Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon’s" journalists’ roundtable, a special legislative session to reform the state’s child safety system is set for next week, and prominent Arizona republicans call on attorney general Tom Horne not to run for re-election. The journalists’ roundtable is next on "Arizona Horizon."
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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon’s" journalists’ roundtable. I’m Ted Simons. Joining us tonight Jeremy Duda of "The Arizona Capitol Times," Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal," and Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio. A special legislative session to overhaul the state’s child safety system is set to begin Tuesday. Jeremy, what do we expect from this thing?
Jeremy Duda: We've got the governor is asking for about , 55--60$ million for new funding that will go towards a lot of new staffing for a brand-new agency. They're at long last taking this out from under the agency of economic security. It will be easier to keep track of, more transparency in its own agency. A lot of new staffers trying to get rid of an almost 15,000 case back log. There's going to be several levels of new oversight, childcare subsidies. A lot of stuff is going into this.
Ted Simons: Is it a lot of stuff that's going to make a difference or just a lot of stuff?
Mike Sunnucks: That's the big question that people are going to have down at the legislature is what kind of difference is this going to make? Are you just changing the name of the agency, the letterhead, or are we actually going to make real changes that will help this troubled agency that's been here for a number of years we’ve had these problems? That's the goal of the governor. Is to take it out from dcs, more investigators, more layers, to make sure that we don't have problems like all the unanswered calls, but the question is we've gone through these exercises before with this agency. Lots of calls for reform in the past. What's really different other than making it independent?
Steve Goldstein: One big thing I would add is there's reason to have a lot of doubt about this. Because we don't know what it's going to look like. The issue with something like this is it always helps to have that light shining brightly. Because people are not just going to forget about this in a couple of months. They’ll forget about it at some point and move on to something else, but this being a special session, I think there is optimism in the air, at least it seems to be going in the right direction. In past reforms, stuff was thrown at the wall but nothing really stuck.
Mike Sunnucks: A lot of parallels to the V.A. Is the culture going to change? They've thrown money at the V.A., they've tried different things at the V.A. Are they going to change the culture? Are the people working there going to behave differently. Are they going to be more efficient? Are they going to take more interest in making sure things don't fall through the cracks? We haven't been able to do that before. Being independent, maybe that helps but maybe it doesn't.
Jeremy Duda: We heard a lot about that yesterday, the desire by the new director to change the culture is kind of the buzz word, the buzz phrase, always been known as kind of a secretive agency, very opaque, they're doing new training, they want it to be more transparent, they want their own legal counsel, cause they feel like the attorney general's office is on the side of less transparency. There's so many problems with this thing that they're trying to fix all at once. Retenstion. They’re adding new stipends for people who stick around for a long time, cause they’ll get burned out so quickly. They're overhauling things that probably should have been changed years ago, the phone reporting system, they did not have caller I.D. and actually lost a lot of cases where people would call. There's a lot of things.
Mike Sunnucks: I think retention has been an important part of this, will be an important part of this, because they lose good workers that get burnt out, overloaded and they don't make a lot of money, they'll go to other states, other places. They keep the c-minus workers, tend to stay there. The problem with a lot of folks, you have people that want to do good and other people that are there to collect the paycheck and they tend to lose the better case workers because of that burnout, because of low pay.
Steve Goldstein: And the overall danger with an agency like this is that you will never solve all the problems. It's almost like when one bomb goes off, she did a bad job.
Ted Simons: If you're doing a good job, no one knows you're doing your job.
Steve Goldstein: There are always going to be kids in danger being neglected. The hope is now they won't be forgotten about and put in a non-investigated file.
Ted Simons: Well let’s talk about the legislative process here. Are all the ducks lined up in a row? A duck by the name of Biggs lined up on this one, cuz he wants this, that and the other. Is he going to cooperate? Is he going to throw some hurdles on? What's going to happen?
Jeremy Duda: Well, the last couple of weeks we've heard some concerns from Andy Biggs and some of the more conservative lawmakers about some of the spending, this is a lot of money, some folks are wondering whether all of it is necessary, legal counsel, that's one of the things they're concerned about, it's normally the province of the attorney general's office which sent a letter complaining about this today to Charles Flanagan, the new director of this. There's some childcare subsidies that folks have some concerns with, and I think it rubs some folks the wrong way that the governor is funding this from $25 million or more than that in vetoes, they aren't so happy where that money is going.
Ted Simons: $60 million 55 for next year, five to close out, something along those lines. Is that going to be the number we're looking at by the end of next week?
