Journalists Roundtable

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Arizona journalists review the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Doug Maceachern of "The Arizona Republic." Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." And Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." The effort to recall state Senator Russell Pearce is still on. But not without changes. Right now we've got a delay. Doug, what's the time line for this?

Doug MacEachern: This is going to include math so I might need help. What's changed is the amount of time the governor has to consider whether or not to approve it. She's got 15 days as opposed to five days, which is what the elections department had told the signature gatherers. So they might not be able to get their signatures in on time if the governor takes the maximum amount of time to approve.

Ted Simons: And you have to have them in by the end of the month, correct?

Doug MacEachern: Yes.

Ted Simons: And the idea was -- what? -- a may deadline, but she has 15 days, right?

Doug MacEachern: 15 days, and they're really sorry. Actually, you know, they're really sorry. They're saying that -- that -- that it's problematic because they wanted a fall election, but, in fact, as we were discussing, even if the election gets pushed back to -- if they get enough signatures and it's pushed back to the middle of the session next year, that complicates things.

Mike Sunnucks: It really complicates things for Pearce. It's in the middle of the session, a lot folks are mixed and a lot of folks who would like to see him out of leadership so we could see possible action and gives more time to drum up the vote for the recall. And you won't see the governor take action that would hurt Russell.

Dennis Welch: Even more importantly, before we got this piece of news, the proponents of recall were talking about they prefer the election next year anyway. Because they want to -- they have to find a candidate and they want them to have time to campaign, to raise so money to really go after Russell Pearce.

Mike Sunnucks: The immigration bills and Russell pushes his agenda and the others can play off that. People will be more focused on it. I think a lot more positive -- if you're looking at that time from the proponents of the recall, it's -- next year as opposed to November.

Ted Simons: And yet if it were a recall election. If you want Russell Pearce, recalled you want him recalled before the next session. Is this good or bad for Russell Pearce?

Doug MacEachern: Well right, we're interpreting motives here. We're trying to guess what they're after with the recall. I think that either way is not really advantageous to the senator.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's worse to have it during the session. It hamstrings his agenda. Socially conservative things, immigration stuff. Naturally probably going to think about how much will I push this.

Dennis Welch: This could have the effect of recalling him as senate president because his caucus is going to say, hey, do we want this kind of circus with our leader heading into this session? Russell probably has enough enemies in the senate and could give them enough momentum, enough of a reason, take a back seat, focus on the race and find someone else and put him in leadership spot.

Mike Sunnucks: It's one of those fatigue things. There's so much you can take and maybe it's time to take a back seat.

Doug MacEachern: I think Dennis hit on it. There's -- there is a huge number, an unexpected number of vetoes by the governor. There's a lot of antipathy a lot of national notoriety that Republican senators are looking and saying, what is the job of the senate president. It's not the de facto governor. It's to be a person who can get people on board and lead them and get the votes and he was not good that.

Ted Simons: Is someone down there good at that? Someone ready to not only take him on but get the job done?

Dennis Welch There could be people out there. There what I understand, it was a close election for him last year, earlier, to be senate president. Some of those people might research and say, look, I can take this in a different direction and provide stability and calm that we haven't had in more than a year here. So let's go ahead and do this. And you start with a number of votes and start to look at the people who voted against Russell Pearce's immigration measures as a pretty good base of people to start with, for getting the number of votes to vote him out.

Mike Sunnucks: It's interesting how the tea party conservatives react. The governor vetoed some of their stuff and maybe they see Russell as a way to push the governor to the right if he has a leadership position still. If you have a moderate in there, maybe it would be more moderate overall.

Dennis Welch: This could be -- a lot depends on the candidate. If they can find a credible candidate, which I think they can, Mr. Pearce will be in for a dog fight down there. This is a guy who had problems with Republicans in the district. The precinct committee members -- the precinct, they had to call a special election so he could be voted in there. That's inside baseball. But it shows there's some problems there.

Ted Simons: He does well in that district and Bob Rob at the Republic basically wrote that's what a election is for, for people to vote for people: they know Russell Pearce Has he done anything that the average voter, you think, in that district would say, hey, I didn't think he was like that? They know what they're getting with Russell Pearce, don't they?

Doug MacEachern: I've looked at the numbers and although these done well in that district, it's not prohibitively well. There's a minority of voters that under the right circumstances could at least give it an interesting race.

