RIP, Joe Sweeney

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We got an e-mail this morning from former state lawmaker Carmine Cardamone informing us that perennial candidate Joe Sweeney died of cancer on Saturday, April 2, at Peppi's House, a TMC hospice.

Sweeney, who was opposed to illegal immigration before being opposed to illegal immigration was cool, ran for Congress more than a dozen times in Southern Arizona. We're relatively sure that his passing will mean the end of the Alexander Hamilton Evening Law School, where Sweeney was both founder and dean.

Here's an excerpt from the most comprehensive piece I ever wrote about Sweeney, back in 2004:

Sweeney's interest in politics was triggered, he says, back in 1974, "when I was having a hard time trying to keep a roof over my head and a car."

As he tells the story, he got a gig milking cows out at a local dairy, but a few days after he started, he was laid off because the company was going to employ illegal entrants who would work for a buck an hour.

So Sweeney ran his first campaign as a Democrat for the Arizona House of Representatives, but he says the deck was stacked against him because he didn't have a Spanish surname in his heavily Hispanic district.

Sweeney's next stop was the UA law school, where he failed to gain admission. But Sweeney wasn't willing to give up on his dream—"I said, I'll be damned if I'll put up with that nonsense"—so in 1978, he started his own institution, the Alexander Hamilton Evening Law School, and, subsequently, a theology school.

"We do theology on Mondays and Thursdays and law on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," he says, adding that tuition is free for the first month and requires monthly $50 donations for continuing education. "Oh Christ, we've probably had 50, 75, 100 people in the program over the years."

When the schools couldn't get accredited, Sweeney once again demonstrated his initiative by creating his own accrediting agency, the Great Plains School and College. "We're entitled to go out and put these adult college programs together," he says.

Between running his educational institutions and running for Congress, Sweeney says he's got his hands full, especially since his car recently broke down, stalling his campaign. "I've been kind of held up since a week ago last Monday," Sweeney says.

But he remains confident he can beat Grijalva in November, if all the illegal aliens in District 7 are taken off the voter rolls before the election.

It comes as no surprise to learn that Sweeney doesn't think much of the Bush proposal to reform the nation's immigration system.

"I'm trying to run as a Republican and keep some sense of party responsibility," Sweeney says, "but this guy, we wonder whether he's all there sometimes."

Read the whole thing here.

Watch Sweeney discuss gay marriage in this YouTube video.

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