The Daily Agenda: It's Gonna Be a MAGA Weekend

click to enlarge HECTOR ACUÑA
Hector Acuña

That’s not how the law works, senator … It’s like we’re time traveling … And wow, those fines add up fast.

Programming note: We have a guest column coming to your inboxes on Friday, but the Daily Agenda won’t publish on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We’ll be back with the Daily Agenda at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

When candidate Donald Trump planned his first major rally following his campaign launch (in which he described Mexicans crossing the border as criminals, drug dealers and rapists), he turned to Arizona, where he found a loving crowd that ate up his 90 minutes of anti-immigrant, anti-establishment, anti-media meandering. 

So it’s no wonder that as he seeks to launch a comeback and a possible 2024 campaign, Trump is returning to Arizona this weekend.

He’ll continue to spread his Big Lie surrounded by his hand-picked GOP frontrunners for the top two state offices; three-quarters of Arizona’s Republican congressional delegation; the leader of the Arizona Republican Party; Mike Lindell, the pillow salesman who helped spread Arizona election conspiracies and helped fund the audit to prove them; Ron Watkins, the guy who is most likely Q of QAnon fame, and other prominent QAnon celebrities. (Arizona’s most famous QAnoner, Jake Angeli, will, regrettably, not be able to attend.) 


Also not in attendance: Any Republicans who have won a statewide race in Arizona in the last five years. 

The visit comes on the heels of an entertaining interview Trump conducted (and cut short) with NPR’s Steve Inskeep in which the former president called local Republicans who refused to back his attempt to subvert the election “RINOs” and denounced as losers other Republicans who dare to question that he won the presidency in 2020. That scolding included his own attorney in Arizona, Kory Langhofer, who he panned as “(not) good attorney to hire.”



Of course, the former president praised local election dead-enders Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs and gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who continue to promote his lies and who will be among his fawning lackeys, hoping to pick up a boost at the ballot box by being seen alongside the first Republican presidential candidate to lose the state in 20 years.

In the interview, the former president continued to use the Cyber Ninjas’ audit — which found that he received fewer votes than President Joe Biden and whose menacing claims of “potential problems” were thoroughly debunked — as evidence of his victory here. 

This, even as the now-defunct company’s reluctant lawyer is trying to cut his losses and extricate himself from the case by any means necessary, including attacking a judge’s integrity.

We’re still making it cheaper to support locally owned and operated journalism this week. Our annual subscription is 22% because we’re, uh, celebrating the start of the 2022 legislative session.Still, before he trivialized the worldwide pandemic, got impeached twice and started spreading lies about Republican votes not counting, Trump actually did win an election here. (Not by the margins that Gov. Doug Ducey or the late U.S. Sen. John McCain did, but it’s a pretty friendly state to Republicans!) 

But Arizona Republican leaders have largely chosen to continue down the path that led to Trump’s 2020 defeat, embracing fringe ideas and personalities while alienating a sizable chunk of their party and independent voters whose support is crucial in a close-call state like Arizona.

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Is luring protesters into the bathroom a crime?: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema deliberately lured protesters with cell phone cameras into an Arizona State University bathroom (where her students were using the facilities) in an attempt to get harsher penalties for the activist, including a DACA recipient spearheading the effort. The Arizona Mirror’s Laura Gómez Rodriguez dug up the police report from the viral October incident showing Sinema told police she intentionally went to the bathroom knowing it is a crime to film there. But cops didn’t charge the protesters with the felony Sinema intended, presumably because that law covers surreptitiously filming a person “​​urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude” or engaged in a sexual act — not plainly filming a public official just hiding out in a bathroom. That makes Sinema not only a bad person, but a bad lawyer. 

What’s old is new again: In 2016, Arizona lawmakers clamped down on cities that were clamping down on short-term rentals in their areas. In 2022, some GOP lawmakers want to undo that law that hindered short-term rental regulations, saying Airbnbs have overtaken and transformed neighborhoods, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer writes. 

