Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman acknowledges ‘financial struggles’ – The Arizona Republic

Republican congressional hopeful Walt Blackman likes to talk about the past, whether it’s his two decades in the military or his wife’s family founding the town of Snowflake.

What he doesn’t play up is his recurring problem with money.

Blackman, R-Snowflake, faced criminal prosecution over bad checks in Texas, lost multiple cars to repossession in California and was tagged with a default judgment over credit card debt last month in Arizona.

It’s a rundown of what he characterized as “financial struggles” that stretches back 30 years and includes his time in the Army, his efforts as a self-employed businessman and now as a state lawmaker hoping to replace Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., in Congress. 

Others in the Republican primary have their own histories. 

For example, Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of 8kun, the QAnon conspiracy’s favorite message board, presented sensitive Colorado voting information at a Mike Lindell election-conspiracy gathering.

After an FBI raid last year, Colorado officials have been indicted on state charges of allowing the information to be copied and given to someone else, though court documents don’t identify that person. Watkins has not been charged, and it is unclear whether authorities view him as a suspect.

Businessman Eli Crane had a 2019 traffic offense in Marana, for which he paid the $225 fine.  

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Blackman: ‘Our priority was me staying alive’

Blackman has built much of his campaign message around themes of his service to the nation and core conservative values, from opposing abortion rights to supporting gun rights.

In launching his congressional campaign, he railed against “our out-of-control national debt” as well. 

Blackman, currently the chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee, emphasized his military record when asked about his criminal record and personal finances by The Arizona Republic.  

“I understand better than most the financial hardships resulting from being deployed overseas seven times over 21 years to active combat zones while balancing a toxic (prior) marriage where sound financial standing was not a priority,” Blackman said in a statement to The Republic.

“Our priority was me staying alive and being able to feed our children from half a globe away. My past financial struggles are exactly why I want to go to Washington. We struggle while our politicians govern from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis and shutdown to shutdown, or even threats of one as political leverage.

“I am proud that my wife Kristie and I have taken accountability for our past financial hardships and are working together to continue chasing our American dream.”

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Off and on struggles with repossessions, bills

Court records suggest a bumpy path from serving as a tank commander to congressional candidate. 

In November 1992, authorities in San Marcos, Texas, charged Blackman, then 27, with the first of 11 misdemeanor cases involving allegations of hot checks or theft by check, Hays County court records show. The online records don’t identify whom Blackman presented with the bad checks or the amount. 

The filing dates for the various cases suggest they happened over a span beginning in November 1992 and continuing through July 1994.

After that, Blackman began addressing the issue.

Over a three-month span in late 1994, Blackman was found guilty in one case and pleaded no contest to eight others.

He received deferred adjudication in a 1994 case that was dismissed in 2002. Records in one 1993 case do not indicate how it was resolved.

But the court records suggest Blackman still hasn’t put the bad-check cases fully behind him.

The records show he paid $75 in fines against him, but he still owes $1,140 in those matters.

After his problems in Texas, Blackman and his wife, Kristie, relocated to California.

Money, however, re-emerged as a problem.

In September 1995, California authorities placed a lien on him for nonpayment of $955 in taxes. There is no record the lien was paid or released by the state. Asked last week, the state’s tax board could not clarify how that matter was resolved.

Blackman’s personal financial disclosure form for the Arizona Legislature, filed earlier this year, does not identify any personal debt over $1,000.

A few years later, Blackman began losing a series of vehicles to repossession, court records show.

In 1999, he lost a 1995 Ford F-150 to repossession. In 2003, creditors reclaimed a 1996 Dodge Caravan. In 2005, he lost a 1995 Ford Windstar. Ten months after that, he lost a 1998 Chrysler Sebring.

On the heels of that, Blackman and his wife, then living in Fort Irwin, Calif., filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2007.

At the time, the couple reported about $51,000 in debts, much of it stemming from the repossessions.

Creditors haven’t stopped trying to get more money from Blackman.

On April 15, a Snowflake justice of the peace entered a default judgment against Blackman and his wife for $887 in delinquent credit card charges and related fees.

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Consulting businesses up and running

Blackman has been in business for himself since at least 2016.

That’s when he and his wife started W.B. Inclusion and Diversity Consulting, an Arizona business that helps companies “develop multicultural sensitivity, communication, and problem-solving skills in your employees.”

“Mr. Blackman can boost in employee engagement and morale, company profits follow,” he tells potential clients considering a one-hour speech from him for $600. “His motivation comes in many forms of his 22 years as a combat leader during Iraq Freedom and the war in (Afghanistan), motivational.”

In 2021, Blackman began another consulting business, W.B. Victim Advocacy and Mediation Consulting Inc., according to his financial disclosure for the Legislature that year. He offers workplace training and advises employers on problems that have already happened.

Blackman joined the part-time Arizona House of Representatives after the 2018 elections.

Earlier this year, he tried to prevent debt for others when he introduced a bill intended to prevent court-ordered fees and fines on juvenile offenders. 

“Thousands of children in Arizona interact with the juvenile system each year, and these

onerous fees only serve to set them up for failure later in life,” he said in a January statement.

House Bill 2033 “eliminates nonpunitive fees and costs for children in the juvenile justice system, while protecting punitive tools like fines and victim restitution. Additionally, it establishes a process whereby individuals who are currently in debt for these fees can petition the courts to vacate the debts and civil judgments. Doing this would go a long way to help young people succeed in turning their life around for the better.”

That bill advanced in the House, 58-1, and is pending in the state Senate.

Last year Blackman joined the Republican field hoping to oust O’Halleran. 

As a candidate, at least some of his Republican rivals have suggested Blackman is insufficiently committed to decertifying Arizona’s 2020 election results that helped President Joe Biden narrowly defeat former President Donald Trump.

Blackman has maintained fraud tainted the election but said the Constitution doesn’t provide a legal mechanism to undo the election. 

Through March, his campaign had taken in more than $800,000 and had $128,000 in cash.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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