Journalists Roundtable

More from this show

Local reporters discuss the week’s top stories

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal."

Ted Simons: Arizona voters went to the polls this week. Mary Jo, what did we learn Tuesday?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, we learned that as we see every election cycle, early ballots mean early returns. We learned that legislative, and for -- and for U.S. senate, people like incumbents. Most of the incumbent lawmakers have received nominations again. John McCain sailed easily to victory in his primary over two challengers.

Howard Fischer: And we learned that money helps. John McCain's case, it's good to have $20 million versus I think Romley had $1.2 million. In the case of even the democratic race for attorney general, Rotellini running with her own money, clearly outspent David Lujan. If you have money, it can make a lot of difference.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The inverse has proven to be true in some of the legislative races. They're smaller in scope and there were cases where candidates who had clean elections, public financing, were outspent yet they still won. The money matters but it depends on the landscape you're playing on.

Mike Sunnucks: The negative ad won the day. Arpaio took out Romley easily with bill Montgomery and Quayle won a campaign that got him through and McCain ran the huckster ad against Hayworth and probably decided that case.

Ted Simons: To Mary Jo's point, what happened to throw the bums out? Is that still something that could be defined?
Howard Fischer: The problem has been -- same with congress. Ask people, do you hate congress? I hate congress. How do you feel about your congressman? Love my congressman. If you've got a lawmaker basically coming to your door and listening to your concerns and answering your phone calls, you love your lawmaker; it's the legislature that's bad. J.D. tried that but he stumbled over his huckster background and that clearly hurt him. I think that people are comfortable. If you're going to unseat an incumbent, you better damn well have a reason how you're going do it better.

Mary Jo Pitzl: When we get to the general election, especially with the federal race, McCain notwithstanding, I think we'll see the throw the bums out attitude. Given the climate in this state that's anti-democrat.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the fight between Romley and Arpaio and Thomas both tainted Romley and Thomas in the end and people were frustrated about that and people don't know as much about Horne as they do about Thomas. You saw it in Tucson with Kelly, and Mary Jo is right, you'll see it in the general, if Harry Mitchell loses, and Gabby Giffords loses.

Ted Simons: McCain big time over Hayworth, used the Powell doctrine. Overwhelming force and let it fly from there.

Mike Sunnucks: McCain, what's his legacy? He was the anti-maverick. The build the dang fence guy. Went to the right. Shunned the independent moderate built up over the years. What's his legacy? 20 million. J.D. was a tainted challenger.

Ted Simons: Someone from the left. Glassman going to give McCain a run?

Howard Fischer: I doubt it. We saw a new Rasmussen poll that suggested, no -- surprise. McCain is up by 22 points but three out of 10 Arizonans have no idea who Rodney Glassman is. There are a lot of people who say to know him is not necessarily to love him. It may not help him much. I think it's going to be very hard. Leaving aside the issue of McCain's legacy, you've got pure money situation. If he can raise $20 million for a primary, he can raise another $20 million for a general.

Mike Sunnucks: The Democrats have so many seats they're defending and possibly losing that trying to knock off McCain with an underdog, they're not going to put any money there.

Ted Simons: Let's get to the attorney general's race. What did you see out of this? Was this the thing -- voters obviously had a preference for Thomas and as the night goes on, as the next day, and gone on even still, it seems as though -- what happened there? Thomas was thought to have a good shot here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: As we tape this, Horne is leading, you know, somewhat narrowly by fewer than 900 votes over Thomas. That may change by the time people see this. But Thomas' strength was in Maricopa County. That's a good thing. It's got a big voting block. But earlier today I was talking to Felecia Rotellini, the democratic nominee for A.G. and two weeks ago she was expecting Tom Horne to be her opponent. And I ask her why. Because she said she's been around the state and talking to rural Republicans and they're not going to vote for Andy Thomas. And I think it's helped Horne and that's when he took the lead that he still leads.

