Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 3, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Robbie Sherwood - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
It's Friday, November 3, 2006. In the headlines this week, with just days to go before November's election, the U.S. senate race between incumbent republican Jon Kyl and democratic challenger, Jim Pederson brought out some big names to Arizona this week to help both candidates. Polls indicate a very close race in the fifth congressional district between incumbent republican J.D. Hayworth and Democratic challenger, Harry Mitchell. And there are 19 proposals on next Tuesday's ballot. Two of the highest-profile initiatives are competing smoking bans in public places. That's next on Horizon.

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Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant and this is the Journalists Roundtable, the election preview edition. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Robbie Sherwood of the Arizona Republic, Paul Davenport of the Associated Press and Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic. Before we get to the election preview tonight, we have some sad news to report. Former Arizona house speaker, Jeff Groscost died today of a heart attack at the age of 45. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, Groscost had been suffering from health problems recently, but his death came as a surprise to Representative Andy Biggs, a friend of Groscost's. Groscost, best remembered of course for the alternative fuels controversy. He was the author of a bill that passed during the waning hours of the 2000 legislative session, giving tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles. The program was expected to cost about $3 million. But soon ballooned out of control. The controversy cost Groscost his post. After the scandal, he was beaten by a democrat in a district that had a 2 to1 republican edge. Groscost is survived by his wife and six children. There was a new development today in the U.S. senate race between Jon Kyl and Jim Pederson. The Republicans are accusing Pederson of conducting a money-laundering scheme designed to skirt campaign finance laws. The GOP has filed a complaint with both the U.S. Justice Department and the federal elections commission. Robbie, what exactly are the republicans charging Pederson did wrong?

Robbie Sherwood:
Well, they're saying that Pederson as one of the primary donors to the democratic party over the past few years, $1.1 million since 2004, is facilitating a money swap of state party money, donated with what's called soft money in unlimited amounts that can go to state races for federal hard money, from another party, that is more tightly-regulated and it can be used to help federal candidates get out the vote. So what happens is the state Democratic Party shipped $258,000, a large portion of that provided by Pederson, 94,000 of it, the rest by some donors of his, to North Carolina.

Michael Grant:
and North Carolina sends its check back to the Arizona Democratic Party and changes the nature of the funds.

Robbie Sherwood:
suddenly -- so now suddenly the Arizona Democratic Party has a quarter of a million dollars that they can use in get out the vote efforts that benefit both federal and state candidates. And it's a big difference. The Republicans are crying foul. They're saying that it's highly unusual. These transactions are not unique to the Democratic Party. They say that it's possibly illegal and highly suspect that the candidate who can benefit from this is both the donor and the recipient.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. Because I do recall, Robbie, about five or six years ago there was similar, a sort of exchange, between the Arizona republican party and the Nevada Republican party. But the slightly distinguishing element being, here as you pointed out, that there appears actually to be some candidate money behind this funds exchange.

Robbie Sherwood:
Right. And the Democrats in their defense saying Jim Pederson will not be the only beneficiary. It's in no way earmarked for him. This is money to pay staff, get out the vote for all the Democratic candidates on the ticket. So they say there's nothing there to the charge that this is a late game Hail Mary pass Friday before the election kind of smear attempt to hurt their candidate who they believe is closing on Jon Kyl.

Paul Davenport:
And I don't imagine we'll get any kind of answer on this before Election Day?

Robbie Sherwood:
I imagine the FEC, if given their usually time table, will rule on this in three to four years. [laughter]

Michael Grant:
I think just in time for maybe the next senate race? Isn't McCain's site up in 2010? Probably a definitive ruling. Well, obviously everybody is acting like this is a close race. There's some data to support that. For example, speaking of money, I think the Democratic Senate Committee cut loose another million dollars for the race in support of Jim Pederson. There are some poll results though, Robbie, that indicate that Kyl's maintaining his lead?

