Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 7, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Matt Benson - Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Tonight on Horizon, we'll look at the historic 2008 election. Barack Obama, the president-elect. We'll look at what the future holds for John McCain and the possibilities for Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano in a Barack Obama administration. Also a look at the local races. That's all next on Horizon.

Announcer: Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Hello and welcome to Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Matt Benson of the Arizona Republic, Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, and Mike Sunnucs of The Business Journal. Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected to the white house. Mike, what does this mean regarding our governor? It's everyone's talk. We had her on this week. I asked her, everyone is asking her. She's saying the same thing, she doesn't want to comment on it.

Mike Sunnucks: She's on the transition team so she's helping him pick folks. Maybe she'll be like Cheney who picked himself for vice-president eight years ago. I think most people think she's going to take a job, either Attorney General, Homeland Security seem to be the ones that pop up. We've talked about this before a little bit. But the deficit situation here so bad and she's going to deal with a much more conservative leadership in the legislature. How does it get any better for her? Versus go to Washington, get a decent job, a cabinet position, and be part of history, right? And right now, Democrats are riding high in Washington. So he's going to have a pretty good honeymoon. So I would say most people say the odds are that she's probably going to go.

Matt Benson: I think the point here is we're probably looking at more than just a decent cabinet post. Realistically she won't leave the governor's office for a secretary of recreation and leisure activities, you know? We're talking about Attorney General most likely. Homeland Security is another one. Secretary of Education is another possibility. But if you believe the rumor mill and what is being said and take it with a grain of salt, but Attorney General seems like a pretty good bet. We heard that again today based on anonymous sources reported by CNN out of Barack's cabinet-picking team.

Ted Simons: Attorney general was the word?

Matt Benson: Attorney general.

Ted Simons: What are you thinking, Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I just think at the capitol where most of us reside, still you talk to Democrats and they say, we have no indication she's leaving. We're fairly confident she'll stay. And Republicans are like she's on the first plane out as soon as that offer comes in.

Mike Sunnucks: Kind of an interesting change. Leading up to this she would say, no, I'm not really interested. I'm happy being governor. Now she's kind of changed, to I'm not going to answer those questions. So she's moving incrementally towards "I'm going to Washington."

Ted Simons: Jan brewer. Let's talk about a Governor Jan brewer and what that would mean at the state house. I mean, as far as the dynamic is concerned, sea change, correct?

Matt Benson: Well, certainly a much more conservative look on things. I mean, in terms of fiscal matters, social matters it would bring in a new look on all things legislative. Now another thing it would bring is perhaps she would get along better with the legislature. Certainly we've got a republican house, a republican senate. So in terms of dealing with the budget deficit, she might not do things that Governor Napolitano would agree with. In fact I'm almost certain she wouldn't. But they might come to an agreement sooner because they're going to be coming from the same line.

Mike Sunnucks: Deficit's always going to cut any kind of fiscal thing she's going to do but she could see wedge issues come up. They've sent abortion bills and informed consent, Janet has vetoed those. Immigration bills. If Jan Brewer is in there she'll sign some of those. You'll see some of those passed just to appease the base.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think that generally there's a sense she would work better with the republican legislature, especially since the legislature just picked up more republican seats in Tuesday's elections. But you never know. And I mean, I haven't talked to brewer about what her priorities would be. But regardless of what they might be, the budget's going to override everything. And that's not a pretty picture no matter what party.

Matt Benson: You're more likely see kind of across the board type cuts if she's Governor. Janet has her pet projects, things she tried to protect in the past. So I think you'll see across the board type axing of spending.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the state legislature here. Do we still know how many races out there are undecided?

Mary Jo Pitzl: We probably have two in the Phoenix metro area, District 20 down in the Ahwatukee area, always a difficult district. They can never -- those voters never quite make up their minds. There was some difficulty during the primary. This it's Democrat Murray Waters who has the edge over Republican Jeff Dial. There's about 350 votes separating them. I think there was a new tally that came in today and I didn't check that before I came here. It's very very slender. That's going to hinge on the rest of the early ballots being counted. District 10 in North Phoenix is probably less unstable but Doug Quelland's leading Republican Jackie Thrasher slightly. And interestingly there's a race in eastern Arizona. But it's two Republicans very very close. It looks like it might be a battle for which a Republican is going to get the seat. This would be the run to replace representative Jennifer Burns, also a Republican who's retiring.

