Kyrsten Sinema has taken a political beating in the last couple of weeks after old video surfaced of her colorful comments about Arizonans, the people she hopes elect her to the U.S. Senate.
“Over the past several years, people have watched what was happening in Arizona, and been like, ‘Damn, those people are crazy,'” Sinema says in the 2011 video of her speech before a group of Texas Stonewall Democrats. In the same video, Sinema refers to the fabled “Five Cs” Arizona schoolchildren used to be taught about the state’s economic drivers — copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate.
“But I would add a sixth C,” she said in the video. “It’s called ‘crazy,’ because that’s what’s happening in my state, is pure craziness. Pure craziness.”
On Wednesday, Sinema’s political foes released another old tape they found of her using the joke during a speech. (See below).
“Crazy” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Thing is, most longtime residents would probably agree with Sinema — especially when it comes to politics. But while Sinema probably meant to refer to Republicans exclusively, Arizonans know their brand of nuttiness comes in both red and blue.
Here’s a quick run-down of our state’s top 10 craziest politicians:
A few get flushed out every year while others swim in. But for more than 100 years, and certainly for the last few decades, this less-than-esteemed legislative body has provided rich fodder for humorists and media pundits. Its Republican majority habitually infuriates liberals who constantly question its members’ sanity: The group topped Alternet.com’s “The 10 Craziest State Legislatures In America” post in 2011, for example. But the state’s Democrats are also not immune to the loons. (This won’t count as one of our 10 politicians, but had to be mentioned.)
David Stringer and Paul Mosley
Supporting the above facts about the Legislature, we offer but two recent examples of the poor mental state of Arizona leaders. After being stopped in March for going 97 in a 55 mph zone, State Representative Paul Mosley, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, bragged to a state trooper — on video — that he routinely traveled at speeds up to 140 mph. To help him fight the ticket, he hired Republican State Representative David Stringer, a criminal defense attorney from Prescott, who infamously said at a forum this year that one problem with Arizona schools is “there aren’t enough white kids to go around.”
The Republican Congressman resigned last year after it was revealed he’d asked female staffers to have babies for him and his wife. The method he desired for the surrogate pregnancies was never revealed, but the indecent proposal by such a right-winger and Baptist Christian was too close to The Handmaid’s Tale for many observers. Long before his unexpected departure, Franks was considered one of the “weirdest” members of Congress because of his obsessive fix on abortion as an issue to the exclusion of nearly anything else. As the Houston Press’ Caleb Hannan put it in 2013, “You Say ‘Tomato,’ He Says ‘Abortion.'”
J. Fife Symington III
The former Arizona governor, a Republican, resigned from office in 1997 after being convicted of bank fraud, then saw the convictions overturned in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Clinton pardoned him of the federal crimes in 2001 — possibly because Symington once rescued Clinton from drowning. Then Symington switched careers and became a chef. Now he’s thinking about running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 — what a crazy idea!
What’s crazier than accidentally spending $200 million of Arizona’s hard-earned taxpayer dollars for no good reason? Possibly nothing. And Governor Jane Hull made it happen. Old-timers will recall that the bill promised that the state would pay half the cost of a new, full-size vehicle if it were converted to run on natural gas or propane in addition to gasoline. Dotard lawmakers left out any requirement to actually use the alternative fuel, and passed the bill. Staffers failed to do their job and didn’t notice the program had no cap. Hull signed the bill like a neglected toddler with a crayon. Then all madness broke loose, and state lawmakers spent months reining back the program to keep it from bankrupting the state, ultimately keeping the damage to about $200 million.
The outgoing U.S. Senator is more true to his last name than flat-out crazy, but his political vacillation and faux liberal positions aren’t good mental therapy for Arizona. He became a hero to Democrats around the country with his impassioned speech last year against President Trump, saying among other things, “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal …” Yet FiveThirtyEight.com shows the Republican voted in line with Trump 84 percent of the time. He held up the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation with apparent concern for the alleged victims of the then-nominee. But when a limp FBI investigation produced nothing new after a few days, Flake voted to confirm Kavanaugh.
This list would not be complete without a nod to the King of Crazy in Arizona, Joe Arpaio. For much of this megalomaniac’s reign as Maricopa County Sheriff from 1992 to 2016, it seemed like he was half the reason Arizona made the national news so much. Whether it was his publicity-seeking “Joe Shows,” his obsession with then-President Obama’s birth certificate, raiding resources to fund his anti-immigrant pogroms, or claiming he would accept a blow job from Donald Trump, Arpaio has helped lead the way for that sixth “C.”
Which Democrat from Arizona helped deport more immigrants than Donald Trump? That would be former Governor Janet Napolitano. She served the state from 2003 to 2009, helping to rein in the Republican majority in the Legislature with a record number of vetoes. Then she abandoned her post halfway through her second term after Obama offered her the job of Homeland Security Secretary. She proceeded to help give Obama the title “Deporter-in-Chief,” overseeing the eviction of more than 1.5 million undocumented residents from the country. Most had been found guilty of minor crimes. Her resignation in 2009 literally handed the governorship to the Republican Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, who soon signed the infamous anti-illegal-immigrant SB1070 law. Napolitano loves Arizona so much that she never came back. She’s now the president of the University of California system. Label her crazy like a fox.
The short Mecham era was among Arizona’s craziest, politically. The Republican owner of a Pontiac dealership narrowly won the governorship in a three-way race in 1986, denying the post to either the more-qualified Democrat, Carolyn Warner, who died just last week, or the Independent, Bill Schulz. Nearly every day during his 15 months in office, Arizonans would wake up to the news that Mecham had said something that would even have made Trump cringe: Black kids were “pickaninnies.” Japanese tourists’ eyes got “round” when thinking of Arizona golf courses. Supporters of a recall drive were helped by a “band of homosexuals.” One of the first things Mecham did as governor was to abolish the state’s official Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mecham was impeached and removed from office while under felony indictment and facing a recall election. Allegedly, he had loaned his car dealership tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign funds. He was later exonerated of crimes after a jury found him not guilty on several felony counts, leading some to say he was “railroaded” for his politically incorrect ways. He died in 2008.
Sinema should know about crazy Arizona politicians: She is one. Her supporters aren’t that wrong about her “radical” past. The former Green Party spokesman championed Ralph Nader for president in 2000, wore a pink tutu for an anti-war protest, then switched to Democrat and became a near-Republican Congresswoman whose votes align with Trump’s positions 60 percent of the time. Because of this blue-dog political stance, she stands a good chance of winning in November against Republican Martha McSally and ironically might cause red-state Arizona to help flip the Senate to blue. Only in 6-C’s Arizona, right?
The list could go on and on …
(Correction: This story has been updated from the earlier version. We fudged Paul Mosley’s first name, and Arpaio was first elected in 1992.)