Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 23, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters discuss the week's top stories
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - The Arizona Gaurdian
  • Jim Small - The Arizona Capitol Times
  • Mike Sunnucks - The Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian," Jim Small of "The Arizona Capitol Times," and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." With a stroke of her pen, Governor Jan Brewer signs into law one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the state's history.

Jan Brewer:
The bill I'm about to sign into law, Senate Bill 1070, represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix. The crisis caused by illegal immigration in Arizona's border. This bill, that supports law enforcement and safe neighborhoods act, protects all of us. Every Arizona citizen and every one here in our state lawfully, and does so while ensuring that the constitutional rights of all in Arizona remain solid, stable and steadfast.

Ted Simons:
The bill signed -- all right, guys, Dennis, why did she do it today? Why not let it sit there and become law without her signature?

Dennis Welch:
I think part of the calculus; she wanted to sign it before the weekend to maximize the media attention on this. This is a governor running for election this year. She's been beaten up by people who support tougher immigration laws out there. Secondly, there's no upside to her allowing the bill to become law without her signature. That gives her opponents fodder to come after her. Saying she wouldn't sign it, she didn't take decisive action. So I don't think there was any upside. She had to come down one side or the other.

Ted Simons:
And she had to sign the bill, politically?

Jim Small:
I think everyone accepts that as a fact. I don't think there was anyone other than those who were protesting thought there was a sliver of hope she would veto it. She worked in lockstep with Senator Russell Pearce to make sure it was to her liking. I talked to a number of people at the capitol who said it's funny she's waiting long. We don't know if she's waiting for national media attention. Maybe it was the fact she had a speaking engagement with a Hispanic group and didn't want to walk into an openly hostile group.

Mike Sunnucks:
She said it during the press conference, she wanted to take time and look at this. Whether she had made up her mind is beside the point. She needed to show she was a serious person and she had a serious decision. There wasn't a lot of pressure on her from the business community. Yes, the tourism people, who said they could lose conventions, but you didn't see the business lobbyists.

Ted Simons:
Describe the scene. This was at an out-of-the-way place by the stack. Security was tight. Describe it for us.

Dennis Welch:
I think they wanted to take it out of the capitol for a number of reasons. Maybe security reasons and whatnot and, you know there was I think more media attention at this event than I've seen in my years covering the capitol. Hispanic media from all the country, L.A. times, CNN, everybody was there and it was a tense environment there. Very serious, lots of folks, it was interesting.

Ted Simons:
One of the most telling, there was a reporter from Telemundo -- what is it an illegal immigrant looks like? And the governor said, I don't know. And the bill is geared to the illegal immigrants and most in our state are Hispanic.

Jim Small:
She went out of her way to try to allay the fears. The Arizona post, the peace officer standards and training is going to be charged with coming up with a description of what you look for. Your dos and don'ts of being able to enforce this law. Telling people we're not in the business of just pulling over people who have brown skin or who look Hispanic.

Mike Sunnucks:
Another thing that was interesting, she said we should trust law enforcement. That was the big divide. Trust them to make the right decisions on this and folks on the other side of the issue don't trust the sheriff's office or local police all the time and feel they go after folks because of the color of their skin.

Ted Simons:
The idea of the speech and putting almost as much emphasis on not racial profiling as the law itself.

Dennis Welch:
It was the focus of this whole event today. The first question out of the gate was why should, you know, allow people's ethnicity, their race be a question at all when you're detaining somebody. This bill allows that to be part of the whole -- part of when you arrest somebody. It's part of that, the calculus that goes into that.

Ted Simons:
Jim, politically speaking, she didn't have much of a choice. But by signing this bill, does that help her -- conventional wisdom, what you're hearing from the old-timers -- does it help her or not hurt her?

Jim Small:
I talked to people that think that her signing this bill and this bill getting to her desk and putting her signature on it means she's going to win the Republican primary. She suddenly has an image of being tough on illegal immigration. And one of the things that will help them decide who to vote for. The contrary, you've got other people -- Dean Martin has a record of voting on immigration issues, but the others don't necessarily have that boost to the campaign.

Ted Simons:
The question would be, does this get folks who didn't think she was conservative enough on their side or are they going to always think she's --

Mike Sunnucks:
There are folks concerned with immigration on the Republican side and they like the hard line approach. And I think it does help her. Considering who she is running against. She's the governor; she has all of the advances of incumbency and being on TV. And with her face on there signing the bill. I think it helps her a lot.

Dennis Welch:
Look at it from the opponent's point of view. The focus for them is to get the attention away from immigration. Everyone running in the Republican primary all support 1070. For them, the trick is to pivot and take the attention away from her signing the bill and get it back on what the race is about in the beginning. Her supporting a sales tax increase. I don't think if John Munger or Dean Martin has the resources but I do think Buzz Mills -- he's unknown, and wealthy. Already put $2 million in the race -- could certainly do that. When I look at this race, does it help Brewer, does it hurt her? I think it helps her, but I also think it hurts John Munger and Dean Martin more so.