Mike Sunnucks: He does work hard. He knocks on a lot of doors, he does it in the Summer. Him and Jim Waring have that reputation of walking the district a lot. That would be a tough go. He works it hard. Beyond that, beyond the actual practicing mat you can aspect, just the -- the pragmatic aspect. Every two years, you have a recall election, so to speak, is it right -- he hasn't broken the law, not that we're aware of. Though there's concern concerning the Fiesta Bowl, but he's doing pretty much what he said he was going to do.

Dennis Welch: There's a great argument for doing that. People in the district know who he is and what he stands for and if he's recalled in March, that's half a year away from another election. You could say, let's play out for another year and you'll have a chance to run him in an election anyway.

Doug MacEachern: That is the argument that my colleague Bob Rob has made. Every two years, you do get a recall election and there's really no point other than some sort of clever political strategy to try and run a recall election.

Mike Sunnucks: Part of the process. It is part of the process. They can get the signatures and do it, more power to them.

Ted Simons: What do we know about the charity, the nonprofit that doesn't seem to be registered as a nonprofit.

Doug MacEachern: We know it has a Paypal account. It does, and they can raise money but many years ago when newt Gingrich was really despised during the Clinton years, he came on to the "tonight" show carrying a lion cub and it was to make people really like him. I think we're seeing a little bit of this. I don't want to misinterpret the senator's intentions here. If he's raising money on behalf of people in Haiti, which a lot of people say this is contrary to his character, we're all -- we -- we're not -- no one is as shallow as they appear in politics. Bully for him. If it's genuine.

Mike Sunnucks: It's for clean drinking water. And a guy is San Diego, a religious guy that's working with him on it. It could be a good deed.

Dennis Welch: Well, I think for the people in Haiti, whatever his motives are, if it's able to be successful and raise money and get clean drinking water it's a real win for them. I think the people here, when looking at this, there's a health amount of skepticism out there. Why coming out now, he's never shown an interest in these things as it is. It's been floated out there. It's not set up as a charity yet. Apparently it will be. There's a lot of questions, a lot of people look at this and say, hey, he's trying to repair his image in the face of a recall.

Mike Sunnucks: The one thing I found interesting is on his bio up there, it plays up to his law enforcement experience - MCSO - and downplays his legislative experience. Not as prominent in his bio. We've talked about him running for sheriff and this --

Doug MacEachern: He starts showing up at press conferences carrying cute little lion cubs, beware --

Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye on that. [Laughter] The governor wants to extend jobless benefits and this is only a story because unemployment went down in Arizona to the point where those jobless benefits are in jeopardy.

Mike Sunnucks: It was a formula that the states follow and our economy's improving a little bit so that the jobless numbers are down in Phoenix and statewide and it's going to kick some people off the rolls. It will be an interesting test of the governor's will and how Republicans who are a majority there feel about long-term unemployed folks. They have splits. So we'll see if she can get them back in session to change it.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing here Dennis, will there be a special session, or? What's happening here, Dennis?

Dennis Welch: You listen to the governor's folks, they're bullish on the idea of getting a special session down there. But to motorcycle's point, do they really want to extend it out. The reason we're talking about this, the economy is improving. We're getting better, why extend this stuff. Let's -- we don't need to do in this time.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of folks - the economy is improving but there's a lot of folks out there that are long-term employed and under-employed. A lot of folks who don't have a lot of skills, service workers, that are competing for not a lot of jobs.

Ted Simons: Is this a surprise for the governor to think it's a good idea to extend the benefits? Because again this is a conservative governor.

Doug MacEachern: It does bring federal money to the state, which is helpful economic economically. It is a little bit. She's shown surprises -- she had far more vetoes than people anticipated and she has stood up for issues that -- that contrasts with leadership in the legislature, a little bit surprising, not all that much.

Mike Sunnucks: She's not a cookie cutter conservative. Most conservatives would not want this. She's proved four or five times on different issues where she's outside of the box of conservative orthodoxy.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about Fiesta Bowl freebies, travel gifts and these sorts of things. And the governor weighed in on this and thinks there should be clarification and that sometimes these trips make sense.

Dennis Welch: Absolutely, a sometimes a lot of these trip do make sense. The Fiesta Bowl, and some of these trip where is the lawmakers are going all over the place and taking their family along which is flat ridiculous. You don't need to take your family to learn how a football game is run. But there's conferences where they go and meet and talk about ideas and what others are doing. And that's important, I think, for a lot of these state lawmakers to do and these are legitimate trips, you can see other programs you may want to consider. Bringing back to the state and go and look and see how the stuff works. That's important.

