Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local reporters review the week’s top stories

Ted Simons: Tonight -- a statement by the governor during last week's debate on "Horizon" is raising questions. And we look back at a couple of rather contentious primary debates held this week here on "Horizon" involving Republican and democratic candidates for state attorney general. The Journalists' Roundtable is next on "Horizon."
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Jeremy Duda of "The Arizona Capitol Times," and Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." Well, debates on "Horizon" getting a lot of attention and we'll start with the A.G. debates were fun in their own way, but we need to started with the debate last week and a statement made by the governor that's getting attention one more time.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This debate has hey long echo. Last week, Governor Brewer said that most of the illegal immigrants coming into Arizona are here to struggle drugs and that was brought up again this week and she reiterated that and stood behind her statement although there are no statistics that back that up.

Ted Simons: And her staff came a little bit later and said, hold off, I think she misspoke.

Jeremy Duda: Later in the day, she misspoke, we don't have the numbers to back that up. Getting a lot of attention and probably a lot more scrutiny than she wanted.

Ted Simons: Dennis, what are your thought honest this? Before today, before the retraction, she reiterated.

Dennis Welch: She comes out and doubles down on the statement and, oh, yeah, I'm standing by this statement and her campaign staff has to come through and clean up the mess and say there were missteps and they told me -- There's a lot of numbers out there, regarding illegal immigration and she's made mistakes and she'll be better at this in the future. [Laughter]

Mary Jo Pitzl: And then on top of that, in mid afternoon comes news that on a show earlier in week, the governor says there's beheadings happening because of drug-related activity and press ongoing for details, we haven't found evidence yet of beheadings.

Ted Simons: The governor said there's strong information regarding the undocumented illegal immigrants being used as drug mules. Strong information. ICE says I don't have that information.

Jeremy Duda: Don't know exactly what the statistics are what percentage the people apprehended crossing the border illegally are carrying drugs, but I was surprised. I expected her to backtrack when she was asked this morning, but kind of went back no it, being co-opted by the cartels and they have them bring the drugs over.

Dennis Welch: I think it shows the confusion of this whole immigration debate. There are a lot of numbers out there. Part of the problem, we don't know how many people are coming over here and the numbers and whatnot and now we find out that people are being careful with the numbers and it adds to the confusion when we're trying to talk about the solutions to the border problem.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The numbers out there, even though as you said, confusing, I don't think there's anything that shows a preponderance of the illegals are here to run drugs.

Ted Simons: Impact on the campaign, Mary Jo, what does this do?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the governor has been golden since she signed 1070. There's a lot of strong public support for in a and frustration with illegal immigration. And whether they're here to run drugs or get a job cleaning up your lawn, I don't think it makes much difference.

Dennis Welch: It shows how big of an issue in immigration is, particularly in the GOP primary where the governor is running. Her opponents can't come out and be too hard on her. They've been making their own outrageous claims. Buz Mills was saying 87% of all illegals coming across the border have prior criminal records. Where did he get his information from? From the -- from the governor.

Ted Simons: Automated phone survey, another one coming out from Rasmussen. But this thing has the governor way, way ahead.

Jeremy Duda: 61%, I think the last one around 45. Buz Mills was in second place at 16. There's no margin of error that's going to take the sting away from Buz Mills and Dean Martin when you're supporting -- sporting a 45-point lead.

Ted Simons: Think it impacts much?

Jeremy Duda: I don't think it impacts the primary and doesn't impact the general much. There will be people offended by the statement but a lot of them probably weren't going to be voting for brewer in the first place.

Ted Simons: We'll go with that. General election. Come general election time if Brewer is the candidate, does she get hit by this?

Dennis Welch: If you look at it, yeah, in general this governor has a tendency to make misstatements and heading into a general election when you're appealing to a broad section of voters that could come back and hurt her going into November.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The governor's made the point repeatedly that she's a truth teller and if she continues to put out information that can't be backed up by data or contradicted by the fact, it's going to call the credibility into question and that might be a factor in a general election race.

Dennis Welch: Terry Goddard just released a statement, long before we came here, saying, hey, people of Arizona need a governor that can keep their facts straight and you can see that works its way through a general election campaign.