Robbie Sherwood:
Yes. Some highly conflicting poll results. For the last couple of days we've seen polls with Pederson closing. The national Democrats put in some money. They don't do that unless they think they have a chance or they're trying to fake out republicans somewhere else in the state. Don't ask me how they make these decisions. But there's another poll coming out today, Survey USA, a national poll that's been tracking this race pretty closely that has Kyl still up 10 points or more, double digits. I would say that he's maintaining his lead. It could just be that people are getting tired of talking to these pollsters and they'll say anything to get off the phone. I don't know. I honestly don't.

Michael Grant:
Mary Jo, Bill Clinton showing up in Tempe to speak on Jim Pederson's behalf and also Harry Mitchell's behalf. He wasn't speaking on J.D.'s behalf.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I think Clinton came up here after a visit down in southern Arizona as well to stump for Gabriel Giffords and her congressional bid down there. Clinton drew a crowd out at ASU yesterday afternoon promoting the federal Democratic candidates and trying to create a sense of momentum.

Michael Grant:
Robbie you were making the point that this trip to Tempe was a late add on. You really think it was done more for the J.D. Hayworth -Harry Mitchell.

Robbie Sherwood:
I think it was specifically for that race. Of course Pederson it will help him, too. But it was not on our schedule before 24-hours before they did. It the Tucson event was on the schedule to help Pima County break the democrats all over including Pederson. I think the democrats are smelling blood in the water in this district five race between Harry Mitchell and J.D. Hayworth has been internal campaign polls leaked from both sides that show that Mitchell has caught up to Hayworth and passed him by a few points within the margin of error but that race was neck and neck. So all of a sudden Bill Clinton who's known for turning out Democratic votes in certain parts of Arizona lands at ASU for 5,000 people. That's exactly what that was about.

Michael Grant:
You know, if that happens, Paul, there's a large Republican registration advantage in that district.

Paul Davenport:
that's right. It shakes out to something like 3-to-2 so that's a stiff thing to overcome. But Harry Mitchell has strong ties in the southern part of the district. J.D. is a congressman, has been in offers since '94, but then again Harry Mitchell has a strong profile. If Mitchell wins and Giffords wins down in Tucson that could shake the house delegation split even Democrats winning four seats, Republicans holding on to four. We don't know how these races are going to turn out but we don't usually talk about that kind of situation here in Arizona.

Robbie Sherwood:
I was speaking to a lot of Republican operatives who are basically getting ready for life without J.D. Hayworth. So I'm not sure. I'll believe all this when I see it, but if that happens what you're seeing is a national -- it's emblematic of a national wave. You'll probably see the worst case scenario for republican forecasts come true in the House, sort of a '94, reversal of '94 Gingrich revolution.

Michael Grant:
The other race obviously that has been watched somewhat closely has been Rick Renzi-Ellen Simon, Robbie. What do you think about that one?

Robbie Sherwood:
Brutal. That's what I think. But I think that Renzi has served in that district in a way that that district appreciates. He is not averse to -- he's popular of the Navajo Indian Reservation, where federal spending is a large part of their economy. They can't leverage their own property for things so a lot of the development comes via congress. Renzi has been good about that. I think that Simon is closing for the exact reasons I've talked about nationally. And it's going to put a scare into them. But if I was laying money I'd say Renzi will hold on.

Michael Grant:
Now, we haven't checked on the Randy Graf-Gabrielle Giffords race in quite awhile, Paul, but you said a poll about a week ago indicated Giffords was up about 10 points?

Paul Davenport:
That was a recent poll at that point. Another key indicator of course is whether the national parties are putting money into that race. They stopped putting money into that race some time ago and we have not seen it come back in. So that would indicate the trends that were in place are still in place.

Michael Grant:
Randy Graf of course running strongly on the immigration issue down there. Robbie, are you somewhat surprised, I mean particularly given the nature of that district, that that issue hasn't gotten a little more traction against Gabby Giffords?