If you told us most of these headlines were from March 2020, we’d believe you: The Republic has tips in stories this week for where to find a COVID-19 test or a booster shot. The state has a limited supply of the antiviral pills to treat the virus, so only older people or immunocompromised people can access them. Restaurants are pivoting to takeout again as they close for a while because of cases and concern over spread. And high school sports events keep getting canceled because players and officials test positive. 

Not great, Bob!: Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases forced some classrooms — and even some schools — to go virtual for a while. In the Deer Valley Unified School District, for example, a dozen classes are now virtual, while dozens more face staffing issues. In one Great Hearts school, 200 students and 20 staff were out because of illness or exposure. 

What’s a thumb worth?: Tucson Police Department’s second in command is suing Mercedes-Benz after the self-closing door on his leased $87,000 SUV severed his thumb, leaving him unable to fire a gun, the Arizona Daily Star’s Caitlin Schmidt reports.

There are clear rules about these kinds of things: 12News responded to complaints from viewers that it’s running the Jim Lamon “Let’s go Brandoncampaign video we mentioned yesterday, telling its audience that the station cannot legally decline to run the ad. It’s not as simple as just declining the money; TV stations can’t legally reject ads because federal law doesn’t allow them to, and if they did, they’d risk losing their license to operate. 

The pot taxes are too damn high: Marijuana is selling like, well, marijuana, and is providing about $20 million in tax revenue per month. Recreational sales have surpassed medicinal sales, local pot writer David Abbott notes. Who would have guessed dealing drugs would be so profitable?Attention accomplished: The New York Times’ On Politics newsletter dove into U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon’s “Let’s go Brandon” ad, saying it gets the self-funding candidate the one thing his money can’t buy: attention. It also may not be the weirdest video in the race, the authors noted, pointing to Mark Brnovich’s nunchucks redux video, and the time Blake Masters acknowledged that guns are for “killing people.”

Shocking corporate maneuver here: A Starbucks in Mesa followed the template of many great union-busters before it, telling its workers that they should vote against unionization when they receive their ballots later this month, More Perfect Union reports. A wave of unionization efforts moved through the coffee giant’s stores in recent months. 

We don’t think this is the official census.

No Ducey fanboys: Gov. Doug Ducey handily won two statewide elections and successfully improved the state, if you’re a center-right constituent, the Republic’s conservative columnist Robert Robb writes. But he hasn’t found many fans despite his successes, which Robb attributes to the rise of Trumpian politics and the pandemic. 

“That all leaves Ducey with the business community, whose sycophancy has been steadfast throughout his tenure, as the only constituency not feeling at least somewhat betrayed or disappointed,” Robb writes.

Could be worse: You could be represented by a non-lawyer in a courtroom in Arizona, and that person could have been trained at the University of Arizona, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. 

Arizona could lose its distinction as the only state with an elected mine inspector if the bipartisan Senate Concurrent Resolution 1017 makes it to the ballot and voters approve it.

As we’ve mentioned before, Arizona elects a mine inspector, and basically since we started doing that, it’s been a source of contention whether the position should be elected or appointed. The statewide elected position is so often forgotten that when longtime mine inspector Joe Hart resigned last year, it went unnoticed by the political chattering class for several days. 

SCR1017 proposes that the governor appoint the mine inspector, and the Legislature put laws in place for mine safety. Because the election of the position is in the Arizona Constitution, voters would need to approve the change, too. 

A new Twitter account popped up that’s tracking how much money the Cyber Ninjas accrue in daily fines for their refusal to turn over public records under court order.

@NinjasTracker so far shows $200,000 in fines: $50,000 per day, not counting weekends. Who’s going to pay these fines, now that Cyber Ninjas shut down its company?  


The Arizona Agenda is a political newsletter by independent journalists Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson. Find more of their reporting on SubStack.