Steller: Congressional candidate acknowledges 'checkered past'

2014-03-28T00:00:00Z 2014-03-28T15:42:06Z Steller: Congressional candidate acknowledges 'checkered past'Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Updated to clarify that the mid-1990 arrests for assault and DUI were from different incidents.

Mike Olivas knew this was coming.

People — especially those connected to his GOP primary opponent in congressional district 3 — have been talking about his past indiscretions, Olivas said.

So when I asked Olivas for his date of birth Wednesday afternoon, telling him I wanted to check his court records, he was ready to get in front of the story. Wednesday night, he released a statement that begins, “In Mass they tell us that only God can judge us.”

It went on, “In the tradition of full disclosure I am here today to tell you about my checkered past.”

Then Olivas, who wants to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, ran down a pretty interesting record for a political candidate, one that largely gibes with the court records I was able to find. Olivas, whose given name is Miguel A., admitted:

  • An assault from 1993
  • A misdemeanor DUI from 1995
  • A 2004 felony conviction for “unlawful use of means of transportation” that was later reduced to a misdemeanor.
  • A 2012 conviction for DUI in Scottsdale.

There was also a 1994 assault and criminal damage arrest that led to court dismissal. Suffice it to say Olivas, who is 40, had several run-ins with the law when he was in his early 20s. The 2004 conviction he described as a case of taking a friend's car and going "joy riding."

“It was going to come out anyway, but she (opponent Gabriela Saucedo Mercer) has been getting ahold of elected officials who are supporting me and everybody who’s been supporting me, and she’s been lambasting me. That’s the only thing she can come at me with,” Olivas told me Thursday.

If he beats Saucedo Mercer, Olivas plans to run against Grijalva as a more mainstream, business-oriented Republican who potentially could attract independents and some Democrats in the heavily Democratic district.

Olivas blamed his more recent, 2004 and 2012 arrests, on personal crises that triggered his drinking, something he said he’s been overcoming since his arrest in Scottsdale. That arrest happened in April 2012, a month after Olivas announced he was running at that time for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 1, against eventual winner Ann Kirkpatrick.

After that arrest, Olivas said in his statement, “My family and friends intervened in my life because they realized a pattern. Although in my career I flourished, my personal life was a mess. I destroyed marriages, on the path to destroy my career, and if it were not for the DUI in 2012, would have destroyed my life.”

So this is a redemption story, if you choose to take it that way. Perhaps the harder effort at redemption will be that multi-year dalliance with the Democratic Party. CD3’s Republicans may forgive a few transgressions traceable to alcohol, but that spell as a Democrat could be a tougher sell.

GOP Boehner supporters?

The speaker of the U.S. House, John Boehner, will be in Marana tomorrow for a fundraiser for GOP congressional candidates Martha McSally in CD2 and Andy Tobin in CD1. So my colleagues Joe Ferguson and Becky Pallack took the opportunity to ask a few Republican candidates their position on Boehner.

“If you had been in Congress in 2012 would you have voted for him as speaker? Why or why not?” they asked GOP candidates for Congress. Not many responded, but here’s what they got:

McSally: “Yes. I’d support anyone working to stop Nancy Pelosi, the person Ron Barber voted for.”

Olivas: “If I’m fortunate to be elected to the third district of Arizona, I will sit with Speaker Boehner, and others to get to know them, their legislative agenda, and make my decision based on the best interest of my constituents.

“Critical to my vote is the individual must possess the humility and courage to stand alongside Americans and fight for civil liberties, economic progress, energy independence and to protect our National Security. To that end, Team Olivas is busy fundraising and mobilizing volunteer efforts to elect candidates with these values at all levels of government presently underrepresented by their elected officials.”

Chuck Wooten, candidate in CD1: “I’ll take the advice of Moshe Arens: ‘Never answer a hypothetical question.’ Fact is, I wasn’t in Congress in 2012, so any response from me is meaningless.”

Orr plays ‘legistraitor’ again

A familiar plot has been playing out in Phoenix this week, in which Tucson GOP Rep. Ethan Orr has been holding out with a group of other Republican legislators on a budget passed by the Republican-majority state Senate.

Last year, Orr joined several Republican legislators and all the Democrats in passing GOP Gov. Jan Brewer‘s budget and signature legislation, an expansion of Medicaid.

This year, Orr joined five other Republicans who have a diverse set of objections to the Senate budget but have agreed to support one another in holding out for concessions. Orr’s particular demands were for additional state reimbursements for the JTED technical schools and for specific funding for the University of Arizona, which got little money in the governor’s or the Senate’s budgets.

“The six of us are staying together and sharing each others’ objections. Right now, one person flipping could pass the budget,” Orr said Thursday before a deal appeared to be struck. “They’ve put exorbitant pressure on me in the last few days.”

Orr’s stand has renewed descriptions of him from local conservative Republicans as a “LegisTraitor,” because he’s bucking the party line.

But Democrat Randy Friese, who plans to challenge Orr this fall, said the group’s stands aren’t anything remarkable.

“I don’t think this group should be held out as heroes for doing something that we should be doing by default,” Friese told me Thursday. “We should be protecting our kids. We should be funding education. It should be done every year.”

Contact columnist Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-7789. On Twitter: @senyorreporter

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