Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 21, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • 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
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Arizona Republic
  • Mike Sunnucks
  • Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> Tonight on "Horizon" reports Arizona governor Janet Napolitano is the first choice for the job of Homeland Security chief in the Obama administration. We'll look at what happens in Arizona if that move is made. Unemployment in the valley downs rise. We'll see if that trend is expected to continue. That's all next on "Horizon."

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Ted Simons
>>> Hello and welcome to "Horizon" I’m Ted Simons. Joining me tonight to talk about the week's top stories are Matt Benson of the "Arizona Republic", Mary Jo Pitzl, also of the Republic and Business Journal reporter, Mike Sunnucks. Governor Napolitano looks like she's adios. Let's first of all, I mean, what -- on a scale of 1-10, 1, she says, 10, she goes, what do you think, Matt? What are you hearing out there?

Matt Benson
>> I think we're getting pretty close to a 10 here. I think "The Washington Post" basically said it was 99% done. Of course, it's unconfirmed. All indications are she'll be the new Secretary of Homeland Security in Washington.

Ted Simons
>> Ok, can she turn this down? I mean, obviously it sounds as if Obama will be asking her to do this. She can't really turn it down at this time, can she? It's gone too far?

Matt Benson
>> Yeah, certainly. I think the pattern we've seen with the Obama administration with the transition team has been when a deal is done, then they leak it and then the name is floated and it's out there. But, you know, in general, they've not been leaking names until it was sort of a done deal. It'll be embarrassing for Obama if these names were coming out and then people were telling him, "no." I wouldn't expect for that to happen.

Mike Sunnucks
>> On the other side of the aisle, Senator McCain and the congressional members were congratulating her saying they'd support her. Like Matt said, their media effort is disciplined. Treasury secretary, Richardson in Commerce and Hillary at State. These things are pretty much a done deal. They talked up her resume and credentials for this.

Ted Simons
>> Is this something that suits her talents?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> I think so. I mean, she's -- because she's been a border governor and has paid attention to border issues, she's been down there and spoken out, you know, sometimes in a way that contradicts where the federal government's been going on border policy, but, yeah, she can speak from a lot of authority on that. She's also headed up the National Guard as any governor on any state would do and directs them. She's got some of that experience underneath her belt.


Mike Sunnucks
>> She doesn't have the national security credentials that other folks may have from the antiterrorism side of it she's got all what Mary Jo said, running a border state. She's pragmatic and incremental and a manager, maybe more than a big policy maker.

Matt Benson
>> This is someone who for the last, you know, six years has been saying, "the border is a federal problem." she's been railing against the action in the federal level. Guess what? Now, it's her problem. It'll be interesting to see how her philosophy evolves on that whether she continues to see this as a federal issue or whether now that it's her issue, if she's going to see that, boy, this is awfully expensive. We need the state to partner with us.

Mike Sunnucks
>> They created this after 9/11. This is a massive agency. They threw everything under saying they needed an umbrella agency for this TSA is having issues. You have the Katrina background. This is an agency where you don't get a lot of glory. You get blamed a lot. You get blamed by the cities when you don't give them enough money. You get blame from the border states when they don't get enough money. There's not a lot of glory in this.

Ted Simons
>> Could this not be a situation where she can do tremendous good for Arizona by finally getting the federal moneys and the federal attention to where she's always been complaining they haven't been?

Matt Benson
>> The best-case scenario, that's exactly what happens. She comes in there with her familiarity and background in this and able to solve the -- not "solve." that's probably the wrong word for an issue this massive, but deal with it in an effective manner. By that I mean the border. If she can come in and help slow down the illegal immigration coming north, that means a lot to Arizona.

Mike Sunnucks
>> I think the economy is just kind of taking immigration off the table a little bit. It's not the big issue, you don't have people pouring across. Most are coming for jobs. The one issue, there's a lot of violence in northern Mexico right now. Lot of instability down there a lot of corruption. Drug czars have been indicted. They have a lot of issues there. The funding is a no-win situation. Because New York and L.A. are the big targets for the terrorists. So, you know, a lot of money goes there. So figuring out how to sparce it out to everybody and cover security and do a good job is a challenge for anyone.

