured through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.) The largest and most expensive of the projects came in at $30 million per mile, while the least expensive was a comparatively affordable $9 million per mile. 

Measuring exactly how much land along Arizona’s southern border is not currently covered by border fencing turns out to be complicated – neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nor the Arizona State Land Department were able to give a straightforward measurement. But there’s plenty of it, including in areas where wall was planned, but not completed, during Trump’s presidency. 

Vast stretches of the borderlands remain untouched in areas like the Pajarito Wilderness, west of Nogales. In other areas such as Guadalupe Canyon, near Douglas, construction crews blasted routes through the mountains, but didn’t complete the wall installation. 

Taking a big chunk of funding out of the state budget to put in a bollard fence would require cooperation from legislators, but former would-be wall-builders in Arizona have also proposed another option private funding. 

In 2011 Steve Smith, then a Republican state senator from Maricopa, sponsored a bill that created a fund to accept private donations for a wall. The effort didn’t lead to any new border wall, however, and wrapped up six years later after spending about $275,000 in donations on cameras. 

Salmon, for his part, suggested yet another solution. In a statement that seemed to echo Trump’s “Mexico-will-pay-for-it” approach, he said he would build the wall and then “hand-deliver a bill to Joe Biden.” 

Beyond the budget math, the state would need permission to put up a wall in many places. Most, though not all, of Arizona’s border is covered by the Roosevelt Reservation, which means the federal government has rights to a 60-foot strip of land running along the border. 

The state of Arizona has no such power, so without federal approval, the state would face limited options for locating new fencing.  

That’s something Lake seemed to tacitly acknowledge in a statement to the Arizona Capitol Times that said: “We must immediately put up a wall where we can, including state land and even on private land with owners who are willing to cooperate and save our state.” 

In Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has gone ahead with state-funded wall construction, more parcels along the border are privately-owned, creating the possibility of working with landowners who want a wall or seizing land through eminent domain for the purpose of wall-building. 

But parcel maps published by the Land Department show there’s little state or private land along Arizona’s border. Instead, large swaths are part of national forest or tribal land. The Tohono O’Odham Nation alone has 62 miles abutting the U.S.-Mexico border and the tribe has voiced its opposition to putting up a bollard-style fence on the land.  

So, with the Biden administration’s position on wall construction, a future GOP governor would have to hope for a new occupant in the White House if they’re hoping to put new fencing on federally controlled land. 

What’s more, as happened during the Trump presidency, a state effort to build the border wall would likely generate legal challenges. Marcela Taracena, a spokeswoman for the ACLU of Arizona, said that if a future governor tries to build more border wall, legal organizations would likely investigate avenues to block it.  

The ghost of Arizona SB1070 anti-immigration law passed in 2010 could also come into play, said Ilya Somin, a law professor George Mason University.  

A 2012 ruling in United States v. Arizona, which gutted the main provisions of SB1070, hinged on the principle that the federal government gets to set immigration policy and states can’t enact laws that interfere with that power. Somin said the federal government could argue that a state constructing its own border wall represented interference with federal immigration policy. 

A pair of migrant families from Brazil pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico in Yuma on June 10, 2021, to seek asylum. GOP gubernatorial candidates have promised to finish construction of the wall in Arizona, a costly and complicated proposition for a state. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)

Comprehensive reform 

Besides the practical complications of construction, the border wall has drawn criticism from Democratic politicians and progressive groups, including immigration advocates and environmental activists. 

Taracena said the border wall isn’t an effective deterrent to migration and has created environmental damage and invited costly legal battles.   

“I think often, a lot of folks use it as a way to continue to vilify migrants,” she said. 

Still, candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination said they have other plans for border and immigration issues, but didn’t directly criticize the wall proposal. 

“We need to be smart about our investments in border security and make our border strong, secure, and high-tech,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in an emailed statement. “It is crucial that our elected leaders in the federal government step up and do their part to reform our immigration system to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.” 

Marco Lopez, who’s from Nogales and worked for the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, said border issues require “solutions, not partisan brinkmanship and photo-ops.” “We need comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and we also need more resources at the border in manpower, infrastructure, and technology to secure it, and judicial resources to better process asylum cases,” he said in a statement. 

Bentz, the pollster, said that the eventual Republican nominee for governor will likely temper their rhetoric on the wall and related issues during the general election.  

“I don’t suspect that immigration will be as big of an issue once the August 2 primary is over,” he said. 

Rally cry to decertify election grows louder

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, speaks before the Senate Finance Committee on March 8, 2017. Finchem is one of a handful of lawmakers and many President Trump supporters calling for the decertification of the 2020 election in Arizona. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Supporters of Donald Trump are peppering Gov. Doug Ducey with demands that he decertify the election even though he says there’s no legal authority for him to do that.

Ducey press aide C.J. Karamargin reported that the governor got about 300 emails each day on Saturday and Sunday calling for him to act.

“It is more than we receive on vaccines, masks, border issues, refugees,” he said. “This tops the level of constituent interest those issues have.”

And those demands come despite the governor’s statements, repeated most recently Friday following the release of findings from the Senate-ordered audit of the 2020 Maricopa County returns, that there is no way to do what they are demanding.

The move comes on the heels of a recount of Maricopa County ballots which showed that the results were accurate and the Democrat outpolled the incumbent Republican. In fact, the hand count actually increased Biden’s lead by a bit.

But Trump supporters are hanging on other conclusions by Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, that there are discrepancies between other numbers the county reported and what the auditors were able to find. These range from 23,344 mail-in ballots received from someone at a prior address to 9,041 more ballots returned from voters than were received.

And, along with other questions raised, those raising objections point out that there are enough of these questionable votes to more than overcome the 45,109 margin of victory by Biden in the state’s largest county — and, by extension, overturning the 10,457 edge the Democrat had statewide.