Ted Simons: Speaking of the gubernatorial campaign. A probe of Dean Martin's campaign. What's it about?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Him running as a publicly funded candidate under the clean elections. There was a guy on his case, went to the Clean Elections Commission and said, I found he has duplicative contributions from contributors. The ones you have to get to get into the game, while clean elections is looking at this, this holds in abeyance his ability to get $700,000 to start his campaign. The evidence seems to suggest there's not enough signatures in question to disqualify him but until they get it ironed out, no money for dean.

Ted Simons: I think I read somewhere that the Martin campaign was suggesting that someone from the governor's office was behind this. First, any truth to that? And secondly, how much does this hurt the Martin campaign?

Jeremy Duda: Bob heron, not working on behalf of any campaigns and that's typical for a campaign season. Somebody has a challenge filed or questions asked about their financials they're going to point their finger at someone else, of course, this is Brewer, of course, this is Mills.

Dennis Welch: And it hurts the Martin campaign. I don't think there will be enough signatures tossed off to jeopardize the $700,000 he's going to get. But at this point, you've got about a month left before early ballots go out. You want the money to you can plan how to spend the money.

Ted Simons: How much does it delay?

Dennis Welch: It could be days or a week or so, but at this point, every day is magnified.

Ted Simons: Please.

Jeremy Duda: And if enough of these signatures are found to be duplicates, they would have to send them back to the county recorder and have them verify every one of these voters who turned in a $5 contribution. That could delay it a few weeks.

Dennis Welch: Back to the guy who filed the complaint. He said, I don't work for the campaign but he's a big supporter of the current incumbent governor. It's on his facebook page and website. So it certainly plays to him and he gets --

Mary Jo Pitzl: In a way, it doesn't matter. If the evidence he submits is accurate and it -- you know, pans out that it disqualifies Martin, I guess in a very strict, pure sense, he's done everyone a service by keeping the process clean.

Ted Simons: Let's move on to the attorney general's debate on the Republican side. That one seemed to have the most fireworks? Definitely. Bloodbath out there, Dennis. Any surprise?

Dennis Welch: I was waiting one to challenge the other to a duel. [Laughter] No, this is no surprise at all. They had a debate earlier. Sponsored by the tea party up in north Scottsdale and that was nasty. An hour and a half of back and forth at each other and this was just a continuation of it and it's the worst part of politics. A lot of voters look at this and sigh that kind of debate and get turned off by it.

Ted Simons: Thomas starts in the opening statement by calling Tom Horne a confessed con artist and things went downhill from there. Talk about the attack mode.

Jeremy Duda: That's the way these two campaigns have started. The con artist angle, that was a new one. Questioning Andy Thomas prosecution and questioning Tom Horne's background as a democrat and squishiness on conservative issues, that's been going on for a while.

Ted Simons: The fallout, what are you seeing and hearing -- I know it's hard to differentiate. Republican primary voters who are they siding with?

Jeremy Duda: Well, it depends which kind of voter. There's a lot of Republicans, who don't want to vote for Horne. A lot of them don't want to vote for Thomas because they question his ethics. A lot stuck in between.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You wonder if this might bring out independent voters to vote in the primary. Not necessarily because they're a fan of one or the other, but the lesser of two evils choice. This debate, a lot is a function of personality. These are people who don't like each other.

Ted Simons: When Tom Horne said, quote, I was a student, got in over my head. I'll admit. A mea culpa amid the floor of accusation. Does that resonate when you're deep in the mud, no one wants to hear that? What do you think?

Dennis Welch: It's a 40-year-old allegation back when he was a young student at Harvard so it will be interesting to see if it sticks. The one thing I know about it race, someone like Thomas, he's not going to have a lot of money to get the message out. Other than a couple of stories out there, he's a clean elections. $140,000 to run a statewide campaign. Can you get the message out and tell people this story.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Thomas had a good point when… Horne says, he pointed this out, he wanted to be the chief law enforcement office of the state and this was a legal matter but the charge probably holds more credibility if it's backed up by subsequent action. 40 years ago, we remember dimly when we were college students and things we did that we might not want to be held fully accountable or have it define our adulthood.

