Battle Royale: Controversial Mary Rose Wilcox Is in the Political Fight of Her Life

Categories: Election 2014

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Ruben Gallego
Mary Rose Wilcox can laugh about that day now, and she does during an interview with New Times at her South Phoenix campaign headquarters during a Saturday afternoon in July.

She's wearing her usual sleeveless dress and bright red lipstick. She seems more like an abuela drinking coffee and sharing old family stories than a congressional candidate. But that's part of her disarming charm. She says Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's now her political nemesis, even once told her, "I could never be mad at you . . . because you look like my mother."

During her three decades in office, Wilcox cast votes that created thousands of jobs in Maricopa County, worked on projects that improved roadways through some of the most rundown neighborhoods in South Phoenix, and made it possible for poor children to attend baseball games, a boxing gym, and city swimming pools for free.

Her work in the community -- and becoming the first Latina elected to the Phoenix City Council, in 1984 -- has earned her a lofty status among Latinos.

She's also made political blunders along the way, and she spent the better part of two decades under clouds of controversy.

Getting shot was the result of just one of them -- her yes swing vote to build a publicly funded baseball stadium, now Chase Field.

Wilcox increased her net worth through land deals, with at least one in 2003 involving an acre purchased from Arizona Public Service for hundreds of thousands of dollars below market value. She didn't disclose that transaction even as she voted as a county supervisor on APS-related projects.

In 2004, she scored a lucrative concessions contract designed for "disadvantaged" business owners at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It was a time when she ran a successful restaurant, owned nearly $2 million worth of land, and was pulling in more than $120,000 a year between her county paycheck and retirement benefits. This didn't include her husband's income.

The way she got her hands on the nearly half-million-dollar loan that secured her spot in the airport concession violated city rules, according to a 2009 Goldwater Institute report.

She also faced criminal charges in 2004 for tearing down a century-old house on the city's historic property rolls -- without obtaining required permits. In the end, she pleaded not guilty, the charges were dropped, and she settled the case with a $10,000 donation to the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office.

It's all served as political ammunition against her a decade later.

Gallego, who's raised $435,000 in campaign contributions, has smeared Wilcox as a "political insider" who is "looking out for herself -- not us" in literature he's mailed to voters.

Wilcox, who's raised more than $335,000 in contributions, in turn has blasted him. She's repeatedly criticized Gallego for his membership in the National Rifle Association and for earning a B+ rating from the gun industry's lobby.

As she discusses reining in gun laws, it doesn't hurt -- politically speaking -- that she was shot.

Yet polls commissioned by Gallego show that his anti-Wilcox talking points might be resonating more with Democratic voters. Two separate surveys, conducted in May and July by Lake Research Partners put Gallego six and eight points, respectively, ahead of Wilcox.
The longtime politico shrugs off the poll, reminding voters how she's battled against Arpaio and his anti-immigrant policies and racially motivated raids and roundups -- that she's fought hard enough that he wanted to destroy her politically and used his cohort, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, to try to make that happen.

They failed to buckle the Latina, now 64. Yet, as a member of the old guard of community leaders, political sources wonder how much energy she has left. And whether Congress is the right place to put her to the test.

Danny Ortega, a local attorney and longtime activist, argues that Wilcox "has a lot of fight left in her" but that Gallego has more.

Whether she wins or Gallego takes the seat -- or an unlikely upset sends one of the other candidates to Washington (the race will be settled by a plurality of votes, and there is no Republican contender in November) -- Democratic Party leaders say the state of Arizona ultimately will come out ahead. 

They say the rabid competition will draw out more Democratic voters and inch Arizona ever closer to politically bluer skies.

"It's not going to magically turn the state blue overnight," says D.J. Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party. "But I think it's a piece of the puzzle that's going to lead Arizona to be more and more politically competitive."



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27 comments
rh19541954
rh19541954

I am voting for democrat straight down the ticket, no republicans have impressed me since the one time I got fooled when I voted for Nixon long ago!

Jukes
Jukes

Wow, what a choice.  A thieving grandma too old for the job.  And a hot-headed gun lover too immature for the job.  Thanks for the info.  I'm glad I live somewhere with better candidates.

Ponder
Ponder

She was shot in the ass. Naman hit exactly where he meant to. Shooting someone in the ass is not attempted murder....it's aggravated assault.

No one tried killing this trash heap called Mary Rose Wilcox.

salmo60
salmo60

Every time I see Mary Wilcox, I see someone who looks like Nancy Grace. UGH, appalling.

semperfinally
semperfinally

Terry Goddard would make a fine Governor.