Robbie Sherwood:
You know, I'm surprised and I'm not. I think that democrats have done well for themselves to inoculate themselves on that issue. A lot of them like Harry Mitchell for example have run ads where they're trying to appear as tougher than their opponent on that. Also I just think that is very Arizona issue but I don't think it was a primary issue. It was an issue that had more energy among Republicans versus Republicans in the primary then when you spread it out to the entire district that suddenly people started thinking about George Bush, about Iraq, about national issues and that that's what this is coming down to a referendum and that issue is maybe fourth or fifth on their list.

Paul Davenport:
It may have peaked too early.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Also on the inoculation front, Giffords and other Democrats are wrapping themselves in the McCain. We like the McCain approach to immigration reform. Gosh even the president wants a guest worker program.

Paul Davenport:
It's just like Kolbe's, so the Republican incumbent in that district she's in line with him. That doesn't portray her as an extremist in that poll.

Michael Grant:
Governor Janet Napolitano of course will face Republican challenger Len Munsil, Libertarian Barry Hess in Tuesday's election. Polls of course showing Napolitano with a big lead. But Paul, she's certainly taking nothing for granted. She's campaigning vigorously not only for herself but also a lot of other people.

Paul Davenport:
That's right. She's scheduled -- putting out word she'll be walking in both the near west valley and east valley in various legislative and congressional races this weekend. Meanwhile, all through her term and especially this year she's been out and about the state as governor, as opposed to candidate Napolitano. For the most part. So she's had a very visible presence that usually gets her media attention on a local level. She's out there.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Her advisors are rather proud that at least up to this point she's run a very positive campaign. You haven't seen any negative ads coming from the Napolitano camp. And apparently that's a goal of the governor is to finish without having to do any kind of negative.

Michael Grant:
Well, and that's certainly good. But you know when you're 30 points up you can kind of stay above the fray. [Laughter]

Michael Grant:
Yeah. Some of the other statewide races, it's difficult, Mary Jo, to see a whole lot of attention there. Jason Williams, though, did rather surprisingly knock off Slade Mead in the primary for superintendent of public instruction. Do you think there's any possibility he can knock off incumbent Tom Horne?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
I suppose anything's possible. Horne, the Republican incumbent,
Still has the edge. The big defining issue in that case is the Aims test. Horne is a supporter of it. Williams believes that other factors need to be taken into account when you're successful in school and it shouldn't hinge on one test. Is that message getting through to voters? Will this alleged strong Democratic surge, you know, will it continue down the -- continue down the ticket. Most of the indicators are that after you get past the top of the tickets that sort of wears off.

Paul Davenport:
The fact of the matter is that under Clean Elections very few of these candidates for the under card statewide races have very little money to do any kinds of
visible campaigning whatsoever in terms of TV and such.

Robbie Sherwood:
You look at the broader context there are a couple of congressional races, Kyl-Pederson at the top of the ticket, spending more money than has ever been spent in Arizona history and it's sucked all the oxygen out of the room. And Clean Elections doesn't give these people to barely nail to every one of our potential constituents much less get on TV.

Michael Grant:
Well, thank goodness. Because speaking of oxygen deprivation, if there were any more campaign commercials on television I think we'd all go nuts, particularly with all the advertising on props in the past ten days,
which we'll talk about next segment. Legislative races. Robbie you were making the point that maybe Laura Kanaperik is in trouble in Tempe, perhaps directly related to how well Harry Mitchell is doing --

Robbie Sherwood:
Tempe is a split district and often through the process of single shutting your candidate will elect one Republican one Democrat and she's been the republican for the last couple sessions. What we are hearing from operatives and people who do polling in this district is that she could be in trouble and could be running third in that district to a pair of Democrats and through no fault of her own really, I don't believe. It's all about the fact that Mitchell has been trying to get every Democrat he can registered and voted early and is moving mountains to make sure he brings his people to the polls. She's just kind of an unwitting victim to that.

Michael Grant:
Well, and again getting back to Clinton's visit this week, it's obvious the prime function of that is to energize, even further the Democratic base.

Robbie Sherwood:
Right. And also there's been an effort to register more Arizona state university voters, college-age voters who are usually not a big factor in these races. I think the fact Clinton was on campus at ASU was a way to energize these new voters. And if the Democrats, they're going to go down the ticket and that's not going to help Kanaperik either.