Then there are questions of whether election files were deleted.

County officials provided a point-by-point rebuttal of the findings.

But this clearly isn’t over. And the main thrust has been to decertify the election.

Among the loudest voices is Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, who is running for secretary of state.

“We’ve got false numbers,” Finchem told Steve Bannon, a former Trump aide, in a televised interview. And that, he said, allows Arizona to “reclaim” its 11 electors.

“There is no law that allows for decertification,” Karamargin said. “It’s simply not possible.”

Finchem, however, remains unconvinced

“I don’t think that Ducey knows what this document means,” Finchem said, holding up a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution. And it starts, he said, with the Tenth Amendment which says that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states or the people.

“At the same time, there is a legal doctrine that says a right of action cannot arise out of fraud,” Finchem said. “Well, they signed a fraudulent document based on bad numbers,” he said, meaning the certification of the election signed Nov. 30 by Ducey, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Nor is he swayed by the hand count which supports the official count, saying that is irrelevant if there were counterfeit ballots.

“And that’s exactly what happened here,” Finchem said.

Sonny Borrelli

He is not alone.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, is echoing the same sentiment.

And Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, produced a memo from Matt DePerno, a Michigan attorney running for attorney general there, who said that the legislature has the authority to recall state electors or decertify a national election “upon proof of fraud.”

“Importantly, this does not require proof of all of the fraud,” said DePerno, whose candidacy was just endorsed by Trump.

Others, including Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who hired Cyber Ninjas to review the election results, aren’t buying it.

“There’s really nothing in the Constitution that says we can decertify,” she said, though Fann conceded that won’t stop any legislator from proposing such a resolution.

“I mean, look at the legislation we do sometimes,” she noted.

But, legal issues aside, Fann said this just isn’t going to happen. And it starts with the fact that it would take 31 votes in the House and 16 in the Senate to approve such a measure — the exact bare margin that Republicans have in each chamber.

“And you and I both know we don’t have 31 and 16 votes for anything right now,” she said, with several Republican lawmakers already having disassociated themselves from the whole audit. That includes Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the Government Committee, disavowing the whole audit after saying that Fann “botched” it.

Karen Fann

Even among GOP lawmakers, Fann said some are likely to balk at such a move until “they are 100% sure that we have information that would have changed the results.” She said the only way that could happen is if Attorney General Mark Brnovich, to whom she has sent the audit report, verifying the audit report.

And even that might not be enough.

“There’s going to have to be a jury that rules or a court that rules,” and comes up with a finding that there were votes cast that affected the outcome of the election.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, reached a similar conclusion last year when he denied permission for Finchem to have a special hearing of his Committee on Federal Relations to see if the Republican-controlled House could overrule the public vote and choose its own electors to send to Washington, presumably supporting Trump. He said Arizona law is clear and that the electors are selected by the certified voter count, what occurred Nov. 30.

“What happened on the 30th was the culmination of a process,” Karamargin said. “And that process saw election results being certified in each of Arizona’s 15 counties,” many of which Karamargin pointed out are Republican counties.

There was a proposal earlier this year by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, to allow the legislature to override the popular vote and choose electors. But it failed to even get out of a single committee.

– –

The push to decertify Arizona’s election results actually is part of a broader national strategy.

Denying Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to Biden, by itself, would not change the outcome of the November race. But Trump supporters are pushing similar audits — and decertification maneuvers — in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both states that went for Biden.

The aim is to reduce his electoral margin below the required 270, a move that would throw the vote for president into the U.S. House.

What makes that critical is that the vote in the Democrat-controlled House would not be by individual members.

Instead, each state delegation gets one vote. And that would give Republicans 26 votes

Potentially more interesting is that the Senate gets to select the vice president, with each senator getting one vote. With a 50-50 tie — and presumably Vice President Harris unable to cast the breaker — that leaves a deadlock if there is no deal to provide a majority to either.



Salmon joins crowded GOP gubernatorial race

Matt Salmon (Capitol Media Services 2014 file photo by Howard Fischer)
Matt Salmon (Capitol Media Services 2014 file photo by Howard Fischer)

Matt Salmon, who came within 11,819 votes of becoming governor nearly two decades ago, is making another bid for the office. 

But the former state legislator, congressman and lobbyist first has to survive what is becoming an increasingly crowded Republican primary. And Salmon, in his announcement July 16, is seeking to prove that he is as conservative  if not more so  than anyone else in the race. 

“Today, the Arizona values we cherish are under attack from Washington and liberals here at home,” he said in his prepared statement, decrying “open borders, closed classrooms, crushing tax hikes and socialism, censorship and cancel culture.” 

The other three GOP contenders have made similar claims. 

But Salmon is jumping into the race with something they don’t have: an endorsement from Club For Growth, a political action committee primarily focused on cutting taxes that has resources to help finance a campaign. 

And he also has the record of being a founding member of the Freedom Caucus while he was in Congress. 

Salmon, in a parallel video announcement, pronounced himself “100% pro-life,” touted his A rating by the National Rifle Association, all while decrying the “radical agenda” of Democrats, complete with photos of those that Republicans love to hate, ranging from Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to Nancy Pelosi and even MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow. 

And there also were references to what have become the latest GOP talking points, including his promises to “protect election integrity” and “strengthen voter ID.” 

What Salmon does have more than any of the other Republican contenders is an extensive record. 

As a state senator first elected in 1990, he backed various tax-cut measures. 

But he also was behind a move to abolish both the Arizona Lottery and pari-mutuel wagering on horses and dogs, saying once the state did that it could avoid having tribal casinos. 

What followed was six years in the U.S. House, from 1995 to 2001, after which he stepped aside keeping his pledge to serve no more than three terms.

That led to the gubernatorial bid in 2002 where he gained the GOP nod after trouncing Secretary of State Betsey Bayless and Treasurer Carol Spinger. That set him up to run against Democrat Janet Napolitano who was Arizona attorney general at the time. 

