Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon’s Journalists’ Roundtable, Attorney General Tom Horne continues to deny allegations made by a former staffer, and a new poll of likely Republican primary voters offers encouraging results for Doug Ducey. The Journalists’ Roundtable is next on Arizona Horizon.
>> Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
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 Bob Christie of the Associated Press. Attorney General Tom Horne files an official response to claims of violating campaign and election law. We should mention that General Horne was on the program here Tuesday evening if you want to watch that online, it’s there for you. The response seemed to be similar to what he said here Tuesday night. Jeremy, I didn't do it.
Jeremy Duda: That was basically the gist of it but a lot more detail than that. Of course, the allegations against him are that he's basically running his re-election out of his office, using the A.G.'s office staff on taxpayer time. He says none of that happened. You know, all substantive campaign meetings, says the Arizona Rock Products Association let us use their conference room. Sarah Beattie the woman who filed this complaint, the former employee, submitted a bunch of e-mails, some of them looked like they were done during the work day. He said well they were done during breaks, really none of these emails would of taken more than a few minutes to write. It's over a six month span, less than two e-mails per person. He tried to poke some holes in some other parts of her argument, she claimed that she was hired solely for campaign purposes, and spent an average of about two hours a day doing actual A.G.'s office work. He said based on her work output and put in discussions with her supervisor that's simply not possible. He attacked her credibility in several terms. He had affidavits from other employees attacking her, including her original supervisor, said she was such a terrible employee, of course, she got a promotion at $13,000 in raises within a month of that so I don't know what that says.
Mike Sunnucks: It was very much shoot the messenger type thing lately, they would go after herm mentioned her possible background, with some drug use, worked as a stripper, she had some run-ins with some past employers. And it's a typical thing that some folks do when they go after whistle blowers is to discredit her and there were a lot of affidavits like Jeremy said from Horne aides going after her story. But this is a bad narrative for Tom because he's had a lot of these problems over the past year with the campaign finance group and the coordination and for the public, they don't really read the complaints. They just see stories that he's having to address this and he said she said thing but it's a bad thing for someone running for re-election because you have an opponent Mark Brnovich who has a lot of dark money behind him, a lot of conservatives behind him, and then you've got Felecia Rotellini, who Democrats kind of see as the second coming of Janet Napolitano. So he's got a lot of people willing to attack him this time and the bad press doesn't help.
Bob Christie: Tom's best bet is that the secretary of state and the Clean Elections Commission throw out these complaints. You know, the bar is really low for them to accept them and decide an investigation needs to be done. And if that happens, it's just going to drag out and out and we're going to be writing about this for another six months. I think that as Mike said, it's looking bad for Tom Horne as far as the press.
Mike Sunnucks: There's also a danger of going after her so personally and going after this. Especially in the general, let alone the primary, I think the democrats make a big issue of Tom and his relationship with women he works with. To go after somebody like this, you run the danger of a backlash of voters saying wow this is how personal you can get.
Jeremy Duda: Remember the primary isn't that far away, it’s August 26th. And like Bob mentioned this is going to drag on. If they accept this complaint, that seems like they'll investigate, they aren't going to dismiss this out of hand. You know this is going to drag on through the primary, in the end it might not even matter if they find anything or not. They might not have a chance to do so until after the primary at which point he might have already lost and it won’t really matter.
Ted Simons: It doesn't matter that they are both on the show and the filing of the response to the complaints seemed to have an answer for everything up to and including the idea that Brett Mecham worked 20 hours over the course of two days seemingly, allegedly on a campaign flier. He says the guy left his computer on overnight.
Mike Sunnucks: I think Tom you know is a pretty exhaustive defense of her allegations. I think what it comes down to is whether this resonates with voters. Voters aren't going to get into the he said she said thing in the affidavits. But are they going to see this as a narrative about the Attorney General and it's time for him to go or are voters so inside baseball like the campaign finance coordination, that voters don't connect the dots and don't really think this is a big deal, this is politics. I mean I think a lot of voters if you asked them do elected officials have their staff work on elections, they would think yes, they would think everyone does that, whether they walk across the street or they do it on a break at their work computer, I think most voters are cynical enough to think well sure. But I think the personal nature of it could be a backlash.
