Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 28, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local journalists discuss the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Robbie Sherwood - of "The Arizona Republic"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday July 28, 2006. In the headlines this week, Nevada was selected over Arizona to hold an early presidential caucus in 2008. Former state lawmaker Barry Wong was selected to replace Marc Spitzer on the Arizona corporation commission. And the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco heard arguments this week regarding the English language learning case in Arizona. That's next on Horizon.

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Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant and this is the journalist's roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Robbie Sherwood of the Arizona Republic, Howie Fischer of capitol media services and Mike Sunnucks of the business journal.

Michael Grant:
Arizona's bid to land an early democratic presidential caucus in 2008 has failed as Nevada was selected by party leaders for the honor. Robbie, why did Arizona lose out to Nevada?

Robbie Sherwood:
Because senate minority leader Harry Reid who hails from Nevada is a ranking democrat in the nation was a roll on all 7's. Nevada put up -- Arizona put up a very strong case for itself. The democrats wanted more conversation in the presidential primaries about minority issues, Latino issues, African American issues things that don't get talked about enough in Iowa and new Hampshire.

Michael Grant:
Something other than corn making fuel.

Robbie Sherwood:
Corn subsidies, ethanol. Arizona put on a very strong case on those grounds but Nevada put on a eekequally strong case because other issues included unions and had stronger union presence and a fair amount of Latinos as well and minority issues. Then also what held Arizona back would be the McCain factor. We all know senator John McCain, well, we're assuming senator John McCain will run for president in 2008. The democrats probably thought long and hard putting on a showcase in the state where the republican guy is going to walk away with.

Michael Grant:
You're tying this to the Las Vegas?

Robbie Sherwood:
No. What I'm saying is this could come a back to haunt Nevada, the motto what stays -- happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas isn't necessarily true if it happens to a presidential candidate.

Michael Grant:
You don't want that.

Robbie Sherwood: You don't want a god father 2 scenario.

Mike Sunnucks:
It's a much more competitive state, too. I think Bush won by maybe 5 points there. Bush carried Arizona by 11 points so it is a much more democratic state than we are. So I think there's more of a swing vote-type November fallout that could help the democrats if they hold a primary there early.

Michael Grant:
All right. We know it's not going to go early. When will the Arizona primary be held?


Robbie Sherwood:
Statutorily I believe it's the third week in February, February 22nd, in that range. In 2004 the governor through sheer willpower moved the primary to February 3 for the democrats. The republicans took that year off because George Bush was the nominee. It's now up to the governor to decide where again it will be. But I'm just guessing it probably falls back to its normal slot.

Howard Fischer:
And of course, part of what she's going to be looking at is as you say the McCain factor. She's not anxious to do anything to make him necessarily look good or perhaps any of the republicans. I mean for the same reason that for years the republicans were trying to kill the whole idea of the early primary because as you point out Bush was up for re-election they didn't have one so they wanted to undermine the democrats. It was pure politics.

Mike Sunnucks:
One thing that will happen is New Hampshire and Iowa could fight this. New Hampshire could move their date. Louisiana has tried this in the past and New Hampshire puts its foot down and the presidential guys used to going up to New Hampshire, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have been up there many times seem to go with New Hampshire about this.

Michael Grant:
What are they saying on the Kyl polls.

Mike Sunnucks:
Kyl is up 18 points. -45-27 which was a little bit of a surprise. Some of the other polls had it at about 12-15 points for Kyl. He's led all the polls. This one kind of showed that when Pederson took his commercials off for the summer he went back down.

Howard Fischer:
That's the interesting thing is because if in fact you can track the polls based on spending, Kyl's got another 7 million sitting in the bank now, that's assuming he doesn't tap his good friend George to come out here again. No way Pederson can match this even if he sells all his shopping centers and everything else. If this race comes down to money, Kyl walks away with it.

Robbie Sherwood:
It was a pretty dramatic expansion of the number that had people raising eyebrows about the methodology. The research center does good work but 18\% with Pederson tracking away about 55, 54\% among democrats it raises a few questions. I don't think anybody believes that he's not trailing by double digits but 18\% might be a little high.