Michael Grant:
Now, at one point there was a thought by the Republicans that well, maybe we can get veto-proof majorities in both House and Senate. I don't think many people are thinking that right now. But there's one opportunity presented on both sides in district 24 out in Yuma, right?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. 24 in Yuma has an open Senate seat. Currently it's held by a Democrat. So the scramble is on between Russ Jones, a Republican, and Amanda Geary a Democrat. Both are House members competing for that Senate seat. If Geary wins the Democrats hold it. If Jones wins of course that is a pick up for Republicans. Now, Republicans are fairly confident Jones will prevail in that one. But reports are so conflicting out of that district. The politics are very, very local.

Michael Grant:
And of course that because both of them move from the house, that also leaves -- leaves two house seats open which both broke for the R's and move 41-19 in the house.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, at this point the Democrats are looking to pick up some seats in the house.

Michael Grant:
Understood.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Probably maybe lose one in the senate. So yeah, a lot hinges on district 24, district 25.

Paul Davenport:
Then you have the wild card of district 26 in Tucson which is now open because Republican moderate Tony Hill lost in the primary. So you have a conservative Republican versus a democrat who all of a sudden is getting a lot of party help.

Robbie Sherwood:
I mean that one seems like a bit of a long shot but you have pretty heavy duty democratic operatives in that district working that trying to get a pickup. And then the other one we didn't bring up here in the House, sort of along the same lines as Kanaperik, but really is a more focused effort by the Democrats is to knock off the house speaker Jim Weiers in his district. Believe that when I see it but hearing the same rumors that Weiers was going to have trouble getting elected again.

Michael Grant:
That's basically the Glendale district.

Robbie Sherwood:
The Glendale district, you have the Arizona education association campaigning hard for the democrat there, Jackie Thrasher who is a teacher. Weiers has gotten into a little bit of hot water with the republicans for endorsing Democrat Leah Landrum in a contested race. She has a Republican opponent. I think that, on Election Day that Republicans in that district won't be able to bring themselves to vote against him over it that but there's been some anger.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
There's also been a concern that if there's a tendency to want to support a Democratic candidate in that district that if Weiers isn't the damage, then perhaps Representative Doug McClellan would be the collateral damage. But McClellan, who runs under the federal Clean Elections campaign scheme is very grassroots. He spends a lot of time going door to door. I've heard conflicting reports about polls showing him being the odd man out or Weiers being the odd man out or Weiers being the odd man out.

Paul Davenport:
It will be interesting to see if there are coat tails coming down for some of these races. The exit polls in that regard should be informative.

Michael Grant:
Arizona voters are going to face a lengthy ballot on Tuesday with 19 different propositions to be decided. Two of the highest profile initiatives have been competing measure toss ban smoking in public places. Mary Jo, what are those two and who's behind them?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Geez, if I have to tell you at this point the difference between 201 and 206?

Michael Grant:
It's hard.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. 201 is promoted by a consortium of health groups. Called "The Body Parts Gang" jokingly. They want basically a statewide indoor smoking ban that would include restaurants and bars where currently you can smoke. Then along comes proposition 206, funded primarily by R.J. Reynolds, with a lot of support from the Licensed Beverage Association. The bar industry. But let's exempt bars and thus the debate has gone on about months about should we exempt bars is that a reasonable exemption, does it give adults choices where to go versus does that provide protection for works and others who have to go into these environments. And it's very analogous to the campaigns not only in Ohio but also in Nevada. Although in Nevada they of course exempt casinos. So you sort of got the same game playing out in three states. It will be real interesting to see how they break.

Michael Grant:
19 of these. You know, we may get some cramming and jamming at the polls. This can take awhile.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. There were lines at the early voting locations. Early voting ended today so you can't go. But if you've got a mail in ballot get it in the mail by Saturday. A lot of the folks that I talked to yesterday at the polls said they were just out because they wanted to avoid lines on Tuesday.

