Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 21, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

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  • Arizona journalists review the week's top news stories.
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: roundtable, top stories,

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are -- Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic." Jim Small of "The Arizona Capitol Times." And Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio. A legislative hearing on proposed redistricting maps held today. Mary Jo, what was this about here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: The legislature wants to have its say on the maps, they're not happy with the congressional and legislative maps that have come out so far and they rightfully point to a part of the Constitution that says that the legislature is entitled to make recommendations to the commission. So before you make recommendations you have to get together and figure out what you're going to say and today’s hearing was just the beginning of their fact-finding process.

Ted Simons: And again, what we're talking about is the process of redrawing legislative and congressional districts for the next 10 years by way of the census by way of a group charged by the legislature. No one seems to be happy about this at all.

Jim Small: No, and the Republicans have been the most outspoken in the dislike of the maps and particularly the congressional map. It's set up with four safe Republican districts, two safe Democratic districts and three quote/unquote competitive districts and their argument, the competitive districts aren't that competitive. They're tilted to the Democrats and two, when the commission created the maps, it created one district specifically to be competitive and they say that violates the Constitution while it's a criteria they have to consider, it's only if it doesn't harm any other of the criteria. And they say that it does basically.

Ted Simons: Steve?

Steve Goldstein: I know the word “independent” doesn't come into play as far as what the party is concerned, but it's funny, here we go again, it seems the most important interests of the Republicans and Democrats even though we're hearing from various communities of interest.

Ted Simons: The Democrats called the hearing a sham. Did they even attend the thing?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They boycotted it. The committee was set up earlier this week and Democrats were upset from the get go because their leadership wasn't consulted. President Pearce and Speaker Tobin picked a Democrat to be on the committee and did not consult with the Democratic leadership and they’re upset about that and decided why bother to attend. If the legislature wants to weigh in, then they can attend any one of the many hearings that the redistricting commission is holding around the state. Sort of conveniently ignoring the fact that there is a provision in the Constitution designed for the legislature to comment.

Ted Simons: It’s designed for them to comment. But Jim, that comment holds about as much weight as yours and mine, correct?

Jim Small: It holds whatever weight the Independent Redistricting Commission wants to give it. I can certainly imagine a scenario where they would give the comments of the legislature more weight than yours or mine. But they're under no obligation to do so. They don't have to make changes the legislature or anyone else suggests, they get to take it in with any -- thousands of other comments they're bound to get and decide what is important and what's not.

Mary Jo Pitzl: With all of this, and certainly, the legislature is correct. They have this provision in the state constitution to do this, but when you step back, wait a minute, voters took the redistricting process out of lawmakers' hands in 2000 with the vote and this sure looks like they're trying to meddle and sort of the optics are not favorable for lawmakers and we're told there are Democrats who are not happy and we may see that with the minority coalition when they want to speak up about the map.

Ted Simons: Talk more about that. First of all who is MALDEF and why aren’t they happy with what they’ve seen so far?

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund, they advocate on behalf of Latinos and they've been analyzing the maps, congressional and legislative, and they feel they haven't taken into account the numbers of Latinos who can actually vote. They're looking at overall population and they feel they -- you need to look at the people who are just citizens because only citizens can vote.

Steve Goldstein: But Mary Jo I think the point is not just those who could vote but those who will vote. That's a big drive. And we’ve seen that with the immigration parades and even in post S.B. 1070, the effort has been made let’s try to make more Latinos vote with voter registration and yet we've heard quotes from Richard Miranda who’s said let's try to make sure that these seats are more protected because we don't know if the Latino people are going to vote.

Ted Simons: That's part of the process, looking at voting patterns, is it not?

Jim Small: Yes it definitely is. It’s interesting. Generally the Hispanic group in Arizona, the lawmakers and elected officials here have supported the maps drawn right now in terms of minority districts, yeah, maybe they’d like to see them beefed up a little bit here and there. Congressman Grijalva came out yesterday and said he’d like to have more Hispanics in his district and to not include as much of Maricopa County as it does but with that being said it’s not a bad one. The minority groups put together their own draft districts several months ago that looked pretty similar in terms of the minority districts to what we're seeing now. And back then, did they have a split with MALDEF and it was pretty clear that MALDEF was going to come in and do their own thing in here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And here’s the dilemma. If they go in and advocate for changes to the map to favor even more so Latino voter who tend to vote Democratic, that's going to pull Democratic voters away from some of these districts and it's hard to come up with safe Democratic seats. Less ones where they could have a competitive district where Democrats might have a chance.

