Journalists Roundtable

More from this show

Local reporters review the week’s top stories

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight for the Journalists' Roundtable are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Guardian."

Ted Simons: Governor Brewer's performance in last week's gubernatorial debate here on "Horizon" doesn't seem to have slowed her stride. She's been out and about and attacking the feds right and left?

Mary K. Reinhart: That's working for her. She was at a chamber of commerce luncheon in Mesa, day before yesterday and talked about the feds' incursion into Arizona. The healthcare law has been a sore point for her and joining the 20 states in suing the federal government over that new healthcare law and interesting, she's touting the fed stimulus money for the business council she formed for the public safety money she announced for an energy -- all that have is from federal stimulus money and wouldn't commit to not taking more fed money. So it's to push the feds away on the one hand and collect the cash on the other.

Howard Fischer: It's the typical campaign, having the one required debate. Earlier, she was announcing this company is bringing 250 solar jobs to Phoenix and then, look we lost 2600 jobs. She didn't want to talk about that. That's Obama's fault.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But running against Obama is not unique to this Republican governor. We're seeing it in Republican races all up and down the ticket and across the nation.

Ted Simons: So basically, relatively smart move by saying more socialism, government spending and more regulation, get them off our backs regardless of how much money they're sending into the state?

Mary K. Reinhart: Those are her words. The alternative is to move back to socialism -- but she's also the latest commercial they've got up, Terry Goddard has him standing in front of the "Obama Sun" and saying, you know, and really, clearly aligning the Democratic administration in Washington. Some Democrats are trying to step away from that because the Obama Administration isn't something that's terribly popular and for some Democrats it's to stay as far as away from that as possible.

Howard Fischer: The governor's popularity is going through the roof. It's fine to talk about what she's doing, but let's recall the fact that there is no Democratic opposition, I'm sorry. Terry Goddard is doing what would be the three yards in the cloud of dust in football, the slow ground game. It's late in the third quarter, early in the fourth quarter, he needs to throw a long bomb, he might lose the ball. Do something wrong. I'm sorry. He's down to 38%. These are the people who will vote for him if he's drowning puppies.

Ted Simons: He's down to 38% in the Rasmussen poll. What's going on? It's a controversial poll. The methodology is in question. The goal of the poll itself has been in question. Rasmussen polls, how seriously do we take them?

Mary Jo Pitzl: A lot of media pick them up. We blog on them, don't always put them in the newspaper and Rasmussen gets some criticism because of the methodology, which is robocalls. You're not having an interview with the person pinging up the phone. You're having people hitting prompts, there's no give-and-take interaction.

Howard Fischer: While the methodology is less perhaps accurate, historically, if you can watch his numbers, he has exactly the same trends of what happened with Jan Brewer's popularity since March as behavioral research center which does person-to-person polling. The trends follow, the 60% that Jan Brewer showed in the latest poll is virtually identitcal to what behavioral research is talking about. And everyone said, including Terry, how can her popularity have gone up after the 16-second brain fade sitting in that chair over there? Well, people who watch the debates it cements what they already believe. Scott Rasmussen told me that under those who said debate performance was important, only 46 were Goddard supporters it. Just cements what had they already believed.

Mary K. Reinhart: The fact of the matter, a poll carries more weight if it's the only game in town. We've lost academic polling in Arizona and people are gloaming on to internal polls and partisan polls. It's a horserace. We put way too much credence into any poll, the horserace itself and I'm afraid we're not going a real good job, because, you know, it's just a way to get the conversation going again and to key off the debate performance and at some point, it's time to step back and take a look at other issues and not follow it as a horse race.

Howard Fischer: The problem is what other issues? The Goddard campaign is snake bit. They decided to issue a release on the economic plan the day they were having the report on the prison break. He keeps talking about his jobs plan. Here he says I have a jobs plan. An economic plan. His plan is we're going to get more jobs. How? I have an economic plan. Well, what about bridging the gap in the budget? Well, I have a jobs plan. It's hard to talk about it when it's so nebulous.