Ted Simons: So what happened in the country which kind of veered a little bit left of center? In Arizona things seemed to veer a little bit of right of center. Mccain effect?

Mike Sunnucks: I think McCain effect. He was assumed to win the state, he won it by 10, 11 points. So that dampened Democratic turnout. And you really didn't see a lot of focus on races here, even at the congressional level. Most of the races other than Lord and Shadegg didn't get a lot of play and people weren't focused on the top of the ticket. I think unlike other states where Dems turned out big and a lot of moderates voted Democrat, you didn't see that here.

Matt Benson: Burns' seat is an interesting one. The expectation was that seat was going to go Democratic. Jennifer Burns held onto it because she was a pretty moderate if not left-leaning Republican. So with her leaving everybody thought that's going to go Democratic. The opposite happened. You almost wonder if the Democrats, all this talk about retaking the house, did they overlook some of these seats that should have been their first priority.

Mike Sunnucks: If you were to volunteer and you were a Democrat they sent you to New Mexico or Colorado to go help Barack. I don't they had people knocking on the doors here like in other states.

Mary Jo Pitzl: They didn't protect their base. Representative Teresa Olmer from Yuma, who's a first term, freshman Democrat in the legislature, she lost her seat or most likely will. They're still counting votes down in Yuma County. The first rule is you protect your folks. That didn't happen with a lot of these races. But also McCain, perhaps that dampened turnout. But also I think he brought out voters who just kept doing that R thing all the way down the ballot. Both Republicans and independents.

Ted Simons: What about 102, the marriage amendment? Did that bring out some folks?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Most likely. The marriage amendment drew almost as many voters as voted in the presidential race. And it had about a 10-point lead in Maricopa County alone. So it probably brought out folks that were more conservative-leaning.

Matt Benson: Yeah. And the key is not just bringing out voters but bringing out a certain kind of voters, bringing out evangelical voters and L.D.S. Voters who tend to vote, in many cases are going to vote straight ticket, Republican up and down. So obviously a lot of trickle down there for the other candidates. Then frankly, that's the reason we tend to see these gay marriage measures that pop up, it's an issue every two years. Why is that? Oh, it's election time.

Mike Sunnucks: What happened, too, in Arizona and in California was you had the L.D.S. Folks turn out, the evangelicals turn out but also a lot of Hispanics and African-Americans who turned out to vote for Obama but then also voted for the gay marriage bans in here and Florida and other states. You know, Obama took Florida. He took California by a huge margin. But they both passed gay marriage bans.

Ted Simons: And yet, Democrats did reasonably well on the corporation commission, taking two, maybe three, although what are we hearing that Sam George has lost?

Mary Jo Pitzl: By the end of the -- not lost but by the end of today's tally, we're into vote counting for the next week and a half now. But at the end of the day, Bob Stump Republican pulled ahead of Sam George for 245 third spot on the corporation commission. The top voters are Sandra Kennedy and Paul Newman.

Ted Simons: Why did Democrats do well there?

Mike Sunnucks: They had a good message. Talked about solar solar solar. Sam George put a lot of money into this race which gave other people money but raised the visibility of the race. I don't think Republicans really ran much of a campaign. It was very quiet. All you saw was a few ads from the Democrats and their signs around. I didn't see much of the other side. And when you just talk about solar, everybody likes solar. And when the other side doesn't run anything, I think they win by default.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about change in leadership. Mary Jo, Matt, let's also figure out -- everyone seems to have changed chairs here. What's going on?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, it's a change year. I mean, well, the big one is in the House of Representatives where Jim Weiers lost his seat as speaker in a vote yesterday. Republican, the 35 -- I think it actually was just 34 that were there yesterday because one of the Republicans who won is still in Kuwait and hasn't come back yet. They took their vote and elected -- Adams from Mesa a leader. It was a surprise to everybody pretty much involved. And this had been something that representative Adams had been working on for quite awhile. But I don't think anybody really expected to see that happening, especially after Republicans gained seats in Tuesday's election. So promises made, promises not kept, perhaps?

Ted Simons: How does the dynamic change with Kirk Adams as speaker as opposed to Jim Weiers?