Mike Sunnucks:
We talk about she had no choice but to sign the bill. Maybe it's the immigration issue or partisan politics. But there should be some gray area. But she's able to veto a bad bill and the immigration issue is so black and white to people, if she would have vetoed it, she comes across --

Jim Small:
That's it. Even the climate we're in, the years of federal inaction, the frustration built up. It really is black or white. Let's be honest. People don't generally understand or know what is exactly in the bill. They know it's tough on illegal immigration, but may not understand the various nuances or arguments that say that civil liberties could be under attack. You get the rhetorical bomb throwing -- a hard line immigrant-bashing person.

Dennis Welch:
And in a different political climate, she may have had more options. But she's going after a tax increase. This has upset many in her party. I think in that perspective, she didn't have much of a choice if she hopes to get reelected.

Ted Simons:
Phil Gordon is saying he'll try to get the city of Phoenix to sue for injunction. Sounds like the ACLU and a bunch of other groups are just waiting --

Mike Sunnucks:
The federal government.

Ted Simons:
The federal government could sue. We had the president of the United States even mentioning Arizona in a topic in this particular controversy. What are you seeing out there?

Mike Sunnucks:
There will be lawsuits filed in federal court tomorrow -- Monday. Equal protection. Due process. Is this a state realm? Is it preempting the feds on this?

Dennis Welch:
That's the key question on this whole thing. Does the state have the right to go in and enforce a federal law? Does it have that right in this federal jurisdiction and that's going to be an important element in this argument.

Mike Sunnucks:
It's the reverse of the healthcare. The feds can come back and say -- you're going to see people questioning the 287G with the homeland security.

Dennis Welch:
You mentioned that the president kind of stepped into this and to get back to the politics. This helps her again. It's great for her. Not only does she get to look like a tough border hawk, but gets to go after the president who is unpopular and takes him on.

Mike Sunnucks:
Absolutely right about the fact that people don't know the bill. She came across as tough and that's popular.

Ted Simons:
That's popular in terms of the Republican primary. Last question on the political fallout. What does this do in the general? Where is Terry Goddard on this?

Jim Small:
I'm pretty sure we saw a statement come out this afternoon, of course, denouncing the signing of the bill and a lot of talking points from everyone else who criticized the bill. Rasmussen put out a poll, 70% of Arizonans who want this -- asking the question, do you want this bill signed? Yes, we want it signed. The debate, the hard line, versus the open borders crowd. This is something that people are frustrated throughout all political parties. Time after time, ballot measures go before the voters and related to immigration, they come back with 65% or more of the votes. I don't think this hurts Governor Brewer at all if she makes it out of the primary and gets to the general.

Dennis Welch:
I think it could potentially help Terry and maybe hurt the governor. It's a big if. The people we saw protesting at the capitol aren't old enough to vote so they're not going to help her out very much. It's a question how angry does this make people in the Hispanic community and other people. Does it galvanize them? Do they register and get out to the polls?

Mike Sunnucks:
You've got to be willing and able to take advantage of it. Phil Gordon, he's out there talking against it. Terry is not out there and he's not going to be the guy people look at and say here's the guy who was against it. If Terry is not willing to be the prime enemy of it, he's not going to benefit.

Jim Small:
He's not been out front on issues. He's been reactionary more than proactive and you get situations where he signed in as a citizen -- moving through the process, as he did on a couple other bills. Obvious campaign fodder, but you don't see him coming out and making tough stands and being the go-to person and the person that Democrats can look to --

Dennis Welch:
You want someone to rally around and right now, like you said, Gordon is taking that lead. But he ain't running for anything right now.

Ted Simons:
And Phil Gordon was saying he was back in Washington and everyone was stopping him saying, what the heck is going on? I think the quote was, "What's wrong with Arizona?"

Dennis Welch:
That's the headline -- what's wrong with Arizona?

Ted Simons:
And you had the Colbert report, L.A. times, Washington post, everyone and his brother watching us. The speech was live on cable television networks and such. Business community and some are saying this is going to kill us in terms of getting business here. What do you think about that?

Mike Sunnucks:
The Scottsdale CVB are worried about that. About getting tourism and we have a major league all-star game coming up. There's a lot of people who think we're going to see a repeat of the King fallout. The general tone of what's going on. The gun bills, this bad image, but if you come across as anti-Hispanic, you're going to lose those groups.

Ted Simons:
The protesting, I noticed, one of the days, I saw some Mexican flags there. Seems like today we didn't see as many. Is it that shape much right now and do we expect to see more of that?

Jim Small:
For the protesting, obviously, it didn't have an impact on the end result. But protests, every day there was at least somebody down there. And yesterday and today were larger protests. We'll see if it continues. The bill has already been acted on. I don't know what there is to protest at this point.

