A dispute over campaign signs has erupted into charges of political intimidation and ethics violations.
Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, said Tuesday she will be asking the Senate Ethics Committee to look into her claim that Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, threatened to kill any of her bills that come to the Education Committee which he chairs. That threat followed Barton taking pictures of two young women — one who turned out to be Crandall’s daughter — removing campaign signs of Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction.
Fillmore and Crandall are facing off in the Republican primary for state Senate.
“Education is a cause Sen. Crandall professes to champion and yet he clearly demonstrated that it goes under the bus when it comes to settling his personal scores and that he’ll use his position of trust to do just that,’’ Barton said. “This alone should be grounds for his dismissal from chairmanship of any committee.’’
The threat came in a telephone message Crandall left on Barton’s phone last Friday.
“You know I’m furious at you right now,’’ the message says. “You better not try to run any education legislation whatsoever the next two years.’’
Crandall did not dispute the message. But he said there was a good reason for his ire.
He said someone put the photos Barton took on the Internet along with sarcastic comments about his daughter. That, Crandall said, resulted in “this stack of emails now that are so vile, so disgusting, from Fillmore supporters.’’
Crandall said he was reacting the way any father would.
But Crandall sidestepped the question on Tuesday whether now, after having time to reflect, he still intends to refuse to give a hearing to any Barton-sponsored measure that comes over from the House.
“I’m not going to answer that question,’’ he said.
Barton said the issue goes beyond the threat.
“He is using his position to speak to me in a demeaning and a bullying manner,’’ she said of Crandall.
The issue that started it all involves those 4-by-8 foot campaign signs.
Fillmore contends Crandall’s daughter and someone else — acting under Crandall’s direction — removed his signs and replaced them with Crandall’s. Crandall’s contention is that his signs were there first and that Fillmore supporters took them down and attached Fillmore signs to the posts.
Fillmore, who was at Tuesday’s press conference with Barton, said his ire was not over the signs. He said he has filed a theft complaint with the Mesa Police Department.
Instead, Fillmore said, the issue is Crandall’s conduct towards Barton.
“He spoke down to her,’’ Fillmore said of Crandall’s message to Barton, even saying in the phone message that “you need to grow up.’’
Tuesday’s press conference was organized by Rey Torres, the House Republican publicist, and held in the old Senate chambers, which is a state building. But Torres said the event was about the ethics complaint to be filed and is unrelated to the fact that Fillmore is running against Crandall.