Ted Simons: I get all of that. And how did you explain -- and the governor, charitably did not have the best of evenings here. And yet if we believe the Rasmussen poll, her lead increased by three points. How?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think there's a sympathetic backlash against the governor. She recovered nicely the next day by talking about it, as opposed to hiding from it. Look, I'm only human and people can relate to having those little -- I shouldn't call it a senior moment, but a brain fade. They relate and it adds to that folksy approachable air that Jan Brewer has.

Mary K. Reinhart: The more remarkable poll was the previous one. Though Arizonan voters expect to continue to have financial trouble, she continued to improve in the polls in that one. I can understand -- I think people did connect and with the 15-second pause, that could have happened to everyone. But why when the economy continues to go south and people tell pollsters they don't feel comfortable in the financial situations, they still support the person in power.

Howard Fischer: They blame Obama and she's been good -- as all the Republicans saying -- the economic problems are either Janet's fault, she left me this mess, or Barack Obama's fault. As far as the three point -- I think we made too much of the three point, because the margin of error is 4.5. Whether she went up or down, it certainly did not hurt her. And that comes down to the fact they liked what she said.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think the more important telling point, only 1% of the respondents said they were undecided.

Ted Simons: Is that something you can believe?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's hard to buy, it's really difficult, I think, to believe that every single person virtually in the State of Arizona has made up their mind on the race. The other thing we were talking about, just from a media perspective, it's easy to do a poll story. You know? It's a quick dirty easy story to do. It's harder to dig in and look at the plans and the economy and do the fact checking, that's more difficult.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And those stories are there to be done. Campaigns don't have to be driven just by a candidate's schedule.

Mary K. Reinhart: Right.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There are lots of things you can do, taking a critical look at the candidate.

Ted Simons: We took a critical look at the Attorney General candidates here on "Horizon" in a series of what seems to be spirited debates. We can talk about that later on as well. But talk to us, Howie, about this particular debate. Looked like Felecia Rotellini was on the attack as soon as the microphones went on.

Howard Fischer: Exactly, I think she figured I need to put Tom on the defensive. She knew that he would go after her for her record as Head of the Department of Financial Institutions. Regulates banks and mortgage brokers and mortgage brokers. She figured whether she went first or second, she had to be on the attack. She echoed essentially what Andy Thomas tried to do and was nearly effective. 809 votes out of how many thousands of votes cast, suggests it works. The question for Horne, he hasn't come up with any good response other than it was 40 years ago. And until he can show that this wasn't that important, then he'll be this trouble.

Ted Simons: Thoughts on the Attorney General's debate. You were here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You get in the middle of these things, yes, it was an aggressive out-of-the-box start by Rotellini and Horne responded in kind and off it went from there and a lot of them did discuss their qualifications. Horne, clearly to me wanted to make it about Rotellini's opposition to her non-support for S.B. 1070. That's -- that's a great weapon to use, apparently any candidate and he pushed it hard and there was a telling moment, where she said I'm not going to let Tom Horne hijack the debate on 1070.

Mary K. Reinhart: I think she said that S.B. 1070 doesn't go far enough and proceeded to go on with border enforcement and the things that we -- that the candidates are talking about with respect to illegal immigration. But you know, I think he was clearly from the moment he was pretty sure he won the primary, making the distinction between himself and Felecia Rotellini, I support S.B. 1070, she doesn't. Illegal immigration is my top priority and that's where he was headed. She clearly, I think blindsided him a little bit at the start. I don't think he expected her to come out swinging.

