Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Strange Political Bedfellows In The TUSD Board Election

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Why would a Democratic member of the TUSD school board support one, or maybe two, Republicans for the two board seats coming up for a vote in November? The Democrat is Mark Stegeman, and the Republican candidates are Debe Campos‐Fleenor and Michael Hicks. True, it's a nonpartisan race, but a Democrat supporting Republicans over Democrats to sit with him on a school board is, well, unusual. But Stegeman is an unusual guy whose educational ideas lean more toward the conservative than the progressive, so he feels more at home with the two Republicans than with his Democratic colleagues.

Stegeman has already given significant financial support to Campos‐Fleenor's campaign. According to her campaign finance reports, Stegeman made a direct contribution of $45.75 to her campaign, an insignificant amount, but he also made an in-kind contribution of $1,200 to pay people to collect signatures to get her on the ballot. That's real money. So far as I can tell looking over the other candidates' finance reports, Stegeman didn't give money to any other school board candidate.

But then again, maybe he did.

In Michael Hicks' campaign finance reports, he lists no money coming in and no money going out. Every box on the form has a dollar amount of $0.00. But there's a spreadsheet of candidates across the state who used non-resident petition circulators, and Hicks' campaign made the list. He used AZ Petition Partners, the same company used by Campos‐Fleenor.

Something's wrong here. If Hicks used a petition circulating company, he had to pay for the service, and if he spent any money on his campaign, he's supposed to report it. He's also supposed to report contributions, cash or in-kind, he used to pay the bill. He should be showing some activity on his financial report.

Here's what might have happened — and I say "might" because I'm speculating here. It's possible Stegeman paid the bill for AZ Petition Partners to get signatures for Campos‐Fleenor and Hicks. If that's the case, most likely both of the petitions would have been carried by the same people who encouraged voters to sign both candidates' petitions. The difference would be, Campos-Fleenor reported the expenditure and Hicks didn't.

If that's what happened, Hicks needs to refile his campaign finance reports to reflect the petition expenditures and the contributions he used to pay for them. And if that's what happened, it means Stegeman is giving both Republicans running for the TUSD board significant financial support.

Why would Stegeman support Campos-Fleenor and Hicks? Well, right now, he forms a minority of two on the board, joining with Hicks on most split votes. Adelita Grijalva, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez generally vote in the majority. Grijalva and Hicks are up for reelection. If Grijalva is replaced by Campos-Fleenor and Hicks returns, that puts Stegeman back in the majority — the conservative majority — where he was before the 2012 election.

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