Mike Sunnucks: Horne has a statewide image of school chief. People outside of Phoenix know Thomas as Joe Arpaio's buddy and if Joe Arpaio ran ads against Horne like Romley, maybe the contest would be different. Tom Horne knows how to run a campaign. He knows how to run a negative campaign and those ads he ran against Thomas about going after judges, I think that impacted people.

Howard Fischer: And back to the money. He put in $300,000 of his own money above and beyond what he gathered from the outside, whereas, Andy Thomas was stuck in the $200,000 range. The public and seed money. And Horne, at the end, he went heavy with television. Over and over and over. You couldn't turn the dial without seeing a Tom Horne ad.

Ted Simons: On the Republican side, were these votes against candidates or votes for candidates?

Howard Fischer: Oh, the problem is that -- you know, as somebody who is a registered Republican went into the voting booth and looked at Horne versus Thomas, I think it was against both of them. There were more negatives. I won't say nobody likes these guys, but it was an anti-vote. If you were voting for Horne, you didn't like Andy Thomas and -- and I don't see any positives. Now, the really bad thing for the Republicans at this point, is Felecia has a lot of positives. There's Republicans for Rotellini already forming because Republicans are saying neither of these guys are people we want in charge of law enforcement in Arizona.

Mike Sunnucks: I think having Horne -- and he's ahead -- is much better for the Republicans. Thomas has the state bar investigation and the fight with Romley. Horne doesn't have those negatives and I think the party will get behind Horne and I think he has a good chance of winning the election.

Ted Simons: You talked about Rotellini. What did she -- you talked about Rotellini, what did she do right?

Mary Jo Pitzl: She was an outsider. And although he lined up the traditional endorsements the Democrats got, she snagged the firefighters and tout her credentials as a prosecutor and a regulator when she was at the banking department. And I frankly think the gender helps as well.

Howard Fischer: That's the key because -- the gender helps as well. And the margin between Rotellini and Lujan was minuscule. 15,200 votes and if there were votes taken away that would have gone to Lujan, whether it's ethnic or male, that's the difference there.

Mike Sunnucks: Others talking about the mortgages and fraud and with the modification scams, she talks about that. And I think being from the legislature, no matter what party, isn't a good thing. We've seen it as a negative. It has showed up in the Quayle race and down in Tucson with Hoffman and Patton, not being able to translate legislative experience into campaign success.

Ted Simons: Romley --

Howard Fischer: I knew the negative advertising was going to hurt but Rick didn't do himself any favors. He came in there and thought, I deserve it. I've been county attorney. You, of course, would vote for me. I didn't see a real campaign out of him. Montgomery with Arpaio backing and remember, in Maricopa County, it's the conservatives in the Republican party who vote. These are not Rick Romley's people. These are bill Montgomery's people and Andy Thomas' people.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The Democrats didn't nominate anyone to run for county attorney probably thinking that Romley would prevail. Well, here they are and Montgomery does have an opponent, Kielsky, a libertarian.

Mike Sunnucks: Montgomery has been working the district folks so he's known in the party circles. Romley was prosecutor a long time ago. People don't remember a lot of things he did.

Ted Simons: Boyd Dunn's name was on the ballot and he did get some votes. Was that a factor?

Howard Fischer: It's hard to say. You had people on the ballot, Buz Mills and Dean Martin on the ballot and folks who had pulled out. That coupled with the fact if you look at the returns, you find a bunch of people who wrote in names. In Arizona you can't just write in a name. They have to be registered write-ins. Over 2,000 people in the attorney general's race wrote in somebody's name. That would have affected the Lujan-Rotellini race and Horne versus Thomas. That suggests a lot of stupid voters.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it taints Thomas and Romley. People see so many stories and sick of the infighting and had a negative view.

Ted Simons: Ben Quayle wins in CD3. Is it the name?

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's a case where name I.D. carries a candidate a long way. It was a crowded field. Didn't take that much to pull out ahead of everybody else and although there was the well discuss negatives on Mr. Quayle with his postings on the dirty, he still got that name -- Ben Quayle -- and that served to turbo-boost his name being out there.

Howard Fischer: And he comes back with an ad that got national attention -- President Obama is the worst president ever in the entire history of the free world, and the world is behind that. That publicity and the free media goes a long way.

Ted Simons: Especially when 14,000 votes wins the primary.

Howard Fischer: I think we said somebody with 20,000 votes was going to walk away with it.

Mike Sunnucks: And his dad helped him get a lot of money -- and a lot of paradise money. And I think primary voters liked that ad. They want him to stand up to the president and put him over the top.

Howard Fischer: That raises the question, what happens in the general? Normally Shadegg's district is considered safe. Did he, in fact, protest -- have things in his background that maybe he doesn't want come out. I don't know. It's a Republican district. Should be a safe Republican district but a smart democrat should be able to take advantage of it.

Mike Sunnucks: There was stuff today, saying he's for the bush tax cuts and got a lot of money and family money and so if he takes a Republican stance on those things, these core issues to folks there, I think he's got a chance if there's more dirt on Quayle.

Ted Simons: Schweikert wins again and going up against Harry Mitchell again. Is Harry Mitchell, is this the time where he's actually vulnerable?

Howard Fischer: As you point out, Republicans have been saying nobody knows Harry. He doesn't make speeches. He's quiet. But everyone in Tempe knows Harry. He's got a statue of himself downtown that even the pigeons won't poop on. That's how well respected he is. He does a good job of working with veterans and getting good name I.D. there. Schweikert, maybe the issue of the Obama care and taxes helps. But Harry's been careful in his voting and positions to make sure he doesn't go too far out on the limb.

Mike Sunnucks: And the district includes Scottsdale and the Republicans got to turn out the Scottsdale vote. It's not Mesa, not some of these more conservative sections. But it's got to be a national wave.

Ted Simons: I do want to talk about the schools chief. Kotterman and Huppenthal win big.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The democratic nominee is a former head of the teacher's union and teacher herself and Huppenthal has championed a lot of legislation during his time.

Ted Simons: And I'm thinking the one-cent sales tax is proof which goes against the grain of what a lot of folks think education is about and education was emphasized in that election. Does that suggest this particular race is a ball game here? Too close to call already?

Howard Fischer: I think so because school superintendent depends on what happens between now and November 2nd. What are the issues? And if everybody realizes the budget isn't balanced and the legislature needs to come in and make other cuts, what position does John Huppenthal take? Or Penny Kotterman, as someone with the AEA, she'll take a position. If people are scared, they'll vote for the democrat. If -- the lower down you go, the more likely party registration matters. It's part of the reason we've had a democratic governor recently and attorney general. But further down the list, it's hard to break in.

Mike Sunnucks: I think statewide, if you see Jan Brewer up 20 points on Goddard in the fall, that's got to have a fallout and if the economy is still bad, that's going to have a fallout.

Howard Fischer: There are other races. Look at the treasurer's race. You've got a well-funded candidate in that attorney who has come out with plans for actually being a watchdog and -- actually being a watchdog. And I don't know if Doug Ducey has anything --

Mike Sunnucks: Balance these books and all of this. And I think that appeals to people in Arizona. They like the business experience and he's going to out-spend him and run nice ads and I think Ducey is the favorite.

Ted Simons: Is he? When you have liens on property and not filing reports with the corporation commission. Already the campaign is hammering him on this.

Mike Sunnucks: I think where the -- he's going to have the money and name I.D. edge and he's explained some of that stuff. And if he has money and can run ads -- no way.

Howard Fischer: A lot of these races, the races depend on how much we in the media pay attention. Obviously, there's paid advertising but if we concentrate on the governor's race and secretary of state because they could be the next governor and the attorney general and ignoring superintendent of public education --

Mary Jo Pitzl: The thing on the superintendent of public instruction, where we've had an educator and Kotterman hasn't been in the classroom real recently, but going up against a state lawmaker when Ann Linderman lost to Diane bishop who won as a democrat as state schools superintendent. That was a long time ago. A lot of water under the bridge.

Mike Sunnucks: Ducey, he's cold stone creamery and a lot of companies have a bad image. That's a company that has a good image. Free toppings for everyone.

Howard Fischer: The lawsuits filed.

Mike Sunnucks: Do people look at that? They like their ice cream.

Howard Fischer: Understood, but if I'm Andrei Cherny, I pull out every one of them.

Ted Simons: Quickly, I thought one of the biggest surprises was that Jennings, he was third out of three spots in the democratic primary.

Howard Fischer: There's a couple of factors. He did a little bit of Rick Romley. He was here, I deserve it. No, he hasn't been in office for a dozen years. Go back to Mary Jo's point, that's ancient history in Arizona. Number three is the fact that you had a Hispanic in the race. If you're a democrat and go into the voting booth, vote for two people, odds are you're going to give a vote to the Hispanic there. I'm not meaning to be racist, but there's a mind set that way. So Jorge Garcia did well. Bradley is bright and went out on the campaign trail and worked hard and knew the issues and I think Renz thought, I'm going to come in here and do it. He did the same thing around the table when he said when I was on the commission, the Republicans did this. He's running against people from 20 years ago.

Mike Sunnucks: And the new times endorsements don't work well.

Ted Simons: We've got a few minutes left. As far as the legislative races, what are you seeing now for the next session? So many of these things have been decided just by way the primary. Was much changed? Was like replacing like pretty much in these races?

Mary Jo Pitzl: For the most part. I mean, we're not going to see a change in the majority parties at the legislature. Most likely -- very likely remain in Republican control and the question is around the margins. Many people expect the Republicans to increase their majority in the legislature. And you, as I mentioned earlier, you have a lot of incumbents who were running either to go over to the senate or for re-election and they were easily reelected. Three exceptions and looks like close Campbell, who represents south Phoenix is out and he was coming out of a crowded primary and didn't work it. And Lauren Helbert is out and he had a more crowded primary.

Howard Fischer: And the little piece, where we had incumbents going up against each other. And Sylvia Allen. She put out an endorsement by Jake Flake who had been dead for over a year. It was nice of him to come back from the grave to bless her candidacy.

Ted Simons: It's a miracle. What does it mean regarding leadership at the legislature? The senate president race looks like something.

Mike Sunnucks: Russell Pearce and McComish and if Pearce gets the presidency, you -- you'll see a right wing -- more Republican because of what they got elected on. 1070. It's going to be around Russell Pearce.

Howard Fischer: I think you're making an assumption that he does more than he does. But the president needs to recognize they've got to have everyone sing kumbaya -- and it's easy to talk about Russell Pearce and 1070 and everything else.

Mike Sunnucks: But if Jan Brewer wins by 25 points and Russell Pearce is state senate president. It's a big leap to the right.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think Russell Pearce, you're way ahead of yourself on that. There are elections yet that have to happen that might change the composition. There's a Republican or two in the senate who might be on the bubble. And I think some of these incumbent senate, newcomers, haven't committed yet.

Mike Sunnucks: And Russell, he's been effective getting things passed. The stuff he wants passed, he's passed and other senate presidents maybe haven't been that effective.

Howard Fischer: Can take three or four years and -- he holds his breath until he turns blue.

Ted Simons: We can't do that here. We have to sign off.

Mary Jo Pitzl:The Arizona Republic;Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services;Mike Sunnucks:The Phoenix Journal;

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024
airs April 18

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates as part of ‘AZ Votes 2024’

Earth Day Challenge graphic with the Arizona PBS logo and an illustration of the earth

Help us meet the Earth Day Challenge!

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 12

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

The Capital building with text reading: Circle on Circle: Robert Lowell's D.C.
May 2

An evening with ‘Poetry in America’

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: