Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 21, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists' Roundtable


  • Donít miss HORIZONís weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the weekís top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday July 21, 2006. In the headlines this week, the four republican candidates for governor appeared on channel 8 last night for their only televised debate before the September primary. House speaker Dennis Hastert will be in Arizona this weekend to tour the border with Mexico and an American bar association committee is recommending changes in the way Arizona handles the death penalty. That's next on horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant and this is the journalists roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Chip Scutari of the Arizona Republic, Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services and Robbie Sherwood of the Arizona Republic.

Michael Grant:
With early voting set to begin in three weeks for the primary election, the four candidates seeking the republican nomination for governor appeared in a debate last night here on Channel 8. Chip, you were here monitoring the debate. what were the highlights?

Chip Scutari:
Well, Michael, it's fair to say the debate on 8 was not too great. [laughter]

Chip Scutari:
And I think, one of the highlights was when you said thank you and good night. But in all seriousness, as you pointed out during the debate these four candidates have never run for statewide office let alone a city or county or state offers. I think Mr. Don Goldwater ran for state senate in 1992. You pointed out they don't have big war chests like Jon Kyl or Jim Pederson. When you're in your first run for office and you realize how inexperienced these challengers are. But I think one thing that came out was Len Munsil, who is a conservative activist who started the Center for Arizona Policy. He seemed the most polished the most knowledgeable on the decor issues and the other guys are behind yet Mr. Goldwater with the famous last name, the nephew of Mr. Barry Goldwater still heads in recent public opinion polls though we haven't seen recently.

Michael Grant:
Gary Tupper kind of trying to stake himself out in the middle. I don't know that that's a real keen political strategy for a republican primary. But he seems to be trying to break away from the pack of the other three.

Chip Scutari:
Yes. Mr. Tupper who is a political unknown, political neon light, he's running he told me on a 20,000-dollar campaign. He has nothing to lose so he's going to be honest about what he believes in. He's the only pro choice, candidate who doesn't care about gay marriage or banning gay marriage so he's trying to set himself apart from the other three.

Robbie Sherwood:
I would declare Gary Tupper the winner of the debate simply because he's there. He's a one issue candidate. He wants to campaign because he felt this the handling -- the department of health services mishandled a case involving his son and he to platform to make that issue. Surprisingly he made the ballot so he gets to be invited to all these things whether or not he has a shot of winning. I don't think it matters. He gets to come up and make his point.

Howard Fischer:
I guess and I appreciate -- I'm like you, Robby. I talked to him and thought my god the guy is whining about one issue. But he has used his time well. I mean, he has crafted the position. Chip is saying, well, he can afford to be honest. Which is really sad when you saying the other three can't because they're all catering to the red meat element of their own party. Here's the guy who had the chutzpah on the air to say, instead of let's just build a bigger fence on the border and lock everyone up that in fact some of the illegal's here are serving a valid purpose, contributing to society. Before we start spending thousands of dollars locking up everyone on trespass charges maybe we should think about it. That's a refreshing viewpoint.

Chip Scutari:
I think it's starting to show the debate last night was clearly a two person race between Mr. Munsil and Mr. Goldwater. Unless Mike Harris suddenly races a ton of dough or puts in a lot of money in his bank account it's true the two are the favorite.

Howard Fischer:
Chip you're missing the great disclosure that came last night.

Chip Scutari:
What's that?

Howard Fischer:
Mike Harris when you were asking him about issues of border security and illegal immigration. And he said that he has it on high federal authority -- he wouldn't say who -- the Mexican government is emptying its prisons, bussing them to the border and saying this way is north. I mean, you know, if he really knows what's going on and it's not just a voice in his head who knows? Maybe he should be the next governor.

Michael Grant:
On money, Chip, Goldwater said he was going to file his $5 forms to get around 450,000 bucks or so next week. I made sure to clarify that. But you say that that's been sort of the mantra here for the past few weeks?