Ted Simons: As we look at the map and that incredibly large first district as far as the congressional. At some point obviously, you can see gerrymandering here and monkey shines there. But at some point you've got do with what you got.

Steve Goldstein: Well when you have population distributed the way Arizona has it which is mostly in Maricopa County, we could say Pinal County a little bit as well, district one is absurd looking as well.

Mary Jo Pitzl: One more point on that. At the legislative hearing today, they signaled they're going to look hard at communities of interest and this concept of compactness honored and followed by the commission, but those goals can be in great contrast and you see that with this legislative map. You can't have the compact district if you want to respect the rural communities of interest. You just have to have one big sprawling district.

Ted Simons: The legislative maps, it looks as though maybe Russell Pearce could be in a variety of places. Whether he wins or loses, he could be facing Rich Crandall, which is interesting since he seems more pro-Lewis.

Jim Small: It’s really interesting. The narrative has been well even if Russell Pearce were to lose, he would just go after Jerry Lewis in a primary and wallop him, because Lewis has been getting support from Democrats and Independents that’s not the case because they’re in two different legislative districts as the map is currently drawn. So he would be in a district with Senator Rich Crandall who is certainly not a supporter of Senator Pearce, he’s not backing Lewis but his family is. He's generally tried to keep himself out of it. It would be an interesting matchup. Pearce recruited a candidate in 2010 to take out Rich Crandall and that didn't work and the next best thing would be to go after him himself.

Ted Simons: And Lewis would be in a different district altogether?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, by a few blocks. And people look at that and say really, does the commission look at where people live, is this really where the dice fall. Hard to prove but there are interesting matchups.

Ted Simons: It's why the recall election is more interesting before the maps came out. This will measure Russell Pearce's power. He could lose to Lewis, ok. Come back in a year, something off there, maybe we'll see Russell Pearce back in. But Rich Crandall, and correct me if I'm wrong, was one of the senators who did not vote for senator Pearce, that could be a battle and if Pearce is weakened, it --

Mary Jo Pitzl: These maps are drafts. The commission said the lines are likely to change, especially on the legislative map. They did those in a very hurried one-week session, where they bore down on it. There could be changes. That said, the district that puts Crandall and Pearce together makes sense, it's compact and has a community of interest and on the Republican side, could be pretty competitive.

Ted Simons: An election of interest. The recall election with Russell Pearce goes on and new we've got a pro-Lewis recall mailer being investigated?

Jim Small: There's a group called citizens united for progress that has sent out a number of mailers. A couple pro-Lewis and couple anti-Russell Pearce. And the one that got them in trouble was one that said, remember, Olivia Cortes is not a candidate and sent those to voters and the problem is the way it's designed, the secretary of state's office says this looks like it's trying to look like it's an official document from the county and it's not. And they used artwork that's kind of trademarked by elections -- for official election mail and forwarded it on to the attorney general and said, you know, you need to look into this. On top of that, the group is not registered and no one knows who they are and how much their spending.

Ted Simons: The committee is not part of the Lewis campaign. No one knows who they are, is that the idea?

Jim Small: It's similar to what happened with the Olivia Cortes thing. Where you have the signs popping up and no one knew who was behind them.

Ted Simons: Not registered with the secretary of State's office and one explains that Olivia Cortes is not a candidate and attack Pearce for the Fiesta Bowl, is this race – is it getting nastier?

Steve Goldstein: We had early ballots going out that it's getting nastier. We have to expect that, once you're in the battle, why not go all out?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is living up to its potential.

Ted Simons: Yeah, we found out campaign finance reports from the Lewis campaign filed a week early, do we know why?

Jim Small: Yesterday was the first day they could file and it was largely to blunt the attacks from the Pearce campaign. Jerry Lewis is funded by outside interests and the shield for leftist organizations and they put out the list and most are from Mesa and a lot of prominent Republican names and some Democrats. And I think it was put out there to dispel the attack that he's not a Mesan and an outsider.

Ted Simons: $50 to $100 a pop and most from the district. Actually 158 from other Arizona cities and 133 from the district and 105 from other parts of Mesa. Eddy Basha put some money in there. $25 from planned parenthood, was returned. So I guess they made a play out of that. Pearce has to October 27th to file.

