Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby have put Cochise County in the national spotlight with a series of legal adventures that have propelled them to the forefront of election skepticism and landed them in court.
From a rural, scenic corner of southeastern Arizona, the two Republican supervisors have tried to throw sand in the gears of the election process, from an attempt last month to hand count every ballot cast to deliberately missing the deadline to certify election results.
For their efforts, they and the county have been sued for violating election law. They have drawn admiration from election deniers, condemnation from outraged Democrats and amusement from onlookers.
Here is some background on the duo, who appear to be testing the bounds of public and legal patience. It should be noted that the two have not complained about the wins chalked up by GOP candidates on the Cochise County ballot.
Board Chairwoman Ann English, the only Democrat on the three-member panel, has watched in exasperation as her colleagues have defied legal advice and plowed ahead with votes that have turned into legal bait.
“How many times do you have to willfully not follow the law?” English asked.
Peggy Judd: She attended ‘Stop the Steal’ rally near the US Capitol with her family
Judd is a two-term supervisor from the county’s northern city of Willcox, where she was born and raised.
She served one term in the Arizona House of Representatives a decade ago, where she was a quiet backbencher more noted for the constant companionship of her husband than for her legislative priorities.
She introduced legislation that sought to help county governments, such as a bill that would have allowed counties to impose a 1% tax on alcohol sales. And she showed a particular interest in social issues, with a proposal to allow grandparents raising grandchildren to qualify for cash assistance, or legislation that would have required mediation for divorcing couples, with the intent of trying to keep a family together. The bills went nowhere.
Judd and her family attended the “Stop the Steal” rally not far from the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, traveling cross-country as part of a pro-Donald Trump caravan.
Judd speculated that the violence that erupted that day was a “false flag” event set up by Antifa. Antifa is a political movement of far-left activists who oppose neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events.
She also compared the march to the Capitol to the freedom marches led by the late Martin Luther King Jr. She said she did not enter the Capitol and has told media outlets she was there more to watch over her grandchildren so her daughter and son-in -law could take part in the day’s activities.
Her comments about the events of Jan. 6 drew so much condemnation that she shut down her Facebook page and said she felt “punished” and “defiled” by the media as well as by people in her community. Calls for her to resign went unheeded.
Judd, along with Crosby, voted in February to reject a $1.9 million federal grant for COVID-19 relief efforts. She claimed, without evidence, that the vaccine changed the virus, something that county health officials refuted in official testimony.
An opponent of the vaccine, she was unvaccinated and at one point contracted the virus.
As the 2022 election neared, Judd championed an effort to have the county hand count every ballot as a check on “our already perfect system” of machine tabulation. She envisioned a troop of volunteers would gather to count every race on every ballot – a micro version of the state Senate-ordered recount of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County that took months to complete and added votes for Joe Biden.
She persisted, even as county attorneys told the board the action was not allowed by law. Judd maintained it would be a way to assuage local skeptics and insisted there was no interest in changing the eventual vote outcome.
“This is important, probably one of the most important things that we have done,” she said at an October meeting. “We need our county to be united and say ‘Yeah, awesome, it turned out great. Thank you.’”
Late last month, she told the New York Times the real reason for the certification delay was to protest the election process in Maricopa County. The concern over whether Cochise County tabulation machines were approved by an accredited laboratory, she said, was just a pretext to delay.
“It’s the only thing we have to stand on,” she said, referring to the voting machine claim.
Judd has been intent on sparing Cochise taxpayers legal expenses, leading a drive to find private funding for the attorney fees needed to defend against legal challenges. That has raised questions about the ethics, if not the legality, of using private money to pay for services that benefit the county.
Tom Crosby: Train Border Patrol agent, Trump supporter, vaccine skeptic
Crosby is a former Sierra Vista councilman who won election to the county board in 2020. During his campaign, he highlighted his support for former President Donald Trump, underscoring his conservative credentials.
He served as a US Border Patrol agent and pilot, work that eventually brought him to the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector of the US-Mexico border.
Robert Montgomery, Cochise County Republican Committee chair, championed Crosby’s work.
“He has saved more lives as a Border Patrol officer than the entire (security) apparatus in this county,” Montgomery said, noting that as a pilot Crosby was able to spot people wandering in the desert and draw them to the attention of agents on the ground.
The Cochise supervisors appointed Montgomery to the Palominos Fire District board, a move that sparked protests from some local residents. Among them was Jeff Sturges, who complained that Montgomery’s role as one of 11 “fake electors” from Arizona in the 2020 presidential election didn’t merit an appointment to a position of trust.
Sturges has been a thorn in the side of Crosby and Judd during recent public meetings.
After Sturges criticized Crosby’s support for delaying certification and asked the supervisor to resign, Crosby was nonplussed, interpreting the Democrat’s critique as a compliment.
“What I hear is ‘Good job, Crosby,'” the supervisor said, referring to himself.
During board discussions, Crosby has shown a disdain for advice from subject matter professionals, in contrast with Judd, who has sought to strike a more accommodating tone.
For example, in June, when a county attorney warned him he was flirting with a violation of the state Open Meeting Law, Crosby replied, “We’ll see. You’re not a judge.”
In November, Crosby said he trusted the expertise of the members of the public who questioned the certifications of election tabulation machines as much as the expertise of the state elections director.
He joined Judd in rejecting the COVID-19 relief funding and has compared COVID-19 vaccines to Agent Orange, a herbicide used during the Vietnam War that has caused cancer in veterans.
Before living in Arizona, Crosby worked as a security guard at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego and as a patrol officer on the San Diego trolley system, according to his own biography.
He lives in Sierra Vista with his wife of 30 years. They have two children.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
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