Chip Scutari:
At least for about a month Mr. Goldwater has said -- in fact he filed his petition signatures right around Flag Day in June. And at that time he said within four weeks I'll have my $5 contributions. You have to get about 5,000 of these $5 contributions to qualify for that pot of money, that 454,000. So Don Goldwater's been going around saying I'm going to get these by next week. It's interesting. On his website I've been tracking it kind of for fun. Last week it said he needed 398. This week he's up to 580 so he's going the wrong way.

Chip Scutari:
It will be interesting to see if people want their money back.

Let's operate on the assumption that he's not just yanking our chains on this thing and he shows up with his $5 contributions and enough of them are valid. That could become an absolute nightmare for Munsil who is already funded and running a campaign simply because of Goldwater's last name on straight up public opinion poll Goldwater still tracks ahead of Munsil in the primary with no funding. And you could end up -- Munsil could end up having the early start and still losing.

Robbie Sherwood:
The only disability, Robbie, to getting the money that late is of course early balloting. We keep thinking a primary on September 12, but you don't have that anymore.

Michael Grant:
You got a 30-day primary.

Robbie Sherwood:
Absolutely right. In Arizona politics the primary voting is way over by then. Over half especially in primaries over half the voters now I think vote early. They vote within seven days of receiving their ballot on those ballots are mailed out, started going out on August 10. So if you as a candidate don't have at least a piece of mail in that voter's mail box telling them who you are and why you're the best choice they're going to vote for the other guy.

Howard Fischer:
It's not just a question of who you are and why but what the candidates will do is send out a request for early ballots and go back through them. Then they have some way of kind of targeting the people that will vote for them and then they make sure and call them up. This is where volunteers help. This is where Len's organization can help. Because he's got the committed masses what I would call the kool-aid drinkers who have said, we want Len. We're willing to spend time and money and effort on him. And they'll be manning the phone banks and saying did you return your early ballot? Did you vote for Len? Did you get your neighbors out? That's very important in this kind of election.

Chip Scutari:
The nightmare scenario for republicans is don Goldwater doesn't get his public funds and somehow squeaks out a victory in the primary which means in the general election he's going against the incumbent governor without a dime and she gets 680,000 plus the 454,000 she'd spend in the primary to tell voters how great she is. That's a really tough scenario that some republicans behind the scenes are dreading.

Robbie Sherwood:
Tough than potentially embarrassing for the state GOP.

Michael Grant:
That's true. Walked through several of the ballot propositions, Chip. And I don't think any significant differences came out between candidates.

Chip Scutari:
Yeah. I'm trying to think. There wasn't really too many. --

Howard Fischer:
Normal again we talked about Gary Tupper. He wants to protect gay marriage and he says that doesn't mart. Nothing we should get into. Prop 200 expansion in terms of denying services to illegal's. He said well maybe they've earned some of the services. But as a whole it was a fairly hoe among now group in terms of the ballot measures. There weren't any real shocking things obviously. People try to have zingers. Len had been pocketing that zinger he wanted to use on Goldwater on the name only. Truthfully this is not a fault of what you're doing. This sort of people around this table given 55 minutes and four candidates, it's hard to enlighten voters about what these people really think in 50 minutes. Sometimes the truth really sneaks out. Sometimes you can see how confused somebody is. Don Goldwater made some comments it originally came out he wanted to ban tobacco and privatize universities. So what people get to see is how well people react to unexpected questions.

Michael Grant:
Democratic party file ago complaint again Len Munsil this week. What's the nature of it?

Howard Fischer:
This has to do with the laws about when you can spend money and how you can spend money. Len had some what they called seed money. And he clearly ran through it sometime perhaps in mid April. What kind of got everyone's attention is he has two highly-paid consultants, Vernon Parker whose kind of the spokesman for the campaign and Nathan stroll who kind of does his media stuff. Both of them were paid a fair amount of money in March. In April Vern was paid nothing, Nathan was paid $1,000. Then back in May when he got his clean elections money they both went up again which raises two questions in the minds of the democrats. Number one did they in fact continue to work for him which would be an illegal in kind contribution since he was out of money. Or number two did Len in fact say to them look I'll pay you more in May if you keep working for me in April which is to spend money you don't have. Option three is they didn't do any work for him in April.

