Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 4, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

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  • Arizona journalists discuss the week's top news stories.
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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 "The Arizona Republic," Dennis Welch of the "The Arizona Guardian," and Jim Small of "Arizona Capitol Times." Lots to get to tonight. We'll start with the governor setting off the so-called nuclear option against the state's redistricting commission, and this has turned into quite the bomb, so to speak. Give us the quick background on what's going on here and what the heck happened this week.

Mary Jo Pitzl:: On Tuesday after some wrangling the legislature went into special session. Brewer called for the removal of the chairwoman, she had the votes to make it happen with one vote to spare. Mathis was out, and about three hours ago there was a lawsuit filed to block that action and overturn it.

Ted Simons: Gross misconduct in office, that's the constitutional parameters there as far as removing a commissioner and commission head. So be it.

Dennis Welch: Yes. It's pretty vague. What is that? Any time you get a law written in such a way, you're going to run into situations like this. Unfortunately, you know, you're not going to be able to make this law any better really quick, because it was passed by the voters back in 2000. If you're going to make changes or be more specific about this, you have to go back to the voters.

Ted Simons: What did she do that constituted this neglect of duty and gross misconduct?

Jim Small: Certainly depends on who you ask. Republicans point to maps they say don't follow the Constitution or respect communities of interest and they foster competitiveness, which is supposed to be a subordinate requirement. Open Meeting Law violations, those allegations, that when they were trying to hire a mapping consultant she went, in private, and talked to different commissioners and tried to curry favor and get votes and tried to trade, if you vote for me on this I'll vote for you on something down the line. Democrats have said this is really nothing more than politics, and they are going after her because she's voted with the Democrats a number of times on major issues on the panel.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Here's the problem with those rationales, which are very much what the legislature is saying. In the court filing today the redistricting commission attorneys say, open meeting law, that's for the courts to decide. It's an open investigation. Tom Horne started it quite a while ago, he's removed from the case and it is ongoing and not resolved. You're removing someone because there's an allegation that hasn't been resolved. Secondly, they argue that the maps are draft products, they are not done yet. The Commission fully expects to go back after they finish their hearings on Saturday and spend the next couple of weeks adjusting those maps. Then we'll see what they really are all about.

Ted Simons: We had Carl Carlton on the show representing Colleen Mathis. He says this is a hailstorm, a maelstrom over draft maps. These things will change anyway. Was that ever brought up, in terms of the hearings or what Republican resource saying? Do they even care that they are draft maps?

Dennis Welch: I think towards the end we heard Andy Biggs say they did not take this action because of the lines on the maps, they were more concerned about the process under which it ended up that way. You started looking at the lines, they said they didn't do this to change the lines.

Ted Simons: In the history of Arizona, you hear about open meeting law violations for everything from school board meetings on up. How that is prosecuted or investigated or pursued.

Jim Small: The attorney general Tom Horne opened the investigation, and he's been conflicted out by the courts. He's kicked it to Maricopa County's Bill Montgomery, who's in the process of investigating it. They are going through the interviews with the commissioners, with staff perhaps. A lot of stuff that was alleged happened in executive session or outside. So there are transcripts of executive sessions they can get their hands on and go through. I don't really know what the process is. Usually the A.G.'s office has an open meeting law kind of division that focuses solely on this for School Boards, counties, all sorts of governmental entities. It's looking at what happened and trying to figure out if it actually was a violation of the law.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And often the remedy, if someone finds the open meeting law was violated, the penalty can range from go back and do over the action you did improperly, all the way to removal. And Horne made it real clear that he was going to go after removal. Even as recently as last week, he was saying it's time to get this done before the lines are drawn, because we have to get a commissioner or commissioners removed. It's now happened.

Ted Simons: Commissioner or commissioners. We understand the Governor was not just satisfied with removing the commission heads, she wanted the Democrats removed as well. How come?

Dennis Welch: She thought the same thing, they weren't acting aboveboard or something like that. What I was told, they didn't want this to be seen as an overtly partisan move. Well, too bad. This is a very, very partisan move.

Mary Jo Pitzl: If you go after the Democrats it looks partisan.

Ted Simons: What's the biggest surprise? That she wanted to go after the Democrats as well, or that the Senate basically said no?