But the race was complicated by the entry of Richard Mahoney, a former Democratic secretary of state, who ran as an independent and picked up nearly 85,000 votes, and Libertarian Barry Hess tallying more than 20,000. 

Salmon said afterward he was hampered by something else: Republicans who supported his policies but said they would not vote for him because he is a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. 

He eventually served two more terms in the U.S. House between 2013 and 2016. 

This year’s GOP gubernatorial race is shaping up as a fight over who can prove they are the most conservative. 

State Treasurer Kimberly Yee became the first in the race, touting her loyalty to former President Donald Trump and his border and economic policies. 

“President Trump’s America First agenda had our economy booming like never before,” she said in her announcement video. “But now, our way of life is under attack by the corrupt press, reckless corporate leaders and politicians who put socialist ideals over people, our freedom of speech and our elections.” 

She also is touting her opposition to abortion and being a “proud NRA life member.” 

Developer Karrin Taylor Robson launched her campaign with a slap at the Biden-Harris administration. She promised to “fight for Arizona values” and said she is “committed to do whatever it takes to defend Arizona from the radical left.” 

Former Phoenix TV anchor Kari Lake got into the race with promises of protecting election integrity and requiring voter ID, securing the border and protecting the Second Amendment. 

She quit her TV job, complaining about a “disturbing shift in journalism. And Lake said she is pro-life,” always have and always will be.” 

The survivor of the Republican primary will go on to face whoever ends up representing the Democratic Party. So far, the main contenders include former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. 

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that Matt Salmon came within 1,819 votes of victory in the 2002 gubernatorial race. The margin was actually 11,819 votes. 

Senate hires firms to audit election results

Voters arrive to vote at their polling station on Election Day, early, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Voters arrive to vote at their polling station on Election Day, early, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

State senators finally have the companies they want to audit the 2020 election returns. 

But they have yet to figure out exactly where that $150,000 review will be conducted. 

And now there are tweets, since deleted, from the chief executive of the main company hired to do the work, which show he has promoted some election conspiracy theories. But Senate President Karen Fann, who signed the contract, said she doesn’t see an issue. 

That relates to the March 31 announcement that the chamber’s Republican leaders said they have hired a team to be led by a firm called Cyber Ninjas to review both the equipment used by Maricopa County as well as do a hand count of the 2.1 million ballots that were cast.  

The focus is on Maricopa County where the results showed President Biden outpolled incumbent President Trump by 45,109 votes. That was enough to counteract Trump votes elsewhere, giving Biden a 10,457-vote edge statewide and Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. 

That firm’s website says it is involved in things like testing the vulnerability of computer systems. 

Other firms being hired include Wake Technology Services Inc., CyFIR LLC, and Digital Discovery. 

Much of the attention will be on Wake, which will be in charge of that hand count amid allegations that the Dominion Voting Systems software used in Maricopa County was either hacked or deliberately programmed to attribute Trump votes to Biden. The Senate press release announcing the hiring said that firm has done similar counts in New Mexico and Pennsylvania in the most recent election. 

But issues remain. 

Some of those start with the choice of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida firm founded by Doug Logan who remains chief executive officer, and who signed the contract with the Senate. 

Deleted tweets by Logan unearthed by Arizona Mirror found messages linking him to some of the conspiracy theories that the election was stolen. 

“The parallels between the statistical analysis of Venezuela and this year’s election are astonishing,” he wrote in one, a reference to claims there was a link between the company and the family of now-deceased dictator Hugo Chavez. “I’m ashamed how few republicans are talking about it.” 

He also has retweeted the comments of others saying there was election fraud. 

And prior to the election, Logan, using the Twitter handle “@securityvoid”, spoke of why he supported Trump. 

Fann denied that anyone involved in the audit has a link to claims that the election was stolen. 

“I know that’s what the media’s going to try and spin,” the Prescott Republican told Capitol Media Services. “But you can’t tell me they’ve been involved in conspiracy theories.” 

There was no response from Logan to a message left at his office. 

More immediate is the question of exactly where all this work will be done. 

The Senate president said she would like that work done at county election offices. But so far county officials have balked at the idea of having private contractors in the area. 

In the meantime, the ballots have been sitting in a locked county warehouse waiting for the Senate to decide what it wants to do next. 

Fann said that a copy of the contract was sent on Wednesday to the supervisors specifically for the purpose of explaining to them how much space would be needed and for how long. 

And if not? 

“We have a few other possible locations,” she said. “But I would prefer to start with them.” 

All that gets into the related issue of ballot security. 

In a letter in March to lawmakers, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is the state’s chief elections officer, suggested that their plans would “waste taxpayer resources chasing false claims of fraud that will only further erode public confidence in our election processes and elected officials.” 

But Hobbs said if they insist on going ahead, they should follow certain procedures to ensure that the ballots remain secure and there is no chance that marks on them could be changed. That includes having bipartisan oversight with a live video feed. 

“We are going to do this full independent forensic audit with multiple layers of security checks, double checks, hand counts, you name it,” Fann said. “There’s no way anybody can screw with us.” 

There already have been reviews. 

That includes “logic and accuracy” tests done on all equipment, both before and after the vote, to ensure that the machines were properly tallying any ballots. There also was a legally required hand count of a random sample of ballots, selected by officials from both parties, which showed a 100% match with the machine count. 

And when that didn’t satisfy Republican senators, the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors hired two other firms to check the equipment and verify not just programming but that they had not been hacked and had not been hooked up to the internet in a way that could change votes. 

That still wasn’t enough for the GOP senators who went to court and got a judge to conclude that they were entitled to subpoena pretty much anything they wanted. 

