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FOUND NOT GUILTY, PATTERSON TARGETS REP. TED VOGT

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, Tucson City Court Judge Wendy Million found former state Rep. Daniel Patterson not guilty of misdemeanor domestic-violence charges.

Patterson told The Skinny on Friday, Aug. 31, that he feels vindicated and is examining whether legal action against the state House Ethics Committee and its chairman, Rep. Ted Vogt, is possible. Patterson claims Vogt denied him due process—a hearing that entitles him to question his accusers—during the process that ultimately led to Patterson's resignation from the House.

In February, Georgette Escobar, Patterson's ex-girlfriend and former campaign manager, filed for a restraining order against the politician, after an earlier incident in which Escobar claimed that Patterson grabbed her roughly and shoved her to the ground. Escobar was unable to get Patterson to accept service, in part because he claimed legislative immunity.

Tucson city prosecutor Baird Greene said this kind of verdict isn't unusual in domestic-violence cases when the victim is unwilling to testify. Patterson said the prosecutor's office should have known Escobar wouldn't testify, because it received a sworn affidavit from Escobar in which she recanted her claims about what took place between her and Patterson outside of his Tucson home in February. Escobar also reportedly recanted with a post on her Facebook page.

The charges that propelled Patterson's private life into public view resulted in a House investigation and a recommendation that the politician be expelled for ethical lapses. He ended up resigning because, according to Patterson, he could no longer function in a "hostile work environment."

Earlier in August, Million also found Patterson not guilty of harassment charges based on a protection order filed by his ex-wife, Jeneiene Schaffer, in reaction to the Escobar case. Schaffer claimed Patterson violated that order by calling and leaving voice-mail messages in an attempt to talk to his daughter. Patterson's attorney, Joe St. Louis, argued that legislative immunity protected Patterson from the order. The voice-mail messages were played in court, and St. Louis claimed they were not harassing or threatening.

Although a Tucson Parks and Recreation employee testified that he saw Patterson grab and shove Escobar, Patterson said the testimony was not credible, because statements to a Tucson Police Department officer and a detective differed.

"If the judge would have believed that witness, I would not have been found not guilty," Patterson said. "Obviously, the witness was not believed by the judge—end of story. The verdict is what it is."

Patterson, who was elected as a Democrat but changed his registration to independent before resigning from the House, said he is looking into legal action against Vogt.

"Ted Vogt refused to allow me a hearing, even though the written rules of the House Ethics Committee ... say if you are accused, you are entitled to a real hearing where you can question your accusers," Patterson said. "... (Vogt) has some real questions to answer. Why can't he even follow the rules of his own committee?"


MERCER'S STUMBLING START

Congressman Raúl Grijalva proved to be surprisingly vulnerable two years ago, but he isn't likely to be in any danger in heavily Democratic District 3 in 2012.

With the exception of the most-delusional critics of Grijalva, local Republicans aren't giving GOP candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer much of a chance. And National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Guy Harrison said last week that the race "is not on our targeting map."

Nonetheless, Grijalva is more than ready to trip up Mercer. Last week, his campaign dropped a highlights reel onto YouTube that featured Mercer, a legal immigrant from Mexico, holding forth with a conservative interviewer on the subject of illegal immigration. Mercer got onto the topic of so-called OTMs, or "Other Than Mexicans" who sneak across the U.S. border.

"That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners," she said. "If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican, or they look, you know, like a lot of people in South America: dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix. They mix in. And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally?"

As Mercer's words hit the national radar at the Talking Points Memo website, Grijalva pounced on her in a statement to the press, calling her comments "reckless hate speech" and asking Mercer's supporters to disavow her.

"This is not a he-said, she-said question of interpretation," Grijalva said. "Her comments are reprehensible and deserve condemnation from every quarter. Anyone who continues to support her campaign should be asked whether they want someone with her views in Congress."

As a result, Mercer spent a chunk of Election Day telling reporters that the tape was sliced and diced to take her words out of context.