Jim Small: I think a little bit that the Senate said no. The partisan horse was out of the barn here, I think. This looked like an overtly 6 partisan act. They could have gone the whole nine yards on it. I think it's also important to mention that Governor Brewer was initially targeting all five commissioners, even including the Republicans. They drew a line in the sand and said, we're not going to go there. We think they were unwilling participants and they got dragged along with this. She asked them to defend themselves, as well.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The main reason she's looked at Democrats along with the independent chairwoman is that on the votes that are really controversial it was the two Democrats and independent who voted in the affirmative and Republicans in the negative. They got that sort of get out of jail free card from house Speaker Tobin and Senate President Pearce last week.

Ted Simons: Again, the process being targeted here is the idea. There's no doubt there are a lot of Republicans not happy with the draft maps, emphasizing the word draft, including the congressional delegation. We're hearing they came down kind of hard and said, do something about this approximate. That is what you've heard, as well?

Dennis Welch: You've heard a lot of these rumors with names that came up. These people would be forced to potentially move into another district or in the case of Quayle and Schweikert.

Ted Simons: But what raises eyebrows more, the fact that these people may to have square off, or, by magic, when ou're not supposed to consider where an incumbent lives, that's part of the process, all of a sudden none of them have any competition. What would raise more eyebrows?

Jim Small: Well, watching the maps evolve between the official draft and the final draft map, we saw these lines move around people's houses. Quayle was a perfect example. He and Schweikert were in the same district. Magically over the weekend they came back and the line went literally right around Quayle's neighborhood and put him in another district, and they drew Schweikert out of that district and put him in another one. There were a number of legislative lines drawn in a similar way. The dividing line was a residential street when it could have been a main arterial. Some odd nuances that people picked up on.

Dennis Welch: I think to your point about the congressional delegation really driving this, you don't hear a lot of Republicans complaining about the legislative district maps. A lot of people say, these maps really favor Republicans moving forward over the next 10 years. Most of the consternation has been about the congressional maps. That tells you the clue to where this pressure is coming from.

Ted Simons: You talked to the original authors of the initiative that got this whole thing going, and they didn't foresee this happening at all?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No. The three people who were the primary authors of proposition 106 which went on the ballot in 2000, and they were asked was this what you meant. They said no, they were talking about taking a bribe, being seen colluding in a corner with the incumbent Congressman, or maybe just being unable to physically attend the meetings. But as much as they say that's their intent, that's not what was written into the Constitution.

Ted Simons: It was supposed to be an emergency clause. It sounds like all bets are off when you have enough people in the Senate to back your move and the same-party governor.

Jim Small: I didn't imagine a scenario when you have a governor with two thirds of the Senate on board. This speaks so a larger issue we've seen in the past on other ballot measures. When you have the citizens' initiatives, a lot of times these things are vetted thoroughly. There are no definitions for key terms. The Senate was able to drive a Mack truck through the loopholes.

Dennis Welch: 10 years ago the makeup of this legislature was so different, you had to put together bipartisan deals because it was much more splitting -- Republicans held majorities in both houses.

Mary Jo Pitzl: One of the original authors Turner said they did not anticipate the scenario such as we have now with a super majority and governor all of one party. He said that's the fault of the voters, they should think a little harder about what their votes will bring to Arizona when they go to cast their ballots.
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Ted Simons: That's easily said there. Anyway, where do we go from here? What kind of timetable -- how do we get a new commissioner, who's going to be the new commissioner? And if this drags out forever do we have a judge wind up drawing these lines?

Dennis Welch: Couldn't we end up with somebody like Paul Bender that they could consider even more liberal than the person they have kicked off? I've found that to be a little bit ironic.

Jim Small: On Monday, the commissioner on appellate court appointments is going to meet. The body charged with nominating three names and sending them back to the IRC, the easiest thing would be to take three of the four people passed over initially. One of those names is now the executive director paid to be -- you know, to, do the IRC work. We talked to him this past week and he's not interested in going from a nice paid job to --

Ted Simons: Well, who would be?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Also, it would really put a dent in the commission's work if dean left and you had to find another executive director and bring him or her up to speed.

Ted Simons: Let's say do you get a new independent person in there, and all of a sudden all the folks that were complaining about their congressional districts and being put up against X, y, z, all of a sudden they are safe. How does the new guy, new woman, whoever comes in, how do they get past that?

