Steller: Tucson senator's 'act more gay' comment boosts opponent, and more

2014-04-04T00:00:00Z 2014-06-25T21:46:35Z Steller: Tucson senator's 'act more gay' comment boosts opponent, and moreTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The foot that state Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford stuck in her mouth this week could also serve as a foot in the door for her primary opponent.

What primary opponent?

That was my question, too, until Cajero Bedford, in a closed-door meeting among the Democratic Party caucus at the Arizona Legislature, told Sen. Steve Gallardo he should “act more gay.”

In case you haven’t been following the sexual-orientation announcements from the Capitol, you should know that Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat, disclosed last month that he is gay. It was a very personal, emotional statement by Gallardo, who has announced that he’s running for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 7.

In an interview on KPNX Channel 12 in Phoenix, Gallardo explained that coming out was difficult because of his socially conservative, Catholic background.

“You don’t say the word ‘gay.’ You don’t bring up that type of discussion at Nana’s house on Sunday,” he explained, before concluding, “I’m gay, I’m Latino and I’m a senator, and it’s OK.”

This week, Cajero Bedford criticized Gallardo for staying in a Senate leadership position while running for the congressional nomination, when last year he helped oust Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor from a leadership post because she was running in a primary election for secretary of state. But the way she did it was ... unusual.

In an Arizona Capitol Times story, Cajero Bedford acknowledged telling Gallardo during the meeting, “You ought to act more gay.” What she said she meant was that he ought to be more honest — a bad enough thing to tell a guy who’s just had the courage to come out publicly. But she also said she was trying to be humorous, which makes the whole comment sound passive-aggressive.

“It took the air out of the room,” Sen. Steve Farley told me Thursday. “Nobody had any idea what that was coming out of.”

On Thursday, Cajero Bedford would only tell me: “This was a personal thing. I apologized to Gallardo. He said, ‘I still endorse you for Senate.’ The whole issue is over and done with.”

But that’s not what Sal Baldenegro Jr. thinks. He’s the young man who’s decided to challenge Cajero Bedford for the Democratic nomination in Legislative District 3, which encompasses much of Tucson’s west side.

He called the “act more gay” gaffe “the latest in a long line of embarrassing incidents.”

“A lot of people have told me over the years — and I’ve experienced — that this district needs better representation than it’s gotten from Ms. Cajero Bedford,” he told me Thursday. “She hasn’t provided much leadership at all.”

He pointed to a comment and a vote by Cajero Bedford in 2010 as another embarrassment. That year, then-Sen. Frank Antenori, a Republican,was defending a bill that would have allowed Arizona to opt out of federal mandates for the phase-out of old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Cajero Bedford voted with the Republicans, explaining “another good point is it really disturbs the ambience of putting on makeup.”

Cajero Bedford, who has served in the Legislature since 2003, is the daughter of Bernardo and Carmen Cajero, both of whom held a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives. Baldenegro is the son of well-known local civil-rights activists Salomón Baldenegro Sr. and Cecilia Cruz-Baldenegro.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who has been subject to criticism by some of Baldenegro Jr.’s allies, said he’ll support the incumbent.

“Olivia’s always been very supportive of me, and I have no reason not to support her,” he said. “She terms out after this election, so it’ll be a whole new race after this time.”

For her part, Cajero Bedford is a bit mystified by why Baldenegro would run against her.

“I have a good rapport with my constituents in all parts of the district,” she said.

Gov’T as “raw power”

State Senate President Andy Biggs occasionally rails against government and its “confiscatory” nature.

On Tuesday, he was at it again when he told the Senate: “What is government? It is raw power. It does not have empathy or mercy.”

That prompted a passionate response from Farley.

“We are compassionate, empathetic people,” he said. “I don’t think any of you ran on the platform of, ‘I want to go up there and wield raw power.’ I don’t want to.”

On Thursday, Farley told me he found Biggs’ comments ironic in that Biggs himself had just wielded his power to fend off amendments such as one that would have provided child care to 6,600 kids currently on a waiting list. In other words, he was choosing to make government an interest of cold, raw power.

“He is a guy who is used to railing against government from the outside, and now that he’s the ultimate insider, he hasn’t changed that frame,” Farley said. “He doesn’t realize that he is that government he rails against.”

Time for a truce

For more than a month, a constituent and a county supervisor have been after each other.

It started in February when Bob Dorson insistently went to Supervisor Ally Miller’s office to demand to look at furniture she had bought with county money. It escalated when Miller’s staff had deputies remove him.

It went further when Miller described him as a threat in a 911 call to police. It kept going when Dorson began attending supervisors’ meetings and Miller’s town-hall meetings to criticize her. It sparked up further when Miller had police remove Dorson from a town-hall meeting last month.

It went further yet when Miller allowed postings about Dorson and his alleged mental illness on her Facebook page and discussed him on the radio, and when Dorson’s wife wrote a letter to the editor criticizing those postings.

Isn’t it time that they both simply decided to give it a rest?

restaurateur’s arrest

If you’ve traveled to Hermosillo or San Carlos, you may have stopped at Restaurante Elba in Santa Ana, about two hours south of Tucson. It’s a nice, casual place beside the highway, comparable in feel to a Denny’s.

The owner, Eduardo García Jiménez, also was mayor of Santa Ana for three years, 2006-09.

Mexican federal police raided his home last Thursday and took him into custody. The next day, restaurant employees and family members rallied in support of him outside the Mexican Attorney General’s Office in Hermosillo.

News reports have not said where he is now, and my calls to the restaurant haven’t turned up any information.

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

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