"I am not a racist like they are trying to portray me," Mercer said. "I have nothing against anybody."

But the staff of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee isn't buying that explanation. In a statement condemning Mercer, the organization noted that the staff "has tried to decipher and understand the logic behind such comments; however, a conclusion was made that Mercer does not use any logic when she moves her lips to speak. ... The illogical comments and statements are rooted in xenophobia and have no place in politics or our national discourse."


SUGAR RAY WINS BIG

Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll will have four more years representing District 4 after he handily defeated Republican challenger Sean Collins in last week's GOP primary.

Carroll faces no Democratic opponent in the heavily Republican district.

"I'm thankful to all the people who volunteered to help me, not only with their hard-earned money, but also with their blood, sweat and tears," Carroll said.

Carroll captured 57 percent of the vote in his trouncing of Collins, a Rosemont mine supporter who built his campaign on the theme that Carroll hadn't lived up to conservative principles.

Turnout in the District 4 GOP race was nearly 59 percent, which was considerably higher than the statewide average.

The race degenerated into general attacks on Carroll's character, with conservative blog ArizonaDailyIndependent.com and a handful of morning radio hosts trotting out a slew of unsubstantiated and increasingly bizarre allegations, ranging from vague accusations of extortion to the suggestion that Congressman Raúl Grijalva was driving into the parking lot of a local radio station in an attempt to intimidate some of Carroll's more-fanciful critics.

"I wasn't willing to be smeared out of office, especially by a bunch of carpetbagger thugs," Carroll told the Tucson Weekly on Election Night. "I worked to the best of my ability. I trusted the people, and they trusted me."


SO LONG, RUSSELL PEARCE

Last week's primary election saw the purging of some of the loonier toons in the Arizona Legislature's GOP caucus.

Key among them was SB 1070 author and all-around embarrassment Russell Pearce, who became the first state Senate president in U.S. history to get booted out of office in a recall election last year.

Pearce's allies argued that he'd only lost because of the unique nature of the recall election, which pitted him against another Republican in a general-election scenario. They said he'd never lose a GOP primary.

Well, he did—and he lost it soundly. SkyMall founder Bob Worsley landed 56 percent of the vote and sent Russell packing.

Pearce wasn't the only conservative to fall. State Sen. Lori Klein, who became famous for pointing a loaded pistol at a reporter's chest during an interview (among other boneheaded moves), got knocked out while trying for a House seat. And Rich Crandall knocked out John Fillmore, another Tea Party traveler.

Does this portend a chance in tone at the Arizona Legislature? Wait and see.


WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

The so-called "jungle primary" initiative has been knocked off the ballot by Maricopa County Superior Court for being unconstitutional; put back on the ballot by the Arizona Supreme Court because the justices determined it was constitutional; kicked off the ballot by election officials for insufficient signatures; and now put back on the ballot by Maricopa County Superior Court because it turned out the signatures were OK.

At this point, we hesitate to make any predictions about what's going to happen next—but if we had to guess, we'd say it's probably going to remain on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

The initiative is trying to upend the current primary system, in which Republicans nominate Republican candidates, Democrats nominate Democratic candidates, Greens nominate Green candidates, and so on. Instead, all of the candidates would run in one big primary, and the two top vote-getters would go on to the general election.

Supporters of the initiative say that the party primaries have created a situation where extremists win and then go on to win general elections, because so many legislative districts favor one party or another.

But critics of the initiative—which include the leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties—warn that the proposed new system opens the door to a lot of mischief and unintended consequences. For example: In a heavily Democratic district, you could have five Democrats run, and just two Republicans. Should the Democrats split the left-leaning vote five ways, the two Republicans could be the top two vote-getters—and then voters in a Democratic district will have to choose between two Republicans.

But voter disgust with the two major parties is high enough these days that if voters have a chance to approve the proposition, we wouldn't be surprised to see it pass.

Additional reporting by Samantha Cummings and Alexa Vogtritter.

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