What a pity the Dems are running somebody or other else for that office.


And what a pity that the AZ Dem organization is so impotent that it couldn't even manage to run even a token candidate for every statewide office.


The 2016 Dem Convention is not apt to be held in Phoenix. Duh.

semperfinally
semperfinally

Perhaps, Rep Gallego, has been a bit too enthusiastic for legal marijuana and its underworld sponsors..


He will be very lucky to reach his 40th birthday--whether or not he ever reaches Congress.

semperfinally
semperfinally

Rep. Gallego is a very young man in a very big hurry--and has a lot of money at his disposal--despite only 4 unremarkable years in the legislature. 


Something is off here.

mike2059
mike2059

Mary Rose is the only one in this race who can and will do the hard work to meet the needs of individual constituents and various communities, while standing up for Rights and pushing to complete Comprehensive Immigration Reform in a meaningful way.  She alone will stand up against the cynical rampage of the Gun Lobby.  The tradition of this Community as rights for all have expanded over the years has been that of King and Chavez, not Wayne LaPierre and his stooges. 


That is why brilliant and accomplished Leaders and Legislators such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Ed Pastor, and Antonio Villaraigosa have not only endorsed her, they have flown to be Phoenix to be by her side and let us know they look forward to her experience and leadership.  Mary Rose will bring the wisdom and compassion of a Mother and Grandmother to the human needs of her District.

mike2059
mike2059

Ruben Gallego is all talk and no action, unless it's to do the NRA's bidding.  He hasn't done the work to have any real accomplishments, and ditched his consituents in District 27 in about two seconds as soon as the seat became open.  A rank opportunist who wouldn't know the truth if it bit him in the ass!

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

You don't have to shoot her. Just don't vote for her. Problem solved.

Desertrat1
Desertrat1

She needs to go away! She got her millions from the BS lawsuit...Also don't forget all the corrupt business deals including her involvement with the City of Phx at Sky Harbor......

66rock
66rock topcommenter

The end of my support for her came when she enriched herself with the suit against us county taxpayers. After that and nearly 30 years of her on the public

payroll, it really is time for her to go away. She gives us women and Democrats a bad name, the people can do much better.  

RobertGraham29
RobertGraham29

Fuck Mary Rose Wilcox. She is a disgrace to Maricopa County. She's gonna lose!

manicmartian
manicmartian

No sympathy, he should have shot her in the head.

Jukes
Jukes

@semperfinally I agree it's a pity that the Dems don't even have candidates for some positions.  BUT ... Do volunteer for the party?  Time or money?  Too many people have opinions, but fail to participate in the process. 

arizonaeagletarian
arizonaeagletarian

@semperfinally do you have any idea about what marijuana is and does? It's MUCH safer than alcohol, from personal health and public health perspectives. Fear mongers are caught up in hundred year old propaganda.

mike2059
mike2059

@semperfinally He just did a Fundraiser with FIFE SYMINGTON!!!  In a Hurry and DESPERATE!!!  How the Hell can he call himself a Progressive with Friends like Fife Symington and the NRA???!!!

mike2059
mike2059

@Desertrat1 Read the article, Desertrat.  She won't net a dime.  Arpaio engaged in the most cynical attempt at political destruction in the history of this state----and Mary Rose won!!!  All 44 counts were dismissed, Joe is under Federal Court Order, Andy is disbarred, and she won her suit, which just might cover her incredible legal fees and taxes. This is one tough lady who withstood it all to fight against injustice and racial profiling, and the People know it!!!

semperfinally
semperfinally

@66rock True enough. Many might argue that Ruben's apparent connections to the cartels are  much worse.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

66, as much as it pains me to say this, i think Wilcox was entitled to the money.

I mean, candy Andy and the miscreants, in concert with the old man, forced Wilcox to spend a shitload of money on a good lawyer to defend her against their (Arpaio, Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander's) bullshit.

Her lawyer just happens to be a former superior court judge.

arizonaeagletarian
arizonaeagletarian

@semperfinally @66rock dude, you don't seem to have a clue. When MJ is legalized (and it WILL be legalized soon throughout the country) the cartels will be decimated, not enriched.

Have you ever taken an economics course?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@arizonaeagletarian You really are an ignoramus.


Marijuana will NEVER be legal across the U$A in your lifetime. 


"The Cartels" are the same friends, family and relatives that every stoner in the U$A has always purchased their pot from.


Grow a brain.

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