Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local reporters review the week’s top stories

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio, Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal". The race for governor is getting, extra nasty, testy, tough, rough and tumble. Talk to us. Let's start with the rumor regarding the governor. What was the rumor and where did it come from?

Steve Goldstein: It came from a horrible technology known as Twitter. 140 characters or so. Well known investigative journalist put out something and said that Governor Brewer was sick and would not be able to complete a four-year term and now we have a little bit of evidence she's been tested for thyroid cancer and there's some things that have come out. But there was nothing to back up.

Howard Fischer: We all have our own sources in the mainstream media, but trying not to be someone not just working off the internet, none of us were going to do anything with it until we came up with something more substantial until Jan put out a statement denying that there was anything wrong. Which then got into the question of she's denying it. But we have a photo at a place in Tucson with a Band-Aid at a place where you might do a needle biopsy.

Mike Sunnucks: Huffington -- a business blogger, picked up the thing and said she believed it and a lot of us called over to the governor's office and since then, the governor's communications director actually responded. Howie is right, the governor's office kind of propelled this along. We've got an obligation to look into things and it's a gray line.

Howard Fischer: On one hand, you know, the world is different from the days when John Kennedy could have sex in the White House and the press would cover it up. Where is the line in terms of personal life? Yes, if a person is actually too sick to complete a four-year term for which he or she is running, that's an issue. She's a 66-year-old woman. My wife had a biopsy of her thyroid and she's a lot younger than Jan. What does that mean? And at what point are we entitled to everything? Her gynecological exam or what?

Ted Simons: It's gone to the point where we're going to have John Dougherty on the air, and why did you run this with this? Did the governor's office play this well?

Steve Goldstein: Chuck Coughlin has a reputation as someone who likes to fight. Any chance to jump in, he likes it. His partner, a little less so. Someone is throwing out the rumors, whether it's the Goddard campaign or not. And maybe do a redirect.

Howard Fischer: That's where we went down the rabbit hole. Chuck said if we're going to chase Twitter rumors. Why aren't people following that up? First, let's assume that Terry is gay. This has what to do with his ability to govern? But it was Chuck Coughlin -- divert the attention. It got to the point that even the governor had to tell Chuck, leave it alone. Back off. Move on. Because it got to the point where it was turning around and biting the governor in the tail.

Mike Sunnucks: There's so much demonization of your opponents right now. They don't talk about the issues and you have these differences. The Democrats try to contend that Jan's incompetent from her debate performance and her other gaffes and the Republicans respond with something like this. You see this in Delaware and Nevada and where your opponent is evil and doesn't have the character to serve in office.

Howard Fischer: And Jan Brewer said she's not a witch. To use the Delaware example there. I hate to bring it down to those of us sitting around the table, but it's hard on us in terms of what is relevant. If we try to stick to the issue, Terry, tell us exactly how your going to fill the education budget and he's all over the board, and that nice, where is the sports page? They want to read about Lindsay Lohan.

Ted Simons: Was that surprisingly rough?

Steve Goldstein: No, and Chuck Coughlin having run against Symington -- the issue of apples and apples really comes up because as Howie mentioned, if someone is not healthy enough to serve four years, that can effect whether Ken Bennett is the next governor. If Terry Goddard, if that's his personal life and choice, would not affect whether he's in office four years from now.

Mike Sunnucks: I thought the Republicans made a big choice -- say this is the Democrats and Goddard's campaign spreading the rumors. That was enough to make them look bad and they went for a little more than that.

Ted Simons: How does this play out? What do you see?

Howard Fischer: One of the things that makes people like this governor, they see her as a real person with real problems. Her sitting in that chair on this set and going blank, look, the woman went up three points in the damn poll! What can you say? If she's had medical problems, she should say, yeah, I had a biopsy, no big deal. I'm healthy. Lots of people have biopsies. I think this only helps her.

Ted Simons: Even when people come back against her, how does that play?

Howard Fischer: That's a bump. That's a bump.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it hurts both of them. It makes the process look bad and the media look bad.

Howard Fischer: Hey!

Mike Sunnucks: Makes all of us look bad at this. And people come around, is the governor sick and is Goddard gay? The media is covering this.

Ted Simons: How does it play?

Steve Goldstein: I think it hurts Brewer, but not much. But I don't think it makes people dislike her anymore.

Ted Simons: We have a Rocky Mountain Poll, shows that Brewer is up by 3%, with registered voters, 11, and likely voters, those are the ones that people like to focus on, but again, it's a closing of the gap.

Howard Fischer: Nobody believed it was a 20-point race. Whether you talk Rasmussen or the other polls. Clearly, Terry has been hammering away at her. Here's the problem that Terry is having. He's convinced a lot of people, maybe I shouldn't vote for Jan. But hasn't convinced people to vote for him. Even the unlikely voters, 15% say I don't know.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the 11 number is the more accurate number. Howie is right, he hasn't made the case. What am I going to do for the economy and housing? He talks about it but doesn't make a real strong case and I don't know if he should take the chance and accuse her of demagoguing. In this state, the Republicans are on the right side of the immigration issue. That's a tough go. But Howie is right, he's not made a strong argument especially on the economy.