Ted Simons
>> Launching pad for future political ambitions? Homeland Security chief?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Well, you know -- it's sort of an untested thing. We're only five years into even having this position in the federal government. As Mike was saying, this is fraught for potential of error. You get one hurricane -- that's one thing Napolitano doesn't have, hurricane experience. You get one thing where you make a big misstep and you're done.

Matt Benson
>> Interestingly, a lot of people have pointed out, there's so much potential of risk here in that role. Tom Ridge, the first director of DHS was on the short list for McCain to be vice president. I think it's doable and certainly Tom Ridge had many critics while he was head of Homeland Security. He somehow emerged from that in pretty good standing.

Mike Sunnucks
>> It gives her security credentials. If she runs the agency for four years or however how long, that helps her resume.

Matt Benson
>> When's she run for senate? Everyone was looking at 2010. That was the natural. She's term limited in 2010. McCain's senate seat will be up. A lot of questions on whether he'll run or not. Even if he did run for reelection, Napolitano could give him a definite run for his money. That's out the window now. You're talking 2012 or even further.

Ted Simons
>> Is it out the window?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> It would seem. If you're Napolitano and indeed this is true and she's going to go to Washington, you leave the state at a time where there's a budget distress. There's a lot of people that are in positions that she appointed into that are going to lose the positions. It doesn't necessarily help -- it doesn't embolden her base for her to leave the state at a time like this and then to try to come back, what? In a year and start fund-raising and laying the groundwork for a campaign? That would seem to make 2010 difficult. Also this week, we saw John McCain, I think, file papers for a committee signaling he's looking at running again in 2010. That's something else to consider.

Matt Benson
>> Just from the time frame perspective, we're talking -- I mean, 2010 feels like a long way away. It's not. We're almost to 2009. Once Obama takes the oath and some of that stuff gets out of the way, people will start lining up for senate. She's just going to be getting started in D.C. she'll be in no position to announce a senate run.

Ted Simons
>> Couple of the more intriguing ideas out there regarding Obama administration going with Napolitano, first of all, the idea being that the president-elect is trying to woo a John McCain. Woo someone on the Republican side that could perhaps help him shepherd several pieces of legislation passed reluctant Republicans. By wooing john McCain, I’m saying getting Napolitano out of that state in 2010.

Mike Sunnucks
>> I don't think so. I think you'll see Obama and Napolitano agree on climate changes and immigration where they're on the same page. Republicans are in disarray. They don't have a lot of leadership there. Their agenda and ideas were pretty much dismissed by everybody. I don't think McCain really cares about what happens in Arizona too much now. I think at best he -- I don't think he'll run for another term.

Ted Simons
>> You don't think he's going in 2010?

Mike Sunnucks
>> No. I think he's done.
Mary Jo Pitzl
>> As he returns to the senate, I don't think McCain is emerging as a leader of the Senate Republicans any way. I mean he -- I think he's going back to his maverick status. I don't know who he'll be able to woo.

Ted Simons
>> Here is another idea, Governor Napolitano becomes the secretary. The Chief of Homeland Security moves to Washington and lives in Virginia, shall we say? And then say that'll be a nice place to run for senate in Maryland and cuts off Arizona.

Matt Benson
>> It's percolated beyond the craziness of the capitol. Another one is she comes back and runs for something in New Mexico.

Ted Simons
>> There you go. So --

Mike Sunnucks
>> I think her brand here is still pretty good. She's getting out at a good time. She won't get blamed too much for what happens next session with all the budget cuts. She is the Democratic Party here for the most part and so I think if she can come back -- the only thing about running again is she's never had to raise that much money on her own for a senate campaign. She's always used clean elections. The state -- Jim Pederson helped the state party along. She's not had to do that. That's a busy job being Homeland Security secretary. I don't think she'll have a lot of time to come back and raise a lot of money. Maybe she doesn't want to do that. A lot of folks in politics just don't like doing that.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> I would think there was a decision made on her part probably some time ago that, look, either I’m going to go the administrative route or electoral route. I think we've seen a choice there doesn't mean the door doesn't swing the other way but it'll be a long time, I think, before we see it.

