NewsThe West

OUT WEST ROUNDUP | Pruitt’s political future uncertain back home in Oklahoma

Author: Associated Press - July 13, 2018 - Updated: July 26, 2018

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt stands during an afternoon picnic for military families on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Washington, the day before he announced his resignation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt stands during an afternoon picnic for military families on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Washington, the day before he announced his resignation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Pruitt’s political future uncertain back home

OKLAHOMA CITY — Scott Pruitt’s tenure as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency ended with his resignation, but political experts in his home state of Oklahoma say he could continue his career in public office.

The path could lead him back to Washington.

Pruitt, a former Oklahoma state senator and two-term Republican attorney general, resigned suddenly last week amid ethics investigations, including ones examining his lavish spending on first-class airline seats and a $43,000 soundproof booth for making private phone calls.

But even with the bad publicity, Pruitt, 50, has widely been considered a potential candidate for either governor or U.S. Senate. With Oklahoma’s gubernatorial field set for 2018, some have eyed Pruitt as a possible candidate to replace 83-year-old U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe if he decides not to run again in 2020.

Ethical charges aside, many Republicans in oil- and gas-dependent Oklahoma are focused more on what they consider his accomplishments at the EPA, said Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Pam Pollard.

In Washington, Pruitt worked relentlessly to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations that aimed to reduce toxic pollution and planet-warming carbon emissions.

Keith Gaddie, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, said Pruitt could be damaged by the lengthy list of political scandals that includes asking EPA staff to pick up dry cleaning and trying to obtain a used Trump hotel mattress for his apartment.

“There are often second acts in politics, but it’s very hard to come back from 18 months as the principal target of every late night comedian’s jokes,” Gaddie said.


Pharmacist denies woman miscarriage drug on moral grounds

PEORIA, Arizona — The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy will investigate the complaint of a woman who says a Walgreens pharmacist refused to give her medication necessary to end her pregnancy after her baby stopped developing.

The woman, identified as Nicole Arteaga, described in a viral Facebook post how she was publicly humiliated when attempting to fill the prescription to end her pregnancy — a pregnancy she wanted, but needed to terminate because she would ultimately miscarry. She says the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription with other customers within earshot and she left the location in tears with her 7-year-old child by her side.

Arteaga was able to fill her prescription at a different location later, and filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy.

Arizona is one of six states that permit pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on moral or religious grounds without requiring a referral or transfer of the prescription, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The law specifically mentions abortion medication or emergency contraception, and says medical professionals like pharmacists must state their objection in writing.

Kam Gandhi, the board’s executive director, said that part of the law hasn’t been interpreted by the board before.

Once the investigation is presented to the board, it can determine whether to dismiss the complaint or take further action.

Walgreens told The Associated Press that the pharmacist in question was the only one on duty at the time, so he called another location to serve the patient.


Self-styled Utah prophet gets additional 15-year prison term

SALT LAKE CITY — A self-styled prophet who led a doomsday cult and secretly married young girls because of his beliefs in polygamy and has already been sentenced to 26 years in prison has been given a 15-year term following another guilty plea.

Samuel Shaffer, 35, was sentenced last week in Manti, Utah, after pleading guilty to one felony count of child sodomy. Other charges including bigamy, lewdness involving a child and an additional sodomy count were dropped in exchange for the guilty plea.

He had previously pleaded guilty to separate child rape and abuse charges in another Utah court, and was sentenced last month to at least 26 years in prison. The new sentence will be served concurrently and won’t extend his prison term but will be reviewed when determining his parole, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Shaffer led a group called the Knights of the Crystal Blade based on arcane Mormon ideas long abandoned by the mainstream church.

He and his fellow self-styled prophet, John Coltharp, 34, proclaimed to each secretly marry two young girls aged 4 through 8 related to the other man.

Coltharp pleaded guilty to sodomy and child bigamy charges earlier this month. His sentencing is scheduled for August.

Shaffer was charged in December 2017 after police with helicopters and dogs raided a remote makeshift desert compound made out of shipping containers about 275 miles south of Salt Lake City. Authorities found the girls hiding in flimsy plastic barrels and a nearby abandoned trailer where Shaffer said he had placed them to protect them from the winter weather.


Even in GOP bastion Kansas, 2 congressional seats in play

TOPEKA — Competitive races for two of Kansas’ four U.S. House seats are making Republicans sweat to keep their all-GOP state delegation, a twist in a state where President Donald Trump won by nearly 21 points and a leading candidate for governor is gun-rights and immigration hardliner Kris Kobach.

In one case, the Republican incumbent who faced a tighter-than-expected race two years ago faces a field of Democrats energized by dislike of Trump on issues including immigration, health care and the environment. In the other, potential big-name candidates opted not to run for the open seat, leaving a Democrat with the best name recognition.

Republicans say they can feel their opponents’ energy and have been issuing warnings to their conservative base for months.

To boost Democrats’ chances in both districts, the House Majority super PAC announced plans to reserve $900,000 in television ad time in the Topeka and Kansas City markets in the weeks before the election. The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund then promised nearly $3 million worth of ad time.

Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder was destined to be a midterm target after Trump narrowly lost his Kansas City-area 3rd District and its urban neighborhoods and comfortable-to-posh suburbs. Yoder himself fared worse than expected. Democrats sensed Trump might be a liability and both sides poured money into the race at the last minute in 2016, giving Yoder an 11-point margin against an unknown Democrat — less than half his previous average.

But Democrats’ chances could be better in the neighboring 2nd District, which covers most of eastern Kansas from the Nebraska border in the north to Oklahoma in the south. Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins opted not to seek re-election. Democrats have their ideal candidate in former state legislative leader and governor candidate Paul Davis. Seven lesser-known Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination.

New Mexico

Lawmakers consider revisiting New Mexico’s complex liquor laws

SANTA FE — State lawmakers are considering rethinking New Mexico’s complex liquor licensing system in hopes that more local alcohol vendors can help revitalize downtowns in smaller cities, like a brewery did for the town of Truth or Consequences.

Members of the Economic and Rural Development Committee agreed to review the licensing system and other ideas to help jumpstart downtowns in dying towns this summer. Any proposed changes could be introduced in the 2019 session.

Lawmakers cited the Truth or Consequences Brewing Co. as an example of what local alcoholic beverages on tap at the brewery can do for a city.

After the brewery’s opening, more businesses began staying open later to benefit from the extra traffic on the city’s Main Street, Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences said. The brewery has also become a venue for live music.

Because the brewery makes its own beer on site, it did not need a full liquor license.

Several lawmakers believe small towns might benefit from making full licenses more accessible. A majority of full licenses are currently concentrated in the state’s largest cities. Businesses that do hold full liquor licenses in small towns include big chain restaurants like Chili’s or Applebee’s.

A quota system from the 1980s caps the number of certain licenses, making them extremely expensive, said Sen. Ron Griggs of Alamogordo. In some cases, it can cost $250,000 to $1 million to buy a license from someone willing to sell, he said.

Associated Press

Associated Press