Dennis Welch: You just laid out a great case of why you wouldn't want to put your name into this hat. Those decisions are going to be made or second-guessed or triple-guessed and people will be critical or skeptical of any decisions you're going to be making.

Ted Simons: First of all, there was talk that Democrats were looking at moderate Republicans and try and recall the moderate Republicans from going look with something they felt the mod Ritz didn't want to do. That is true?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I read it as a threat. They say we mean it, it's a little early to pull any petitions. But they feel these four senators are in districts where their vote -- where they think a Democrat could probably beat them under these circumstances if put on a recall ballot.

Dennis Welch: You talk to them personally and a couple of them have told me, yeah, these considerations are in the back of the mind when you make these decisions. Like in McComish's case, he's always barely getting through his primaries and he’s very vulnerable in a situation like that.

Ted Simons: How is the Governor being perceived? What are we hearing regarding the fact that she wasn't even in town?

Jim Small: The Democrats have been having a field day with the fact that she hasn't been in town. The tweets, press releases, it's been almost nonstop this entire week about how she kind of set this ball in motion. Okay, guys, I've gotta go sell some books.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It wasn't state business, she was out of town to sell her book. There are other times where she canceled going to the Paris airshow because there were wildfires going on in Arizona. She canceled going to Mexico for a borders commission meeting because there was a child safety task force meeting that was going happen. She could argue she had state business to stay here for. Removing the chairwoman of an independent panel is a pretty serious state business. Her argument is that we've got faxes and phones.

Ted Simons: Isn't her argument the same one that was used when she was secretary of state?

Dennis Welch: Napolitano would always argue when she left the state she was still the Governor, even though the constitution says once you leave the state the secretary of state is the acting governor. She always contended that. Brewer always argued that. Back to the other point about how the Governor looks from a P.R. standpoint, voters look at problems that are alienating the state. You've got high unemployment and she decide to gets them broiled in this beautiful political battle while out in New York selling her book?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It might be good stuff for the sequel. There may be armadillos for lunch manufacture or let them eat scorpions.

Ted Simons: This has back national story. It's all over on network cable TV shows and networks and so on. It's beyond just little stuff for Arizona politicos. People are watching all over the country on this thing.

Dennis Welch: The story about a governor in a power grass, it's not just about the walky stuff, it's the very high profile governor making this big political play.

Ted Simons: Another high profile race coming up Tuesday, I should say. Not another one, but a race, period. The Russell Pearce recall election, Jim, "Arizona Capitol Times" commissioned a survey, a poll on this. We talked to you last night but tell us again what you found.

Jim Small: About 600 likely voters in the district were polled and essentially it's a dead heat. Jerry Lewis was up about three points, a 4% margin of error. Essentially it's a toss-up coming into Tuesday and going into a weekend which I know will be very busy for candidates as they knock on doors and do phone calls and e-mails and everything else.

Ted Simons: Is that a surprise those numbers came out the way they did?

Dennis Welch: I think what I wrote about that pole really kills that conventional wisdom heading into this race. We all thought, myself included, that Pearce is almost invincible in this district. We'll probably get into this in just a moment there are certain things to be critical about this poll but any poll that shows Mr. Pearce trailing any competitor is not good for him.

Ted Simons: Also, the poll specifically asked if you were an LDS member.

Jim Small: The results were like everything else, pretty much split council the member. I think Jerry Lewis had a slight advantage among Mormon voters. It really shows the divide not within the church but within that entire community.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What do you make of the 2 1/2% who were voting for Olivia Cortez even though she's not the candidate here anymore?

Jim Small: We read a disclaimer that said, she's not a candidate. It could be user error or people just trying to skew the poll results.

Ted Simons: Right, right. You said as far as questions involving, what kind are out there on a sunny like this.

Dennis Welch: All polls, you put them out there, and it's sport to try to poke holes in some of this stuff. One of the things, it said 36% of Democrats were supporting Mr. Pearce. I don't think that close 40% of Democrats would videos for Mr. Pearce on any district or any election, I think that's a bad number. If he's polling almost 40% of any Democrats and is still trailing, that’s a really terrible sign heading into election.