Paul Davenport:
You can drop them off at the polling places on Tuesday, right?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Right. You can take your ballot there. You can walk it in.

Michael Grant:
you can go to the head of the line. I am confidently assured.

Robbie Sherwood:
The Democratic Party in particular is concerned about this because Republicans have a tendency to -- they vote heavy early. Democrats vote heavy on Election Day and at the end. So if people are going to be frustrated and fall in that line and going home without voting they feel it's going to be overwhelmingly Democrat so they're trying to make sure people in line by 7:00 are allowed to vote and that they stay in line until they vote.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
A lot of folks trying to speed up the lines because it is a long ballot. You've written about, that Paul, how these are bed sheets they're so huge.

Michael Grant:
Oh yea. Poster sized.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
But a lot of folks say, look, do your homework. Read your sample ballot and mark. It folks I've talked to again early voters yesterday they're saying it took me three, four minutes.

Paul Davenport:
And don't forget to take your ID.

May Jo Pitzl:
Bring your ID.

Michael Grant:
Picture ID.

Paul Davenport:
Preferably.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Also, Arizona, another point of distinction for this state, is the 19 ballot propositions is the most anywhere in the nation this year. I was talking to one political scientist this morning in Iowa. She says, "You guys are crazy out there."

Michael Grant:
She obviously hasn't been reading newspapers for the past 20 years. This isn't breaking news here. [laughter]

Michael Grant:
Gay marriage proposition 107. That's a mobilizer in terms of turnout.

Paul Davenport:
For Republicans.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Paul Davenport:
Just as minimum wage is seen as being one for democrats.

May Jo Pitzl:
But there is also a sense that gay marriage, not to be too flip, but it's so 2004. It's just not having the same kind of traction in this race that it had in -- what was it, 13 or 14 other states in the 2004 presidential elections?
[Indiscernible]

Robbie Sherwood:
I think there are about a half dozen other states or so that do have some form of gay marriage initiative on. All the polls I've seen indicate the increase in minimum wage wins going away.

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Yes. Nothing yet to contradict that. And it's also on the ballots in five other states. So this could be part of a national sweep.

Michael Grant:
one of the other conservative republican-based mobilizers, Paul, technically it's maybe three immigration-related proposals. There's of course the expansion of the prop 200 benefits as well as bail and -- well, no and English. I am forgetting English-only.

Paul Davenport:
And another one related to punitive damage awards excluding them for illegal immigrants. They really haven't gotten that much attention. Those were put on the ballot by the legislature itself. And when the legislature does that oftentimes somehow there just don't seem to be those big campaigns to promote those. You don't have the interest groups laying out the big bucks.

Robbie Sherwood:
So as far as being a driver that would assume you know they're there. I think a lot of people are not going to realize they're there when they read it on their ballot. And most likely vote for them but it's not what brought them to the game.

Michael Grant:
The one I'm really curious about, though, Mary Jo, is that you can't win if you don't vote one. Are we all going to be eligible for a million bucks in 2008 or not?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Well, if this year's proposition 200 passes, anybody that votes, even if you voted in the primary, I think that's why Robbie said he did vote in the primary.

Robbie Sherwood:
Nothing to vote on but --

Mary Jo Pitzl:
You get a chance to add at a $1 million. That one is not doing well in the polls but as we all know the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.

Michael Grant:
--Is the one on Tuesday. Well, we'll see what happens. Thank you, panelists, very much. We have special election coverage coming up on horizon of course over the next few days. On Monday it's an hour long special Vote 2006. The propositions. We will walk you through all 19 of them that we have been discussing tonight. Tuesday night we have horizon at 7:00 o'clock and another one-hour horizon from 9:00 to 10:00 as the numbers come in. We have analysts to talk about what the results mean. And, Wednesday another one-hour Horizon. At 7:00 we hear from the candidates, review the races and talk about what it all means as we head into 2007 and 2008. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday edition of Horizon. I'll see you next week. Have a good weekend. Good night.

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