Michael Grant:
You know, Robbie, we're falling into a pattern each election cycle. Where we talk more about potential violations of clean election financing sometimes than we do about the issues and candidates involved in the race.

Robbie Sherwood:
The problem is there are plenty of areas of this law that can and should be fixed short of repealing it all the way. But efforts to fix it which would take a 75\% majority of the legislature because it was passed at the ballot box have been thwarted because the mostly republicans who dislike the law would rather repeal it. So fixing it doesn't help their ultimate end of keeping it bad enough to repeal. So a lot of these investigations, a lot of the unclarity that causes people to get the tag of being investigated by the clean elections commission sometimes for just a minor book keeping error can really hang a cloud over your campaign, those would go away if they could make adjustments to the law.

Michael Grant:
Let's look ahead to 2008. Because we're not doing so well with 2006. [laughter]

Michael Grant:
Are the democrats in Arizona going to move up in the presidential selection process?

Robbie Sherwood:
I'm told there's a 50/50 chance. The democratic national committee is meeting on Saturday to pick two states, one from the rocky mountain west and one from the deep south to move up a more or less bracket New Hampshire which follows Iowa traditionally. One would go in front and one would go in back assuming New Hampshire stays in place which is not a sure thing. But the reason why they want to move states from those areas up are simply because, you know, no knock on new Hampshire and Iowa but in corn subsidies and ethanol shouldn't necessarily be the make or break issues for democratic candidates. They'd rather be talking about issues of concern to Latinos, African Americans, unions, that sort of thing. So Arizona has made a very strong pitch to be one of the states along with Colorado and Nevada. I would say what Nevada has on us is a stronger union presence and Harry Reid, the democratic senate minority leader whose very powerful and wants the first state.

Michael Grant:
Would this be a caucus or primary?

Robbie Sherwood:
It would be a caucus. Arizona is putting forth the idea of a caucus for a couple of reasons. One in hopes that New Hampshire who has a state law saying it has the first primary in the nation doesn't automatically then jump ahead of it because you're calling yourself a primary. The other is it allows all the costs for this to be could contained within the state party because as caucuses people show up to gather in place, gymnasium or home and they hash it out over a candidate. It can take two or three hours.

Michael Grant:
Just coffee, doughnuts.

Michael Grant:
Right. But you don't need the county election officials and ballots that costs a lot of money.

Chip Scutari:
And there's a big benefit if Arizona was to snatch this there's huge benefits for Janet Napolitano. Because if they get this early caucus it would be in the limelight of the presidential race. Every candidate has to come through here and schmooze with her and top officials. It really pays for her to get this.

Michael Grant:
Good point.

Michael Grant:
Rush Jones back on the ballot for senate and an interesting ruling from the Arizona supreme court.

Howard Fischer:
And a surprising ruling in a lot of ways. Rush Jones is running for the state senate -- another state represent for a vacancy that bobcat will is vacating. May 1 and 2 there were some petitions signed that said I want to support Rush Jones need a certain amount of signatures then on the back Rush Jones said I have witnessed the signatures of these people. Turns out Rush Jones was not in Yuma that day but phoenix. There was some questions whether he perjured himself in the testimony. The trial court judge said not only am I going to wipe out your signatures because of the fact that you perjured yourself I am going to bar you from running for office for five years. The five year thing may have been questionable. It went to the state supreme court and they said, well, okay, we're accepting the fact that he did not witness these signatures. But we're saying the punishment doesn't fit the crime so now either they wipe out the five years they allowed him to remain on the ballot. Unfortunately when the court issued its order about 5:00 yesterday they didn't issue a written opinion explaining in detail why. It's going to be real fascinating to see how they twisted that around to do what they wanted to do.

Michael Grant:
Let's shift to the senate and congressional level. Jim Pederson going back on the air waves in the senate race.