Ted Simons
>> You mentioned democratic leadership in Arizona. She leaves, what happens? Who takes charge? Who is on top?

Matt Benson
>> That's the interesting thing. Whose voice emerges? Because she's been so dominant for so long with her gone, you know, I'd expect someone like Gabriel Gifford, second-term congresswoman out of Tucson there. Another possibility, Jim Pederson. Terry Goddard certainly. He's been around for a long time.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Those names are right. I think Phil Gordon also. Phil took on Arpaio in immigration. He's trying to reach out to the base more. He's gotten flack for endorsing republicans for being the McCain guy. He was high profile in the immigration issue. He's pretty press-friendly. He's in the biggest city. He's trying to raise Phoenix's stature up teaming with some of the other big city mayors to ask for stimulus money I think he's positioning himself for something more.

Ted Simons
>> Any other names you can think of as far as democrats are concerned?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> No. No. No. Nothing that really jumps to mind. We've got a new crop of legislative leaders out at the legislature but I don't see them emerging as big voices. They'll have struggles.

Mike Sunnucks
>> The one challenge for the party is it was so much about Janet for so long, she was their saving grace. She came in and won and helped another candidates. Everything was kind of centered around here. There's a void now.

Ted Simons
>> Let's talk about Jan Brewer. Who is Jan Brewer? What kind of governor would a Governor Brewer be?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Well, Jan Brewer's been -- you know, active in Arizona politics for 26 years. I think a lot of people are, you know -- there's this sense that maybe she's an unknown. She's been around for 26 years. She started in the Arizona House of Representatives and served 14 years in the legislature including time in leadership in the state senate and then she went to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and was chairman there and left that post for secretary of state which is where she's now -- I don't think purposefully -- but it puts inner a position to ascend to governorship shall Napolitano leave. She's republican leadership. She's not Janet Napolitano. They have different styles and different kinds of philosophies.

Ted Simons
>> Is she considered an ideologue? Pragmatic? Overly partisan? Not all that partisan?

Mike Sunnucks
>> If you look at her track record in the legislature which distances, she's to the right. She's big on social issues. She's not taken those types of stances as secretary of state. There's not been a big voting controversy here like you've seen in Ohio and some of those other states. She's not done that. She's sided with folks on paper trails and those types of things when it comes to elections. She's very conservative. You'll see the anti-abortion crowds getting bills through now that we're vetoed by Janet. You assume the immigration folks, the Russell Pierces will get some stuff through.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> The folks I talk to describe her more as a pragmatist than as an ideologue. She's a conservative. She's definitely on the conservative end of the scale.

Ted Simons
>> Described as well as easy to underestimate. Does that ring a bell at all?

Matt Benson
>> It's something we've heard. Some of that comes back to people being somewhat unfamiliar with her. And some of that is just a mystery. Frankly, I think a lot of how you view Jan Brewer depends on where you're coming from politically. Republicans see her as someone who will be a very pragmatic, practical, sensible sort of leader some democrats frankly are running for the hills. And they're fearing the worst already.



Mary Jo Pitzl
>> I don't think anyone who's been in politics for 26 years, and all of the elected offices, if they were underestimating her, that's a mistake. She's been able to remain viable for 26 years.

Mike Sunnucks
>> She's not Napolitano who knows a lot about a lot of issues. She's personable.

Ted Simons
>> What were pet projects of the governor -- what now gets on the chopping block?

Mike Sunnucks
>> Climate change.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Climate change.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Climate change is out the door. Janet wanted to team with Arnold and the other governors and kind of set a more strong emissions standards and those types of things. That's dead. I would say they nibble at the edges on some of the social programs. I can't see them going on All-Day K. That's popular. You'll see child care and subsidies.