Howard Fischer: Truth telling and getting behind the facts. She's been on the show debating, the first with the Democrats and earlier this week. Both times she stretched the truth. The first debate she talked about how Vince Rabago filed a complaint against the payday lenders and didn't pursue it. Well, in fact he had pursued it and got a restraining order. This week, she said he was guilty of fraud. Well, he was found guilty by the SEC did not contest it in terms of not keeping enough capital and poor bookkeeping and allowing people to think he could sell current securities when he couldn't. That's not fraud. And if she's keeping saying that, what else is she --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Do you want your prosecutor to be aggressive? If you do, you're going to get it from Felecia Rotellini. And the most damning against Tom Horne, that was 40 years ago and why are we bringing it up. It's not an aggressive defense of his record.

Ted Simons: Our debate seemed to be much more spirited than in the past and we can talk about the mood of the country and the electorate and these things. But does that translate -- what does that say? Before each candidates, I tell the candidates, this is your debate. It can be a mudslinging festival, a content festival -- anything. When we have candidates who come on the show and just rear back and throw the high hard one, is that what voters look for in this day and age, this political climate?

Mary K. Reinhart: I think we've talked about this a little bit on the show in the context of the governor's race, if you want to call it mudslinging, it works because it's easy to understand, it's sound biteable and quick and dirty and you can write a headline around it. As a voter, you can understand it. What's more difficult for voters is to wend their way through the economic development plan or the plan to, you know, beef up the civil decision and that stuff. So the decisions that a voter is making you could say is based on those issues, get lost in what has been known for generations as an effective way of winning a campaign.

Howard Fischer: It's important for voters to see how people respond under pressure. To the extent that somebody is under attack, whether it's Horne or Governor Brewer or Terry Goddard, it's important to see how they respond to something lobbed at them. Somebody who cannot provide an answer. Horne's best answer was it was bookkeeping and it was 40 years ago. Hook, I hesitate to talk about what I was doing 40 years ago and I'm probably not electable to any office. If that's his best defense, this was 40 years ago, he's got to do better.

Ted Simons: Who won the debate?

Howard Fischer: I think Felecia won the debate. She did come back with I don't think it went far enough. The other tricky part, depends on whether you saw the debate or read the stories the three of us did. As much as I'd like to say that four million people are watching us tonight, I understand that --

Ted Simons: Four million people are watching. We'll keep it right there. [Laughter] Any clear winner in this debate?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't know if I'd say there's a clear winner, but points on being aggressive and setting the tone, that goes to Rotellini.

Mary K. Reinhart: I would agree. I wouldn't say there was a clear winner. I think, though, there's a long list of people, you know, that you can point to that have not come back strongly enough against an aggressive attack and lost the campaign in the end. To that extent, Tom Horne needs to figure out a way to respond a little bit more aggressively.

Howard Fischer: This brings us back to where we started the show. The poll that Rasmussen did after Jan's brain fade. The people watching the debate are probably have made up their minds anyway. Do debates matter? I'd like to believe they do and that there's a purpose behind it and something can be brought forward. But people watching us tonight are probably saying Howie is full of you know what because that's the way they feel.

Ted Simons: I agree. They're absolutely correct on that. [Laughter] Let's move on. What is going on with the write-in candidates from the green party? What's happening here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This broke about two weeks ago. It's spawned two lawsuits. We've got a slate of -- perhaps a disconnected set of individual who's at the last minute registered a change of party to be Green and won in the primary because all you need is one vote because of the way election law is written to recognize new parties and which then raised the ire of first the Democratic party and then the Green party and they -- both of them have taken these cases to court. Yesterday we saw a federal judge say despite the efforts of removing them from the ballot, no, they can stay.

Howard Fischer: And the tricky part comes for the judge, the Green party says these people are not really Green. We have one candidate who says I want God in the classroom and another that has a swastika on his Website. If I call myself a Green candidate and I register as Green and get the nomination through whatever procedure there is, I'm a Green party candidate.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And that's technically correct and the judge upheld held that right. But others see a conspiracy. A greater plan here voter who is might tend to favor Democrats might be interested in a Green candidate and where have all of these candidacies popped up in? Only in races where Democrats are fairly competitive. Secretaries of state and legislative races, the State Treasurer's office. Corporation commission. Nobody can find a common thread. Tie this back to one person. But we have former Rep Steve May, he recruited people off Mill Avenue to run for state offices. On the west side, a couple you have folks who decided they wanted to become Greens and run for the legislature, now both of them have dropped out.