Ted Simons: The insistence by Thomas by Horne to talk about pro-choice or pro-life, I guess, his idea there's and where he sides. Over and over, he hammered at Horne on this, again, when you're a Republican primary voter and watching this, you want the bulldog who keeps going after him or look at him and say I'm tired of that.

Jeremy Duda: It depends on which side you sympathize with. The pro-life issue is important to Republican primary voters and Tom Horne wouldn't answer the question. He said he'll enforce the laws but a lot of primary voters might have questions about that.

Ted Simons: Did that play well in the debate?

Dennis Welch: No, I think all voters want their candidates to be candid and answer the questions. They want to know where these people sit and I think Thomas could score points in that. Whether it's the county attorney or the attorney general, people want their law enforcement people to be tough.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Thomas was making those points over and over and even offering to yield the rest of his time. He did it with a smile. He wasn't grim asking or scowling. He kept an aggressive; yet genial air.

Ted Simons: Interesting. And yet, I think my last question or close to it was, if your opponent wins the nomination, would you support him in the general? And after one candidate called the other a confessed con artist and the other said he was out of control -- he had unfettered abuse, they both said yeah, curious there.

Jeremy Duda: Probably sounds like the most insincere endorsement in political history. I've heard Republicans talk about they're worried this will turn off voters in the general. They've seen it before in '98 and a bruising Republican primary. That let Janet Napolitano win the race by a narrow margin.

Ted Simons: That was the case with McGovern. So they're thinking this could happen again.

Jeremy Duda: Some are. And one of the sources said if Rotellini wins the democratic, remember the last time the last time we elected a nice Italian girl as an attorney general.

Dennis Welch: That's early to make those comparisons. Napolitano was a real talent and Rotellini, as evidenced by the debate, the next day later, made misstatements and got herself in trouble and there's a lot that can happen between now and November.

Mary Jo Pitzl: On the GOP side, I would suspect whoever prevails in the A.G. primary, you're probably not going to see a lot of joint appearances.
Not yet.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Or flyers.

Ted Simons: Let's get back to the democratic debate, which was a night later and certainly not as many fireworks, but toward the end of the debate, things started to spark up. We'll start with the 1070 vote by David Lujan and I asked him why he wasn't there and he gave a response that apparently was not necessarily accurate.

Dennis Welch: It wasn't accurate at all. He said he was out of town and could not have made it there for the vote when he was at the capitol hours before the vote and he was back in town just hours after at a political function at a church in east Phoenix. He says he doesn't know why he made that statement and wasn't aware until someone brought it town him after. I think that's a significant problem for him. That was the biggest vote they took all last year and this thing is still playing out.

Ted Simons: A, is it a significant problem for him? And B, emphasizing legislative leadership when your particular party couldn't get a lot done, is that a wise move?

Jeremy Duda: The 1070 has definitely been a rallying cry for the left and if one of the Democrats to miss that vote and especially bad when he's a house leader for the Democrats.

Ted Simons: Yeah, but the idea, emphasizing your leadership in a legislative body in which you couldn't get a whole heck of a lot done. If he winds up being a candidate, is that something that the Republicans could attack him on?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Definitely, it would be fair game and I would expect it to happen. The Democrats have been in the minority in the house for a long time. Lujan made the point, he kept them hanging together. For the most part. They splintered when it came to the sales tax voter. But yeah, this will be something that his opponents will come back on him now.

Ted Simons: Speaking of misspeak, Rotellini went after Rabago, about the payday loans. Saying there was a injunction.

Dennis Welch: Yeah, she made a misstatement and said that's a lie. You never got an injunction and after, when she was confronted, she said, well, maybe I -- oh, well. [Laughter] So -- you know, again, it's kind of goes to the point, that, you know, they could -- Democrats could can taken advantage of this nasty Republican primary except they seem to be screwing it up themselves.

