Confronted by activists on Thursday, Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh (R) refused to say whether his sponsorship of a bill that would scramble the state's recall election is meant to defend the embattled Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He defended the bill nonetheless, saying he's just "respecting the will of the voters."
In video shared on Stephen Lemons' Phoenix New Times blog "Feathered Bastard," activists presented Kavanagh with a cake, supposedly in honor of his disregard for the will of Arizonans, and asked him directly whether he is trying to use the legislature to save Arpaio's career.
HB 2282, by Rep. Steve Smith (R), is a throwback to a failed effort to save former Senate President Russell Pearce (R), architect of the state's unconstitutional immigration law, from a successful recall election that saw him removed from office. Kavanagh recently amended HB 2282 to make it retroactive to January, before the recall petition against Arpaio officially got underway.
By making all upcoming recall elections into partisan primaries, the bill would dilute the resulting candidate pool and give Sheriff Joe a big edge against Respect Arizona, the bipartisan group that's seemingly on track to secure enough signatures to trigger a recall vote against him later this year. However, as Lemons has repeatedly noted, legal experts say this goes against the state's constitutional dictate for a special election, not a partisan one, in the event of a successful recall petition.
The proposal was a nonstarter when Republicans tried to save Pearce, but this time around it has already cleared the House and appears headed for an easy vote in the Senate. And somehow, none of its strongest supporters want to say that it's Arpaio's career they're really trying to save.
"The Arizona Constitution calls for a recall, but the voters of Arizona, by a 2-to-1 margin last November, said that they reject the idea that partisan elections should become nonpartisan," Kavanagh told activists on Thursday, referring to last November's defeat of Prop. 121, which sought to break the two-party stronghold on state elections, but didn't actually say anything about recall elections. "They want partisan elections to be partisan, and this bill says if the person being recalled was elected by a partisan election, then the recall of must be partisan also."
"This is respecting the will of the voters," he insisted. "And with respect to the retroactivity, as far as I'm concerned as of November, on election day, the message was loud and clear. A partisan election should be a partisan recall. I'm just trying to respond to the will of the voters, and the fact that I agree with them makes it all the more easier for me."
This video was published to Vimeo on Thursday, March 14, 2013.