Jim Small: That's usually, I think commonplace, frankly, for elections. Most tend to wait to the last day or two to file.

Ted Simons: Steve, is there growing sentiment that Russell Pearce is in trouble in this race?

Steve Goldstein: I'm probably not the expert on that, but I think there's the feeling that Jerry Lewis is a viable candidate. Whether Russell Pearce is in trouble or not, I think once the election actually is going forward, yeah. I think it's going to be a very, very close race. Jerry Lewis has deep ties in the community and Russell Pearce is much more of a non-commodity overall. Close, yes, but I'm not going to predict Pearce will lose.

Ted Simons: Are you hearing that they could be closer?

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's perception that this is serious where there wasn't that perception a couple months ago, so the race has tightened. I don't know -- I haven't looked -- haven't been privy to internal polling and that would be doubtful to take a look at that and we don't know how the Cortes name on the ballot is going to play out. She's there even though she's not there.

Steve Goldstein: There's also that feeling, I hate to say cloistered in a sense. Over at the capitol every day and know senator Pearce better than I do. But there's a feeling that here's this evil person, senator Pearce and do the supporters believe that? Absolutely not. We can have this perception and it may be wrong.

Ted Simons: What are we hearing, is he in more trouble than we thought he would be?

Jim Small: You're hearing a lot more people going, wow, this is going to be a close race. One thing that's interesting and worth paying attention to, it depends largely on turnout. I know that seems obvious. But this is a district that generally turns out very low vote -- voters and so far, the early ballots gone out, about a week, and as of a couple days ago, less than 10% had been returned and considering half of voters nowadays, more than half, vote by mail, I think that's -- that could be a sign that this is going to be a low turnout election and I think that helps Russell Pearce where the high turnout means Democrats and independents are going to show up and helping Jerry Lewis.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Maybe they're sitting there with their mail-in ballots and saying -- Lewis, Pearce, Lewis, Pearce?

Jim Small: Any other race maybe, but I don’t think this one.

Ted Simons: I've asked this question numerous times but as the race grows, the picture changes, if he wins is he as powerful? Does he have to win by a landslide to come back as Russell Pearce? From what you're hearing from folks down there, are the buzzards starting to circle -- the buzzards starting to circle?

Jim Small: I think there's a hope among critics if he comes back, he'll be more humble and brought down to earth. I don't know if anyone can say that until or unless it happens.

Steve Goldstein: I don't think there's any reason to think he would be any less powerful if he comes back with the same position. This is a small group and he's still senate president. I don't see why that would change.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I would agree, I don't think we'll see a real chasten senator Pearce and, you know, something like this, only happens once a decade -- this is a serious challenge and probably won't happen again if he survives the recall.

Ted Simons: Let's move to the Supreme Court, attorney general going to investigating 100 some old thousand dollars.

Steve Goldstein: He's endorsed Wes Gullett for mayor and he's saying, no because of the city council race where Jim Waring worked for Tom Horne for maybe a month and the Arizona citizens united was involved there to replace Peggy Neely.

Ted Simons: Arizona citizens united? Any ideas?

Steve Goldstein: I think one thing we know, Jim mentioned citizens united for progress, apparently, the Supreme Court case has got people thinking they're not creative with their name.

Ted Simons: Citizens united for "Horizon," waiting for that one. But the secretary of state's office is saying there could be reasonable cause they violated election law.

Steve Goldstein: This has been going on for a couple of months. This is -- Claude Mattox filed this complaint a couple of months ago and we're getting to it finally.

Ted Simons: Tom Horne is going to ask the attorney general for an opinion on the Stanton case but moving away from the Gullett case? Is that -- raising any eyebrows anywhere?

Steve Goldstein: He says it shouldn't, he hasn't decided or hasn't told us at least what agency is going to investigate. We don't know that yet.

Ted Simons: And the Stanton situation, involves money that was stolen -- isn't as much the money, but legal fees and acting like it's not election law.

Jim Small: Returning $70,000 or $80,000 of stolen money, there are campaign finance laws you have contribution levels and when you talk about these legal fees -- the contributions. And when you talk about this, it is -- it's interesting, like $3,000, that's above and beyond your normal contribution limit. Which is $400 of change. It could be a loophole, we don't know what it costs for the legal fees, was that just a vehicle, really, to give -- to give Greg Stanton more money.