Jeremy Duda: Well I think possibly one of the most interesting thing in this response is, it was mentioned of this binder that was full of contributor information that was intentionally mislabeled border patrol which Sarah Beattie had and lost, and then realized she had it and didn't tell anyone, and now her attorney's already turned it over to the FBI, but Tom Horne said well this went missing in late January or February which shows that for at least her last four months she was working for our opponents. Which that shows kind of a paranoid mind set, I mean Tom Ryan, Sarah Beattie's attorney compared him to Evan Mecham at that point. No one wants that.
Ted Simons: That charge along with the idea that the liberal media, and apparently, that includes just about everyone, is out to get Tom Horne.
Bob Christie: They sure are. I had an interview with him a couple of weeks ago when the Yavapai county attorney reinstated the coordination complaint and in the middle of the interview and I'm known to be a tough questioner, he stopped and said you remember the liberal media and I kind of went, it’s not about me Tom, it's about you, let's get back on track. So that will resonate with voters who are his base though. I mean if he comes out and says that don't believe any of this stuff, it's the liberal media painting me as a bad person, don't believe them, believe me.
Ted Simons: Okay, with that in mind you talked about his base and you talked about election potential here, this new poll by Magellan Strategies and auto dial survey, this is likely Republican voters here, with the auto dial, take it for what it's worth here, only 26% of Republicans likely to vote in the primary, would vote for Tom Horne today, 43% for Brnovich and at least half of those folks who are voting for Brnovich don't even know who he is.
Jeremy Duda: Yeah, some of those numbers wouldn't surprise me, and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if Brnovich is up on Horne now, especially after the last five or six weeks that he's had. I know this poll in particular and the group that put this poll out, they put one out a few weeks ago as well, a lot of skepticism about that, it was put out by a pro-Doug Ducey independent expenditure group and it magically showed him in its first poll jumping from like 9% to more than double the support of any other candidate. Be that as it may, I think some of those A.G. numbers could be a little telling, even if they're kind of off. You know the first poll a few weeks ago showed pretty much a neck and neck race, and now it shows Brnovich with a big lead, even though nobody knows who he is. But it also showed that most of the response, I think 95% did know who Tom Horne was.
Mike Sunnucks: I think historically the media and the insiders in town have underestimated Tom Horne. He's been a good campaigner. He beat Andy Thomas in that tough primary, he beat Rotellini last time. He has a pretty good name I.D. and he's Attorney General so all these stories that we talk about, there's consumer fraud, lawsuits, and settlements, but he’s putting press releases out that are on TV, Tom Horne's doing his job as the state's prosecutor, and Mark Brnovich has real low name I.D. Maybe not a lot of money to get his name out there, and you know for us folks, us insiders as a tipping point are voters are going to get tired of that? But maybe voters will say hey I know Tom Horne, I know that name, I don't know this other guy, I'm going to stick with him, at least in the primary.
Ted Simons: All right, let's get to this back of this strategy. A lot of folks have questions regarding it, it could be Ducey-centric. Amazingly enough, among likely Republican primary voters Doug Ducey gets 28%, 12% more than the runner up Scott Smith, Christine Jones at 12%, Ken Bennett at 12% and 23% still undecided. What, do we take anything at all?
Mike Sunnucks: Ducey has 91% name I.D. in that poll. I don't know if Jan Brewer has 91% in that I.D, those are Vladimir Putin type numbers. This group is out of Colorado, there is ties to the Koch brothers, ties to then Sean Noble who is the dark money guy who sort of been a Ducey and Brnovich ally, so there's a lot of skepticism towards this. A lot of people think Ducey is a legitimate frontrunner type contender, top two or three, but for him to be up that much with that kind of name I.D., I think a lot of people are casting doubt on this.
