Pinal County, a Democratic county encumbered with a history of corruption, has been viewed by many as primarily a rural void between Maricopa and Pima counties.
As recently as two county managers ago, former County Manager Stanley Griffis served from 1989 to 2004 when charges were filed against him for defrauding the county of over $400,000, receiving improper county reimbursements, claiming false salary in an effort to increase his pension, and filing false income tax returns. He pled guilty to six felony charges, received a three-year sentence in prison, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of over $639,000. Where was the oversight by the Board of Directors?
Then there is Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle, who hired her daughter’s boyfriend, an ex-convict, Albert Robbs, who served three years in prison for theft. Robbs was subsequently arrested for identity theft that victimized county customers. Sheriff Babeu called for her resignation but she continued to work for the county. Where was the oversight by the Board of Directors?
The first Republicans elected to office in Pinal County were Sheriff Paul Babeu and Supervisor Bryan Martyn in 2008. Chad Roche, Clerk of the Court was elected two years later. Two years later, Pinal County citizens have broken the mold with an historic Republican sweep of county offices, electing nine Republicans to office.
Beginning in January 2013, Pinal County will transition from three County Supervisors to a Board of five supervisors as a result of increased population. Republicans took four of the five seats.
The New Board members are Cheryl Chase, in District 2, who was a former legislator, serving six years in the State House of Representatives. Chase, who served as the Community Relations Director for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, resigned to run for the Board.
Steve Miller in District 3, who knocked off incumbent Dave Snider, was a Casa Grande City Councilman who resigned his seat to run for the Board of Supervisors.
Tony Smith, former successful mayor of Maricopa, won his race in District 4 over Henry Wade in one of the most unusually configured supervisory districts that spans Maricopa, Arizona City, Red Rock and SaddleBrooke.
Todd House, in District 5, won his race handily over Maxine Brown. House is a past Director and Chairman of the Apache Junction Fire District Board, and past second vice chairman of the Pinal County Republican Committee.
The new Supervisors will mesh well with County Manager Fritz Behring, who has brought a fresh perspective to county government: Pinal County has sufficient revenues; the question is do we spend efficiently?
As noted by Behring in his August budget presentation to the current Board, Pinal has the second highest primary tax rate in the state and the third highest combined property tax rate, while the 2010-2011 fiscal year showed Pinal County had the lowest per capita income in the state. Behring was able to reduce the primary property tax by five percent this fiscal year despite Democrat attempts to slash the property tax reduction by half.
Sheriff Paul Babeu was the overwhelming winner of the Sheriff’s race, outpolling his closest competitor, Kevin Taylor, by over 20 points and a vote total of 42,406. Lando Voyles, candidate for County Attorney, who ran with Babeu as a team, stunned current County Attorney James Walsh with a winning margin of over 4,000 votes.
Republicans also won the Assessor’s office with Doug Wolfe winning over Democratic newbie Randy Robbins by almost thirteen points. Virginia Ross won easily over Democrat Barbara Kelly over 6,400 votes for the Recorder’s office.
Republican newcomer Jill Broussard, who crushed her opponent, incumbent County School Superintendent Orelda Roberts, 42,497 to 31,624, brings fresh thinking to a stale organization. Anthony Gonzalez, who lost to Broussard in the primary, generously aided Broussard in her winning campaign.
The groundswell of support for Republican candidates represents a seismic shift in Pinal County politics. The citizens of Pinal County are tired of the corruption of elected and appointed officials and declared their choice for positive change.