Mike Sunnucks: The governor's a party of one and the legislature doesn't want to be there in the summer and they're running for re-election and these things tend to work out that way. She has an advantage there but we're talking about how to fix the agency. Talking about the majority caucus, questioning about spending too much money, and whether to do new things. Those work against each other. The governor's office has managed this thing throughout. This happened under her watch right? All these things happened, with her as governor, her guy -- but yet she's the one that's been outraged about this, she's been the reformer. She's managed this pretty well politically and she got a lot of good media for something that's pretty bad but it's interesting because the Republican caucus may actually work against improving the agency.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Steve Goldstein: I don't think that's going to happen in this case. I don't think we're going to see a coalition like we have the Medicaid situation, typically when a special session is called, the governor knows that she's going to have the votes and we also know that because it's an election year the expectations are things are going to get moving quickly. That doesn't mean there won't be opposition. There will be of course. It’s just that once you get to this point, the feeling is it's not a slam dunk but a layup.
Jeremy Duda: I think there will be some grousing about some of these individual line items but in the end I don't know how much anyone really wants to be viewed publicly as the person who's standing in the way of this much-needed overhaul that everybody says is needed.
Mike Sunnucks: You guys are down there and you do hear these conversations from folks on the right about the role of government, is it supposed to be your parent, government shouldn't take care of you. You could see some of that. That just ends up being rhetoric most of the time and you'll see some changes around the edges and the governor will get what she wants. I think you will see a few of the more conservative folks talk about why are we throwing all this money and that throwing money at the problem it isn't the answer.
Ted Simons: We'll see what happens. The three day session, you figure the three days, that's no more?
Jeremy Duda: Probably not. It could, but I think it will probably be three days.
Ted Simons: All right. Congressman Matt Salmon has asked Tom Horne personally, picked up the phone, called him personally, please, don't run. How unusual is that?
Mike Sunnucks: To personally call him is. You start to see Jeff Flake, he's mentioned this and you see people talk about this to the media. And in private about whether Horne should be running, especially towards the general election against Felecia Rotellini, if she's able to get through the primary. It is kind of extraordinary for a member of Congress to call a state attorney general and tell him not to run. I think a lot of Republicans are at the tipping point with Tom. Embattled attorney general is the phrase that you use with him, and even if he beats Brnovich, he's going to have a really hard time winning in the general against Rotellini and that will be tough for the GOP to lose that one.
Steve Goldstein: I'm going to draw a parallel. This sounds a lot like Andrew Thomas in the latter days of when he was county attorney but he ran against Tom Horne for attorney general. I remember having a conversation with senator Jon Kyl, told him maybe you should drop out, Andrew Thomas said you have no idea what you're talking about, no thank you.
Ted Simons: I thought back when we had our debates for the attorney general, the primary Republican debate, we had Tom Horne, it was easily the most combative debate and to think both of those gentlemen have gone since then, interesting.
Jeremy Duda: Similar argument that, you know, Horne and his supporters use was that he's going to be a liability in the general election and now, you're hearing the same thing used against Horne. You have sam, flake, you’ve got some legislators and we're going to see it more and more of this. The concern among the GOP ranks is growing so much and they are -- they nominated Tom Horne, he's going to lose to Felecia Rotellini, you not only give up a very important state office, the democrats are clearly looking to groom probably for a gubernatorial run down the road as well and that can be bad.
In 2010, when Horne won, he was eyeing running for governor in 2014. And now, look what has changed with that and Jeremy's absolutely right. If she wins that race, she can run for governor, she can run for a Senate seat and it does give a parallel to Janet Napolitano.
Steve Goldstein: From a strategic standpoint it's interesting that flake, even though he got some flack from conservatives doesn't get all that much. Salmon gets very little flack from conservatives. The one who does get a lot of flack, John McCain has said maybe he should consider it but I wouldn't push him to do that.
Ted Simons: Well, that's an interesting point because talk to me about this. What Congressman salmon, it sounds as though he's not saying you shouldn't run again, it's you're going to hurt the party, even senator flake said I'm concerned that the party will lose that seat, instead of saying I think he did a bad thing. At least McCain said you've got some problems here, you might want to think about this a little bit. Do voters, does the public realize that these guys seem to be more concerned about the party as opposed to what's going on in that office?
Mike Sunnucks: There's that Ronald Reagan amendment about not talking personally ill about another Republican. So maybe you get around that. I think they are trying to protect themselves a little bit and not make it personal but that is the reality is if he wins the primary, he'll probably lose in the general.
