There are times when I tend to wax a bit critical of Arizona, a place I spent several long, long years of my life and often refer to as the "Scorpion State." But in all fairness to that scorched hellhole, the state does have a few redeeming qualities. Tucson, for example, is a generally progressive community with a tolerable climate - and it is home to America's fairest songbird, Linda Ronstadt. Sedona is lovely, though over-priced, and the old mining town of Jerome is one of the state's best kept secret destinations. The Verde Valley also is quite lovely, and the Grand Canyon is . . . well, just grand! But when you get into central Arizona, down around the capital of Phoenix, all of that loveliness dries up and blows away.
Arizona is famous for more than just its scorpions - one of which attacked and bit me multiple times while I was in bed one night. The state also has a penchant for private prisons and allows lobbyists for the private prison industry to assist legislators in writing many of the state's laws - laws often designed to keep their for-profit cells full of minor drug offenders who can't afford good legal representation, and powerless immigrants awaiting deportation action. Prison lobbyists reportedly had a hand in drafting the state's infamous SB 1070 - the bill that allowed police to demand to see the papers of anyone they suspected might be in the country illegally - anyone who had the nerve to be driving while brown.
The state is also known for monster dust storms, flash floods - on those exceedingly rare occasions when it rains, and an over-abundance of old people. Not surprisingly, some of those old coots desire to gain affirmation in their golden years by running for political office - and when they are successful in their grab for political power, it is often difficult to bring them back into the social shackles of retirement.
Senator John McCain, who will be seventy-nine in August and Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who will be eighty-three in June, have both made it clear in recent weeks that they plan to seek re-election to their respective offices in 2016. McCain will be seeking his sixth full-term in the Senate, and Arpaio is going after his seventh term as Sheriff. Both are well past their "use by" dates.
McCain and Arpaio are both Republicans. McCain's particular worry is a primary challenge from the right, most likely from Arizona Republican Congressman Matt Salmon. Many Republicans in the state would like to see Mr. Sunday Morning Talk Show retired to his ranch in Sedona. In fact, the state Republican Party officially censured McCain over his "liberal" voting record back in January of 2014. Those old tea-baggers may not be sweet on Johnny Mac, but if he can make it through a contested primary, they are unlikely to vote for a Democrat to unseat him.
While McCain's popularity at the polls has remained rather steady over time, it is a different story for Arpaio. The sheriff won his first election in 1992 with 57% of the vote. In 1996 he ran uncontested, and in 2000 he won with 66% of the vote - his high water mark. Arpaio's vote total in 2004 was 56%, it was 55% in 2008 and in 2012 in was just 50%. As the geriatric sheriff has aged, his tenure has become embroiled in more and more controversies, and his actions as sheriff have resulted in a flood of successful lawsuits against Maricopa County. Clearly Arpaio's luster and his vote totals are both fading, and a strong Democratic opponent could retire "America's Toughest Sheriff," whether he wants to be retired or not.
Sadly John McCain and Joe Arpaio are both representative of Arizona, a fact which keeps expressing itself at the polls. If McCain runs and is re-elected, he will be eighty-six when his next term is over, and a re-elected Joe Arpaio would be eighty-eight. Clearly both men are flirting with the notion of leaving office wearing toe tags.
Hey, John! Hey, Joe! Help create some jobs and retire already! Give us kids a chance to serve. It would be good for you, and God knows it would be good for Arizona and the nation.