Matt Benson: You know, ideologically I don't think there's a big difference. I don't think that one of them -- I don't think that Adams for example is a lot more moderate than Weiers. But in terms of how he operates, I think you may see a difference there. Basically what you're hearing even from Democrats is, we can work with Kirk Adams. This is someone that we can deal with. He has said that he's had cordial relationship with the governor, which is something that Jim Weiers certainly has not. Those two have, you know, they've been crossed wires for years now which has really come through on issues like the budget.

Mary Jo Pitzl: and even the governor's office today sent out a message that, yeah, Kirk Adams, a nice pick, and he strikes us as a pragmatic guy who wants to get things done. We got a lot of stuff to get done. Yeah, we're going to disagree on things. But they think they can very much work with him.

Matt Benson: The interesting thing is the senate. You almost had a flip-flop here in the past. The governor liked to work with the senate, Ken Bennett, and even more so she liked to work with Tim Bee. With Bee outgoing, the new senate president is Rob Burns who is someone who has been a real budget hawk. And who has been very vocal in his criticism of the governor for her dealing with the budget deficits. So you may actually see the governor's office align more with the house and keep the senate at a little further.

Mike Sunnucks: Isn't there a lot of peril for the Republicans? If Janet goes, there's a good chance she might, you're going to have a Republican governor and a more Republican legislature dealing with a horrible budget situation. And so they could potentially get all the blame coming into the next election. Because they're going to have bad budget years. This will be all in their hands. And the Democrats can come back and say, hey, look what they did.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask. Did the makeup of the legislature now, does that -- would that be -- do you think it's all speculation, could that factor into the governor's ideas of going back to D.C. If asked? I mean, it sounds like you've got a different group of people to negotiate with, but you're still negotiating with folks especially on the senate side now, tough operators as far as budget matters.

Matt Benson: I don't think it's a big factor. But frankly, had the Democrats successfully retaken the house or the senate, I think that would have opened the door easier for her to leave with less feelings of sort of subconscious guilt knowing that there's still a Democratic backstop there at the capitol. But with that not the case, I mean, that's really something she has to weigh. There is the potential that a lot of the gains that she brought in, everything from all day K to you name it is at risk, especially if it's a Republican house, senate and Republican governor.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And I don't know how much she listens to it but I think it does increase the pressure on the governor from Democrats in the state to stay and defend, you know, to defend their policy priorities. Because you are going to have probably a tougher row to hoe in the legislature.

Mike Sunnucks: Back to the corporation commission, the Democrats are doing so well there could be this talk about the Democrats taking one or two chambers of the legislature. We could have been like a cycle or two early on this. They may make big gains next time, especially if the Republicans go far right and really cut a lot of things and gut a lot of programs that are popular with people. And the economy is not turning around. And whether people like it or not, whoever is in power gets blamed for that.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask, the people on the corporation commission now, the change, there could be three, possibly two Democrats. What does that mean as far as western climate initiative type stuff, as far as utilities are concerned and trying to get alternative energy quotas up? What does it mean?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't know how much it means and I'm not real steeped in corporation commission internal politics. But the candidates, including even Stump if he gets in, has said that he will stick with the renewable energy portfolio standard that the corporation commission has adopted which has been somewhat controversial and is being litigated as we speak. So some of that's going to -- I don't know how much party is going to play into that.

Mike Sunnucks: I think some conservatives and in industry want to strip away a lot of regulations requirements for more alternative energy. You won't see that now. That will stay in place. They may push the state to have more solar incentives and tax credits.

Ted Simons: We talked about proposition 102. Anything else catch your attention there as far as a surprise in terms of either passing or what went down in flames?

Matt Benson: I was quite surprised at the loss of the pay day lending reform measure. This was pushed by the pay day lending industry. They spent 11 or 12 million bucks on it. There was almost no opposition. A lot of us watching those commercials wondered, boy, these commercials, how many folks are these going to fool? And as it turns out, those commercials didn't fool very many.