“We have a large amount of our voters, both Rs and Ds and independents in Arizona that have a lot of questions about the 2020 election and they have lost a lot of confidence in our voter integrity system,” Fann said. “That’s our job as the Senate: to answer the questions and reinstill the confidence in them.” 

House Democrats chided the Senate decision and its choice of auditors. 

“The two auditing firms with credentials and experience already performed audits on Arizona’s 2020 election and pronounced it free and fair,” the caucus said in a statement about the reviews performed by the county. “Scraping the bottom of the barrel should not fill anyone with confidence.” 

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include the cost of the audit and more information on Cyber Ninjas and its owner.  




Showdown over election audit looms on Monday

Phoenix, AZ - Nov. 30, 2019: The State Senate building is directly beside the Arizona State Capitol building. (Stock/Deposit Photo
Phoenix, AZ – Nov. 30, 2019: The State Senate building is directly beside the Arizona State Capitol building. (Stock/Deposit Photo

The game of political chicken between the Arizona Senate and Maricopa County supervisors comes to a head Monday as lawmakers weigh holding board members in contempt, opening the door for the apparently unprecedented possibility of county officials being charged with a crime or even immediately locked up.

Senate President Karen Fann told Capitol Media Services on Friday she remains hopeful the supervisors will realize they are obligated to provide what lawmakers are demanding, including access to voting equipment and ballots. Beyond that, she said it makes sense for them to cooperate in what the Prescott Republican says is an attempt to answer questions from constituents about the accuracy of the results of the Nov. 3 election.

But Fann got her answer as board attorney Steve Tully filed suit late Friday asking a judge to dismiss what he called a “sham subpoena.”

Tully noted the senators are not asking board members to appear to answer questions. In fact, he said, there isn’t a hearing even scheduled.

Steve Tully
Steve Tully

Instead, he said, the subpoena demands the county give access to the companies they hire to the voting equipment and the 2.1 million ballots cast.

And then there’s the fact that the one firm that Fann has said she is considering, Allied Security Operations Group, was involved in efforts by the Trump campaign to overturn election results in Michigan.

“You don’t just hire a bunch of clowns that run around for Trump,” Tully charged.

Hanging in the balance is the extent of the power of state lawmakers to issue subpoenas to poke around into whatever they want.

The supervisors are trying to be careful in what legal fight they pick.

Tully said they acknowledge the Senate does have subpoena power. In fact, he said, the county already has turned over 11 gigabytes of data ranging from the voter registration database to computer logs and ballot tabulation reports associated with the November election.

What they don’t have, Tully said is the authority to now say they want the auditor they hire to go out and poke around to see what the company can find. He now wants Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish to rule in the county’s favor.

Fann bristled at questions about whether this all amounts to a fishing expedition.

“A fishing expedition is someone that’s going out there purposely looking for something,” she said, something that is not the case here.

“We are trying to dispel any of the allegations that are out there,” the Senate president said. “We are trying to answer the constituents’ questions about why they think something went wrong here or didn’t go wrong.”

That, however, still leaves the question of whether those questions are due to actual evidence of fraud or the fact that Trump told backers before the election the only way he would lose is if there was cheating and the voting machines were rigged, a theme he continues to repeat.

All that has had an effect. A new OH Predictive Insights poll finds that 26% of Arizonans and 54% of Republicans believe Trump won the election.

Fann said the posturing by Trump and his allies is irrelevant.

Karen Fann
Karen Fann

“With all due respect, four years ago it was a lot of Democrats who were questioning these machines,” she said, with some national reports suggesting that Dominion Voting Systems equipment could be hacked. And Fann said perhaps if there were audits done at that time — like the kind she and senators now want — questions about the vulnerability of those machines would have been answered before the 2020 election.

“I’m not saying there was any fraud,” she said of this year’s results. And Fann said people keep asking questions because “we haven’t had an audit.”

That could depend on how one defines an “audit.”

There were “logic and accuracy” tests before and after the election, using pre-marked ballots to see whether the machines recorded the votes that were cast. Those tests, Tully said, came up with a 100% match.

Then, as required by state law, officials from both major parties selected ballots from random voting centers for a hand count. According to the audit report, a review of more than 47,000 ballots showed not a single difference between what the machines recorded and what the hand count revealed.

Separately, a judge let state GOP Chair Kelli Ward, who had filed suit, get a review of several thousand ballots which had to be duplicated by hand after the originals could not be read by machines. While there were some discrepancies, the judge found — and the state Supreme Court affirmed — that if the error rate were extrapolated out over all the duplicated ballots it would have gained Trump no more than 153 votes, far short of the 10,457 vote margin of Biden over the now-former president.

And Ward’s own expert witness was unable to find a single instance of a clearly forged signature on the envelopes of early ballots she reviewed.

Fann was unimpressed, saying if the supervisors have nothing to hide “why are they refusing to let us do this.”

“We’ve offered to pay for this ourselves,” she said. Instead the county has hired two firms for its own review, one of which Fann said is not really qualified to do the kind of audit the Senate believes is necessary.

Anyway, she said, the Senate is not asking for the county to physically deliver the ballots or the machines to the Capitol but simply to give access to an auditor the Senate finds acceptable.

That, however, still leaves the question about Allied Security Operations Group and its link to trying to overturn Michigan voting results.

Fann insisted that firm has not yet been hired despite the fact that her attorney, Kory Langhofer, sent the supervisors a copy of a “scope of work” plan from Allied. Fann said she sent that because it was the only proposal she had at the time and that she continues to speak with other companies.

Still, she conceded that the firm’s reputation of trying to help overturn election results for Trump does raise questions.

“My intention at this point is not to hire them,” Fann said.

“I do believe that they are qualified, they do have the experience,” she continued. “But the mere fact that the perception is out there that they have ties with Trump or they would be less than totally independent, then it would be very difficult for us to hire them.”