Mike Sunnucks: The problem is one of the first things she did as governor was go to the Super Bowl when the cardinals were there. They love to going to sporting events. NFL games. If they went to silicon valley or Wall Street, that's very legit. Even trade missions are much better than going to sporting events. I don't really see what the economic benefit is there.

Doug MacEachern: It's a tough sell, but for example, the state is very big into economic development now. They want it create some sort of delegation that goes and try and woo a company that's out of state to come here and that might include some state lawmakers. Should they go along. Right now, in this environment, you get precious few who are willing to along.

Ted Simons: Keeping with the Fiesta Bowl, it sounds like the bowl officials want some of this campaign cash that was reimbursed to Fiesta Bowl employees sent all over the place, all over the universe, they want some of this to come back home. How realistic is that?

Doug MacEachern: Ted, this is so head-scratching. I was talking with a colleague Ed Montini and this is torturing him because he believes that the lawmakers shouldn't have to give back money. And taking a position like that is very difficult indeed for journalists, believe me. But that's what they're looking for. They're saying we erred and you have to pay the price. We erred giving the money, let's have it back. In a lot of cases, the campaign organizations for a lot of these candidates don't exist today.

Ted Simons: Which begs -- how are they going to get the money back? Some of these folks can't raise the multiple because they're in office right now. This seems awfully odd.

Mike Sunnucks: Seems like a tax thing, trying to appease the IRS, because down the road, the Fiesta Bowl will have to pay the money back. If it comes back, it gets erased off the books. Big guys on the list. McCain, Kyl. A lot of congressmen.

Ted Simons: Everybody on it.

Mike Sunnucks: And the Fiesta Bowl is on the campaign to right all of their wrongs, doing all of these things. I think that's part of it.

Dennis Welch: This is absolutely silly and theater to try and appease different types of groups. How many millions of dollars worth of assets is this worth and they're squabbling about a total of $48,000 the campaign contributions who took them in good faith.

Ted Simons: The campaigns are saying, we did nothing wrong.

Mike Sunnucks: I think what's interesting is, why they're giving money to John McCain? Why the Fiesta Bowl needs to give money to John McCain, they're folks who didn't have a lot of opponents. It looks like a lot of back scratching.

Ted Simons: But that's one of many questions. The Fiesta Bowl story in general, this thing going to get more attention, kind of dying out, what are you seeing?

Doug MacEachern: As long as the question is out there, what the status of the Fiesta Bowl is going to be against, the other -- the competition for the -- the BCS series, then I think the Fiesta Bowl is going to make it make legs. They're going to continually be making statement to the BCS, I think that's their primary audience, is that we're doing everything in our power to make it right.

Mike Sunnucks: Got off slaps on the wrist right now. Still in the rotation, just on one-year probation and they've got off pretty well and I think they'll hire someone who has a good reputation in college sports to replace Junker.

Dennis Welch: I still think there's a couple of lawmaker, Russell Pearce being prime, still questions they need to answer that you could see that have legs in that aspect as this goes down the road.

Doug MacEachern: It always comes back to Russell Pearce.

Ted Simons: Our conversation seems like it. This one probably won't. Dealing with the Medicare cuts and the idea of filing suit. It sounds like Tim Hogan is just about ready to do this. What do we know about this?

Mike Sunnucks: Well it looks like he's going to file suit because they went against the voters' wishes some of this stuff was voter-approved and they cut some of it and that's the gist of the case. You have voter mandates on the books and the legislature at times wants to cut these things.

Ted Simons: Voters agreed to get these folks on the roll in 2000 with prop 204. I mean, how do you get around…? I know the available funds argument. There were none. Is that enough, do you think?

Doug MacEachern: That's going to be the tough sell, that's what I think -- I think lawmakers and the governor were aware of when they were trying making the cut, they're going to bunch up against that. We knew Tim Hogan or someone would come down the road and do this, because the question is very obvious. Can you amend in a negative way something that the voters approved?

Mike Sunnucks: The spirit of the law is against them. You know, you're going to have to get a friendly judge to take that nuanced argument.

Ted Simons: Tim Hogan, the center for law in the public interests and usually involved in lawsuits where the will of the people is circumvented and here come the lawsuits and doesn't do badly.