Mike Sunnucks:
This happened with the -- when they had American flags and we're proud to be Americans related to that. When the signs are in Spanish and they have the Mexican flag out there, I think there's a backlash for folks who tend to be harder line. I think it's how the protesters present themselves.

Dennis Welch:
Today, at the protests, things were more in English before the announcement of the veto. And after the announcement, you could hear people yelling a lot more in Spanish and you see that kind of attitude come out a little bit more. I think Mike is right. It does certainly influence how some people perceive the issue.

Ted Simons:
The idea of bringing back the Meacham years. The ramification, the fallout, is it something that's going to make a lot of noise and go away, or galvanize the Hispanics? What's going on here?

Dennis Welch:
You talk to people close to the governor and they're going to say, yeah, there's going to be a lot of crying and complaining and then it's going to dissipate. I don't know if that's going to happen or not. I think once the law is implemented, the first time some police officer is -- racially -- there's accusations, I think it changes --

Mike Sunnucks:
When we turned down the King Holiday, African-American civil rights groups are very established and back east and California and influence at the national level and with sports leagues so they can come in and say don't put the Super Bowl here. Hispanic civil rights groups don't have that kind of sway right now. It's interesting to see what's going to happen on the conventions and -- go ahead.

Dennis Welch:
I was going to say it's going to have some sort of impact. The "The New York Times" in their Sunday editorial, the big newspaper, says the Arizona legislature, quote, "fallen off the edge." Talking about the Bertha bill, the state is referred to as turning down the Martin Luther King holiday in the early '90s.

Ted Simons:
You have a United States congressman saying, "Don't come here, Boycott my state." Haven't heard of that before.

Jim Small:
I think probably honestly, might have angered his -- he's got other Democrats he serves with. Maybe we shouldn't be telling everyone not to come and shouldn't be perpetuating that Arizona is a wild, Wild West.

Dennis Welch:
When you have a sitting congressman saying don't do business here, that's not the most rational response we've heard from our leaders but it does underscore the passion and how heated the debate has become.

Ted Simons:
Does the nation do anything? Harry Reid is in trouble. Before climate change which would upset a lot of folks on the left side. Mike, does this spur the debate to the point where the feds finally do something?

Mike Sunnucks:
I doubt it. They've tried to start immigration reform. Democrats are already in trouble. I think this would hurt them. You look at the polls, people support getting tough and if they try to push something through, it will be labeled as amnesty. I don't think they have the will to get it done.

Ted Simons:
Does it hurt more, Dennis, to not do anything because of the political fallout? Or cause one segment of society to get upset?

Dennis Welch:
Well, I think it would probably behoove them to put it off to an off-election year. If you do something now, you're going to upset large majorities of people. They're going to continue to do that. There's going to be protests. On Sunday, I think, a congressman from Illinois is going to be here. A lot of people ask why are you holding a rally after the bill is signed. It's to make Phoenix the focus of this debate on immigration and try to put pressure on Washington.

Mike Sunnucks:
This is a minefield for Republicans. You've got -- what? 30% of the state is Hispanic. It's a growing population and you've got the Republican Party saying we don't want you in the country, let alone our party. You're going to have a repeat of California where there's a stranglehold on Latinos.

Ted Simons:
The concept -- Lester Pierce, goodness gracious. Russell Pearce. I've heard that so many times, he's proven to be quite the mover and shaker. What does that say about his strength at the capitol?

Jim Small:
He's been pushing for five or six years, the trespassing language and if you're here, you're guilty of a state crime. It's been vetoed a couple of times. So that component is not necessarily new. What he wields is a large grassroots backing that spans the state and in every legislative district. You have Republicans who stand on the floor and say I don't like this bill. It's horrible. It's going to make us look like Alabama in 1960, but I want to vote for it because I want to come back to the capitol. And that's where Russell's power comes from and how he's able to move things like this.

Dennis Welch:
How many times have you heard lawmakers say, yeah, I've got to vote this way? He's got a lot of political capital he can wield and get things done down here. His power at the capitol is such that the "The New York Times," again, there's a story just on Russell talking about how this is the transformation of a guy who years ago would have been seen as an eccentric firebrand within the party but he's in control.

Mike Sunnucks:
He’s tapped in -- he's tapped in to what people believe. The people who answered the Rasmussen poll, they want to get tough on immigration.

Ted Simons:
We have 30 seconds left.

Dennis Welch:
He's one of the few legislators who have that kind of pull outside of the capitol. A lot of people are able to maneuver in capitol circles, but he's exempt from that, because he has so many people outside of the state capitol that he can turn to and effect change.

Ted Simons:
Winner, loser?

Dennis Welch:
Jan Brewer gets a boost and I would imagine the other Republican candidates who aren't candidates didn't sign it.

Mike Sunnucks:
Short term, Brewer, and long-term, the state and Republican Party lose.

Ted Simons:
Clear winner and loser?

Dennis Welch:
The winner is Brewer and the loser would be the Republican field at this point.

Ted Simons:
Stop it there. Great discussion. Thanks, we appreciate it.

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