Bob Christie: And the poll shows 90% turnout among those surveyed. I think they surveyed 650 some folks. And it was a telephone push poll, you pick up the phone and there's not a real person there, there's a recording and you push buttons. They're relatively unreliable type of polling and 90% turnout in an off-year primary race I looked at 2010's primary, 30% turnout. So you look at those numbers and you roll your eyes and say pretty far off probably.
Mike Sunnucks: I mean, I'm sure Ducey's numbers probably are going up right now, he's been on TV for a little over a month now. He's the only candidate on TV I think right now cause Christine Jones seemed to have this kind of bizarre media strategy of going up for a few weeks of ads and then going down. So the only one on the air, he's advertising. I'm sure that's moving the needle but double-digit lead I'm not so sure.
Bob Christie: And Ducey is on the radio now too, I heard him on the way to work this morning on one of the talk radio stations, and he was attacking illegal immigration because of the migrants being brought here and he was, you know, right on topic issues.
Ted Simons: Let's mention some numbers that we can count on here and that's fundraising. First fundraising period of 2014, Ducey and Smith both pulled in about $1 million each. Gave Ducey I think $2 million for the campaign. How much he can use in the primary and general I’m still kind of confused about here. But that means Smith has raised a million dollars in about five months.
Mike Sunnucks: He's got a lot of business support, he’s an ex-real estate executive, the business folks love him. He brought apple to mesa, built a new Cubs stadium, a lot of the developers, a lot of political consultants really like him. The business community is really split between Ducey and Smith. So those are the money, folks. Those might not be the voters in the primary but those are the guys that get you the money to put the ads up and the mailers and so they both did pretty well. So did Duval, they report pretty good numbers.
Ted Simons: I was going to say Fred Duval between $900,000 and a million dollars cash on hand, all of it, because he hasn’t got anything to worry about here. So he’s got a little over a million dollars in his war chest. And he just basically sits back and says you guys go have at it.
Jeremy Duda: They're certainly enjoying watching the Republicans, you know, beat the tar out of each other. But in terms of cash on hand, not all of it. He raised about $800,000 during the first reporting period in 2013. They now say about $900,000 since the January first, that’s about $1.7 million total. If $1.1 million on hand they say which means he spent $600,000 with no primary, no TV advertising, I know a lot of people, a lot of my sources on both sides of the aisle are really scratching their heads and saying how in the world is this guy spending $600,000 already?
Ted Simons: Where is it going?
Jeremy Duda: A lot of it towards organizing, they weren't paying for signatures but they were hiring a lot of organizers, a lot of laying the groundwork kind of stuff.
Ted Simons: Can you do that if you know that you really don't have to hit the home stretch until you hit the home stretch? He's got one race to run, not two.
Jeremy Duda: Sure in a lot of ways, you know there's a lot of expenses you know you're going to have like the organizing, like setting up that ground game. You know you can frontload a lot of that if you know you can cruise through the August 26th primary, you know he's known that for a long time since Chad Campbell is the only other democrat really looking at this race, it’s a long time ago that he announced he wasn't. So Duval has known he can kind of kick back for a while and bite his time and get everything in place for the home stretch in November.
Mike Sunnucks: He's got to get new voters out there. He can't win under the current atmosphere, unless there's a complete disaster on the Republican side. So he's got to get younger voters, Hispanics out there. You've seen the Gallegos do this in the city of Phoenix, and you will see Ruben sort of do this in the race against Wilcox, where you get new voters out there to try to move the needle. I think the one thing on the fundraising is to see how much of their own money, Ducey who is the Coldstone Creamery CEO and Christine Jones, who has a lot of cash from her Go Daddy days, how much they decide to put in the race, and how much that changes the dynamic there.
Bob Christie: Right, and that's going to inundate your summer airwaves folks. So those who are still in town and haven’t made it to San Diego for a week, you're going to start to see those ads probably three or four weeks from now and all that money is going to be spent in the primary because, you know, the Republicans, there's seven of them in the race. They're going to spend all that money because whoever comes out is going to be able to refill those coffers just like that.
Jeremy Duda: And Ducey, he's got a history of self-funding when he ran for treasurer in 2010, he spent I think 500, 600 thousand dollars out of his pocket. I don’t think he is really looking to do that this time around. You can look at very vigorous fundraising, $200 million so far, you can tell he really doesn't want to do that. And Christine Jones, it seems like a mostly self-funded operation. And you know even though the fundraising period ended last week, the reports aren't due until the end of this month. Several of these candidates of course announced their numbers cause you know you want to show off their fundraising, the Jones people wouldn’t tell me anything about how much she’s raised, how much she’s put in, how much she’s spent. We are going to have to wait until the end of June it looks like.
Mike Sunnucks: I think that's part of her campaign though, is to not do the fundraisers. She talked about how she's not part of the good old boys club, she’s the only woman in the race, she's not beholding to all these lobbyists and consultants that are working for these other guys. And so she can put her own money in, she can say she can talk to voters and not the fat cats.
Ted Simons: All right, the acting V.A. chief was in Phoenix, apparently now 18 veterans died while waiting for appointments at the V.A., 14 had contacted for end of life care. These are people who died while waiting not died because they were waiting as far as we know correct?
Bob Christie: As far as we know. We do not know that the new acting V.A. had, his name is Sloan Gibson, replaced Eric Shinseki last week, he came in this week and in no uncertain terms says I'm going to clean this mess up, I'm going to take care of it, I’m going to come back and personally apologize to these people and we're going to get to the bottom of it. Apparently, he was shocked that there was several hundred openings at the V.A. which hadn’t been filled over the last couple of years. You know, we've got back logs, we don't have enough doctors and they have positions on the books that they had not filled so, he has made some pretty bold statements that he's going to fix the problem.
Ted Simons: And he says he’s going to start firing folks as soon as they get a reform bill through Congress and voilà, it looks like Senator McCain and Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont, quite the liberal fellow here who usually caucuses there with the democrats came up with something didn’t they?
Mike Sunnucks: Yeah Sanders is the chairman of the veterans committee there, way far left. They want to be able to fire folks quicker. They want some reforms to let people that are waiting for care to go outside the system, go to maybe private physicians, maybe build 27 more facilities and try to not have it so concentrated in places like Phoenix where there's been obviously tons of problems and McCain worked on this and he's been kind of out in front very critical of the administration on this also.
Ted Simons: Go ahead please.
Jeremy Duda: There's a handful of components to this bill, you know some of them I think a little as Bernie Sanders I think put it as a little bit that will annoy everyone. It’s a lot of money it’s about $2 billion, one of the main components is that it would allow people in the V.A. system to go outside of the V.A. system for healthcare, if the wait is too long, if they live too far, I think more than 40 miles. There is this house bill that is being considered, but that was just make it easier to fire people, which is also part of this. It seems like everyone can probably agree on that at this point. Some of this other stuff, you know, could be a little controversial. I mean, Republicans in the house certainly may balk at all the money that's being spent but this is hard to see anyone really trying to obstruct this considering the firestorm that's erupted over this considering the election, coming up.
Ted Simons: Well and we should mention as well that McCain and Ann Kirkpatrick, they both have responded to claims that they either ignored or didn't move fast enough regarding the whistleblowers first contact with them.
Bob Christie: They did, Senator McCain this week was criticized, there was one line in the paper that said he was slow to act on a complaint from the main whistleblower on the case, which is Dr. Foote, his first name escapes me.
Ted Simons: Sam
Bob Christie: Sam, and he pushed back and said no, no, no, we got the contact with him within a day, two days we reached back out to him. And he laid out a chronology of his response which seemed to show that he acted quickly. Ann Kirkpatrick did the same, she’s on the Veterans Affairs committee in the house, she immediately referred it to staff which that's how you do those things. If you're on the committee, and you get a complaint, you go to your staff and say look into this, let's take care of this. And so she pushed back, as well. And Andy Tobin, one of the Republicans in the race against her criticized her. There are people very nervous about their vulnerabilities on this issue in elections and for their political records.
Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, I mean I think there's a lot of criticism that they put on the administration, it's their agency. Obviously, this agency much like CPS has had a culture of problems, of poor service, of poor management and a lot of facilities. You can blame Congress as a whole for how they've funded things and really this is an upswing from the wars, you’ve got a lot of people coming out of both wars and you have an aging population. So you have a lot of veterans that are older that are needing care and obviously this agency hasn't adjusted to that. I think to go after the two lawmakers on whether they get back, I think that misses the mark a little bit. I think there's much bigger fish to fry in terms of blame.
Jeremy Duda: There might be some concern over really politicizing this, we’ve already seen this with the V.A. thing with Kyrsten Sinema, I think David Schwaiger were both accused of trying to fundraise off of this not too long ago. Now, we've got I believe is Adam Kwasman calling on Kirkpatrick to resign over this, which I don’t really see that happening. This becomes a political football. It's such a bipartisan issue and V.A.'s become kind of a bipartisan piñata at this point. There might be some thought that it’s kind of over politicized.
Mike Sunnucks: I think Republicans think this is an issue that they can run on in the fall because it's the administration's fault.
Bob Christie: Absolutely and last time all four of us were together was about four weeks ago. We were still waiting for the Inspector General's report to come out and Republicans were telling their folks don’t campaign on this, we don't know what the outcome is, we don’t want to politicize veteran's issues. Now the I.G. report is out, and all of it is true, all of it and more, and so there's going to be campaign ads on this. You betcha.
Ted Simons: Before we go, Cesar Chavez is running for Congress.
Jeremy Duda: I know, which I thought was surprising he had been dead for about 20 years. But he's running for Congress in the seventh congressional district, south of Phoenix, west valley based. Turns out Cesar Chavez is Scott Fistler who is a Republican who ran as a write-in against Ed Pastor a couple of years ago. He ran for city council seat against Laura Pastor last year, and then he changed his name to Cesar Chavez, changed his voter registration to Democrat, and now he is suddenly running in this district and surprise, surprise, people noticed.
Ted Simons: Is he going to make it onto the ballot?
Mike Sunnucks: Well that's the question, to see how many signatures he has and I’m sure there will be plenty of efforts by both Gallego and Wilcox to keep him off there because that race could be very tight. That's going to be a tough race and if it comes down to a few votes and if you have someone with that name on there, you might have some folks who vote for him and it could swing the tide. But we will see if he can get on there, I don't know if he has enough signatures to make it.
Bob Christie: Well he filed, so.
Ted Simons: Yeah. Does he have any -- what are his positions on anything?
Jeremy Duda: I don't know. If you look at his website, there's not really positions. There are pictures of thousands of cheering people waving signs and wearing T-shirts for Chavez. Unfortunately for him, it is the pictures are from Caracas, Venezuela, and those realities are for the former president Hugo Chavez. So, I don't know what his position is, other than, it's kind of like the distinguished gentleman, remember the old Eddie Murphy name. It's the name you know.
Ted Simons: Yes. We will keep an eye on that particular name and that particular campaign. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Ted Simons: Monday on Arizona Horizon, we will have a debate. We’ll hear from candidates for the Republican Primary in Arizona’s 1st congressional district. A debate Monday evening 5:30 and 10:00 right here on Arizona Horizon. Tuesday, we will learn about an initiative to help make Phoenix more globally competitive. Wednesday, hear how local food banks have teamed up to help feed the hungry during the summer. Thursday, see how 1st and 2nd grade students are learning how to make their own apps. And Friday, it’s another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable. A reminder, if you would like to see past shows, like our interview with Tom Horne this past week, you can check us out, azpbs.org/horizon, that is azpbs.org/horizon. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.