Mike Sunnucks:
He didn't do well in the poll in Pima want you -- county. Kyl did pretty well with women. Those are places Pederson should be doing pretty well.

Michael Grant:
The Arizona border patrol weighs in with its endorsement in the senate race.

Mike Sunnucks:
There is a union that represents border patrol agents, they are very conservative, very hawkish on the border and they endorse Kyl. They've been critical of McCain's guest worker and legal path policy. They call him amnesty John on their website.

Robbie Sherwood:
Not big fans of President Bush, either. They're kind of, tough on the border, security first.

Mike Sunnucks:
They like Kyl's approach to immigration which is a more get tough approach. And Kyl has in recent years been trying to bring more resources to them that. Agency has always been kind of short-shafted when it comes to getting body armor, communications those kinds of things. Kyl has tried to work on them.

Michael Grant:
Jim Pederson coming out with -- Pederson coming out with his energy proposals?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, energy is a big issue for the Democrats, high gas prices. He's come out with a plan that includes rolling back some tax breaks and subsidiaries that go to the oil industry. He wants to require gas stations to put in alternative ethanol type pumps within 5-years. And he wants to pump up research for new energy sources. Ethanol. Those kinds of things. Kyl on the other hand is more for drilling in anwar, more offshore drilling and he supports solar and other alternative energy sources.

Robbie Sherwood:
It's an interesting strategic for Pederson. Because he's back on the air. He came back on the air on a commercial. It's about the same subject, gas prices around big oil. He's going to hit this pretty hard now. And it's fine. It's a big platform in his campaign. But people are wondering why he's not going after Kyl on other things whether it's the vote on stem cells or the testimony controversy before the supreme court on -- controversial before the supreme court on even mention Kyl in his ad.

Michael Grant: I think maybe timing?

Mike Sunnucks: Our gas price is an issue democrats should hit on as much as possible. It's something that hits middle class voters, small businesses, it's an issue that republicans aren't strong on because of the Bush administration in particular their ties to Haliburton and oil companies both Cheney and bush and I think it's a hard issue for republicans to defend and I think it's something democrats should get after and it's a national issue. The more nationalized race is better for dems because it's not a good republic in here.

Robbie Sherwood:
That's one of the criticisms that republicans are throwing back on them is that the platform resembles other democrats nationally so it's more of a national strategy for democrats that he's using. He didn't think up all these points necessarily by himself.

Mike Sunnucks:
That's been a good republican playback over the years.

Mike Sunnucks:
Nationalize things make it issues about security, gay marriage. And the democrats are trying to copy that.

Michael Grant:
Contract with America? A couple of developments in the gubernatorial race. Consulting firm suing Mike Harris?

Robbie Sherwood:
Mike Harris one of the Republican candidates, the only non-publicly-funded candidate. He hired a consulting firm out of $50,000 on the contract but apparently wasn't making the payments to their satisfaction. He terminated the contract. They are suing him. They want the entire amount of the contract, $120,000 which can put a big crimp in your plans for governorship. What struck me about that is looking at Harris's financial report is he's actually paid them $45,000. I haven't seen any evidence of it. Gary Tupper who's broke. I've seen more signs of his on the street than Harris's so I'm not sure what he got for that money he did pay.

Howard Fischer:
I think he has consulting fees is what he's got.

Michael Grant:
Now, I had asked Don Goldwater last week during the debate if he was going to file his $5 forms this week. He told me he was going to file them late this week. What do you think?

Howard Fischer:
Forms? Wait. Wait. I don't see it. No, next week, Michael. The answer is Tuesday or something like that. He claims now that it's probably going to be Monday, which is sort of next week or two weeks or whatever. The fascinating thing is that the behavior research poll showed it doesn't matter that the guy has got no money at all. Here's Len Munsil who two months ago got $450,000 and is still trailing 2-to-1 in the polls. 23-to-11. Now recognizing 40\% of republicans undecided another 20\% who aren't voting for any of these poor idiots.

Michael Grant:
Watch out, Howie.