All that comes back to the question of what happens Monday assuming all 16 Republicans vote to hold the board in contempt.

That would empower Fann to send out the sergeant-at-arms to arrest board members.

Only thing is, what the Senate wants now is not testimony from board members but access to those ballots and equipment. Tully said he is prepared to go to court to prevent board members from being arrested.

Option 2 is for Fann to ask Attorney General Mark Brnovich to file criminal charges against board members, as it is a Class 2 misdemeanor, subject to four months in county jail, to disobey a legislative subpoena. That, however, could result in months of litigation and appeal.

What that could leave Fann is what Tully already started: taking the matter to a judge.

Mikitish has not set a hearing on that matter.

Sinema condemns activists pursuing her on campus

In this June 24, 2021, file photo, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., smiles as she returns to the Capitol after a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington. More than her shock of purple hair or unpredictable votes Sinema is perhaps best known for doing the unthinkable in Washington: spending time on the Republican side of the aisle. Her years in Congress have been a whirlwind of political style and perplexing substance, an anti-war liberal-turned-deal-making centrist who now finds herself at the highest levels of power.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Monday that activists who confronted her outside an Arizona State University classroom and filmed her inside a restroom were not engaging in “legitimate protest.”

The Democratic senator said that the immigration reform activists unlawfully entered the campus building, which was only open to ASU students and faculty, and recorded her and her students. Sinema, a former social worker, is a lecturer at ASU’s School of Social Work.

“In the 19 years I have been teaching at ASU, I have been committed to creating a safe and intellectually challenging environment for my students,” Sinema said. “Yesterday, that environment was breached. My students were unfairly and unlawfully victimized.”

Living United for Change in Arizona, also known as LUCHA, posted video of the Sunday encounter on its social media.

The video showed group members chastising Sinema on accusations that she did not adequately support expectations of a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally and has not been supportive enough of President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Sinema did not say anything to the activists while they filmed her.

LUCHA said its members were forced to confront Sinema at ASU because she has been inaccessible.

“Sinema’s constituents have not been granted access to her office, they have been ignored, dismissed, and antagonized,” the group said in a Monday statement.

Sinema said in her statement she has met with the group multiple times since she was elected to the Senate.

Both Sinema and fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin have been criticized for not fully backing the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act, saying it’s too expensive. Manchin, of West Virginia, was also confronted by activists over the weekend. People on kayaks approached his boat to yell at him.

When asked about the incidents, President Joe Biden, whose first year of office could be defined by this package passing, agreed they weren’t the best strategies.

“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody … the only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them,” Biden said. “So, it’s — it’s part of the process.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sought to emphasize that Biden supports people’s fundamental right to speak up. But in Sinema’s case, boundaries were crossed.

“That’s inappropriate and unacceptable,” Psaki said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also took offense at the ASU confrontation.

“I started my career protesting the Vietnam War, and I get protested all the time,” said Schumer, who is trying to usher the Build Back Better Act through Congress. “And I understand and so feel for the immigrant community and what they are going through, but following someone into a bathroom and recording them, that’s over the line.”

LUCHA’s statement did not address the criticism of the tactics. Tomas Robles, the group’s co-director, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the backlash over the ASU bathroom confrontation.

“This is Sinema’s moment to do the right thing and stop blocking the Build Back Better Act,” the statement said. “We – her constituents – need a pathway to citizenship, access to healthcare and lower drug prices, better-paying jobs, education funding, and the ability to keep our families safe. Senator Sinema must listen to constituents and support a Build Back Better agenda.”

Immigration reform advocates were outraged after an effort to add immigration provisions to the infrastructure bill, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, was rejected. They believe Sinema’s stance on the infrastructure package makes any immigration provisions unachievable.

Sinema spokesman John LaBombard told The Arizona Republic last month that she “supports both securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system, including passing a permanent fix for Dreamers.”

The DREAM Act — Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — is congressional legislation that would allow young immigrants in the country illegally who were brought here as children to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria. The legislation has never been approved by Congress. It is similar to but not the same as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Many refer to immigrants who would benefit from either the DREAM Act or DACA as “Dreamers.”

Sinema, like McCain, reaches for bipartisanship

In this June 24, 2021, file photo, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., smiles as she returns to the Capitol after a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington. More than her shock of purple hair or unpredictable votes Sinema is perhaps best known for doing the unthinkable in Washington: spending time on the Republican side of the aisle. Her years in Congress have been a whirlwind of political style and perplexing substance, an anti-war liberal-turned-deal-making centrist who now finds herself at the highest levels of power.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this June 24, 2021, file photo, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., smiles as she returns to the Capitol after a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington. More than her shock of purple hair or unpredictable votes Sinema is perhaps best known for doing the unthinkable in Washington: spending time on the Republican side of the aisle. Her years in Congress have been a whirlwind of political style and perplexing substance, an anti-war liberal-turned-deal-making centrist who now finds herself at the highest levels of power.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

More than for her shock of purple hair or unpredictable votes, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is perhaps best known for doing the unthinkable in Washington: She spends time on the Republican side of the aisle.  

Not only does she pass her days chatting up the Republican senators, she has been known to duck into their private GOP cloakroom — absolutely unheard of — and banter with the GOP leadership. She and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell talk often by phone. 

Sinema’s years in Congress have been a whirlwind of political style and perplexing substance, an antiwar liberal-turned-deal-making centrist who now finds herself at the highest levels of power. A key negotiator of the bipartisan infrastructure compromise, she was among those President Biden first called to make the deal — and then called upon again as he worked furiously to salvage the agreement from collapse. A holdout to changing the Senate’s filibuster rules, she faces enormous pressure to act while voting rights in her own state and others hang in the balance.  

David Lujan
David Lujan

“If anybody can pull this off it’s Kyrsten,” said David Lujan, a former Democratic colleague of Sinema’s in the Arizona Legislature. “She’s incredibly smart, so she can figure out where people’s commonalities are and get things done.” 

