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Díaz and Roberts: Board of Supervisors held the line against election deniers, but 2 are leaving

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman says he won't run for re-election this year. He joins Supervisor Bill Gates, who also won't be on the board going forward. The move comes after several Republican officials have faced years of harassment and death threats since they refused to cede to the political forces that be and denounce the results of the 2020 election.

Hickman led the county Board of Supervisors during that contentious election and has spoken out about the onslaught of vitriol he has received since. An Iowa man who sent him death threats will now serve a 2.5-year prison sentence as a result.

But our next guest says Democrat or Republican, Hickman stepping down is a loss for us all.

The Show spoke more with Elvia Díaz, editorial page editor of the Arizona Republic, and columnist Laurie Roberts.

Full interview

Good morning to you both.

LAURE ROBERTS: Good morning.

ELVIA DÍAZ: Good morning.

So, Laurie remind us what happened during the 2020 election and in the wake of it, what did people like Clint Hickman, like Bill Gates, do?

ROBERTS: Well, they followed the law is what they did as you know, if you really want to go back, there were a lot of Republicans who felt like that election was stolen because their guy Donald Trump didn't win. We had a Senate audit. We had a special audit that even the county did to try to reassure people. First of all, to, to find out was there a problem? And none of those places ever found a problem.

They wanted to reassure the public that the election was fair, free and fair, but a certain wing of the, the, the Republican party just wasn't ever going to buy that. Politicians looking for a way to either make money or grab power, made an issue of this and riled up, you know, most of America against Maricopa County. As a result, there were all kinds of threats that came in to election officials in general, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors specifically, because they run the election day activities. And, you know, a lot of those supervisors are just now fed up and quitting.

When we say they were the focus of hate of death threats, this kind of thing. Like how far did this go? Like there's been a lot out there about, about Supervisor Bill Gates talking about how he's been diagnosed with PTSD as a result, right?

ROBERTS: Right. You know, I mean, how many times when your wives are called at work and threatened when, when protesters descend upon your home, where your children are, your young children. When you get death threats saying you're gonna die, we're going to hang you. It's, it's serious, and several people, I believe there have been four thus far who have been identified and sentenced and are now in prison as a result of some of the, these sorts of threats.

But I think what you're also seeing here is, as a result of what's going on and Clint Hickman, of course, announcing that he wouldn't run for re-election late last week, is you're going to now see a very different Maricopa County Board of Supervisors potentially in the future. One that perhaps won't stand for the law, but instead will put their own party first, and that should be concerning to everybody.

Yeah, and I want to talk more about that in a moment, but let me turn first to you, Elvia, and talk a little bit about the broader picture here. As we sort of mentioned there, Bill Gates, Clint Hickman, are not going to run for re-election, but this also goes down to local levels to, you know, election offices, election officials of all stripes have just been leaving in droves in the last several years because of this kind of thing. What are your concerns?

DÍAZ: Well, just as Laurie mentioned, I mean, extremely concerned about what it will mean for election. I mean, it seems to me that the former president, Donald Trump, is winning in this regard, because he's the one that begun with all this stolen election and not willing to accept the results, even though every single time the court has reinforced that the election was fair, but, you know, he just doesn't like to lose. And so he unleashed all this people against the county officials.

And you know what, I don't blame them. You know, they are human beings. I mean, of course, I don't want to go through that But then if they all leave, who's going to be left?

You know, Laurie was saying there that perhaps we're going to end up with county supervisors all over Arizona. We have 15 counties with. With supervisors who are, who are not going to uphold the law. And what is that going to mean? That's not democracy. That's, that's exactly what is at stake here when you don't respect election results and that there's something else entirely, something else. So, yes, it's extremely concerning and, you know, everyone should be looking at this very closely.

So, Laurie, what do you think is the concern specifically at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors? Like, if, if we do not have these two, there are some other people on that board who might fill those shoes, do we know who might be running? What are your worries there?

ROBERTS: Well, it's almost a sure thing that Debbie Lesko representative Debbie Lesko who of course announced earlier this year, she was retiring from Congress. Didn't like the commute, didn't like being part of an organization that, frankly didn't do anything that being the U.S. Congress. So she has announced that she is going to run to fill Clint Hickman's spot. She will almost surely take that seat if you will recall.

She was one of the members of Congress who voted to basically disenfranchise us by not accepting our electoral college votes. So that's concerning, that someone who didn't accept the 2020 election could now be in charge of the, what would that be 2026, I guess, beginning then. So I think that you'll see that seat turn to someone who is more likely to be an election denier.

In Tom Galvin's district, he's being challenged in the primary by Michelle Ugenti-Rita. A lot of Republicans in the Legislature who are election deniers are supporting her.

So there's two seats. Bill Gates' seat will be up, and there's a number of people running there. It's not clear what will will happen there. One of the people running is Kate Brophy McGee, who is certainly not an election denier, but there will be, I assume that there will be a challenge there from the right from the far right as well.

So you very well could have, it's a five member board, you very well could have a completely different county Board of Supervisors in the future. One that perhaps may or may not turn more like Cochise County where of course, they didn't even want to certify the election results.

One other thing I want to mention about Clint Hickman, that I, that I probably should have mentioned earlier is, you will recall after the election when Donald Trump was calling elections officials in Georgia, [Brad] Raffensperger, like that, trying to get them to find extra votes, he was also calling here, and he was calling Clint Hickman, who at the time was chairman of the Mount Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and Hickman wouldn't take his calls because he knew what was coming. That's another place where he stood tall in that he valued the rule of law over the needs or desires of his party.

Elvia, let me end with you and a broader question about sort of the, the environment that we're in now and a little reflection on that. Like, did you ever imagine, I guess, that we'd be in a place where we'd be seeing this kind of thing happen. Where the conversation is about questioning our, our, our maybe most sacred institution, which is our, our election system, our system of government.

DÍAZ: No. And I don't think anyone saw this coming, but now we know we have seen this movie many times, we saw in 2020, we saw in 2022 that there are some people, some members of the Republican Party, that will never accept the results. We already know that. So I think that the, the way to counter that is to vote in droves that way, there are no close, tight elections, and hopefully, you know, the, the, the whoever wins will be with a great majority and there will be no doubt who won. But unfortunately, we know that whatever happens, President Donald Trump and others will deny the elections, they're election deniers. So again, extremely concerning.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.