Ted Simons: No.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the prop 101 which is the medical choice act, that's still pretty much -- it's not resolved. It's failing but barely. It's basically 49 point something to 50 point something. And I was a little surprised to see that nod up so closely. I don't know how clear the message was to Arizona voters that this gives you a choice on your medical plans but this might shut down something like Access.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it shows that anything that's complicated that voters think is backhanded they vote against now. Everything that was kind of screwy and this doesn't make sense, what does this really mean, they kind of figure, well, there's some special interest behind that. You saw the gay marriage one was pretty straightforward. People voted for it. The transfer tax paying on real estate sales. Pretty straightforward. People voted for that. Everything else that was complicated people didn't trust.

Ted Simons: And when they hear that a certain group is pushing to reform itself, like the pay day loan industry, I think that alone puts enough confusion where I don't quite get this, put a no next to it.

Matt Benson: Look at the tobacco tax from 2006. There were two tobacco limitation, anti-smoking measures on the ballot. The one pushed by the health groups passed. The one pushed with big money behind it by the tobacco companies failed.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But I tend to agree with Mike on a lot of this, the simpler the message. And even the official message. What's written in the ballot language, not by the campaigns. The better your chances. I talked to Kathy Harrah today who was big with the prop 102, the marriage amendment. Theirs, you heard it over and over, 20 simple words, 20 straightforward words. And she thinks that made a huge difference as opposed to two years ago where they also had this thing where why are you going to deny domestic partnership benefits that governments might offer to folks regardless of their gender. Get rid of that, go with the 20 words, people get it. They had more money this time. They had like $7 million, from L.D.S. folks. They didn't have that last time. They had about 1 million bucks last time. It was complicated. You run yes for marriage and it passes.

Ted Simons: Sheriff and county attorney both win. Surprised by the amount?

Mike Sunnucks: I think people thought it might be closer than that I don't think people thought Joe was going to lose but I think they thought it might be a little closer, that his act was wearing thin. It certainly shows the voters still like the get tough immigration stance. It's just dangerous for Republicans. McCain under performed. He got 30\% of Hispanics, bush got 40. And that hurt him in Florida and New Mexico and Nevada. And when you have Republicans that are get tough with immigration, it comes across at anti-Hispanic sometimes.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And it's interesting, Pinal County elected its first Republican sheriff in these elections. He said here's what I'm going to do. No, he's not going to do sweeps a la Maricopa County. Not on the game plan.

Ted Simons: Surprised that county attorney race wasn't any closer? It seemed like there was a lot of talk this could really be a race. Turns out it wasn't all that close.

Mike Sunnucks: I think Nelson didn't have really high name I.D. And that comes up with the Arpaio, too. Huge name I.D. throughout the region. If you have somebody out there that people know, then they might make the switch. But you're asking for people to vote for somebody they don't really know and we're still a Republican county. And most people are with Thomas and Arpaio on immigration still.

Ted Simons: What do you think about Thomas in terms of future ambitions? Is there a statewide office in his future? Or is that issue a ways down in terms of name recognition?

Matt Benson: Speaking of name I.D. I don't know that he's really a known quantity outside Maricopa county. In fact I'm quite certain that he's not. It seems possible, but you know what? Everybody's possible in 2008. We're talking about 2010. That's a long ways off.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That whole playing field, really it all depends -- we're all waiting to go see what's going to happen on the ninth floor and will we have our current governor through the end of her term or Jan Brewer, which would give her an immediate leg up on the Republican side.

Matt Benson: The type of people Republicans have been picking in other states like Virginia, Andrew Thomas is far to the right on social issues, far right on immigration issues.

Ted Simons: Congressional delegation now 5-3 democrats. What does that mean to Arizona?

Matt Benson: Well, I don't think it means anything in terms of -- they don't vote as a delegation. So it's not like -- basically it's an indication of where the state is going that we now have majority Democrats, it was only a few years ago we had two Democrats in the delegation. So I think that's what's valuable to see CD1 has gone Democratic, CD5. After Harry Mitchell knocked out J.D. Hayworth two years ago there was a lot of talk that was a flash in the pan. Clearly it wasn't. I think that's what's instrumental about it. That's illustrative.

Mike Sunnucks: Surely the Republicans had no chance in District 1, no chance to beat Mitchell. I think it showed kind of a disarray nationally and locally of the G.O.P. They didn't have any chance in those races. The only bright spot was Shadegg. And I think that was helped by the fact that he was in McCain's home district and you had a lot of Republicans voting for the hometown guy in the presidential race. But I was surprised. I thought Lord would be closer.