Doug MacEachern: He's done well. More many years taking up lawsuits regarding school funding and he's had some success.

Ted Simons: Medical marijuana, looks like it may not have much success at all. Mike, the U.S. attorney for Arizona saying, by the way, this is against federal law and got the county attorney saying I don't want to see any of this on county-controlled land is this thing just moot? What's going on?

Mike Sunnucks: I think this is happening in other states. Federal prosecutors and the feds doing window dressing raids. They don't want big dispensaries or doctors doling out a bunch of prescriptions. They don't mind the little old lady having metro area medicinal pot. It's ok to have mom and pops, but don't want it to be some kind of big business.

Dennis Welch: But at the same time, you have people saying wire going to go after you, you can't have it here or there. The state is the approving just about everyone applying. I think the approval rate is above 90% at this point.

Ted Simons: Indeed.

Dennis Welch: And we're just a couple of months into this thing you'll find if there's a will, there's a way - people are going to score their weed.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the dispensary folks have learned from other states. We limit the number -- I think the state has been professional on this. The folks coming in are pretty legit businesses.

Ted Simons: Our last topic involves the U.S. senate race, Jon Kyl's race. Gabrielle Giffords' husband?

Dennis Welch: The latest rumor in a race we've had a lot of rumors. On the Republican side, there's the possibility of Sarah Palin jumping in to run in the Republican primary. So now, naturally, on the democratic side, the Democrats who have nobody other than Gabrielle Giffords is -- there's talk amongst a lot of people, saying, hey, her husband would make a great candidate.

Ted Simons: What do we know. Mark Kelly, do we even know he's a democrat?

Doug MacEachern: We don't know his politics or his registration. I presume there's some among the Democrats who have looked into this where he sits in a general sense. But rumors are tossed out for a loft -- but rumors are tossed for a lot of reasons. Republicans are playing this as smoothly as democrats are. It's total speculation.

Mike Sunnucks: Do we know that he lives in Arizona?

Dennis Welch: No, he's not. He's in the military and I don't think anyone would -- that's where he is stationed. It wouldn't keep him from running, the residency requirements for federal races are lax. You have to be a resident at the time you're elected. So that gives them a lot of leeway.

Ted Simons: You said the Republicans are playing it as well. What are you talking about there?

Doug MacEachern: I think they're describing him as somebody who would be a formidable candidate if he were to jump in. Showing great respect for him just as they have for Gabby since the incident. I -- I think they recognize that if things fell together and suddenly he developed an interest in this, he would be a formidable candidate.

Mike Sunnucks: It's just interesting that, right now -- there's people waiting for this. A senate seat to open for years and all we have is Jeff flake. All of these Republican congressman, they're all supposed to be chomping at the bit to run for this thing. We don't have Democrats. Gabby's husband with no political experience. He would be a challenge because he's an astronaut and married to her. But we don't have a lot of people stepping up. People have been waiting for McCain or Kyl to retire for decades.

Ted Simons: Is everybody laying low and letting Jeff flake show his cards. He's raising serious money. I don't think that's the case for a lot of folks, he's out to one heck of a lead in the money race right now and that's really significant because that puts democrats in a position, we need someone with a rock star name or rock star or a rock star bank account and as far as last I know, the Democrats don't have anybody like that. The big wallet, big money guys aren't showing any interest and who is a big name in democratic politics here anymore.

Ted Simons: What does this say about the democratic bench?

Doug MacEachern: A lot of Democrats are getting very comfortable with second class status as a political party in this state. I hate to have to say that, but I think it's really true.

Mike Sunnucks: There's not even a first string. We're like Montana, or Alaska.

Dennis Welch: And they're even talking about developing anything. They're looking for the silver bullet thing. Hey, we'll get mark Kelly, this big name to solve all our problems. It's not going to happen.

Ted Simons: Alright, we'll stop it right there. Monday at 7:00 on "Horizon." The state education chief recently visited schools in China. We'll find out what he learned about that country's school system. And we'll look at a report on drug abuse and mental health problems among veterans in Arizona. That's Monday at 7:00, on "Horizon." Tuesday, the mayor of Glendale talk about efforts to keep the Phoenix Coyotes from leaving town. Wednesday, we'll find out what to expect from the upcoming fire season. Thursday, Arizona art beat looks at what artists are doing to save the icehouse, a unique art space and gallery. And Friday, we're back with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. "Washington week" is next. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend!

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