The senator’s theory of the case of how to govern in Washington will be tested in the weeks ahead as Congress works to turn the infrastructure compromise into law and mounts a response to the Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona’s strict new voting rules.  

She is modeling her approach on the renegade style of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018 and was known for his willingness to reach across the aisle. But aspiring to bold bipartisanship is challenging in the post-Trump era of hardened political bunkers and fierce cultural tribalism. Many in her own party scoff at her overtures to the GOP and criticize her for not playing hardball.  

Her name is now uttered alongside West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin as the two Democrats standing in the way of changing the filibuster rules requiring 60 votes to advance legislation — a priority for liberals working to pass Biden’s agenda in the split 50-50 Senate. This year she cast a procedural vote against raising the minimum wage and has opposed the climate change-focused Green New Deal, even though she’s not fully opposed to either policy. She declined a request for an interview. 

“It’s the easiest thing in the world for politicians to declare bipartisanship dead and line up on respective sides of a partisan battle,” she said in a statement to The Associated Press. “What’s harder is getting out of our comfort zones, finding common ground with unlikely allies, and forming coalitions that can achieve durable, lasting results.” 

Sinema arrived in Washington with a burst of energy and a swoosh of fashion. She quickly became known as one of the best vote counters in the House, on par with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because of her visits to the other side of the aisle. She voted against Pelosi for speaker more than once. 

Her maiden speech in the Senate drew from McCain’s farewell address, a marker of where she was headed. She changed the decades-old Senate dress code by simply wearing whatever she wants — and daring anyone to stop her. The purple wig was a nod to the coronavirus pandemic’s lockdown. (In off hours, she has been spotted wearing a ring with an expletive similar to “buzz off.”) 

“People may debate her sincerity, but the truth is, she makes an active decision that she’s going to work well with other people — and I haven’t seen her slip up,” said Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who served with her in the House. 

Sinema’s status as a bipartisan leader fascinates those who’ve watched her decades-long rise in Arizona politics, where she began as a lonely left-wing activist who worked for Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party presidential campaign and then slowly retooled herself into a moderate advocate of working across the aisle. 

Steve Yarbrough
Steve Yarbrough

“Ideologically, it does surprise me,” Steve Yarbrough, a Republican who served 12 years with Sinema in the Arizona Legislature, said of her transformation. “But given how smart and driven she is, well, that doesn’t surprise me at all.” 

That Sinema even made it that far seemed improbable. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she moved with her mother and stepfather from Tucson to the Florida panhandle, where she lived in an abandoned gas station for three years.  

Driven to succeed, she graduated from the local high school as valedictorian at age 16 and earned her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Utah at age 18, leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in which she’d been raised, after graduation. 

Sinema landed in Phoenix, where she earned several more degrees — including a law degree and a doctorate — worked as a social worker and then a lawyer, vociferously protested the Iraq War and fought for immigrant and LGBTQ rights at a time when Arizona was veering right. In 2004 she was elected to the state Legislature representing a fairly liberal area and initially was a backbencher who lobbed rhetorical bombs from the left. 

But Sinema has written and spoken extensively of how she discovered the merits of moderation while serving in the GOP-controlled state Legislature. She wrote a book titled “Unite and Conquer” about the need for leftists to compromise and cut deals. 

In 2006, she co-chaired a bipartisan group to fight a gay marriage ban on the ballot and had to decide whether to simply condemn the ban or try to defeat it, said Steve May, the Republican former state lawmaker who collaborated with her. 

An avid consumer of polling, she helped hit upon a strategy of targeting older, retired heterosexual couples who could also lose benefits under the ballot measure due to their unmarried status. They narrowly succeeded in defeating it. (Another ban passed two years later.)  

“She came from doing speeches and leading protests, and she learned she can actually win,” May said. 

When a congressional seat opened up in a bluing stretch of Phoenix’s eastern suburbs, Sinema ran and won. 

She had remade herself into the ideal candidate for a state that was slowly becoming competitive. And in 2018, she seized the moment, winning the open Senate seat. 

Her infrastructure work is only one of several bipartisan “gangs” in the Senate where she is testing her theory of governance. She is about to roll out a minimum wage proposal with Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and is involved with others on immigration law changes. 

“Kyrsten is always honest and straightforward, two often underrated qualities that are the mark of a successful legislator,” said Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican whip, who is among those Sinema often seeks out for conversation.  

In a statement to the AP, Thune said that “while we certainly don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue,” he trusts that she is transparent with him, and he respects her “sincere pursuit of bipartisanship.” 

Charming and funny in private conversations, Sinema prides herself on competing in marathons and triathlons, while maintaining a notoriously colorful wardrobe — even in her Green Party days, she referred to herself as a “Prada socialist.” 

Dashing from the Senate recently, she brushed off reporters’ questions about the infrastructure talks. On that day she wore a faux tuxedo bib dress paired with a suit jacket. Why? 

She does what she wants, she suggested, by way of a shrug, before she climbed into a waiting car. 


Nicholas Riccardi reported from Denver. 


Stephen Richer prefers boring, takes on Trump

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer speaks at a press conference May 17 to defend his staff against “defamatory lies” spread as the Arizona Senate conducts its audit of the 2020 election. PHOTO SCREENSHOT
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer speaks at a press conference May 17 to defend his staff against “defamatory lies” spread as the Arizona Senate conducts its audit of the 2020 election. PHOTO SCREENSHOT

There’s a lot of unintentional irony surrounding Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer.  

He first became known in political circles for auditing the office he now controls when it was occupied by his predecessor and political opponent Adrian Fontes in 2019. Now he’s becoming a national figure as he speaks out about the Senate audit of the 2020 election, which Maricopa County Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers calls “a grift disguised as an audit.” 