Matt Benson: In the eighth congressional district you've got someone on the Democratic bench and here is an up and comer who could be governor?

Ted Simons: That's what I was going to ask.

Matt Benson: other statewide offices.

Ted Simons: the same thing with Thomas, the same question both for Gabrielle Giffords and Ann Kirkpatrick, are we seeing people who could have statewide or senate ambitions here?

Matt Benson: I think it's impossible to know about Kirkpatrick. In terms of Giffords I don't think there's any doubt. Just by virtue of the massive fundraising that she raised over $3 million this cycle. That's astounding for a freshman. She's got a great biography.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Astronaut for a husband.

Matt Benson: How do you beat that? Her wedding was in the New York Times. for crying out loud. She took the best that Republicans down there could throw at her in terms of moderate, high profile Republican in Tim Bee and she beat him handily. So I don't think there's any doubt that she's on the short list in terms of senate, governor and you name it in the next 10 years.

Mike Sunnucks: Her name I.D. up here is still pretty low. She'd have to like raise her profile.

Matt Benson: With 3 million bucks you can do it.

Mike Sunnucks: She's got personal money. Her family is wealthy, too. She can throw some of her own cash in there.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And they're not really connected but with Giffords with some of the leadership changes in the legislature you're seeing a bit of a generational shift. Kirk Adams is 20 years younger than Jim Weiers. David LuJan the new minority leader in the house, I didn't run the numbers but he's quite a bit younger than Phil Lopes who he's replacing. Well, Burns is older than Tim Bee but the senate is weird because apparently your name has to start with a B to be senate president. We had President Bennett, a President Bee and now President Burns coming in.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about voter turnout here. There's some confusion or concern or just questions for goodness sakes. We had heard 80, 85\% maybe voter turn out? We're in the 60s as far as what happened. What happened?

Ted Simons: I don't think anybody knows. There's a lot of theories. I mean, theories that McCain this state being rumored to be basically a no contest presidentially that that discouraged a lot of people from voting. There's another, so much talk about these incredible lines may have discouraged people from voting and kept a lot of folks at home.

Ted Simons: Do you think that they saw the early voting lines, people saying I waited for four hours and people thinking I don't want to do that now.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's the McCain effect. Folks that wanted to vote for Obama figured McCain was going to carry his home state. I still think a lot of folks active in Arizona on the Obama side went to other states, worked New Mexico and Nevada. Why do you need to vote here?

Matt Benson: Look at the stories we had in the last week or two of the campaign. They were all about Obama is closer than we thought, polls showed him within a few points. Mccain, is Obama going to come out and campaign? That was all the rage. In fact, that was the talk nationally that Arizona was somehow up for grabs. Obviously that didn't turn out to be the case. But I guess I have a hard time believing in light of that all these people said, oh, I'm going to watch TV. Not going to vote.

Mike Sunnucks: It was the hometown effect for people. People that were on the fence. Arizona wasn't going to decide this election. If you were on the fence in Florida or New Mexico or Nevada, you voted for Obama obviously. But if you're on the fence here there's probably a little hometown favoritism.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It might have just been, too, that looking at the projections were made based on the number of registrations. And it might have just been an overly optimistic projection on turnout. I mean, a lot of times people register and they never take the next step and go vote. It's a new thing for a lot of them.

Mike Sunnucks: National trends, too, young voters, college kids turned out for Obama. We don't have a lot of college kids here. We're not Pennsylvania or Ohio where there's tons and tons of colleges everywhere. We just have a couple. So if you don't have this real young demographic like in other states.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it right there. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ted Simons: Coming up on Monday on Horizon, learn about the big cases the United States Supreme Court is working on this session and the impact the election will have on the future of the court from ASU. Law Professor Paul Bender. That's Monday at 7:00 on Horizon. Next week: Tuesday, a Veterans Day special. Hear the captivating stories of two Iraq War veterans. Wednesday, A.S.U. Professors talk about how the new administration may affect business and the economy. Thursday, results of a report on Asian American and Pacific Islanders in Arizona is released. And Friday we'll be back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. Next on NOW, how will he lead? An Obama mentor tells us what to look for from the president-elect. That's next on NOW on PBS. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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