Howard Fischer:
Well, the fact is that Munsil people are worried. If they can't come within a 2-to-1 lead of Goldwater with no money, just strictly based on oh, is Barry still alive? They're in trouble. And if Goldwater does qualify and get the money before early voting starts or even right after early voting starts can use the money, he certainly doesn't need the name id but can use it to get out the vote, can use it for phone banks. He can make a difference.

Robbie Sherwood:
Without using Howie's choice of adjectives I will second his choice of logic. I think the Munsil campaign you might see them actually go after Goldwater in a really pointedly critical way and talk about his -- what job he held with the state work working in the Napolitano administration as a fairly low-level employee for the state department of administration, his past as that of week -- being pro-choice before he came around on abortion simply because they got to get rid of this guy.

Mike Sunnucks:
One thing is the fact that Goldwater has a salient position on the most important issue, immigration. He's for the border wall. It's a controversial issue and McCain and others have rebooked him on. It Munsil is kind of muddled on immigration. He wants to be tougher than Janet but not as tough as Goldwater and Tom Krado and JD Hayworth. I don't think he's laid out a plan on that and Goldwater has. I think it's going to come down to whether Goldwater's minutemen can beat Len Munsil's pro-lifers.

Michael Grant:
Howie let me go back to your point on timing though because it does start to count. As you point out a 12 point lead so it may be inconsequential. But at this point in time it takes them about two weeks to figure out if indeed you have enough $5 and those kinds of things. So you are really at this point right up against where you would want to start spending money because the early ballot window will open up what, about August 14?

Howard Fischer:
August 10, I think. So what's going to happen is, if Goldwater has an organized campaign which Robbie and I probably are both laughing about since it doesn't seem to be there, by virtue of the fact he hasn't gotten the money he hopefully will have some folks already on if not under contract at least waiting in the wings to do the things he needs. The signs are great. Those 4 by 8 signs we see everywhere. But again he doesn't need the name id. He needs some message and he needs to identify his voters and needs to get them out. You can do that. Even assuming --

Michael Grant:
Target the early ballot campaign.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. If 50 of the people do vote early which is anytime between August 10 and September 12 there's still a lot of people you can get to. 44 way race whoever gets 26\% of the vote can walk away with it.

Robbie Sherwood:
Campaigning to early voters has gotten sophisticated but it takes money. They can land a bro sure for -- brochure for your candidate in the early ballot and if you don't turn it in if -- it in they'll keep sending you stuff. They're watching you. Big brotherish but it does work.

Mike Sunnucks:
I know he's doing a lot of coffees and he's meeting to the kool-aid drinkers the choir of the republican party and doing that, Munsil. Goldwater has the name id to expand on that.

Howard Fischer:
What's really fascinating is the poll showed that outside of Maricopa county, rural area, 3\% of the republicans would vote for him. Pima county and I recognize maybe that's full of people who drink the water south of Gila. Less than 1\%. I recognize the number of republicans you're polling in Pima makes the margin of error large. But that basically means that if Earl Deburg -- he found 1 voting for Len Munsil. That's not good news.

Mike Sunnucks:
The wild card is Randy Graph down there. If he can fill that seat and have immigration be the issue that can help Goldwater. We're looking at people counting every vote in this primary because they're not going to get that many.

Michael Grant:
He will certainly be polling the people in that area on that issue.

Michael Grant:
Governor Janet Napolitano appointing Barry Wong to fill--

Mike Sunnucks:
Barry is pretty well respected, he's an attorney, business consultant. He served in the legislature. A pretty non controversial pick, pretty well liked by most of the not much of a surprise.

Howard Fischer:
What we're all waiting for is to find out whether the governor got a promise or wink and nod from him on this whole issue of renewable energy. Barry is going to be the swing vote in the next couple of weeks at the commission over whether you're going to require utilities to purchase 15\% of their power by 2025 for renewable sources and whether some of that's going to have to be distributed generation which means individual solar roof tops and wind turbines and everything else. This will be a very close show vote. The governor insisted when we asked her that this wasn't a litmus test for her but we know she asked about it.

