Az legislator: 'Can we virtually shoot the head of Clean Elections?'
Kimble: Remarks were 'shameful and disgusting'
A pair of Republican state legislators traded cracks about shooting the head of Arizona's Clean Elections Commission, drawing a quick response and a demand for an apology from Mark Kimble, the chairman of the agency.
Rep. John Allen (R-Scottsdale) asked during a caucus meeting, "Can we virtually shoot the head of Clean Elections?" Rep. Kevin Payne (R-Peoria) replied "Yes," reported Jeremy Duda of the Arizona Mirror on Twitter on Tuesday.
"It is deeply troubling — particularly to those of us from Tucson — to joke about shooting someone in the head because of a policy difference. That is not funny. Reps. Allen and Payne owe an apology to all Arizonans for thinking it is appropriate to jest about shooting people in the head," said Kimble in a news release on Tuesday.
"The late Sen. John McCain was known for urging his colleagues to 'disagree without being disagreeable,'" Kimble said. "The comments by Reps. Allen and Payne go far beyond being disagreeable. They are shameful and disgusting."
Kimble is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and was present during the Jan. 8, 2011, assassination attempt in which Giffords was shot in the head and six others were killed. Another dozen people, not including the then-Democratic congresswoman, were shot in the incident.
GOP Rep. Becky Nutt (Clifton) told the others to "knock it off ... that kind of talk isn't OK," Duda said.
The comments came during a discussion of HB 2076, which originally pertained to Clean Elections enforcement and was transformed into a measure about virtual firing range and training simulators, Duda said.
It wasn't clear whether Allen's reference was to Kimble, or the executive director of Clean Elections, Tom Collins.
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission was created by voters in 1998 as an independent agency that oversees a public funding program for political candidates who abide by fundraising rules, as well as carrying out voter education programs (including a series of mandatory debates for candidates accepting public funding) and campaign finance enforcement.
The members of the five-seat commission are appointed by the governor and the highest-ranking elected official of the opposite party, with no more than two members from any one party or county. Those picked must not have served in, or run for, public office in the preceding five years, nor have been be an officer of a political party. Kimble is an independent, with two Republicans and two Democrats making up the balance of the members of the commission.
Kimble was a harsh critic of the program as an opinion writer for the Tucson Citizen.
"I’ve thought Clean Elections was a bad idea since it became law," he wrote in a 2007 column.
On his appointment in 2015, he said he feels differently about the program.
"I am very supportive of the direction that (Executive Director) Tom Collins is taking Clean Elections," he said. "Clean Elections must be far more than public funding of elections."
"While that certainly is an integral part of the commission’s function, I always have felt that when voters approved the law forming the commission, they envisioned it as a way to reform campaigns — to make them more open and transparent," he said then. "Despite that, dark money has become a dominant force in campaigns and in elections – a transformation that greatly disappoints me."
Editor’s note: Kimble and TucsonSentinel.com Editor and Publisher Dylan Smith were colleagues at the Tucson Citizen newspaper before its 2009 closure.