Remembering a Local GOP Icon

Scottsdale resident Barbara Espinosa recently passed away at the age of 86. That name may not mean anything to some readers, but her impact was a significant one. She left an imprint that you absolutely have seen, even if the name doesn’t ring any bells.

Espinosa was an icon in local GOP politics: a disruptor, a thought leader, and an organizer. But her full story was a much more intriguing one than simply one of a political apparatchik. Her full story is almost too surreal to be true, yet it is.

Originally from Texas, she began a life of networking with power players and being in the middle of major events at an early age  befriending local icons such as the gambling magnate Benny Binion. She was right in the middle of the course of events surrounding the JFK assassination, having witnessed it firsthand, having frequented the nightclub owned by Jack Ruby (who assassinated JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald), and was propositioned by Oswald, who attempted to sell her a watch from the inside of his coat. She knew LBJ well and even crossed paths with Elvis Presley.

In the 1970s, she made her move to Arizona where she got to know Joe Bannano, boss of the Bannano crime family. She had an incredible knack for being in the orbit of power, something that would serve her well in Arizona’s political scene.

After settling in Scottsdale, she started making waves in the political scene nearly immediately. She worked on the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and the presidential campaigns of both Bushes. She successfully spearheaded the 1999 campaign to defeat an initiative to set up a series of canals in Scottsdale despite facing down a severe financial disadvantage. She became a presence, beloved and feared…her work and that of others forever changed Old Town

While many who get into politics go along to get alone, afraid to make waves and imperil their current seat at the table, Espinosa had no issues making waves when she felt like it was the right thing to do. Notable was her opposition to former Governor Ducey, to the point where she supported the Democrat running against him in 2012. While most party people will simply get in line after a primary, she stuck to her guns. You were NOT going to tell Barbara Espinosa what to do, that was for damn sure.

Outspoken, charismatic, irascible, and unforgettable. Espinosa was an irreplaceable Scottsdalian who lived the equivalent of ten lifetimes insofar as what she had seen and experienced. She will be missed in the public arena and otherwise.