In an article titled, "America is Addicted to Outrage. Is There a Cure?" Lance Morrow states that, "Outrage has become the signature emotion of American public life."
Perhaps there is no better current example than that of LD1 Representative David Stringer.
Representative Stringer is in hot water, there’s no denial. Days after committee assignments were announced, and chairmanships were awarded (Stringer was given 1 chairmanship and 1 vice-chairmanship, and placed on 2 additional committees), the Phoenix New Times revealed recent recordings of a conversation that some have deemed as racist. Three Arizona State University students, who happened to be riding in an elevator with Stringer, surreptitiously recorded their questions and his answers.
According to the author of the Phoenix New Times article, Steven Hsieh, "This all happened because ASU sophomore Stephen Chumra - who approached Stringer after attending a lecture for extra credit - asked the representative some smart and pointed questions."
Who is Stephen Chumra? What are the names of his friends that were accompanying him? Did they have an agenda? How did Hsieh get the recording and why? None of those questions have been asked in the mainstream media or answered.
You can read the entire transcript here: So, What Did Representative David Stringer Really Say? and decide for yourself whether or not the comments were racist and worthy of outrage. Thousands of thoughtful people have read the entire transcript, and have come away with differing perspectives. Some people ask what it was exactly that is considered racist. Others believe that the context still shows racism. There is no universal opinion.
Almost immediately, due to a very loud public outcry, Stringer was stripped of everything except an assignment to the government committee. Several elected officials (including, but not limited to, Governor Ducey, State Senate President-Elect Karen Fann, AZ State Republican Chair Jonathan Lines), political figures and governing boards (including the City of Prescott Council) denounced his words and/or called for his resignation. The Humboldt Unified School District has banned him from their campuses.
One state NAACP organization called for a boycott of Prescott in response to the recordings, asking that Stringer either resign or be expelled.
At this point, there are three separate known online petitions to ask Stringer to resign, and to tell House Speaker Rusty Bowers to remove him from all committees. Links to the online petitions are being shared by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Statewide and even national media have enjoyed a grand romp through any of Stringer’s past words they could find record of; including his history, and other aspects of his life and business partnerships.
(Speaking of which, in full disclosure: Representative Stringer is a minority investor in Specialized Publishing, the parent company of the eNews sites. He has no input or control over editorial content. He has written some op-ed pieces. And yes, the media reveled in putting that business relationship under the microscope, too.)
One elected official, Representative Noel Campbell, Stringer’s seat mate, has spoken out in favor of Stringer and is not calling for his resignation.
Who are some of the key people asking for his resignation?
Many of the people calling for Stringer’s resignation presumably did not vote for him in the primary; choosing instead to support his opponent, Jodi Rooney, and contributing to her campaign. Those include Karen Fann, Sheila Polk, Pamela Jones, Darlene Packard and Billie Orr.
In addition to the $39,000 she raised for her primary campaign, Rooney had nearly $100,000 in Independent Expenditures made on her behalf. That’s in opposition to Stringer, who had $6800 in Independent Expenditures spent against him.
Yet, Stringer still defeated Rooney by about 16% of the vote.
What about a recall?
Why ask for his resignation? Because it would be so much easier than a recall.
According to Toni Denis, Chair of the Yavapai Democratic Party, "A recall election will likely commence in January."
Actually, Stringer cannot be recalled right now, he hasn’t officially taken office yet. And it cannot happen in January, there is a specific procedure that must take place.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s website explains the procedure:
Number of votes from last preceding general election for that office: 199,914
25% of that number: 49,978
Divided by the number of offices (2): 24,989
This number does not include any write-ins that may have been received. Basically, in order to recall Stringer, you would need to collect roughly 25,000 signatures from LD1.
Those signatures would need to be collected within 120 days, about 4 months. Then they have to go through the standard verification process.
That easily gets into May or June - and by then, the session is already over. Typically, if all the hurdles are cleared, the question would be added to the next election.
However, in 2012, legislators voted to approve consolidated elections - which means all elections must be in even-numbered years. The argument was that it would increase voter turnout. In the past, many cities held their elections on local issues and candidates in odd-numbered years, while state-wide elections were held in even-numbered years.
Several charter cities challenged the 2012 legislation and won in the Court of Appeals. The Appeals decision was affirmed by the Arizona State Supreme Court without comment. So, Prescott, for example, still has their elections in odd-numbered years, but Prescott Valley is on the consolidated election schedule. For background, read: Bill would mandate local election schedule for larger cities
Why is this important? Because many cities and voting entities will not have any elections until 2020. That means it would have to be done through a special election, which would cost well over $100,000 (and who pays for that?), or wait until 2020, when Stringer would have to run again for re-election anyway.
Could a recall happen? Possibly, but it would not be easy to accomplish. And Stringer would surely campaign in his own behalf.
According to Prescott City Manager, as of Friday morning, they had received about 50 calls from the public in response to the Council’s vote on December 4 to ask for Stringer’s resignation. The comments were approximately 30 in favor of the council action, and 20 opposed. That’s generally a 60-40 split.
Online, in Facebook groups, comments are mostly mixed. It’s difficult to have an exact measurement, of course. The Prescott Area Living page is skewing heavily in support of Stringer. The Prescott, Arizona page seems to be about 50-50ish. On the dCourier page, the debate is vigorous, but mostly amongst just a few people that seem to be evenly split. On the Prescott eNews Facebook page, the comments are strongly in support of Stringer.
(Editor’s note: As mentioned above, Stringer is an investor in Specialized Publishing, but he has never once commented on the eNews Facebook pages. I’m not sure he knows how.)
What happens next?
1. Expect more of the same. People and groups will continue to publicly denounce his words and call for his resignation.
2. Media coverage will continue to be largely negative, but, lacking some new bombshell, will fizzle until the next loud call for his resignation is made, at which point it will revive briefly.
3. Representative Stringer announced publicly at a Prescott Valley Town Council meeting on Thursday that he will not resign.
4. Speaker Rusty Bowers has said he will take no further action.
NEW: House Speaker-elect Rusty Bowers (R) will take no further action against state Rep. David Stringer (R) over his racist remarks. Bowers called for Stringer's resignation, stripped him of all but one committee assignment & says expulsion in this case would be unconstitutional.— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) December 5, 2018
5. The Democratic Caucus has asked for a formal censure if Stringer has not resigned by the time the legislative session has begun. It is worth noting that the Democratic Caucus did not ask for him to be expelled.
A frequently heard comment is, "Don’t Californicate Arizona." There are even bumper and window stickers that can be purchased with this message. The term "Californication" is not new - having been coined more than 50 years ago by Time Magazine.
Yet, the movement against David Stringer sounds very similar to what California's LA Times tweeted on Saturday evening:
Five former political directors of the California Republican Party have called on the state GOP leadership to renounce President Trump’s nationalist rhetoric and candidates who use “messages of hatred, division and rhetoric that divides us by race.” https://t.co/KEXPJwQSjm— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) December 9, 2018