Meet the Republican Candidates for State Treasurer and find out where they stand on the issues. Invited to attend: Ted Carpenter, Doug Ducey, Barbara Leff and Thayer Verschoor.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special edition of "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate sponsored by the citizens clean elections commission. We will hear from two of the state Republican candidates for state treasurer. In alphabetical order, they are -- Doug Ducey, a former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery who's making his first run for public office. State senator Barbara Leff, a small business owner. And each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers to determine the order and Doug Ducey gets to go first.
Doug Ducey: Thank you, Ted. I'm a candidate for state treasurer. I'm a newcomer to politics and never held elective office before. My life has been spent in the private sector. Primarily with Cold Stone Creamery. Me and a team of great individuals built it to 240 stores in all 50 states. I sold it to another Arizona-based company in 2007 and my motivation to run for state treasurer is one reason: I believe Arizona is headed in the wrong direction. Our budget is broken. Our state's finances are a mess and leadership is sorely lacking at the state capitol. With the blessing of my wife, Angela, we'll be married 20 years, and my sons, Jack, Joe and Sam, I'm running for state treasurer. I want to get involved and help be part of the solution. You can find out more about me at voteDougDucey.com. Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: And now Barbara Leff.
Barbara Leff: My name is Barbara Leff and I'm running for state treasurer. I've served in the legislature for 14 years and currently the -- I'm the senate president pro tem and the chairman of the commerce and economic development committee and the vice chairman of the finance committee and I serve on the rules and health committee so I've had 14 years of working on state finances and the state economy and I have a lot of experience in exactly where the dollars are and how they need to be protected in the state treasurer's office and I've had private sector experience. I was the owner of a small sporting goods store. I was -- I was in personal investment, and I'm familiar with the markets and a lot of what the state secretary does is investing dollars entrusted it. I've had experience as a psychiatric social worker for the veterans administration as well. And my website, BarbaraLeff.com.
Ted Simons: Doug, the office the treasurer, how would you change it from the way it's run now?
Doug Ducey: The first thing I think about the office of treasurer, our current treasurer has done a good job. The primary focus of the treasurer is to be a prudent manager of the state's money and investments. So what I want to do is build on the foundation of what's happened there. In that office, and some refer to the state's treasurer as the state's banker or chief financial officer, that state has turned a profit to the taxpayer of a billion dollars in the last 40 months. I think that's good performance and I'd like to build on that. What I think the most valuable thing is bring complete clarity to the state's finances in a easily searchable website. The state takes a lot of money in and , but who understands where that money goes. The treasurer can bring light to that.
Ted Simons: How would you change the office of treasurer?
Barbara Leff: I don't know that it needs to be changed at this point. I think the treasurer should do the job that the treasurer is elected to do and that means to protect the taxpayer dollars. Both the endowment fund dollars. That money needs to be invested carefully and prudently and with a safe rate of return and need to protect the money that is the -- and the state agency money that's in the treasurer's office, temporarily short term is protected. The legislature has done some good things and in 2008, we passed a law that said that all finances of the state of Arizona will be online. In January 1st, 2011, everything will be online and transparent. It's done by the government information technology agency and every penny will be accounted for and people will be able to search that.
Ted Simons: Sound like something that you would agree to as well?
Doug Ducey: Understand where I'm coming from, Ted. I'm a business person. And I look at our state and see a $600 million in the red. $4.5 billion in debt. I don't think what we're doing is prudent. I want to bring a new energy and some people that -- and I want to be bringing ideas that aren't necessarily there to make the folks happy down at the state capitol but to please the citizens and the taxpayers.
Ted Simons: I'm hearing a bit of an indictment on the capital.
Barbara Leff: Well, I think -- I mean, I think what Doug is saying, he believes that and believe there's been problems. And the legislature and governor are dealing with what happened under the Napolitano administration but that's not the role of the treasurer. The treasurer has nothing do with making budgets and funding programs and I think the person who becomes the state treasurer wants to do that job and not the jobs that others are elected to do.
Ted Simons: How much control the state treasurer has over legislative policy and public policy and these things as opposed to just doing a job and riding herd over finances.
Dough Ducey: Well, doing the job is the primary focus but then, I think, bringing clarity to what is going on in our state government. I mean our budget consists of K-12 education, AHCCCS healthcare, higher learning and corrections. How many folks really understand where we're spending these dollars so they can hold the legislature and whoever is the next governor accountable so we can live within our means. Just like a family. What did our state government do in a recession? Raised taxes or put it to the people to raise taxes and I don't think that's good leadership or sound management of our budget and finances.
