Friday, November 02, 2012

Arizona Republicans counting their chickens before their eggs are hatched

...actually, they're counting them even before they know who will be controlling part of the roost.

Normally, when Arizona's Republicans engage in one of their many intramural ideological knife fights, I smirk a little and then move on to another topic.  Simply put, they have too many of these to bother writing about more than the lamest or most extreme.

The most recent example meets both criteria:  it's both ideologically extreme and just plain lame.

Recently, the executive committees of the Republican parties in both Pinal and Maricopa counties approved resolutions urging the Republican members of the incoming legislature to depose their current leadership in the lege, House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Steve Pierce.

Their alleged "crime"?

Not being supportive enough of the bat-shit crazy clique of the GOP caucus. 

The wingers are demanding the ouster of Tobin and Pierce in favor of Steve Smith and Andy Biggs, respectively.

Tobin and Pierce are very conservative and are not above partisan gamesmanship, using their positions to undermine or block proposals from Democratic members. 

However, neither is stupid nor is either one nuts.  While a significant number of tea party/ALEC-driven measures did pass through the lege during the most recent session, Tobin and Pierce blocked a few of the worst measures.

However, the biggest complaint is about money.  Pierce and Tobin have a committee that has been spending money in support of Republican legislative candidates, and the wingers are whining that they haven't seen enough of that largesse.  One of the biggest complainers is Sen. Frank Antenori (R-Bully), who has found that the voters of his newly-drawn district are less tolerant of his bluster than his old district - reports of recent polling in the district have him down more than five percentage points to Democrat David Bradley.

Antenori has become frantic, leaving messages with Steve Pierce, demanding that the committee spend money on his race.  The answer from Pierce (actually, from the attorney representing the PAC) was an unequivocal "No".

There were two reasons for this answer.

One, the PAC is an independent expenditure fund and is barred by law from coordinating activity with candidate campaigns (OK, you can stop laughing now); in the event that any expenditures took place, the phone calls would become evidence of coordination.  That's the official reason.

The unofficial reason is two, Frank Antenori is an unmitigated ass and more to the point of this post, an adversary of Pierce.  If Antenori is reelected, he is going to support someone else for the Senate presidency, no matter how much outside money is thrown into his race.

It should come as no surprise that the wingers involved in this attempted putsch are all allies and/or acolytes of former (and now twice-defeated) Senate president and nativist icon Russell Pearce.  He may be gone, but his presence is still felt at the Capitol.

I don't know how this is going to work out (if I had to speculate, I'd guess that Pierce and Tobin are secure in their positions, though both will be wielding simple, not super, majorities in the next session of the legislature), but expect this rift to percolate through at least the state Republican reorganization in January - Pearce and his cronies will attempt to solidify their control of the state GOP while Pearce plots his return to office.

Oh, and the "lame" part of all this:  all of this posturing is taking place scant days before the election, one in which there is a real chance that the Democrats will make at least part of this irrelevant - there is a possiblity that the AZ Senate will end up tied 15 -15 or even with a Democratic majority.  Expectations are that that won't happen, but 13 D seats seems likely and 14 is well within the realm of possibility.  15 or 16 seats is possible, but it would take too many things going unexpectedly well for either to be practically feasible (though it would be nice, like "early Christmas present" nice :) ).

Stay tuned...

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