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What the Devil won't tell you

A stronger & safer Romero: Mayor survives recall effort that was born to fail

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The recall effort did not strike her down; it likely made her more powerful. - Romero's office

Under the auspices of “Things You Could Have Seen Coming from the Mars Rover,” local Republicans have failed to secure enough signatures to force a recall election against Mayor Regina Romero.

Sorry, allow me to be more specific. The Pima County GOP has failed to get enough “valid and legal” signatures to force a recall election.

OK, let's narrow that down: they didn't even get enough signatures on petitions that looked valid enough at first glance to allow the signatures to be actually checked to see if they're from registered voters who live inside the Tucson city limits.

The recall effort spun up last year after Romero ordered a “Black Lives Matter” flag flown from Tucson City Hall and was further spurred by Romero’s COVID-19 mask-up order.

The failure of recall proponents ("organizers" might be a charitable term) was totally predictable because local Republicans have prioritized Trumpist national doctrine over the nuts and bolts of movement building.

Romero was always perfectly safe in her seat because her opposition insist that Donald Trump's grievances are Tucson's problems. I would suggest they instead hold those Democratic leaders accountable for Tucson's longstanding problems. 

But no, local MAGAs keep dragging futility behind them on a leash of hypocrisy.

The recall group did manage to add in the last few days before deadline about 10,000 signatures of one sort or another to exceed the 24,710 requirement. The city clerk conducted a quick initial review of the petition sheets containing 26,000 names and found about 1,500 signatures were submitted in ways that were not even close to valid.

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To be fair, gathering the required signatures to force a recall is hard. But it’s not impossible. It helps if you fill out the forms right.

In 1977, the Tucson City Council voted to raise water rates and three councilmembers were successfully recalled.

In 1994, County Assessor Alan Lang got recalled and yanked from office after a crazy — and allegedly drunken — first year in office. His antics, which included bringing a gun to work, made national headlines.

At first blush, "Recall Regina 2020" did come close. But a glance at the calendar shows they're not that great with numbers. The group survived a first look at their signatures (like a teacher making sure you signed your name at the top of your worksheet) with 24,153 signatures. That’s just 557 short of what was needed.

However, I’m willing to bet that a whole bunch more would have been knocked off. Organizers of successful petition drives, whether for initiatives or recalls, know it's vital to get 30 or even 50 percent more than the required number of signatures to submit, because not everybody who signs will be a registered voter in the right place — in this case, inside Tucson. Marana and Oro Valley residents don't get to decide the mayor of the city.

I've worked the vetting process of petitions and it's really simple. Signature-gatherers who know what they are doing, get largely or exclusively valid signatures. Those who act like only special rules apply to them tend to gather a bunch of “Mickey Mouses” and “Lute Olsons.”

Those signatures are easy to void … I’m sorry … cancel. Looking up who's registered where, and who isn't a valid signer, is a simple exercise for motivated and competent political groups.

Pat on the back, wag of the middle finger

Recall organizer Joseph Morgan posted a post-mortem on his Facebook page and I’m going to give him the right to rant:

“Our Recall Regina effort is finished. Make no mistake, this was a win. We gathered over 26,000 total signatures, but after the initial count tonight, we fell short with only 24,153 total. We needed 24,721.

"I could not be more proud of all the people who gave their everything to this effort. The citizens of Tucson did this. With zero outside support. No PAC money. No big local money. No support from any political Party. Just the people of Tucson working together against all odds to make their voices heard.

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"We tried to get a COVID-19 extension, and we were not able to get that. We had no lawyers willing to help us pro-bono to get that either. We had 120 days, and only the hard work, grit and determination, and our hard-earned money of regular, ordinary, Tucsonans.

"To all those who gave their precious time, finances, and effort, I salute you. We did what no one said could be done. And we almost got there. The City Clerk's office told me they admired us because they had never seen anything like this. They had never seen a group of ordinary citizens put together something like this in this short of time WITHOUT any big donors behind us.

"Tucson is our home. And we will continue to fight for it with all that we have against those who violate their oaths of office, serve only themselves and their political friends, and place their partisan, radical political agenda above the welfare of the citizens they have sworn an oath to protect and serve.

"We may have come up short of this goal, but our voice was heard and will continue to be heard. We have only just begun."

Let me start with agreeing with him about something. People who get involved and offer their time to go through the legal electoral process deserve respect. That’s the way the game is played. Morgan ran for Congress, throwing his hat in the proverbial ring and asking the girl to the prom. She said no. I respect the ask and the effort.

Also, props to a MAGA for accurately reporting what happened and not declaring a Deep State conspiracy by George Soros, Hugo Chavez and the Muppets denied them their proper victory.

Now, a few points:

One. You asked for a COVID extension? Really! I say this reclining with a self-satisfied smirk.

The recall team protests masks because the coronavirus is no big thing, but it's still somehow sufficiently a thing to require allowing them to blow past the deadline.

The entire Trump case — and Morgan has all but called Trump the “real president” — is the flat-out lie that states broke their own election laws because of the pandemic.

At worst courts interpreted the law in a way Republicans disagreed with, but welcome to the liberal world. Citizens United appears a wild over-interpretation of the First Amendment. Know what else it is? The law. It’s legal and binding.

Second. You couldn’t find a lawyer? How could you not find a lawyer? What does it say about the effort that lawyers weren’t willing to associate themselves with it?

