Steller: What Sunnyside’s landslide recall vote means, and more politics

2014-05-23T00:00:00Z 2014-05-23T12:08:35Z Steller: What Sunnyside’s landslide recall vote means, and more politicsTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The results in the Sunnyside school board recall election were so unexpectedly lopsided that moments before the early results were posted, recall leader Richard Hernandez told me he thought only one board member would be voted out — Bobby Garcia.

Longtime board member Louie Gonzales, Hernandez and many others concluded, surely had built up the political support to defend his seat stoutly. Gonzales even carried himself with confidence that suggested he knew something the rest of us didn’t.

As it turned out, he didn’t.

Gonzales lost in all 17 precincts except two, and in those two — numbers 114 and 196 — not a single vote was cast. Even in Gonzales’ home precinct, number 160, challenger Eric Giffin got 136 votes to Gonzales’ 96.

Gonzales got a total of 1,029 votes, or 25 percent, to Giffin’s 3,108, or 75 percent. It was a blowout that showed which side had the energy and passion.

Bobby Garcia, a retired Tucson police officer in his first term on the board, almost matched Gonzales’ total. He got 938 votes while losing to Beki Quintero. Garcia, who never quite seemed to belong on a school board, was ousted after serving less than two years.

The overthrow of the board’s existing majority means many issues are poised to arise.

Superintendent’s contract: The issue that provoked the recall was the vote in June to extend superintendent Manuel Isquierdo’s contract for an additional two years, through June 2016. If the extension hadn’t happened, there probably would have been no recall, Isquierdo would be coming to the end of his contract June 30 and the district would be searching for a new leader.

Now the big question is how the board will end the district’s relationship with Isquierdo, who started as superintendent in 2007.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors does not meet again until June 3, which means that’s the first day the Sunnyside election can be certified. The existing Sunnyside board has a window of opportunity to end Isquierdo’s contract on friendlier terms than the new board majority might offer.

Of course, there may not be much wiggle room no matter who ends it. Isquierdo’s new contract includes extremely friendly terms for him — the district must pay him his salary whether he’s fired for cause or without cause.

Whither John Richardson: That contract, and its unfriendly terms for the district, is one of the reasons district attorney John Richardson’s number may be up. Richardson drew up the contract, worth $237,500 in total compensation to Isquierdo.

“Some of us don’t feel he represented the best interests of the district or the board,” member Buck Crouch told me.

Of course, whether Richardson was making absurd arguments against mail-in voting for the recall election or defending the hiring of board members’ relatives as something other than nepotism, he was only doing the board majority’s bidding. Yet it’s easy to see how members of the new majority, who have felt so tyrannized in the last couple of years, would not trust him.

Abounding audits: One thing the new board is likely to launch are audits, as Tucson Unified School District has been doing. TUSD just completed a curriculum audit and an “efficiency audit,” which was aimed at finding cost savings.

Don’t be surprised if audits launched in Sunnyside have a forensic aspect to them, looking to see if any money has previously gone somewhere it shouldn’t have.

Kirkpatrick
hearts Kiehne

When my colleague Becky Pallack broke the news last week of Republican congressional candidate Gary Kiehne‘s comments on mass shootings, it was the start of a bad run for Kiehne. And a good one for Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who represents the huge district that runs from Marana to Flagstaff.

“If you look at all the fiascos that have occurred, 99 percent of them have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people,” Kiehne said at a debate in Florence.

Fellow candidate Andy Tobin wasn’t even at the debate, but he pounced and has kept on pouncing. He noted other remarks Kiehne has made — one that compared Vietnamese refugees to illegal immigrants from Mexico, and another in which he appeared to compare Arizona police manning checkpoints at last year’s Wallow Fire to Nazi agents.

“With his pattern of bizarre and deeply offensive remarks, Gary Kiehne has illustrated that he lacks the temperament, character and basic common sense to not only represent Arizona in Congress, but to even get elected,” Tobin said in a statement. “He should exit this race immediately and apologize in full for all of his remarks, not just some of them.”

Kiehne apologized for the mass-shooting remark but not for the others. And Democrat Kirkpatrick’s campaign enjoyed it all, saying in an email: “You know it’s been a wild week in the AZ01 GOP primary if tea party darling Adam Kwasman ends up looking like the statesman.”

Better late
than never on A-10

In November I chastised our U.S. senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, for being absent on the issue of the A-10’s possible retirement. Neither one supported an effort by Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to protect the plane, and both gave mealy-mouthed answers as to why not.

So now, I owe McCain credit for taking up the issue of the A-10. On Thursday, an amendment he sponsored passed the Senate Armed Services Committee. It would preserve the A-10 at its current operational level through 2015.

Flake isn’t on that committee and hasn’t been as active in his support of the plane that is the mainstay of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

He’ll always
have Russell

Some people may have dismissed SaddleBrooke’s Sen. Al Melvin as a nobody or laughingstock in the gubernatorial race (I have, for one). But not Russell Pearce. The recalled state senator wrote up an endorsement Thursday, saying “Al is the best conservative in the race for governor, and he is someone you will get to feel good about supporting.”

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

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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