Michael Grant:
Let's go back to the congressional race, Robbie. Jeff flake might have run against Glenn Fuller. There had been an earlier ruling that no, that ain't going to happen. Supreme Court ruled on that this week.

Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah. They sided with flake and against democrat Glenn Fuller, probably a democrat in name only. Glenn Fuller was running a very strong anti-immigration campaign against flake, similar to what you're seeing from a lot of republican candidates. His problem was pretty simple. He needed 421 signatures and he was 41 short. He can't get around that. He's talking about appealing. But to what end. You can spend a lot of resources appealing and you're going to be a democrat in the most republican congressional district maybe anywhere and you're going to get smoked.

Mike Sunnucks:
This isn't a good focus for the demes at all. They're would looking to knock off Hayworth and take Colby's seat.

Michael Grant:
Always nice for an incumbent when you have a free ride all the way.

Mike Sunnucks:
He can save that money next time for a senate run.

Michael Grant:
Judge Barry Snyder ruling on a challenge to the electronic voting machines?

Howard Fischer: Yes. This is an issue that concerns touch-screen machines that were purchased specifically under federal law for the blind, for the disabled. Now, everyone else will continue to use the machines where you have an optically scanned ballot whether it's a fill in the bubble or connect the lines. The question is, how reliable are machines particularly those by the debolt company which is what a lot of the counties have agreed to purchase. The lawsuit said, look, you can hack these machines, that they are vulnerable to hacking even if they're not connected to the internet or wireless there are ways that you can program it so no one will ever know so you cannot tell if every third vote that would be let's say for Janet Napolitano ends up getting recorded for the republican nominee. A group went to court and said, look. The secretary of state should never have certified these machines never said that they can be purchased. Judge Snyder said, look. I'm just a judge. The secretary of stays went through a process and I'm going to give a lot of deference to the process saying she did right the process is wrong. The argument by the attorneys is wait a second. You can't give the secretary of state absolute power. What if she said we'll certify these old lever and gear machines and say they're usable in Arizona. I'm sure this will go to the court of appeals.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it's outrages these machines don't have a paper trail. At any ATM you get a receipt. There are some voting booths that don't have a paper trail. That seems unmanageable to me.

Michael Grant:
On Tuesday the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco heard arguments in the Horne versus Flores case involving English language learning in Arizona. Howie, you made the trip to San Francisco and joined us. You had a great backdrop behind you, incidentally.

Howard Fischer:
I love these rooms where it looks like you're on the 42nd floor of some tower in San Francisco and it's actually a little windowless room and one of these wonderful back drops. The good news is I ate a lot of seafood there.

Michael Grant:
It's tough to ever read outcome from oral argument. But did you get any glimmers from the panel on which way they might be leaning?

Howard Fischer: The real issue I think for the court is, does money matter. I mean that's what this case is about. The state was sued back in '92, said they weren't providing enough money to teach kids English as required by federal law. A federal judge ruled in 2000 the state wasn't providing enough money. Ordered the state to do a cost study. The state still hasn't done the cost study but kept coming up with different formulas, the most recent of which judge Raner Collins says still isn't sufficient. You still haven't done the cost study. But the argument of the state is, well, look, we have evidence the kids are doing better and that you don't need a cost study, you don't need to show you need 700 or 800 or 900 a child.

Michael Grant:
This is basically in the Nogales school district.

Robbie Sherwood:
That spun the lawsuit. But wasn't it classified as a class action suit and it probable is endemic to the state but not just the specific district that filed the suit.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the inherent problem in that. We used Nogales to get the class action. We didn't take evidence from anywhere else in the state. We said in Nogales kids aren't learning. So Tom Horne's argument to the ninth circuit was very simple. We need a hearing to find out are kids in Nogales learning. Even though this effects the state but even -- we should at least go ahead and check now.

Michael Grant:
So possibly outcome ninth circuit might send it back to Tucson to say take more data on what's been happening in Nogales the original for lack of a better term site of the suit.