Hey, if I was a lawyer, I would entertain the case just to show that maybe they should have gotten a coronavirus extension and prove that laws could be interpreted more broadly to accommodate citizen action.

Third. Does the MAGA-friendly recall crowd really have a problem with politicians who serve their party and radical agendas, neglecting the well-being of the citizens they have sworn to serve?

I could go in 500,000 directions here but I’ll just stick with this:

Is Roger Stone in prison?

Was Donald Trump held accountable for any of his scandals/crimes?

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Tell me where in the Constitution does the vice president have the authority to overrule the voters and the states to install a vanquished president for another term? Did Joe Biden have the power to install Hillary Clinton and ignore it? Did Richard Nixon have the power to install himself as the winner in 1960, and fail to exercise it?

I love the smell of hypocrisy in the late evening. The thing is voters aren't stupid. Tucson is fleeing the GOP's utter lack of self awareness.

Fifth. This wasn’t a win.

A stronger and safer Regina

Let me let them in on some very basic politics. When a coup fails – legal or not – the target of that coup emerges stronger.

Filing the recall petitions was just a first step. Then Tucson MAGAs would have to find a candidate to run against Romero. 

They couldn’t even do that last time. She won the seat unopposed by a Republican in the general election. She beat independent Ed Ackerley by 16 points. 

Wanna run a Trump-reciting Republican in Tucson? She probably wins that race by 20. Or 37.

Recall elections don't have primaries. Anybody who can get on the ballot can run. If they could find anyone willing to gather signatures, imagine several Trumpite candidates splitting their narrow slice of the vote within the city.

The recall team saved themselves from themselves, but Romero has never been safer.

Self-awareness is in short supply. Morgan joined the January 6 D.C. protests that led to an insurrection against an election that saw Pima County reject Trump by 20 points. Allegiance to Trump's lying nonsense about racial justice or the pandemic's death toll is no way to win in Tucson.

Tucson is 44 percent white and 44 percent Hispanic. Proud Boys-style “western chauvinism” is a tough sell in a community where nearly a majority has indigenous DNA. Oh, and a whole bunch of whites think that kind of talk is downright Klanish.

Morgan has been leading the charge against mask-wearing, too and Romero did order a public mask mandate. We wear masks to protect others from the coronavirus infections we don’t know we have. That’s common decency.

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But common decency is the work of beta males and snowflakes, I guess. No one has a right to spread a virus to their neighbor just because it's mildly uncomfortable not to.

Election integrity, my ...

And don’t think I’m going to let this pass:

The Republican party’s new rallying cry is "election fraud." So how is it they allowed themselves to present petitions with any bad signatures included?

Morgan attended the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6 in pursuit of the lie that Donald Trump won the election but for voter fraud. The Capitol riot took place as soon as Vice President Mike Pence refused to toss the election (something he has zero power to do) because of allegations of instances of improper ballots in states like Arizona.

The theory being, any taint of any improper ballots for a cause or candidate is enough to nullify all of the support from other voters.

Yet they turned in a stack of recall petitions with fraudulent or invalid signatures. In some cases, the signature-gatherers themselves failed to sign the petition sheet they turned in — a violation of the legal requirements.

So why wouldn’t a single error be enough to toss out the whole effort? Hey, I think it’s fine and normal but they don’t, apparently. It’s like getting a COVID extension.

Wishing for a stronger opposition

A strong opposition party is vital to a functioning democracy, and yet we are left with this modern GOP. It’s not a political party built to organize, raise money, groom candidates and elect them to office. It’s a MAGA chat room.

There was a time when City Councilman Steve Kozachick could legitimately call himself a Republican. He was elected as one. Then the party got taken over by people who will read the words “Kozachik could legitimately call himself a Republican” and laugh.

Steve Kozachik isn’t a real Republican. He disagrees with True Conservatives on issues like guns and taxes. And a guy like U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly can disagree with True Progressives on Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and still call himself a Democrat.

They call it a political party for a reason. One should always be a bit eclectic, otherwise it’s a dogma enforcement racket.

The GOP rode Kozachik out of their ranks. They informed a perfectly good candidate named Gary Watson he couldn’t run as a Republican because he had supported a sales tax increase for roads improvements and public safety capital. In 2011, they failed to get their presumptive mayoral candidate on the ballot because he failed to turn in enough valid signatures.

This is a group that couldn’t raise money with Channing Tatum in a g-string at a Real Housewives convention.

Donald Trump called Trumpism a devotion to freedom of thought and a bulwark against cancel culture, as the party readies to expel from its ranks anyone who isn’t sufficiently loyal to their Dear Leader.

Republicans like Morgan need to go back to the basics. They need to learn how to organize. They need to learn how to raise money. They need to talk to voters in Tucson and Pima County and figure out the issues they can win elections by pursuing.

Gotta get up and organize

Democrats long believed the definition of folly was to even trying to win the District 1 seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Yet there’s Rex Scott right there on the dais.

Maricopa County was such a lost cause to Donkeys, they didn’t even field candidates for key offices. Yet there they were, neck and neck in 2020 with Republicans up and down the ballot in a county Biden and Kelly both won.

Democrats did the hard work. They weren’t satisfied by being hard cases.

While perusing Facebook a month ahead of the election, I ran across a post by the Pima County Republican Party that read something like: “Pima County: High crime, low wages, Democrats run the joint.”

Why does it have to be any harder than that? Put that work to work around a plan that might actually work.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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