Robbie Sherwood:
Yes. And I'm guessing he's probably not going to come off the air waves throughout the course of the election. This was tied -- the campaigns both kind of disclosed their hands about how much money they're sitting on. Pederson's put about half of his I guess $2.6 million or so, more than half of that has come from his own bank account. He's now starting to put that money in play again. You know he went on the air with a couple of ads introducing himself early and then also taking some shots at Kyl on his immigration policy to the surprise of some. But he's been dark now for several weeks so the guessing game is when does he attack. He has a 7 to 12 to 14\% margin to make up on Kyl. He had to start gaining ground so he's back on the air. People have probably seen the commercials. Their opening one is about high gas prices, tax breaks to big oil. And he doesn't mention Kyl by name but he says if you want to change the culture of Washington you have to change the people you send there.

Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things of course of all this is we talk about the connection of money to buy the advertising. But the advertising if it pulls him up in the polls brings him more money. Because you know there are people on the national level saying we have x number of dollars. Where do we spend it? Is this a race that's winnable. Because if it's not winnable they're not going to give him anymore.

Michael Grant:
What about Arizona congressional races. Chip we have data on spending reports?

Chip Scutari:
Harry Mitchell who's running against congressman JD Hayworth out raised him in the last quarter. JD's still sitting on $1 million cash on hand so he has more to spend. I think Harry Mitchell is raising more money than people thought. So I think that and the race down in Tucson for Jim Colby's cease are going to be the two really interesting congressional races where things can happen. Everyone knows the Tucson district is a swing district. Harry mitchell is kind of an unique spot because he's a former Tempe mayor, not a lot of people running for congress does a congressman have their own statue in Tempe. We'll see if that one gets closer and the one in Tucson is up for grabs.

Michael Grant:
Ellen Simons has put together serious coin in Arizona, though.

Chip Scutari:
She's a former ACLU attorney from Cleveland running against congressman Rick Ramsey. She first will have to win her primary which is a contested primary there then she has to go against Firenzi who has proven over the last couple of cycles that he's almost like the Teflon congressional guy. The democrats have thrown millions of dollars against him and he's come out swimmingly. Robbie and I were up there I think it was years ago doing a story on rural politics on the state level. We asked people democrats, republicans, what do you think of this guy, Rick. They all said they liked him. He's helping out the district bringing money back. I think it's an uphill battle for Ms. Simon.

Robbie Sherwood:
Especially rural democrats who skew conservatives don't necessarily like Tahoe template of ACLU lawyer. Yeah, it's impressive she gained the race $500,000. But I'm not sure that helps her.

Michael Grant:
I don't know the democratic national committee has yet picked up the fact that the deregistration may be there but it's a different kind of "de" than they normally are used to.

Robbie Sherwood:
A lot of them are die knows, I guess, democrats in name only.

Michael Grant:
A panel from the American bar association this week issued a report on capital punishment in Arizona. Howie, what changes did they say should be made?

Howard Fischer:
They came out with a fairly extensive look. And they weren't trying to decide should we have a death penalty or not. They say that wasn't their scope. But they said if you're going to have a death penalty how do you ensure it's applied fairly and equitably. And they had two very major conclusions. One of the things this found out is that the chances of being charged as a capital offense because it's up to the county attorney to decide that whether to seek life in prison or death -- is dependent on which county you're in. The politics of the county attorney. So you're more likely, for example now in Maricopa county to be charged with a capital offense for the same thing that might get you a life term in Pima. It used to be the other way around. And they say it shouldn't depend on where whether the crime is committed in Hela Bend in Maricopa county as opposed to down the road in Naho as to whether you're executed. They're suggesting some kind of oversight perhaps the AG's office or the state attorney's advisory council to look at these and say this is death penalty eligible, this is not. Obviously the county attorneys are saying, wait a second. We're elected county attorneys. We get to make those decisions.

Michael Grant:
What's the governor saying about the recommendation?

Howard Fischer:
The governor again having been a prosecutor certainly at the federal level and at the attorney general's level is tending to side with the county attorneys. Again the idea that this is best left to county attorneys.

Michael Grant:
Well, I mean obviously it will be the county attorneys or their deputies who will have to carry the matter through trial.

Howard Fischer:
Yes.

Michael Grant:
So there's certainly some merit in that argument.