Ted Simons: Let's go to Rabago who attacked Rotellini for representing the big banks. She doesn't, she represents community banks and talking about reform and trying to get after the big banks which the state doesn't have a lot to do with.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And Rabago was going to the fact that in a position when the Napolitano administration went out and Brewer came in, she went to work for those very banks. But she went to work for community banks. A whole different ball game. There's trouble on all sides and corners, both from Republicans and Democrats. What are you seeing out of this race? Is anyone on the democratic side getting any traction at all?

Jeremy Duda: I don't know if most voters know about the democratic candidates. Probably the Republican side because they're in the news more but the democrats seem to have trouble differentiating themselves. What they would do differently. Pretty much pledging to do the same things if they get elected. Crack down on border crime. Protect consumers fraud -- elders.

Dennis Welch: We did a poll and we found most likely democratic voters development know a lot about these guys. Close to 80% are undecided which tells me the race is wide open.

Ted Simons: It's suggested that early mail-in balloting could be a factor.

Dennis Welch: And when it comes to that David Lujan has an edge because most of his support is coming from people on the early ballot. But once people spend their money and people sit down and look at the literature, they're going to look at experience and this stuff and Felicia Rotellini has the résumé where the economics is going to be big -- Felecia Rotellini. She's not part of the legislature and part of that system and may be able to eke out something in the primary.

Ted Simons: Let's move to another race that's contentious and then some. There's an infomercial ad about J.D. Hayworth.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is an old ad from 2007 and J.D., after he left congress, voted out of his seat, apparently got paid to do an infomercial to help raise people's confidence levels that, yes, this money that the government is giving away is free. It's as good as it sounds. It's been discredited. At the time, it was discredited by a bunch of attorneys general, as being misleading. And the campaign got a hold of it and happy to show us key parts of the video. It's been running a lot on broadcast news. To point out the hypocrisy of Hayworth's position.

Ted Simons: How much does it hurt his campaign?

Jeremy Duda: Pretty much one more shot from the McCain campaign. They've been trying to break him down. McCain knows he has a lot of trouble with the conservative voters that Hayworth is trying to appeal to. They would say we like Hayworth less because we've seen this infomercial.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The fact that Hayworth felt compelled to come out and apologize. Tells me that he knows this was wrong.

Dennis Welch: This was a horrible campaign for him. The guy who's supposed to be the darling of the tea party. The real conservative in this race is telling people, hey, free money from the government! This is a good thing! While he's quoting Reagan. That's not going to fly.

Ted Simons: He did come out with another mea culpa. And when you've got a couple of tough guys saying his quote was, I should not have made the ad, it was a mistake, does that hurt him? Normal times it helps you. If you're an umpire, you say you blew it, everybody wants to give you a parade.

Dennis Welch: Not much of a parade. If you look at the ad. It's horrible. He looks like a used car salesman.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's so infomercial.

Dennis Welch: It's like he's selling swamp land in Florida.

Ted Simons: Let's bring it back it the fact that the McCain camp agrees, it's time, we can do a debate. Is that a sense from the McCain camp we can't lose? Because they're agreeing to finally debate?

Jeremy Duda: Seems like he feels he's in a strong enough position to do this. Been stonewalling for six months now and Hayworth has been keeping up the drum beat, why won't he debate me?

Dennis Welch: Held like a Friday or Saturday night. A high TV night. What would you rather do, going out and having a good weekend, or staying home and watching a debate.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You know what Ted does on Friday nights. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: We have about 30 seconds left. Was there a grand winner or loser in the attorney general debates? Anything? Quickly.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think that for the general voter, not the primary voter, they might say, boy, we'll take whoever comes out of the democratic primary, it's so bad on the other side.

Ted Simons: What do you think?

Jeremy Duda: Democrats probably the winner and as far as the Republican primary. As far as the democratic one, maybe Lujan, he was the only one not attacking.

Ted Simons: What do you think?

Dennis Welch: He was the only one misstating where he actually was. I think the voters will feel like the loser in this one. They didn't get a lot of substance this week. A lot of attacks and misstatements.

Ted Simons: It was certainly an entertaining week. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Mary Jo Pitzl:Arizona Republic;Dennis Welch:Arizona Guardian;Jeremy Duda:Arizona Capitol Times;

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