Richer, who was a corporate transactional lawyer before seeking his first political office in 2020, made sure to point out that what he did and what the Arizona Senate is doing could not be more different.  

“I think you would find that the ‘F’ word is not mentioned once in the (audit) report,” he said referring to accusations of “fraud” from the election where he won by 4,599 votes. “Mine was entirely based on news reports, statutes and interviews. I did not jump to a single conclusion, and where conclusions could not be drawn, I acknowledge as such.” 

After nearly five months in public office, Richer, a conservative Republican who identifies as a “hardcore libertarian,” is still relatively unknown outside of a handful of tweets and recent media appearances. 

He’s a nerd at heart who has found a great obsession with his face buried in a book, usually in the fantasy fiction genre. He said he reads a lot and it became a big part of his life growing up. 

That’s when all he wanted to do was “play StarCraft or sports,” until Harry Potter came into his life. Back then his mom essentially forced him to read the first book of the series. 

“She said, ‘I’m gonna read these first two chapters to you and you have to sit and listen to this’ and she did and then I just took it upstairs that night and I just kept reading and that was the first time in my life that I enjoyed reading and I started reading just for fun,” he said.   

As his Twitter presence and occasional quotes in stories have shown, he also has a keen appreciation of Star Wars and is ready to go toe-to-toe with anybody on pop culture references. Whether it’s related to fantasy, or a rom-com or even a Channing Tatum dance movie from the mid-2000s.  

“I hosted a birthday party by renting out the theater for a new Step Up movie one time,” he told Arizona Capitol Times during a phone interview after a 12-hour day at his office in downtown Phoenix.  

Richer’s political life has gone the way he didn’t really anticipate. During his campaign for office against the incumbent Fontes, he was hoping for more media attention, but didn’t really get it. Now, he wants nothing more than to “make the Recorder’s Office boring again” and stay out of the spotlight, but the world had other plans.  

He ran for office because he said he likes “being a part of society.”  

“I always found this world to be fascinating,” he said. “I was certainly a consumer of politics. The only thing I’m not really is, ironically by nature, a very confrontational person. 

He said he chose to run for the Recorder’s Office because he heard unflattering stories about the way Fontes ran it and he wanted to change that. 

“That was exciting to me and it was a nice blend between the world of politics and the world of management, which are the two things I really enjoy.” 

He won the race and spent several months learning how to operate the office, spending between nine and 12 hours a day there. Then, it took weeks and months of intense scrutiny of the office followed by an onslaught of defamatory statements and accusations that he broke the law for him to start fighting back and defending his office and other county officials.  

What put him in the national spotlight was saying on Twitter on May 16 that President Trump’s allegation that the Maricopa County voter database had been deleted was “unhinged.”   

But the next day at a press conference he said he would rather make his office boring again and normally tries his best to hide from an Arizona Republic reporter. He prefers exchanging memes with the Capitol Times than giving quotes.  

He then launched into a full-throated defense of the people in his office and called for an end to the “defamatory lies.”  

“This isn’t a game. These are real humans. These are people who work in the county. … they work hard, they’re good people, they’re normal people who go home and they root for the Suns or they watch Netflix,” he said. “They are not monsters and stop treating them as such.”  

In 2019, after authoring the audit into the Recorder’s Office on behalf of the Arizona Republican Party under former Chairman Jonathan Lines, Richer joked to a crowd of party members that he was the only speaker to have his name on-screen behind him because he was relatively unknown compared to the other speakers, most of whom were elected officials. He still acts like that’s his current reality. 

“Who would want to read that?” he asked Capitol Times before agreeing to an interview for this story.  

It’s sometimes hard to tell when he’s being overly sarcastic and when he’s not. But when he wants to come off as serious, he will do so without leaving it open for interpretation. 

The serious attitude came across without question in a letter he presented to the county Board of Supervisors on May 17, responding to accusations Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, and her team of hired contractors lobbed against him. 

He reiterated those points and defended his frustrations, saying he gets “exasperated” when people are trying to argue that the election is fraudulent, but will still run for higher office anyway and act like there’s nothing bizarre about that.  

“It is so illogical, it makes my skin crawl,” he said.  

Richer would much rather talk about Harry Potter, or the Phoenix Suns, a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan flick or “Emma Stone, our local Arizona girl, with Ryan Gosling.” 

“That’s a pretty darn good combo right there,” he said.   

During a recent phone conversation, Richer made several references to the 1999 movie You’ve Got Mail starring Hanks and Ryan and would have continued on even longer if the topic of the conversation did not change.  

He may avoid interviews when he is able to, but when he starts talking, he always has something to say.  

Ultimately, he said, he isn’t a normal person. 

He struggled to describe what he meant because he honestly had no idea what “normal people will do.”  

His wife is also a lawyer and works all the time like he does. They don’t have children, which is what launched into the topic about being “normal.” 

“I don’t eat dinner,” he said as his only example of what he thinks normal people do.  

And to be fair, he’s not wrong. 


Tempers flare in House as committees hear controversial bills

Republicans GOP Democrats politics parties

Long-simmering tensions boiled over in the House Wednesday, as Democratic lawmakers and opponents of GOP-sponsored bills to tighten voting rules and let businesses avoid Proposition 208’s surcharge accused Republican committee chairman of trying to silence them.

Critics slammed this as part of a larger, years-long pattern of the Republican majority disrespecting and trying to silence members of the public, particularly women and people of color, who come to the Legislature to oppose their proposals.

 At a news conference on Thursday Francisca Gil, with Our Voice Our Vote Arizona, talked about waiting almost seven hours to testify against a voting bill in 2020 and not being allowed to speak. Gil called their tactics “evil” and said things have gotten worse this year, suggesting this is connected to Republican losses in the last election, which saw President Biden narrowly carry the state and the election of a second Democratic U.S. senator.