Matt Benson
>> Science has been a big project of the Democrats and Napolitano. That could be suspended for the time being.

Ted Simons
>> Education and taxes -- these types of chords are usually spoken of. Taxes, obviously sounds to me, don't raise and cut where you can?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Nobody, even the Democrats have been talking about tax increases. It's all a question of how do you -- you know, how do you find the revenues? A big issue in this came up today that's been on the table for about now going into the third year in the legislature, three years ago, the legislature suspended the county equalization tax, the last property tax of the state levies it goes back on the books from the three-year suspension in '09. And the incoming house and senate leaders have said you know, we're going to make this a priority. We want to let that thing lapse. Um, Brewer's not talking. Any ways, she's still the secretary of state. Her position has been she's not going to really talk until she's had some kind of communication from Governor Napolitano about that.

Mike Sunnucks
>> It'll be interesting to see how far to the right she goes. There's conservatives and right-wingers in this state that don't want anything done. They don't want All-Day K. They look sorely upon government. If she sides with them, you can see major cuts. There's folks that are kind of towards the middle a little bit that see the use of government sometimes -- and same thing on immigration. There's folks that want to build a 100-foot wall. We'll see if she goes with them. That's a big danger for the Republicans, because they lost a lot of Hispanic votes this time.



Matt Benson
>> The interesting thing to me will be what kind of governor does she try to be? Does she be more of a caretaker the next couple of years or come out the bats and take stance on things saying, I’m Governor Brewer.

Mike Sunnucks
>> The rest of the country went to the left. People want a safety net. They don't want unbridled capitalism and no government regulations. Here we are, we add Republicans and we'll have a conservative governor.

Ted Simons
>> What kind of time frame are we looking at here as far as when the current governor leaves and the new governor would come in, should of course all this happen? We're saying this is provided it does happen.

Matt Benson
>> That's the focus of tons of speculation and there's no answer at this point. The governor hasn't acknowledging she's gotten an offer and accepted it. So we're hearing rumors from everything from a couple weeks to, you know, it could be into February and March.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Right.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Obama will name his economic team first, treasury secretary and all of those positions because of the situation that's going on with the economy. Then he'll come out with the security team probably all at the same time. You'll probably see Janet walk out there with Hillary.

Ted Simons
>> What's the house and senate doing as far as getting some kind of strategy and some kind of -- are there literally two tracks going right now.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> I’m not aware two of tracks. They met yesterday, both the current legislative leadership and the incoming. They're going over a budget plan that was given to them by the governor. She gave them a plan on here's how I would start cutting the budget. The president bob burns or incoming president bob burns says they're looking at that list and taking things off of it but not adding things which would suggest that maybe if they can get some agreement on that, maybe this is something that Janet Napolitano could agree to that could do a quick special session sometime next month before Christmas and Hanukkah and at least start whacking away at that 1.2 billion and perhaps growing budget deficit.

Mike Sunnucks
>> Last year, Earns & Pierce came without a pretty draconian budget, big cuts. I think they'll probably get that copy back out if Brewer is governor --

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> If she's governor.

Mike Sunnucks
>> And with the thicker magic marker, maybe, than they used last year.



Ted Simons
>> Let's go to the new speaker and how he'd look on these sorts of things. Compare and contrast the styles of the incoming presidents and the president and the incoming speaker. Are they going to work well together? Is there a little conflict there? What are you seeing down there?

Matt Benson
>> I think one interesting thing that came out of a speech that gave today -- and by that, I mean Speaker-elect Adams, there's a lot of talk about cuts. He's a conservative. He acknowledges there's going have to be serious spending cuts this year. What his point was, we can't appear gleeful in doing it. I think it's probably very wise him saying that, because he recognizes that if it looks like Republicans are somehow reveling in program cuts and layoffs, it may come back to bite him in 2010.