Jeremy Duda: Salmon is the only one who talked to Horne personally, I think you have to be a little gentler, more diplomatic and say I don't know, I don't know if you're guilty or innocent, I don't know how it plays out but while this is over your head it's going to be a problem, and I think from the most telling thing about this in the last couple of days, you're starting to see democrats urging Horne to stay in the race and I think there's a growing concern among Democrats that he's not going to make it through and, you know, they want Rotellini to run against Horne and again in the general election. They don't want to face Brnovich. He hasn't been tarred and feathered by anything, he has a good record, he's a credible candidate and Arizona's a Republican state. You know, most times a credible Republican is going to beat a credible Democrat.
Steve Goldstein: One more parallel with Andrew Thomas is that Tom Horne is now saying he has powerful forces, that's not the exact phrase but very similar. I've gone up against the establishment before, and I've come out on top.
Ted Simons: Well I was going to ask about that particular statement. Is he right? Can he come out on top?
Steve Goldstein: Well certainly he can come out on top. I certainly would not bet your money or mine on that but he certainly can. He's shown himself to be a bulldog over and over again. He's not Jan Brewer, he has lost races, but he's pretty tough.
Ted Simons: What do you think? Do you think he can overcome this?
Mike Sunnucks: Six months ago, I think you asked on the show, I thought Horne would win the primary but I don't think so. I don't think so now. I think the Republicans are looking at Brnovich, talking about Brnovich, looking at November and making that calculated decision to support him, and I think they expect even more to come out on Tom. It just doesn’t seem to stop.
Steve Goldstein: The issue is whether Republicans who are not the dyed in the wool conservatives or in the primary actually think Brnovich could win a general. They may love to throw tom Horne out but does anybody really think he could beat Rotellini? I think -- I mean they do because of the Republican advantage, but most people would view Brnovich as very, very conservative.
Jeremy Duda: And Rotellini is going to be sitting on a million dollars when this primary is over. The Republican nominee is probably going to be pretty much flat broke and whoever the Republican nominee is, whether it be Brnovich or Horne, you're going to have state Republican groups throwing money at the race just like you do in any prominent race. So is Rotellini, she can dramatically outspend the Republicans.
Ted Simons: Attorney general Tom Horne who was also supposed to appear on our program this week but had to rescind that particular agreement because he decided to represent himself in response to these claims of election law violations. He doesn't want to do anything until he files an official claim, an official response and that's going to be about that. There's an old saying about that.
Mike Sunnucks: We were envisioning some Hollywood type courtroom scenes with tom crossing-examining with a whistle blower, can you handle the truth, those types of scenes out there. It seems to be coming down around him. Maybe hunkering down a bit and he's embattled. Every story you see nationally or locally when embattled is next to your name in news copy every time, you're in trouble.
Ted Simons: Alright, we will continue following that story for sure.
Ted Simons: Let's move on to another interesting situation, regarding the congressional race, Gary Kuhne who claimed that most mass shootings were done by Democrats?
Mike Sunnucks: Yes. The narrative has been nationally, you have these gunmen that go into schools, it came up during the Jared Loughner thing, the sheriff down in Pima County -- he said this is because of the Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh. A lot of folks take umbrage to that and they point out that the unibomber, the columbine kids, the other shooters are either registered democrats or not conservatives. I think what he has trying to say and I'm not defending what he said was that the narrative that these are conservatives, these are nra people that do these shootings is not true. What he said was the democrats are the ones that do these shootings and, of course, that caused a lot of outrage from his primary opponent as well as the media.
Ted Simons: Is that what he was trying to say?
Steve Goldstein: I do not know what he was trying to say. I don't want to interpret that. Another thing though that he said was that he compared law enforcement officials during the fire, trying to get people out of their homes and make them evacuate and make them safer, compared them to Nazis. It's never a great idea.
Ted Simons: Was it a direct comparison or was it just kind of an inference or parallel sentences?
Steve Goldstein: Whenever you use that four letter term, you're going to get yourself in trouble.
Jeremy Duda: The Kuhne campaign says these were comments to the republic, taken out of context by the republic. If you even hint at comparing these things, it's open season and everyone's going to unload on you. Tobin is calling on him to drop out of the race, so are a bunch of police groups and unions, including some that are endorsing tobin. I would expect to see this thrown out over and over throughout the campaign because the narrative again, Kuhne now from tobin and probably from Adam Clark is you don't know what this guy is going to say, there's going to be a millstone around his nick, Anne kirk Patrick and the democrats are going to beat him over the head with this.