Ted Simons: This is a sophisticated poll and a lot of tradition here in Arizona. Making up ground but still not winning.

Steve Goldstein: Howie said, it's a great point. A lot of people are not attracted to Goddard and when someone wins two landslides for Attorney General -- he hasn't made a good argument for jobs. But Governor Brewer has been hiding out.

Howard Fischer: Part of the answer, Terry Goddard ran against two very right wing weak Republicans in terms of Bill Mongomery and Len Munsil -- same crew, actually. Terry doesn't get it. He doesn't even understand how -- he's got the Barack Obama problem. He had a press conference today to talk about foreclosures and standing up there -- I'm very outraged. It's the Barack Obama problem. Nobody believes that he really cares and showing true outrage and they're not going to vote for someone who is that bloodless.

Mike Sunnucks: He had every democrat, Harry Reid and Jerry brown, called for a complete freeze on the negotiations and Terry writes a letter to the lenders asking for information on their processes. He's very much a technocrat.

Howard Fischer: The A.G. race, a toss-up.

Ted Simons: Steve, this -- Tom Horne came out, not too much prior and saying his internal polling shows him up by 18 points and we understand the dynamics there but still, sounds like a race.

Steve Goldstein: And most people expect it to be. A lot of people thought that if Andrew Thomas -- Horne has a way to go to get the conservatives passionate about him. He's going to be affected more about what goes on through the rest of the ticket. Rotellini has a lot of moderates who want to vote for her but still need to be convinced.

Mike Sunnucks: They like her record on foreclosures and banks and her problem is name I.D. and having the D next to her name. The thing about Horne, he knows how to run a campaign. He beat Jaime Molera and --

Howard Fischer: Felecia also has private money and it's going to make it a close case.

Ted Simons: Polls showing them ahead, 106, which would be the healthcare deal, constitutional amendment, that seems to be ahead. 109, the hunting and fishing as a Constitutional right. That one -- are we not seeing as many TV ads on propositions as we have in the past or am I just missing them?

Howard Fischer: I think all of the air is being sucked out of the air by the Harry Mitchells and Schweickert, everything else. You take the 109, the National Rival Association ran a full page ad saying why you should trust the Game and Fish Department and vote for 109. There isn't a lot of money out there to be spent. Now, I'm expecting a bunch of money on 113 to pop. It's on the labor unions and there's a group, save our secret ballots. Out of Vegas. And the medical marijuana, they also have out-of-state funds. Maybe it's the sign of the economy.

Mike Sunnucks: We're not a Battle Ground state. You see the president in Nevada, New Mexico, Washington State, not here. There's all of these races that the Republicans could win. They could win the governorship and senate seat in California, of all places and I think it's sucking the money out of here.

Ted Simons: What do you think, Steve?

Steve Goldstein: I agree. There isn't as many emotional things as we had.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the medical marijuana is leading and I think the folks who want to pass it think it's better to lay low.

Ted Simons: A couple of propositions are needed in order for some semblance of order to be maintained regarding the budget. A lot of folks are opposed to Growing Smarter and First Things First. And the governor is pushing hard for all of the propositions?

Howard Fischer: She signed a spending plan, assumes these are going to pass. Ok. Governor, where are you? I'm not going to take a position on these measures. What? We'll keep leave it up to the voters and if it fails, we'll come up with a plan. But there's not a contingency plan, $450 million if both of these fail. I think she doesn't want to be involved in it. She sees the negative side. Prop 302, which deals with First Things First, there's a lot of money spent on the negative side, like a few tribes, saying if you love children, vote no. Of course, the governor doesn't want to be on the side of well, I must hate children.

Mike Sunnucks: She's trying to run out the clock on her race. She doesn't want to put herself out there. She's got a 20-point lead and cut to 10 but if you make the free throws you win the game.

Ted Simons: During the governor's debate, we had Terry Goddard repeatedly saying to the governor, the budget is not balanced because you need these propositions to pass in order to get close. This is a talking point in the race for quite a while. People paying attention?

Steve Goldstein: I don't think they are. I don't think they believe either side. They believe the economy is in a rough patch and what are we going to do to fix it?

Mike Sunnucks: Smoke and mirrors throughout the years and people say they don't believe either of these folks.

Howard Fischer: And while she certainly talked 1070, when it comes to the economy, diverting attention, and look, I'm giving out money to land this firm and that firm. Never mind that the money is coming from the evil federal government whose stimulus program she hates.

Ted Simons: 107, regarding preferential treatment and you were there for this debate with David Lujan. And were the sides clear?

Mike Sunnucks: It was the same question and the same answer time after time. David Lujan sees merit for carving out programs for Hispanics and women. And the other, color blind, need based. When there's programs, city programs, these programs whether it has to be included on, they get included and any time they're not, they feel they're excluded by the good old boy network.

Howard Fischer: At the state level, there's no preferences. It's color blind. But in the City of Tucson, for example, you can be a minority contractor and bid up to 7% more and still get the contract. People say, well, I understand going and doing outreach. Why am I spending 7% or more of my tax dollars?