Ted Simons
>> That goes back to the whole thing that Democrats are seeing back in Washington that Republicans are seeing here at the state capitol and that's you got everything you want, you have the power, here comes the pressure and here comes the responsibility as well.

Mike Sunnucks
>> I agree with Matt. There's a lot of peril for the Republicans. If they cut things that are popular -- the economy won't improve. It'll be easy for Phil Gordon, Gabby Giffords say, look what they did while in power! Elect us! That's a big challenge for the republicans.

Matt Benson
>> You'd rather be a Republican at the capitol right now than a Democratic.

Ted Simons
>> And a Democratic in D.C. rather than Republican?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> That's right.

Ted Simons
>> As far as out going speaker, what happens to him?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> It's not clear at this point. There's some talk if Jan Brewer becomes governor there may be spot for him in her administration. He's enjoyed being in leadership. He's not in leadership anymore. This might give him a chance to move into a different role and still leave that seat in Republican hands, because it would -- a replacement would have to be named from the same party. That's all very speculative at this point.

Ted Simons
>> We did find out -- committee chairmanships, any surprises there? Anything out of the ordinary?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> What that struck me on the senate side, they did restructuring, Ron Gould lost that portfolio. He was the transportation chairman. Frankly, I can't remember what his new assignment is. There's new committee called blah blah, something something, infrastructure there resides the whole issue of transportation. I think there was an attempt to try to move some of the issues away from Senator Gould's direct control because he's not been a fan of a lot of transportation legislation. There's still heavy pressure out there from the business community, the folks that were behind the failed time coalition to get moving on more road and infrastructure projects including transit. You move it over to the new committee that'll be chaired by Senator-elect John Nelson who's an engineer by training, city councilmember for years from the City of Phoenix and is more amenable to these situations.

Mike Sunnucks
>> You have pierce in the senate. And he burns together will get the ax out and try to hack away at a lot of stuff.

Matt Benson
>> Remember when it comes to Gould in the transportation chair, it was Senator Burns who -- you know, he's a big budget hawk. It was him two years ago that suggested draining a lot of money out of the rainy day fund and putting it into transportation that illustrates that he saw even then that transportation a huge issue.

Mike Sunnucks
>> It'll be interesting -- when we had Janet in there, wade moderate state senate. Carolyn Allen and O'Halloran, there was a stop gap between the Russell Pierce really conservative budget. I don't know where the stop gap is really going to pop up this time in terms of the budget. We're going to have three-headed conservatism.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> I thought on the House side, it was interesting that Representative John Cavanaugh who is a sophomore coming into his second term was on the house appropriations committee he served on the committee before. After Pierce, he's probably the most staunch illegal immigration advocate in the legislature that led to a couple of jokes is that, again, where all the anti-illegal immigration is going to start is in the money committees.

Ted Simons
>> Real quickly, we have a couple minutes left. We've failed to mention that if Jan Brewer becomes governor, someone has to become secretary of state.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> Oh, lots of people!

Ted Simons
>> I was going to say, there's probably a rumble going on there. Who will become governor in this state? That's a great political move. Likely candidates? Likely to fill the position? I’m hearing names all over.

Matt Benson
>> Everything from the deputy to Karen Osborne in Maricopa County that does elections over there Jack Harper.

Ted Simons
>> Harper would have to resign his seat, correct?

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> No, he wouldn't have to resign. He'd have to wait until his current term is over on January 11th or 12th and not take his seat and not take the oath if he wanted to be found that. Harper signaled he's interested in that job. Senator barb is interested in running for secretary of state. I don't know what her relations are with Brewer. You don't know he where these things are coming from but it's a prime opportunity.

Ted Simons
>> We joke about it but it really is not a bad political move. If you want to be governor of Arizona, find that secretary of state chair.

Mary Jo Pitzl
>> As someone pointed out to me today, it's about every 10 years. Someone who is secretary of state becomes Arizona governor.

Ted Simons
>> We'll stop it right there. Hey, thank you, all, for joining us. We appreciate it.

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