“If they are not listening to Arizonans, who are they listening to?” she asked. “If they are not listening to the well being of Arizona they should not be holding seats in the Arizona Legislature.”

The head of the House Government and Elections Committee, who came in for criticism after Wednesday’s meeting when he tried to cut off a Democratic lawmaker’s explanation of her vote and at one point tried to have her recorded as not voting, responded that he allows robust debate in his committee and that people need to separate policy making from “the grandstanding which often happens in the media and on Twitter.”

John Kavanagh
John Kavanagh

“We debate issues vigorously, we challenge each other and that’s how we get to the truth,” Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said Thursday. “And after all the politics and the Twitter is done, we go back the next day and go back to doing the same type of debate as if nothing happened.”

Even before Wednesday, Government and Elections had already been one of the House’s most rancorous committees, as Republicans this year are pushing numerous laws that they say will safeguard against voter fraud, but Democrats say will make it harder to vote. The public testimony on SB1713, which as amended would require early voters to include their date of birth and either an Arizona driver’s license or voter registration number on the affidavit accompanying their ballot, started as Republicans quizzed at length Jeff Clark, the head of the Arizona State Association of Letter Carriers, with some asking why letter carriers would oppose a voter identification law and who his union endorsed in the last presidential election.

A little later, Kavanagh said only a few more people would be allowed to testify before the committee voted, prompting Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, to protest that her caucus had legitimate questions about the bills and that the only people being “dilatory” were the Republicans who questioned Clark and that Democrats “sat silently and patiently as you interrogated a hardworking letter carrier who made sure we had a … safe election during a pandemic.” As the committee voted, the Democrats read testimony from some of the opponents of the bill who hadn’t been given time to speak.

When it was Salman’s turn, she criticized Kavanagh for limiting public testimony and accused him of violating the equality of members. Kavanagh tried to gavel her down repeatedly, saying she should confine her remarks to the pros and cons of the bill.

“I said explain your vote, Kavanagh said. “You are not explaining your vote. You are talking about procedural issues not germane to a vote explanation.”

After a bit more back-and-forth, Kavanagh said he would record Salman as not voting, and Salman and Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, accused Kavanagh of committing a felony by trying to vote for another member.

Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe)
Rep. Athena Salman

“This bill in my opinion … would have the effect that Jim Crow restrictions had that this nation has seen previously, and Mr. Chair, I was well within my rights to point out all the people who were not allowed to testify in opposition to this bill,” Salman said. 

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means was discussing SB1783, a bill to let some taxpayers choose between paying the individual income tax, which would potentially subject them to Proposition 208’s 3.5% surcharge if they make enough, or a new flat 4.5% small business income tax. This would, it is estimated, decrease the amount collected by the new voter-approved education funding surcharge by $263 million to $378 million yearly, according to an analysis prepared by Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff.

However, committee Chairwoman Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, repeatedly tried to prevent the Democrats from bringing up Prop 208 as they asked questions about the bill, saying it was irrelevant since the bill didn’t mention Prop 208. She also cut off public testimony, leading Rep. Andrés Cano, D-Tucson, to accuse her of deviating from her previous promise to let three supporters and three opponents of the bill testify.

“Instead, we say, ‘don’t talk about Prop 208’ when the fiscal impact note specifically addresses this because the impact of the bill is going to mean $300 million at a minimum in a direct cut to our services,” Cano said. “What are you scared of by limiting the public? Why can’t you listen?” 

Bolick accused Cano of acting like a preschooler, while the Republicans accused the Democrats on the committee of being rude to Bolick.

“Nothing we’ve been doing here has been respectful,” said Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, as she voted for the bill. “I’m saddened by your demeanor.”

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, lodged a protest on the House floor Wednesday, saying what he witnessed Wednesday was one of the worst displays he had seen in his seven years in the Legislature.

“And I imagine every single person down here will have a different lens on what they see, which I respect, but what I can’t respect is what happened today,” Bolding said. “If you cannot handle the content and the speech that members are using when they’re discussing bills, don’t run the bills. We have bills that are attacking reproductive justice, bills that are attacking voting rights, bills that are attacking education. These are big topics we deserve to debate.”

Bolding said disagreement is healthy and to be expected but that the Republicans shouldn’t use their power to limit Democrats and the public’s ability to weigh in.

“What one member calls voter suppression, another may call security, and we have the ability to voice that, but to (silence) a member, that’s something we should never be doing,” Bolding said. “To tell the public ‘you can’t speak’ because they don’t like what you have to say, that’s something you should never be doing. We were all sent here to represent our constituents, our values, to use our voice. As members of the minority, our voice is our vote, and we have to have the ability to use it.”

Representatives of progressive groups that often testify in front of the Legislature gathered outside the House Thursday to say Wednesday’s actions were part of a years-long pattern of GOP chairmen limiting both public testimony and the speech of Democratic committee members and trying to silence members of the public they disagree with, particularly women and people of color. 

“Yesterday’s events were … not the first time the public and members of the Legislature have watched as … (Kavanagh) belittled, disrespected and conducted committee meetings in authoritarian behavior styles,” said Alicia Contreras, the executive director of Corazón Arizona. “He never is shy about shouting and speaking over folks due to their race, gender or political stance, especially women, which we watched yesterday in horror.”

Kavanagh defended his conduct of the meeting, saying part of his job as chairman is to move through bills in a reasonable amount of time and that Salman should have stuck to the bill itself in her explanation.

“You know what I have a pattern of?” he said. “I let people have vigorous debate, and if someone says a ‘to the point,’ we stop the conversation and address the point. We don’t wait 10 minutes and let people forget what the point was. Everyone is ‘to the point’ debating and arguing, because it’s through vigorous debate that you arrive at the truth, and they (the Democrats) are just as quick to go ‘to the point’ as I am or another Republican is.”