Ted Simons: What is the Republican party saying about these allegations, they're behind these sham candidates?

Mary K. Reinhart: Heck, they have the right to run for whatever race they want to run for. The real issue is the concern among the Democratic party members that the sham Green party candidates are going to siphon votes away from their candidates and give the win to the Republican in a tight race, the district 10 and 17 and these are all clearly tight races and, you know, they may be right. It happened in 2008. It happened in district 10 with Jackie thrasher in 2008. So I think at the end of the day, it's the Republicans versus Democrats. In federal district court there were a lot of political insiders, Republicans and Democrats.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Absent any proof that these people were paid or enticed to run for office, it's like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Too bad, but you can do that.

Howard Fischer: The judge pointed out, talking from the bench, if the Green party doesn't like the candidates their remedy is to go forward and tell people. Do not vote for them.

Mary K. Reinhart: That's what they've done. On their Websites, they're telling people not to vote for them.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And we're writing about it.

Howard Fischer: But you have to remember how stupid voters are, how many votes Dean Martin get when he wasn't on the ballot.

Ted Simons: We started the conversation, for a Green party candidate it, takes one write-in?

Mary Jo Pitzl: You want to be a write-in for the party.

Ted Simons: How did we get there?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Lost of in the election law but you need a plurality of the number of votes cast and a plurality of zero is one.

Howard Fischer: And Arizona, first of all, to run as a write-in, you have to register ahead of time as a write-in. For the continuing party's quote/unquote Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats, you have to get as many write-in votes as petitions. Green party, that's like 15 for a legislative race. But there's a special rule for the new parties to make it easier to get people on the ballot.

Mary K. Reinhart: To compete.

Howard Fischer: As Mary Jo points, out, have a plurality. One is a plurality if that's all who cares.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And a couple of these people didn't get one vote. They didn't vote for themselves.

Ted Simons: Injunction in place but case not completely over.

Howard Fischer: No injunction.

Ted Simons: Sorry, other way.

Howard Fischer: The case is not over. The judge refused to -- the judge is asking the attorneys to come back on Monday and now what? Should we maybe say their names shouldn't be counted? The Democrats are going to the Superior Court on Monday and realize they can't prevent the ballots from being printed but prevent the ballots from being distributed. Is it too late to even do that? You're running up against deadlines to mail ballots.

Mary K. Reinhart: There aren't a lot of cases of judges stopping ballot propositions from going ahead. It's just a dicey thing for a judge to do. The democratic parties are trying to make the case that they're running under a platform that they disagree with. That's a difficult case to make.

Ted Simons: Only a couple of minutes left. Mary Jo, you wrote about -- speaking of elections and curiosities -- how many unopposed legislative races there are out there.

Mary Jo Pitzl: After the primary, a lot of folks are in. The era of great discontent but a lot of these folks mostly are in very one-party dominant districts. That they haven't even drawn an opponent from the other mainstream party or big name party. Some of these candidates do have maybe a green or a libertarian -- there might be a write-in, but there's an easy walk --

Howard Fischer: And that lends to what California voters just approved. Non-partisan elections. You have a primary and everybody runs and the two top vote-getters run against each other in November. While they may both be Republicans, it means they move to the center. We know that extremists in both parties nominate which ends up with the extremists being elected which is why we have a legislature that's paralyzed.

Mary K. Reinhart: And we have the opportunity to redraw the districts.

Ted Simons: Is it going to make a difference?

Mary K. Reinhart: It hasn't in the how many different redistricting efforts.

Howard Fischer: You're not going to find more than a half a dozen democrats in east Mesa.

Ted Simons: With that, good conversation.

Mary Jo Pitzl:The Arizona Republic;Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services;Mary K. Reinhart:The Arizona Guardian;

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: