State Rep. Daniel Patterson doesn't have many friends left in the Arizona Legislature.
Most of his fellow Democrats in the state House of Representatives signed an ethics complaint filed Monday, Feb. 27, by Rep. Katie Hobbs, who said that Patterson had engaged in "conduct impugning the integrity of the House of Representatives," because "it appears that Rep. Patterson has engaged in a pattern of violence that may be considered domestic violence."
The only Democrats who didn't join the complaint (besides Patterson, of course) were the two who might sit in judgment of him on the House Ethics Committee.
The complaint came after Patterson's messy personal life exploded over the weekend when he got into a fight with his girlfriend and campaign manager, Georgette Escobar, which was broken up when police arrived.
A police report on the incident wasn't available as of The Skinny's Tuesday-morning deadline, and Patterson and Escobar tell different stories about the fight, including why the police were there. Escobar said the cops were called by two Tucson Parks and Recreation employees who witnessed the fight, while Patterson said he called the cops after Escobar attacked him.
Here's Escobar's story: She told The Skinny that her relationship with Patterson had soured, and that last week, she moved out of the downtown house she shared with him. (He owns the home.) She had moved some of her belongings into storage and returned to get additional items on Friday, Feb. 24. When she did, Escobar said, Patterson blocked her car in the driveway with his own car, and locked the gate.
Escobar claimed Patterson told her he'd let her out when he wanted. Eventually, he did, but as she started to drive away, he flagged her down and told her she'd need to get permission from him to return to the property. When she started driving off again, she saw that her dog, Jake, was running through the alley, and she called him to get into the car. Escobar said that as she helped Jake into the car, Patterson allegedly ran up, grabbed the dog by the collar, and grabbed her, leaving bruises on her upper right arm—which she showed to us.
He also allegedly bent her fingers back to remove them from her dog's collar, and grabbed the dog by the collar, choking him and throwing him out of the car, before he twisted Escobar's arms and threw her down to the ground. He then took the dog.
Now, Patterson's story: He said Escobar has serious mental problems and a history of felonies—and is trying to blackmail him.
He said he and Escobar got into an argument when she told him about her history of mental illness and crime. She freaked out and hit him "at least 30 times."
He speculated that the bruises she displayed to reporters were self-inflicted, and added that cops didn't see any marks on her Friday.
As for the dog, Patterson said Jake belongs to both of them (although Escobar has paperwork showing she is the official owner of the pet), and he just wants Jake to be safe.
"I'm happy to work something out with the dog," he said. "I just wanted to make sure he had someplace safe to be right now."
In the wake of the fight, Escobar filed for a restraining order against Patterson, and then went to the media, claiming that Patterson was trying to evade service, just as he did when Patterson's ex-wife, Jeneiene Schaffer, tried to serve him with an order of protection in 2010.
As the Weekly reported at the time (see "The Family Man," Sept. 30, 2010), Patterson was separated from his wife and was rumored to be living with Escobar, whom he was also paying to manage his campaign with Clean Elections public dollars.
Earlier this week, Escobar confirmed that Patterson was indeed living with her then. She also said she now regrets allowing Patterson to move in with her while he was still married and while his wife was in the hospital having a double-mastectomy. She claimed Patterson told her his wife had a slight illness and was having a small procedure.
"(Meanwhile), he was having the time of his life at my house," she said. "I feel really guilty and bad about that."
Escobar asked for the restraining order over the weekend because Patterson has allegedly threatened to harm and even kill her, so she needs to have him off the property so she can get the rest of her belongings. She claimed most of the furniture in the house belongs to her.
Escobar also claimed that Patterson owes her money, and that she pays rent to live at the house and had paid rent for February, which entitles her to access to the house to retrieve her belongings. She also wants to be paid the remainder of what he owes her for the work she's done as his campaign manager.
Patterson admitted on Monday that he was dodging service of the restraining order, because he said Escobar threatened to change the locks on his house after she had the order.
He said Escobar has hinted that if he had paid her the "thousands of dollars" she claims he owes her, these allegations wouldn't have become public. He said he doesn't owe her money, and his position as a politician made him an easy target.
"People wonder why good people don't go into politics," Patterson said. "It's because of attacks like this."
Patterson said he worries about his own safety and the safety of his daughter, and doesn't want any contact with Escobar.
"I don't feel safe around this woman," he said. "I think she's a threat; she's threatened me before. She's blackmailing me."
He vowed to now be more selective about his girlfriends.
"I know I'm going to be much, much more careful with who I associate with in the future," he said.
Patterson is likely to have plenty of time to think about his love life, since he probably won't have to spend much more time at the Legislature. His political support—already weak after a Christmastime incident in which his ex-wife contacted authorities after he left the state for a vacation with their child without clearing it with her first—collapsed almost as soon as the rumors starting swirling; by Monday morning, state Rep. Chad Campbell, the minority leader, told The Skinny he was talking to other lawmakers about calling for Patterson's resignation.
"His constituents deserve someone who can focus on the responsibilities of the office," Campbell said. "He needs to be held to the same legal standard as every other citizen of the state."
Despite previous allegations that Patterson had been physically and verbally abusive at times, Campbell said he never had enough evidence to go after Patterson until now.
By Tuesday morning, Patterson was not only facing the ethics complaint supported by nearly of all his Democratic colleagues in the House; he was also facing calls to step down from a seatmate, Sen. Linda Lopez, as well as Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Luis Heredia, and the local Latina organization Las Adelitas.
Patterson called the demands for his resignation premature—because the truth will vindicate him.
"This is the lynch-mob type of politics that we see from Phoenix, and I'm not going to listen to these cutthroat, throw-'em-under-the-bus politicians from Phoenix," he said. "I'm responsive to my constituents in Tucson, period. ... I'm not going to be blackmailed out of office."
But he did threaten to leave the Democratic Party: "I may become an independent."
Rep. Macario Saldate, a Tucson Democrat, said he's heard the accusations, and if they turn out to be true, he wants Patterson out of the Legislature—through an ethics hearing, if necessary.
"That's an appropriate way to go," said Saldate, who is facing a potential primary with Patterson this year as a result of redistricting. "I support that."