Mike Sunnucks: People argue when there's not these programs here, the good old boy network, for the lack of a better word, prefers them, even if they don't have the best bid.

Ted Simons: Even the lesser known program, even if you get into a university, you get certain benefits and pointing you in the right direction, those will be targeted as well. Again, is this something people are paying attention to?

Steve Goldstein: I think of people are passionate about this. Especially how times are. And Ward Connerly tried it in '08 and it didn't go anywhere.

Mike Sunnucks: It passed in Michigan, more liberal states and at first glance, passes here.

Howard Fischer: Why should we be judged by the color of our skin, to use the Martin Luther King analogy. It's a good selling point.

Ted Simons: We had a debate on "Horizon." On KJZZ as well as. Tell you what, I don't know how it went at the radio station but from the opening statements Hulburd went after Quayle and the whole racy website kind of business. Is that something that people are paying attention to?

Steve Goldstein: The thing that Hulburd has seen, Republican women are on the fence about Ben Quayle. And his point is, if I keep bringing it up, whether he's in his 20s or not, he did admit to doing something on the site.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of similarities between the guys. Rich guys and attorneys and like Bush Tax Cuts for the rich. They do differ on the social issues, abortion and things. But on policy, they're in agreement on a lot of it.

Howard Fischer: And this comes back to where we started the show. What works? Does calling Terry gay work? Suggesting Jan is sick work?

Ted Simons: But is it working? Didn't seem to work in the primary. Ben Quayle won. It doesn't seem to be working all that well now for Hulburd.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it did surprisingly well. Everybody was waiting for the potato moment. I thought he did pretty well in the debates and got the talking points down and fairly impressive.

Steve Goldstein: Going to make the -- the idea he has that name recognition and still only won by four points. Name recognition and Republican registration will come up huge for him.

Ted Simons: The Arizona consumer confidence apparently is improving. Folks think their situation is better than a year ago.

Howard Fischer: And that's crucial.

Ted Simons: How does this play into the election?

Howard Fischer: Well, it plays a couple of ways. When people are feeling that things are bad, though tend to turns to republicans and who do we blame? Well, who is in the White House? Barack is in the White House. To the extent people see things getting better, they may be more willing to say, maybe the stimulus programs are working. 60% of the folks who work for private firms say they see things picking up in their own companies. And that's crucial. Then they say clearly the economy is improving. Something is working. And when people feel good about the economy, they go out and buy refrigerators and cars.

Mike Sunnucks: The housing market is still obviously down. Foreclosures are the main impetus for sales and the job market is weak. It goes back to the old Ronald Reagan thing -- are you better off than you were four years ago?

Ted Simons: This index seems to suggest that people do feel they're better off.

Mike Sunnucks: People are struggling and still high in foreclosures and out of work and it's a mixed bag but I think we're still down.

Steve Goldstein: Consumer confidence had been the major driver of this economy but I don't think it's ramped up enough. For the Democrats, if the election was in six months, it might help.

Howard Fischer: There's nothing between then and the election and the national data has shown that unemployment remains high and for the Democrats, the timing is horrible.

Mike Sunnucks: Between what Goddard and Brewer are saying on the economy, I don't think people are making a distinction.

Ted Simons: All right. We have a judge -- a federal judge in Florida, the state's healthcare challenge can move forward. Different from what we heard from a federal judge in Michigan. Talk about this decision, relatively quickly, Howie. And how it plays into the governor's position on what the state is facing regarding healthcare reform.

Howard Fischer: Obama Care, you will purchase insurance or pay a fine and requires states to keep their insurance the way it was. That has trapped Arizona which has a generous Medicaid programs in the nation. Several states sued, Arizona is in there. And the Obama Administration says we're entitled to do that. The federal judge says wait a minute. Number one, there's not a national mandate for anyone to purchase anything. So it doesn't fall under interstate commerce and legally they don't have to stick with the Medicaid program, Golden Rule, you want the government's gold, you live by their rule, but you're being coerced into this because of the amount of money involved.

Ted Simons: It seems that the unconstitutional nature of the mandate was something that the judge was so hot on. It seemed like he was pushing on one side, maybe pulling a bit on the other.

Howard Fischer: The real key, he let the case go on. The challenge is to survive the first round. It plays out for Jan. She's been arguing that this is an unconstitutional mandate and more to the point, if we didn't have the Obama Care mandate, we would have cut AHCCCS by 30,000 people but save a billion dollars a year and wouldn't have the budget problems.

Mike Sunnucks: The judge in Michigan that didn't go along with this was a Clinton appointee and the one in Florida, a Reagan appointee.

Ted Simons: Last question: Are people paying attention? Do they care about this?

Steve Goldstein: The tea party folks sure do.

Mike Sunnucks: I think people don't like Obama care.

Howard Fischer: Prop 106 is bleeding.

Ted Simons: Stop it right there. Good stuff.

Steve Goldstein:KJZZ Radio;Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services;Mike Sunnucks:The Business Journal;

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