Barbara Leff: And there are plenty of people to do that. Especially, the state's comp troller whose job is to watch those budget items and track every dollar that goes to the agencies. That's not the job of the treasurer. In some states it is, but not in Arizona. I do think the treasurer's role is important on the cash flow problem the state has. As and you need to have a good relationship with the legislature to do that. I have that relationship with the legislators and I will have the relationship with anyone who is elected governor.
Ted Simons: But is it wrong to not have the treasurer out front and making public policy, at least opinions and making it known, this is where I stand, this is where I think the state is in trouble over here and doing well over here. Is that wrong for the treasurer to do that?
Barbara Leff: I don't think it's wrong but the treasurer needs to focus on the investment of the dollars entrusted to it. Certainly, the treasurer needs to speak up but it's important to speak up with the people who are elected. That's part of the problem. There's been an adversarial relationship. I think this needs to be a relationship where you can say there's a problem down the road.
Ted Simons: You said the governor's office, $1 billion over the last -- where do you get those numbers?
Doug Ducey: I spent the better part of the year getting smart and doing homework on the treasurer's office. I've attended a board of treasurer's meeting and there's been good fiscal management there and it was in March, I think, of 2008 that the current treasurer announced that our tax revenues were going negative year over year and then Governor Napolitano called him chicken little. I think folks will be listening to the treasurer and expect the treasurer to give his opinion or her opinion on where we are as a state in terms of finances. That was a bellwether where the state was headed and we could have been in better shape if the folks at the state capitol would have listened.
Ted Simons: $1 billion, do you agree with that?
Barbara Leff: It's a 10% rate of return over four years.
Ted Simons: The actions of the state treasurer.
Barbara Leff: Through good investment policies. The people we have now doing investments are really very good. We have an entire room where people -- where the traders are. It's a very sophisticated operation and those people have done a good job protecting those dollars.
Ted Simons: The current treasurer Dean Martin had an idea of refinancing the joint debt.
Barbara Leff: They found it would be more expensive in the long run. Give you cash up front but when you put off your debt to the future, the payments would have been higher down the road. It would have cost us more in the long run. Basically, it's more debt.
Barbara Leff: I would be against that.
Ted Simons: Doug?
Doug Ducey: I think the ideas at the state capitol, I want to go back to that, I think our government is too big and trying to do too many things and very few of them well. There's not enough money there, T. government needs to be reset. We need to look at what we're spending and you certainly don't sell your home and lease it back to get short-term money to buy groceries. That's what we've done with the sale and lease back of our capitol. That's where business thinking and experience can add value to the state capitol and working with others shoulder to shoulder to find solutions and look at the growth Arizona has had and where we stand as a state in terms of debt. We can do better.
Ted Simons: Should we refinance our debt. One-time refinancing?
Doug Ducey: I would have to look at the numbers and bring that together. When we're making decisions in a single year and paying them out, at least what I've read, over 30 years, that doesn't make sense. So I would like to look with the folks elected in November as to how we can better manage or debt and control our spending.
Ted Simons: Should there be a limit as far as debt service is concerned for -- something along these lines?
Barbara Leff: Service or debt limit?
Ted Simons: Debt limit.
Barbara Leff: I think there should be. I think the big problem that Arizona is facing is the amount of debt that's been incurred and it's very, very dangerous. You spend most of your time paying the debt service rather than the other bills and that's a huge problem. Elections have consequences and in the six years of Janet Napolitano putt us in that position. The economy in general all over the United States and then you have a situation of far too much spending. I was one of the people who voted against the last Napolitano budget saying this was going to happen. There hasn't been enough money to cover the bills.
Ted Simons: I did mention debt service and there's an idea limit even on that. Debt limit and service. Good idea?
Barbara Leff: Good idea.
Ted Simons: What do you think?
Doug Ducey: My reading the Arizona state constitution shows there's a constitutional limit on the amount of debt. $350,000, I read it. $4.5 billion on the books today. Ted, I don't understand how it happened. So I would like to see us closer to $350,000 in debt rather than where we are today. Basically there's not business thinking. There's been run-away spending and lack of leadership and folks that have not made the decisions on what spending to cut back and also to think long term as a state. And to plan for the future. So I'd like to see a limit on debt service and a limit on debt. We have those in the constitution. They're not being followed.
Barbara Leff: And I think that Doug should run for governor or the legislature because that's not the role of the treasurer. Making sure that those investments are protected is the are role of the treasurer. You don't make the decisions on the borrowing. The treasurer does not have a role in that. A voice with good relationships with the legislature and governor but it's not in the constitution, the role of the treasurer. So I'm concerned that -- I think the treasurer needs to concentrate on being the treasurer. There's $10 billion under investment with the state treasurer's office and $39 billion that goes to that office every year. You can have your hands full making sure that's done properly.
Doug Ducey: I'm flattered by Barbara's suggestion. The treasurer is an elected constitutional office and there's no reason why the treasurer can't have a voice in the fiscal responsibility of our state and in the state's economy. That's what I want to do. When you look at the numbers in our state and government, and where we are, if you're elected by the people to this office, you should do the job of the office and then also do what's in the best long-term interest of the state. That's what I'll do if I'm fortunate enough to be elected treasurer.
Ted Simons: You mentioned it's an elected position. Should the treasurer be an elected position considering the duties and responsibilities?
Doug Ducey: There are arguments on both sides of this equation. As it stands right now, Ted, this is an elected office and I think it's an elected office that can make a big difference and have an impact. I know there are folks in some other organizations that want to reorganize and restructure state government and those are good people with good ideas. I want to get in the mix in the fight where we stand today. I mean, I can't personally rewrite the constitution regardless of what others say. But I do think I can be a small part of the solution.
Ted Simons: Do you think the office should be elective? It sounds like you're saying here's the job, let's do it. Is it something that the voters should vote on?
Barbara Leff: You're electing somebody you can trust. That's the number one thing. When you're giving somebody that authority over that amount of dollars, you want someone you can trust. The state treasurer is charge of managing the office and the money. That role of making sure that the proper people are employed and the proper people are qualified to do the investment and everything done in that office is done properly. That's ok to be an elective office and the fact that the founders of Arizona decided that was something they wanted the people of Arizona to decide who they trust and literally the money is entrusted to the treasurer, that's the most important thing to manage and take care.
Ted Simons: When it comes to policy, something you were involved in with solar tax credits which you pushed hard on.
Barbara Leff: Yes, I did.
Ted Simons: Some weren't happy and wasn't necessarily the right thing for Arizona to do. Is that the sort of thing that you would ignore or in the background if you were the treasurer of the state? Is that something that the treasurer should not be involved in?
Barbara Leff: I think in one way only and that is to make sure that Arizona's economy is stable. Regardless of the business, whether there's renewable energy or any other, when business comes to Arizona, they're looking for stability. The treasurer has the job of making sure that the money that's entrusted to it is taken care of and protected. There's been cities and counties and countries that have gone bankrupt. Clearly if somebody came to me and wanted to ask about it, I'd give an opinion. I think that's the role of the governor and the legislature to work on it and the department the commerce.
Ted Simons: If you think that a certain tax credit for a industry to come here and get things rolling as treasurer, what do you do?
Doug Ducey: One thing I want to do as an elected official, I want to get our economy going again and I think the treasurer can be part of that equation. I'm not a fan -- government picking winners and losers. I don't think government has a good record at it. The treasurer has to have safe and solid investments first and foremost and they can be key and getting the state's fiscal house in order. But beyond that, picking winning and losing industries -- I love solar energy and I know it will happen but as a past ice cream salesman, I love retailers and entrepreneurs as well. I don't want to give one group an advantage to the disadvantage of others. I want a fair playing field and want to see our economy grow and be stable over the course of time.
Ted Simons: You mentioned earlier in our discussion the idea of transparency, and I know the democratic party is very concerned about your personal finances and where they come from and where they're going and these things. How much should the public know about the personal finances of a candidate for state treasurer?
Doug Ducey: Well, I'm flattered by the attention of the democratic party and what they've put out. I'm focused on becoming the nominee of my party first and foremost. What they put out was baseless. The document stands for itself. I think it's important that people understand where a candidate comes from financially and they comply with the law and that we follow those rules to the letter and for some reason the democratic party wants to talk about what I'm doing. Ted, these are the same gimmicks and games they played at the legislature. And a lot of times it's to keep newcomers, which is what I am, and business people, out of public life. It's not going to work here. I'm going to deal with this and become part of the solution regardless of the press releases.
Barbara Leff: On the other hand, the law says you're supposed to list your stocks and bonds and it's clearly in the law and it's a class one misdemeanor if you don't. I don't think that's a fair statement that newcomers are kept out. They've raised the question about the financial disclosure form but I'm led to believe that you're supposed to disclose. Where you have an idea where people invest their dollars and what they hold.
Ted Simons: So you see a potential for a conflict of interest. That's the reason you need to find out these things.
Barbara Leff: Whether I believe the law should be that way is not what I'm saying, but that's the purpose of it. As a legislator, I've had to list what -- at least, you know, in categories. Even the value of everything. It's --
Ted Simons: Do you believe the law should be in place?
Barbara Leff: I think it's a good idea to know what people have and, you know, if there are any conflicts there.
Ted Simons: You repeatedly mentioned your business background is what you think you'll bring to the treasurer's office. What does that mean? Because there is -- you do have to work with the legislature, this is a government position, not the -- you know, we had the governor on this program saying it's not a business. A business's goal is to grow. A lot of republicans say the government's goal is not to grow. So you have a dichotomy there.
Doug Ducey: First, Ted, we're talking about the treasurer's office. The treasurer's office manages the money and the investments, there are business disciplines and thinkings you can bring to that office. Yes we don't want government to grow or at least I don't want government to grow, but sometimes in business, you have to turn things around, in businesss you have to live within your means and make a budget and then make sure that b udget happens, if it's not happening you have to make adjustments. what I want to bring is good practice to bring the state in the right direction and I think that is of value that can be added to the state.
Ted Simons: So why does is your legislative background important to this position?
Barbara Leff: Because you need to work with the legislature and the Governor. Instead of going out to a press conference and saying, oh the governor is wrong. You need to have a relationship. Relationships are what makes government work. You should be able to go to the governor or legislatures when you see cash flow problems. I also have a small business background as well, I've ran a business and I've had employees. I think that is a powerful combination.
Ted Simons: So we have two people here, that agree on a lot of things and disagree on some others. Why should Republican primary voters, vote for you?
Barbara Leff: I have a long history of being trustworthy and doing a good job at anything I take on, you can talk to anybody at the legislature and they will tell you that. I will devote all my attention to the role of the state treasurer. I've done the legislation; I don't need to do state treasurer. I've done my public policy. I want someone in this position that focuses protecting our investments. Our schools rely on the interest from our endowment funds. That money needs to be protected and invested, very, very wisely.
Ted Simons: Ok. And real quickly, what separates you from Barbara Leff? Why should primary Republican voters say that's my guy?
Doug Ducey: When you have a business background, a finance agree degree, which is what I have. When you built a business and managed budgets and made difficult decisions without having been the most popular person in the room, you can add some value to state government. I think that differentiates me from a lot of the folks down at the state capitol.
Ted Simons: It's time to give a one-minute closing statement.
Barbara Leff: Thank you for this opportunity to be here tonight. I would like to ask for your vote as Arizona state treasurer and like you to go on my website, www.BarbaraLeff.com. I have a 14 year history of working on major issues, and if you look at what I've done, you'll know who I am and it's important to say what someone has accomplished and I think you'll get a good feeling what I've done all through the years of the legislature. I'm asking for your vote and hope you remember when you go to vote that LEFF is right for Arizona state treasurer.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And now Doug Ducey.
Doug Ducey: Thank you, Ted. I want to thank you for being here tonight. My name is Doug Ducey. A candidate for state treasurer. I'm a newcomer to this. I have no political résumé I can tell but tonight. If you believe that someone who is a newcomer, who has business thinking and wants to go down to the state capitol and make a difference, I'm asking for your help. It's difficult for someone outside of the political class to break in. That's exactly what I want to do. I want to go down there and I'm not beholden to those there. I'm only be beholden to the citizens and taxpayers. Go to my website, VoteDougducey.com and make a small contribution and please don't forget to vote. Early voting starts July 29th. The primary is August 24th and I'm asking for your vote tonight and again, I want to thank you and remember, vote Doug Ducey.
Ted Simons: And that will do it. Thank you, candidates very much for joining us tonight and thank you for watching this clean elections debate.
In this segment:
Ted Carpenter:Republican Candidates for State Treasurer;Doug Ducey:Republican Candidates for State Treasurer;Barbara Leff:Republican Candidates for State Treasurer;Thayer Verschoor:Republican Candidates for State Treasurer;