Mike Sunnucks: The things he's seeing, the rhetoric you see from the Tea Party, folks online and some of these conservative blogs about gun rights, about the police, you see it up in Nevada with the rancher up there, you see this kind of extreme rhetoric and this guy obviously takes it to heart and says it in public forums to the media. Does he have a chance to win this primary? I don't.
Ted Simons: Tobin saying he should leave the race now, would it be for a good thing? Doesn't tobin sit apart from them?
Steve Goldstein: They are the conservatives and based on name recognition, one would think that tobin would have the advantage but if we look at how primary voters go, they may think the liberal media is going after Kuhne. But that district is so strange, the way it is drawn. I think that's a wildcard, too.
Ted Simons: You never know. It's a huge district and again, you're talking about the GOP primary, then welcome to Anne kirk Patrick. I mean, you’ve got to figure that you’ve got to get past “a” to get to “b”. How is all this going to affect me?
Mike Sunnucks: Andy tobin was a pro union guy and now, he's the liberal rhino in this race against these two guys.
Ted Simons: He's going to make Kuhne try to throw a fiesta bowl shot at him and he was saying at least he owns up to it. It’s the election season, off we go.
Ted Simons: Speaking of which, Steve gallardo drops his bid for congressional district 7 to succeed Ed Pastor. Was that a surprise?
Jeremy Duda: I think for a lot of people, not really. I had sources predicting this, pretty much the day that Gallardo got out of the race and a month or two later when the first reports were in, gallardo turned in his report and said zeros across the board and he told all the media was I intentionally didn't fundraise, I was putting together this team but I think that made him look really bad. People have viewed him as more of the long shot against Gallego and Wilcox and that hurt his credibility as a candidate. Now that his colleague announced she was dropping out of the board of supervisors race, that opened a perfect window for him to make an exit.
Steve Goldstein: I think that also hurts his credibility. He's one of those guys, jumping from race to race. Parker looks at a lot of different races and runs for things. There's no question, Mary rose has held that seat for a couple of decades. So that is considered to be the democratic seat amongst supervisors, so this is – he has name recognition, he'll probably win but he looks like an opportunist here, which is not great for him. I don’t think.
Ted Simons: What do you make of that? He'll be running for the seat.
Mike Sunnucks: It’s what politicians do. It's how they get promoted in life. He probably has a good chance at that seat. Michael Johnson, the city councilman, Rogers the mayor of the west valley, she's running, too. So you have kind of a crowded race there but the gallego Wilcox race is going to get a lot of attention, at least locally with how that shakes out geographically, generationally and money-wise because they both got out there fast.
Steve Goldstein: The generational thing is the most important thing to watch because Mary rose Wilcox has this constituency, she’s had it for a couple of decades, she is seen as the person who will represent that district. Gallego, critics will say he's going to represent the district until he can find something else. She is going to be in that seat as long as she can, Gallego could run for governor in the future, can run for senate in the future, one doesn't know.
Ted Simons: This could be a very interesting, could be a nasty race, could be all sorts of things.
Jeremy Duda: I think it's probably is going to be a nasty race and this is really for all the marbles. Ed Pastor had this for 23 years and there's no reason to believe that whoever wins can't do the same thing. The board of supervisors, it can be a seat for life if you really want it to be.
Mike Sunnucks: Gallego's got a couple of advantages. His wife just won the city council race, so the name's out there. They registered a lot of voters and they'll be focused on registering new voters, voters in Lavigne, voter more middle class and getting them to the polls where Mary rose will rely on the older.
Steve Goldstein: Mary rose is going to follow Pastor’s footsteps and be one of the few congressmen in Arizona who likes to bring projects home.
Ted Simons: Bring home the bacon. Can use that particularly phrase.
Ted Simons: Alright, we have Scott smith and we have Andrew Thomas, the latest filing for the governor's race. We also have ken Bennett who is already in the governor's race wanting to appear in ads reminding you to vote when you're supposed to vote. And don’t mess it up this time.
Mike Sunnucks: Public information announcements but I'm sure ken will stand up there with a ballot with his name on it and point to it. Say for example you’re voting for governor and they say hey, you can vote for this guy.
Ted Simons: He's got a point in the sense that if something does go wrong, he's going to be the first one they're going after.