Ted Simons: Hearing anything regarding anyone having momentum in this race?

Steve Goldstein: They're both claiming they have momentum. The latest fundraising report has Gullett raising more money than Greg Stanton had. I think the idea is that Stanton has a little bit of an advantage, regardless whether people like this, Phoenix, unlike most of Maricopa County, of course, is center left. And Stanton -- you had them on. Stanton is aggressive and he's not afraid to toot his own horn and Wes Gullett is not as good at that.

Ted Simons: It's an interesting clash of style but interesting how the horse hasn't left the barn yet. Chomping at the bit. Boy, am I using a lot of metaphors. Let's move on. [Laughter] We had a lawsuit dismiss today -- talk to us about that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: After Arizona passed S.B. 1070, the feds came in and sued Governor Brewer, countersued and said this is wrongful action on the part of the federal government and today the court ruled and dismissed her suit. No, we're not going to accept that countersuit. So the lawsuit proceeds with U.S. versus Brewer -- I'm not sure of the title -- the underlying lawsuit challenging S.B. 1070 goes forward.

Ted Simons: And the court said this is not the place for this sort of thing. This is a political question and shouldn't be here.

Jim Small: I mean, the crux of the suit was the federal government is not doing their job in securing the border and the decisions made by congress and so, ergo, it's a political decision.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And the timing was curious. Because the governor's book is coming out and folks have highlighted the fact that the meeting she had with the president over S.B. 1070 where he chided and lectured her about that, and I assume it's just happenstance a day later her countersuit gets dismissed. Interesting timing.

Ted Simons: Was it a coincidence that Sheriff Joe Arpaio did not have a very -- Sheriff Arpaio did not have a good memory?

Steve Goldstein: What he claimed to remember was different than his former deputy Hendershott. Someone threw someone under the bus – and I’m not sure who did that first.

Steve Goldstein: The issue is that Dave Hendershott said going after a couple of Maricopa County supervisors and Donahoe, that Arpaio knew about and endorsed and maybe pushed in that direction. And said I don't recall -- I'm not being sarcastic -- at least 48 times during the course of his testimony.

Ted Simons: I don't recall, in this situation, and plus being sued by everyone and his brother and you can understand to a certain degree what he's doing but how does this play for Andrew Thomas? This hearing is focused on him and whether he keeps his ability to practice law. This can't be very good.

Jim Small: I think that’s the point of the independent bar investigator -- and making the case and -- seem like they're doing what they promised to do when they put out the charges and Thomas will get a chance to defend himself next week.

Steve Goldstein: Arpaio will get the headlines and we're always interested in what he has to say or not say. But Sheila Polk who was the one brought in to investigate Don Stapley and if you look at what disciplinary means to the state bar, what she said was the most damning; that he knew that the statute of limitations had passed and that looks worse than Arpaio and Thomas ganging up on people.

Ted Simons: Thomas has to present his side and but not looking good right now. This is not -- and he's not showing up for these things.

Steve Goldstein: Well, he has to support his family. He still has his law practice and he has to go and do that and watching an old "Perry mason" episode, it always looks bad when the other guy hasn't had a chance yet.

Ted Simons: Does anything hurt Arpaio in terms of political success?

Jim Small: I don't know, in the long run it's not going to hurt him if he runs for reelection. All indications are that he's going to run and he's got $7 million, something like that, I'm sure he'll be fine.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Certainly, if nothing else, hands a really lot of easy sound bites for anyone who wants to oppose Arpaio. To say I don't know that many times, how can you forget when you're the guy in charge and make it a point to let everyone know that the buck stops here, except he says my job was to delegate.

Ted Simons: And to forget any aspect of a meeting that involves the criminally charging of a sitting judge. That says something there; it may not say much, but it says something nonetheless.

Steve Goldstein: We don't know what this says. We don't know if this means he's losing his memory or didn't control that office. It doesn't look good and yet he used to have 80% approval. Does he still have over 50%? Probably. So if we’re talking about reelection, it’s going to be unlikely he’ll be knocked off.

Ted Simons: Bottom line, if you're a Republican and running for office, you still go for Arpaio's endorsement?

Jim Small: I think there's no reason not to at this point. Frankly, a Republican primary, no matter what happens to Russell Pearce, no reason to not go after his endorsement as well.

Ted Simons: That says more than anything else. Good to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

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