Ted Simons:Was there any indication of a backlash from the Cortes affair?

Jim Small: We didn’t have time to ask that question. It was really a short poll, just who are you going vote for.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's sort of a side issue but I wonder how the IRC business that happened this week might affect some of those voters. President pierce kept a really low proceed Tile was the desert was going on in the Senate. He voted with the rest of the voters to oust Mathis.

Ted Simons: I've asked this numerous times. Let's ask once more, if he wins is he humbled, emboldened? Or do the troops start to rebel? If he loses, does he run again, does he disappear, does he try to become the next sheriff?

Dennis Welch: I don't think his personality really changes. People cover him for a while, Mr. pierce is Mr. piece. He's going to continue to be who 14 he is. Politically in the future, I don't know whether, -- if you runs around the way the lines drawn, Crandall is very popular in his area. I think there are a lot of questions.

Ted Simons: What do you think? Just from a distance a bird's-eye view here. What happens if he wins, what happens if he loses?

Jim Small: If he wins I don't necessarily buy that he comes back humbled or chastened at all. He would say that this was a mandate; They took their best shot at me, they tried to take me out. All of the left liberal forces mustered everything which he out and we couldn't. I'm going keep doing all those things that especially my critics don't like.

Ted Simons: Will the troops follow him?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think so if he's returned. In his one-year tenure of president, even the Democrats say they have been fairly happy with how he has worked with them as the minority party. Russell will continue to run and pursue the issues close to his heart. He hasn't rolled the Senate like a tyrant.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we go here, we've got a Phoenix mayoral race, as well, almost an afterthought on this program. Why hasn't this race caught fire?

Dennis Welch: That's a good question. I was talking to some experts out there about this just yesterday. There hasn't ban lot of polling in the race. There hasn't been as much media attention. I think part of the reason is some of the topics we've already discussed today, there's always something really big popping up in Arizona politics that takes the wind out of the sails for this race.

Ted Simons: There is an overriding issue. Is anything gaining traction out there? What's happens on the ground?

Dennis Welch: This is a race against the status quo versus the change engine out there. The ads being run, Mr. Gullett is running ads saying, hey, I'm going to change things. My opponent voted for food taxes and water rate increases and stuff like that. Mr. Stanton says, public safety all endorse me; the city unions all endorse me. So that’s what it’s come down to.

Ted Simons: Tight race? Stanton’s to lose?

Dennis Welch: Stanton’s to lose is the consensus out there. They are bullish head into the weekend but a lot of campaigns are real positive heading into that last weekend. They say a large number of Republicans are showing up to vote for this partisan race.

Ted Smons: You also reported that Terry Goddard might be interested in running for Jon Kyl's seat. True?

Dennis Welch: This is true. I called up and had a consideration with him. He said he's very interested. He will sit back and wait until Gabrielle Giffords and Mr. Carmona are down in Tucson making their decision. If Carmona doesn't jump into this, he says he will take a shot, it'll be his sixth frown office.

Ted Simons: What did he say? Didn’t he say he was going to take a break after the governor’s race, or was that just election blues going on?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, it could have been both. He did say he was going give it a break. Things have changed since then, the Gabby Giffords thing had not happened after the race last year. He's been approached by people. National figures are coming toward him. They are looking for a name that would resonate with Arizona.

Ted Simons: It's a bit of a distance off but have you Jeff Flake, and Bivens, I believe, and everyone's waiting on the sidelines to see if a big name jumps in. If you’re Terry Goddard, do you jump?

Jim Small: I think everyone's waiting to see what happens with gifts. Whether it's the Senate race or the congressional races down in Tucson, it's kind of the same idea. I do think it's interesting you have a locality of prominent Democratic folks coming to Terry Goddard, saying hey, we want you to run. That's probably a really good sign they don't have a lot of confidence in Bivens in the race right now.

Ted Simons: Quickly, will Goddard have to step up his campaign style and technique.

Dennis Welch: He would have to go out and raise a lot of money in this race. This is going to be $10 million to be competitive.

Ted Simons: All right, boy, same lessons going on, huh?

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us, good stuff. Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon," how Arizona's open meetings law apply to the legislature and redistricting commission. What's more costly for Arizona, car crashes or traffic congestion? Find out Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us, you have a great weekend.

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