Mike Sunnucks: It’s the secretary of state’s job and they have done stuff in the past, our current governor, jan brewer, appeared in things, she sent out materials showing people how to vote. Because it is an ad and Bennett's name is out there. You can argue both ways.
Jeremy Duda: Bennett, he swears that he'll only be in it for a few seconds, nothing to do with the candidacy, he won't mention he's a candidate for governor or anything like that. His opponents don't want to see this. He's already at a fundraising disadvantage vis-a-vis Christine Jones, Scott smith and in the months before the election day, especially the ones that people are turning in their early ballot, he could be all over the TV. And even if he doesn’t mention his candidacy, you look at your ballot and say I just saw that guy on TV.
Mike Sunnucks: You can run for governor, I'm going to vote for gains without the office holder doing that. You can have an actress, everyday Arizonans do this, you can have Sandra Day O’Connor or John McCain get out there, who are not up for election, for the office showing you how to vote and do these things.
Ted Simons: But they’re not the secretary of state.
Mike Sunnucks: Keep an expert on this. Only one person can appear in that ad and that’s Ken Bennett.
Steve Goldstein: His opponents might be afraid of the old Saturday Night Live skit. The Mr. Subliminal. I get the little voice over underneath that Ken’s doing --
Ted Simons: Alright, with smith now and Thomas in the race, let's do some early handicapping here. Could Thomas really do something, maybe not win but certainly mess up the gears?
Steve Goldstein: You know, his press release was exciting in the sense that he called himself one of the top contenders. I would say he is one of the top six or seven contenders for the job. Gosh, it would be the only reason I think he could put a little grease in there is because there are so many candidates that if the winner could win with 22% of the vote, Andrew Thomas takes 4%, it can make a difference.
Jeremy Duda: He can siphon off under 10%, I don't think he can get to double digits but everyone's running the conservative, he's the one saying I'm the real conservative, you all know me. I'm sure some of these candidates, Ducey or Jones or someone is going to be going over his signatures with a fine toothed comb. Trying to find a way to get him knocked off of the ballot.
Mike Sunnucks: If captain Al Melvin and him get on the ballot together, they could impact the race. Who benefits from that? Scott smith. Scott is running towards the middle. He send out campaign stuff defending the governor on Medicaid, talking about common core. That's not exactly Tea Party stuff that folks talk about in the primary meetings. So if you have a number of conservatives in there getting two or 3%, that helps smith get to that magic twenty something number.
Steve Goldstein: Is Andrew Thomas tone deaf or are we in the sense that he threw out the fact that again he's going to enforce immigration just like he did as county attorney and if Congress acts, even a lame duck Congress actually acts for immigration reform, does that make Thomas an outlier? Or does that make him a favor to conservatives? --
Mike Sunnucks: I think it impacts Christine Jones because she's the one saying I'm the no amnesty candidate, she’s the one that likes joe arpaio. And so if he’s in there and immigration’s an issue, he could impact her in the race.
Jeremy Duda: Illegal immigration still polls very well with the Republicans. You can see Christine Jones, especially. You’re really hoping that’ll get some votes, but I don't think Thomas' position on illegal immigration or border security issues is really where his problem is going to be. It's going to be from the disbarment, all these court cases, he feels like he was wronged and this is his vindication tour, he's going to clear his good name but the only people who are really buying into that are going to stand with him no matter what.
Ted Simons: And real quickly, before we go, here we are talking about the GOP primary. There’s Fred duval standing out there by himself and having no challenger. Is that a good thing?
Mike Sunnucks: Fred’ll say he gets to talk to the middle, the moderate, the centrist voters, everyday. The Republicans get to talk to the Tea Party, and deal with the rhetoric with blaming democrats for mass shootings. So Fred has that advantage, The disadvantage is Fred's name isn't out there, he's still an unknown but these are much shorter races than we think because voters don't spend that much time thinking about this until labor day. Fred will be on his own.
Steve Goldstein: Early voting, is just going to be a couple of months and I think duval is not that well known. Behind the scenes very well, publicly not that much.
Ted Simons: Alright, good stuff guys. Good to have you here.
Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," a Memorial Day special that revisits the legacy and impact of the Morenci9.
Ted Simons: And we’ll learn about Arizona’s national cemetery for veterans and their families. That’s Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, we’ll update the legislature’s special session on child safety. Wednesday, the challenges of collaboration between public, private and non-profit groups. Thursday, a look at the upcoming election season. And Friday, another edition of the journalists’ roundtable. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.
PROMO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.