Howard Fischer:
And one of the issues, though, comes down to when county attorneys decide -- it's very costly to run death penalty cases because not only is it lengthy but in terms of all the evidence expected in these kinds offer cases. Frankly some county attorneys have said look on a close call it doesn't make sense to seek the death penalty if we can sure this guy's going to do 35 to life. Other county attorneys Andy Thomas who's done it more lately have decided we want to send the message we're going to enforce this.

Michael Grant:
Chip, it's July in Arizona so my hunch is Tuesday you're going to be going to cool San Francisco to check out the ninth circuit court of appeals.

Chip Scutari:
We'll see what happens, this three judge panel will heart case and decide a couple of things. One is the legislation the republican led legislature came up with is okay to spend enough money, doesn't spend enough money to teach these children to learn English.

Michael Grant:
English language learners.

Chip Scutari:
And I think what the legislative attorneys are going to say is focus on that in Nogales which is where this case started that that school district is doing much better now. Now, Tim Hogan on the other side is going to say hey it's about a statewide issue. These kids aren't getting the proper amount of money so they can learn English. So I think that they're really going to focus the legislative guys on hey, prop 301 has passed which raised money for teacher pay. We have students first. We have better management of schools. And we have raised ELL funds from 150 to about 350 per student.

Howard Fischer:
And unfortunately the case may turn on some very technical issues. Because when the first judge decided in the year 2000 the state was out of compliance he said, come up with a state plan, a state system, a state study, state parameters. And in fact, what was passed earlier this year says, well, each district, you do certain things within certain parameters and come back to us if you need more money. The question is does that comply with what the court wanted. I think that some of the judges and certainly Judge Collins in Tucson who issued the last opinion in April figured this case was filed in 1992. The kids who were in kindergarten there have already graduated. There's some question as to whether kids are getting adequately educated and the fact some school children in Nogales now can pass aims test still doesn't deal with whether we're meeting the requirements of federal law.

Chip Scutari:
I have a feeling we'll be talk about the issue for the next 10 years.

Michael Grant:
You're certain you're going for the oral arguments and not because it's cooler.

Chip Scutari:
I'm going because Howe's going to take me out for a nice dinner hopefully.

Michael Grant:
Let's shift to the border. What's our national troop down count?

Chip Scutari:
1200 at the border. The governor hopes to eventually have 2,000. This is important because in the governor's race whoever challenging her will say she's weak on immigration. She'll have troops on the border boots on the ground and say hey I agree with the president of the United States on this issue and we're doing something to strengthen the border.

Michael Grant:
1200 becomes 1201 with the arrival of house speaker Dennis Hastert?

Chip Scutari:
The house speaker is going to be out here at the border touring -- I think it's kind of a nationwide campaign effort to look tough on border issues for republicans who are going into tough congressional and senate races.

Michael Grant:
Is this part of -- I know that both the house and the senate were fanning out with some regional stuff on the immigration bill. Is it also partly a function of that as well?

Chip Scutari:
Oh, sure. I mean, this is all orchestrated from DC from the DNC, from the RNC. Both parties want to get on top of this issue and look like the only issue of illegal immigration and I think it's going to play out in the next year or so.

Howard Fischer:
It also becomes sort of a stalling tactic the longer you have these fact finding missions around the nation --

Robbie Sherwood:
They are trying to push this beyond the election. We'll focus on enforcement what we can afford to do right now but the comprehensive thing will have to wait. I think that's exactly right.

Michael Grant:
Well, we got to break because we're out of time. Panelists thank you very much.

Nadine Arroyo:
Since 1981 1,000s of Arizonans have been infected with aids. In a half hour special Horizon talks with individuals impacted by the disease and their efforts to help others. Also a look at a team at the Biodesign institute at ASU and the research that could protect millions from this devastating epidemic. That's Monday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday, the 9th circuit court of appeals will take up a case from Arizona regarding funding for English language learners. We'll bring you the latest with a satellite report from the court's home in San Francisco with capitol media services reporter Howie Fischer.

Michael Grant:
Thank you for joining us on this Friday edition of horizon. I'm Michael Grant. Have a good night.

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