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. I think that's what Tom Horne is hoping for and the legislature is moping for. Obviously they'd love for the whole lawsuit to be thrown out. That's not going to happen. Tim Hogan representing the parents said its immaterial going back to Robbie's points. We have other school districts that aren't doing as well. Still have the basic problem. Six years ago a federal judge said to the state you will perform a cost study. Hasn't been done. What part of disobeying a federal court order does the state not understand? And he's clearly hammering on that. He's also talking about the flaws that are in the law and Jose Cardenas who represents the governor's office in the state said the law is flawed because of the fact it requires school districts to use other federal money other than what they're getting. This is sort of a squirrelly issue because of the fact that you have Jose representing "the state" and Tom Horne representing himself as the school superintendent and the legislature having hired its own person so you have four sides in this 2-sided lawsuit.

Mike Sunnucks:
It would be nice like Howie said to see somebody kind of step forward and try to solve this and take some leadership whether it's the legislature which has been a big roadblock, it would be nice to see somebody step forward and try to solve the issue. And it doesn't seem like anybody is will to go do that.

Howard Fischer:
You're not going to get that. Part of the reason the governor allowed this last bill to become law without her signature said look we have a stalemate. We're never going to agree on methodology. This isn't money it's methodology you use. What the is hoping once the ninth circuit decides what way it goes --

Mike Sunnucks:
She has not been quick in coming up with solutions on this, either.

Robbie Sherwood:
I didn't get to go on that one.

Howard Fischer:
You're still chewing on that one, aren't you?

Robbie Sherwood:
It was a drag. I know it's totally reading tea leaves to try to guess what judges are thinking when they ask questions but didn't judges take a pretty aggressive tact on with Hogan about how money doesn't necessarily equal progress?

Howard Fischer:
Exactly. Andrew Klein felt who heads the three judge panel said look. Here's the deal. We have the Washington, DC school district best funded in the nation, lousy outcome. We have the North Dakota schools, lousy funding, great outcomes. So he's not convinced that in fact money is the answer. You've got judge proctor Hugg who's sort of -- Hugg who's saying why can't we all get along and judge Baez who seemed to be more on Hogan's side and wondering why hasn't the state complied with the original court order.

Michael Grant:
In the meantime in an unrelated but related state lawsuit on the aims test.

Howard Fischer:
Yes. As you remember on this federal court lawsuit one of the pieces of relief that Judge Collins granted was to say English language learners don't have to pass aims to graduate. That's on hold while this is at the ninth circuit. There's a separate lawsuit filed by the William Morris center for justice that says because of the fact the state isn't providing enough funds for various groups not just the English language learners, minorities, students from poverty who fail the aims at a higher rate, we want to block the use of aims at a graduation requirement for them unless and until the state provides additional funding for them. Now, what's curious about this is for years the schools have said we're not getting equal amount. Now the argument is we're we should get more for these kids to provide the equal opportunity required by the state constitution.

Michael Grant:
What did Ken Fields rule on that?

Howard Fischer:
The judge threw out the state's request to have the state dismissed. The state said look this is a political issue. While we certainly have certain standards we have to set, the amounts funded is a political issue and judge fields said, no, I don't think so. I get to decide as a judge whether the constitutional requirements of education are being met.

Michael Grant:
Incidentally, we found out this week that very few students actually were prevented from graduation by the aims test. Does that count someplace in there?

Howard Fischer:
I think it's sort of a vindication for Horne at least by virtue of the fact he says 98\% of the kids who would have otherwise graduated did, some of them with the bonus points we've talked about here for the other courses. But of course his figure is based on who should have graduated versus the kids who dropped out because they couldn't in the past.

Michael Grant:
All right. Well, we're out of time, panelists. Thank you very much.

Larry Lemmons:
For many people it might be a difficult task, juggling a comedy career and a political crusade. It's not so difficult for Arizona's Chris Bliss who's lobbying to have a monument to the bill of rights located in all 50 states. We talked to bliss about his comedy, his politics and his juggling Monday night at 7:00 on channel 8's horizon.

Michael Grant:
Tuesday we'll tell you about a recent report about medication errors. Wednesday learn about the mackabee games, the annual Jewish Olympics. Athletes from all over the world will be gathering here in the valley for the games on August 6. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday edition. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great weekend. Good night.

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