Election year politics pounding state image - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Election year politics pounding state image

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010 3:30 am | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

By now, almost everyone knows about the efforts of the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer to wipe illegal immigration off the face of Arizona’s landscape.

Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of Senate Bill 1070, has risen to new levels of political power and prominence in Arizona and beyond. He’s a sure winner at the ballot box, and his clout in the eyes of a growing number of frustrated Americans easily surpasses that of Brewer and Arizona’s senior U.S. senator, John McCain.

Brewer’s signing of 1070 was the beginning of her meteoric rise in political prominence and, as a result, she has left two Republican gubernatorial challengers in the desert dust heading into the August primary.

Brewer’s recent claims of illegal immigrants’ involvement in drug smuggling and beheadings has raised the bar even further. The politician once best known as being a low-key, nice lady, has changed the discussion from not just crossing the border without papers, but now they’re all coming with dope and a sharp knife just in case they have to lop off a head or two.

Such claims have yet to be proven and have been disputed by U.S. Border Patrol agents, but they have played well to voters and left a lasting impression on the national media and the voters of Arizona.

While Pearce has led the now politically popular charge for immigration change for as long as I can remember, McCain has only recently jumped aboard the “let’s blame the border and illegal immigration for the state’s problems” bandwagon. But in this election year, McCain has learned quickly where the votes are in order to try and keep his job.

Joining forces with McCain in the ramped-up, get-tough-on-immigration political rhetoric is his new “build the danged fence” compadre, rookie Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who walked along the border with McCain. Babeu has claimed that all of the contraband and illegal immigrants who come into Arizona go through his non-border county that has become “ground zero” for smuggling and is now controlled by Mexican drug cartels along the western region. That’s an area that is patrolled extensively by U.S. Border Patrol, tribal police, state DPS troopers, and deputy sheriffs from both Pinal and Maricopa counties.

This week, the politically ambitious Babeu issued a press release saying he’s been threatened and targeted by the Mexican mafia and drug cartels, who have placed a “green light” on him because of his outspoken stance on immigration and drugs.

All of this pre-election political tough talk has delivered a picture of Arizona to the world that trumps the decades-old images of the Grand Canyon that used to get Arizona attention.

Now the images are of Mexican cartels who purportedly control counties and want to assassinate sheriffs, and drug-smuggling and head-chopping illegal immigrants — thanks in large part to the endless stream of one-ups-man-ship political claims that seem to get ever more frightening as we get closer to the election.

According to the FBI, crime is actually down in Babeu’s jurisdiction as well as the rest of Arizona, even along the border.

One can only imagine what investors, businesses and tourists think about Arizona. The whole world is watching The Arizona Show sponsored by ambitious politicians.

Arizona can’t stand much more of the public pounding its elected officials have been giving it. Let’s hope these elected publicity grabbers haven’t built a “danged fence” around our future while trying to ensure their own political gain.

Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net

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