A thank you to Bill Gates
We are very fortunate that Gates and his colleagues were in charge of county government when the Republican Party went mad.
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates is everything everyone should want in a political representative and leader.
He deals in issues, not personalities. He is conscientious. He does his homework. He provides consensus-building leadership. He gets things done. He makes government work.
Gates is also everything pragmatic conservatives should hope for in a political representative and leader. He is a traditional conservative. He understands the art of governing, of working within the political realm of the possible to move policy in that direction. He is smart and articulate. He persuades rather than demonizes, enlarging the political realm of the possible for conservative ideas. His political persona is engaging, likable, trustworthy, and authentic, expanding his political appeal beyond those on the traditional right.
The political fates have been unfair to Gates.
In the Arizona Republican Party of John McCain, Jon Kyl, and Doug Ducey, Gates was regarded as a potential rising star. After solid stints on the Phoenix City Council and county board, Gates was widely regarded as a likely and attractive candidate for statewide office and, perhaps ultimately, even governor or U.S. Senate. Gates had an interest in the progression of a political career.
That Arizona Republican Party no longer exists. Instead, the state party, as with the national party, is now the party of Trump.
Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue who attempted a coup after losing the 2020 presidential race. One of the elements of the attempted coup was casting false doubt and aspersions about the legitimacy of reported election results. Maricopa County became a focus of this part of the conspiracy.
It should have been self-evidently ludicrous. During the 2020 election, Maricopa County did have a Democratic county recorder. But under state law, running elections is the responsibility of the board of supervisors. Previous boards had contracted that responsibility to the county recorder, who ran the whole shebang. However, prior to the 2020 election, the board assumed direct responsibility for the casting and counting of votes, establishing a department to do so reporting directly to them.
There was never any reason to doubt the integrity of the Democratic county recorder, Adrian Fontes, now the secretary of state. However, the board, which actually had the responsibility of counting the votes, was 4-1 Republican. At the time, none of the Republican members of the county board were Never Trumpers. My guess is that all of them voted for Trump and wanted him to win. So, why would they rig the results so he lost Maricopa County by a margin large enough to throw Arizona’s Electoral College votes to Joe Biden?
Despite the self-evident ludicrousness of it, virtually all Republican officials and officeholders in the state either participated in or condoned the attempted coup, including casting false shade on the legitimacy of the election results in Maricopa County.
The attempted coup was an uncomfortably close run thing. There were a few pillars that upheld the constitutional and democratic order. The courts. Mike Pence who refused to do Trump’s bidding and corrupt the reporting of the Electoral College results in Congress.
One of the important pillars was the steadfastness of Gates and his county colleagues in defending the legitimacy of the Maricopa County results. It would have been much easier politically for the Republican members of the board – Gates, Clint Hickman, Jack Sellers, and Tom Galvin – to have waffled under the relentless MAGA barrage. But, to a man, they stood strong.
The responsible and constructive role played by the Democratic supervisor, Steve Gallardo, has gone underappreciated. He could have made life for his GOP colleagues even more difficult by exploiting the madness in the Republican Party for partisan advantage. Instead, he was part of a united, bipartisan front.
Republican Stephen Richer won election as county recorder in 2020 and promptly threw himself fully into defending the legitimacy of an election he had no hand in running.
The county’s united front painstakingly rebutted and refuted every myth and misrepresentation the election conspiracists concocted. The care the county took in publicly and thoroughly defending the legitimacy of the 2020 election results was an important factor in the GOP slate of election conspiracists being routed for statewide offices in 2022.
Gates has announced that he isn’t running for re-election in 2024. To which, I say: God bless, Godspeed, and thank you.
The madness that has seized the Republican Party has exacted a painful personal toil on those who have stood up to it and withstood it. Because of his legal training and leadership skills, Gates was often at the tip of the spear, and that spear was often targeted dangerously at him and his family. All those who have been part of the united front in Maricopa County against the madness have earned our gratitude and a respite from politics if they want it.
History called in a way not expected of county officials. And they answered the call with integrity, competence, and courage.
Reach Robb at email@example.com.