Journalists’ Roundtable

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Journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight or Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Republic." Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. And Mike Sunnucks of "The Phoenix Business Journal." Supporters of senate president Russell Pearce were out in force this week. Let's start with the court challenge regarding the signatures, the circulators, how the circulators got them and what's going on here?

Mary K. Reinhart: Well, the supporters of Russell Pearce are hoping that a judge will throw out of the signature, pretty much all of them for a variety of different problems. The Attorney Lisa Hauser who has been to this rodeo a time or two knows election law better than any attorney is saying that circulators of the petitions should have signed an oath saying that the petitions -- this was genuine. These are petitions that the circulators got from the secretary of state's office and Secretary of State Ken Bennett is saying this is as genuine as it gets. The law says it's sufficient. Attorney Hauser is also questioning a variety of other things, including whether or not circulators wrote in the addresses for petition signers and would like to see the signatures. If you throw them out just on the genuine issue that, throws out 10,000 plus signatures. That's whatever they've turned in and that's the end of that. There is no recall election.

Mike Sunnucks: It's spaghetti at the wall. They're trying to get something to stick. And you've seen this whether its referendums or recalls, but there's three or four different types of avenues and hopes one of them knocks off another signatures to get this of the ballot.

Ted Simons: Howie, this idea that the word "genuine," because it's in the -- when everything else meets the requirement of being genuine.

Howard Fischer: And that's an interesting question. As Ken Bennett pointed out on the show, the statute says you have to have this on the petition on recall petitions. It's a plenary area of law we haven't discussed much. The constitution does say you shall sign an oath that the signatures are genuine. Now normally speaking, the constitution follows the statute, even if the legislature screwed up and mis-enacted. But what Ken Bennett says, you don't need the word if you swear this is the person, you witnessed it; you know they provided id and whatever else, it's genuine by definition. Now this is all new law! I talked to the attorney general's office and they say -- this is the first ever recall of a state official since statehood. So this all new territory.

Mary K. Reinhart: And there is also question about whether people knew what they were signing, right? If they actually knew they were setting a recall in motion?

Ted Simons: That's also one of the factors that people were confused what they were signing. We saw the petition and at the top of the petition Howie, it says recall Russell Pearce.

Howard Fischer: I'm sorry, I appreciate -- Lisa is a very good attorney and if Russell Pearce were my client, I would find any possibility, I'll find a sympathetic judge to say, yeah, that's a good point. The language in the Recall Petition, you're allowed to put a statement on there why you would like to get rid of the person and it says because the Russell Pearce's decisions on education and healthcare and everything, we withdraw our support for him. So Lisa's argument, people thought they were just signing a petition withdrawing support. I think it's hard unless you've been in a cave not to know these were recall petitions.

Ted Simons: A hearing set for August 8th as the next step.

Mike Sunnucks: One of the other case where is Republicans will take a strict view things and Democrats look at voter intent. Kind of reminds me of something that happened in Florida a few years ago and I think the Pearce folks have an uphill battle, like Howie says. The confusion thing seems like a red herring.

Ted Simons: And are they -- this the kind of things -- you described it as throwing stuff against a wall and other people say it's a desperation move. If people sense there's desperation here, it's a kind of thing that can impact an election.

Howard Fischer: They've been careful to say this isn't Russell challenging it. This is just some guy he happens to know who happens to be a supporter and Lisa who, happens to represent him on some other issues happens to represent this committee, which has nothing to do with Russell. Lisa says - look, yes he's supporting it because he wants the process to work.

Mary K. Reinhart: It seems like a trend. We've gotten used to. This is the first recall if we have it of a state legislator, but every election year, we're covering five, 10, 15 different challenges, petition signatures. It's like de rigueur to challenge them.

Mike Sunnucks: There's a lot of wildcards it's this moves forward. We've never had anything like this. The timing and who is in the race, what money comes in and what other stuff comes out about Pearce, what he does during the race. He's a lightning rod and been known to say things that grab attention. People aren't sure how people will line up and why not try and get it thrown out.
Howard Fischer: Well and this comes down to the question, assuming the election is there, we know that there's a guy named Jerry Lewis who is probably going to announce on Tuesday, I mean, let's put it this way: He scheduled a bunch of press interviews to say what he's going to do. Ask me, I can figure it out. And there's an audiologist out there who is running. And if they can unite behind a single credible candidate, Russell could be in trouble.
Ted Simons: Yet you have Pearce, a mailer hitting everyone in that district with the governor, the superintendent of public instruction, the attorney general, the treasurer, Joe Arpaio in a row saying Russell is our guy. The heavy cannons are coming out early.

Mary K. Reinhart: He's lined up the heavy hitters, starting with the governor and he's getting a gang that's sent out appeals nationwide, weeks and weeks ago to pull in significant money. As far as financially, I think that Senator Pearce will be ok in the race. The question becomes whether you have the audiologist and Jerry Lewis and then five or six other guys and Pearce walks away with it.

Mike Sunnucks: There's two things, the church. That's going to be huge. If they decide to pull their support or support somebody whether it's subtle or more forward. That's a huge thing in that district. The other thing is Jerry Lewis; we love to elect people with famous names. Dean Martin or Paul Newman people named Bob Stump. And if there are only so many people turning on that thing and they see Jerry Lewis and a few seniors that might help him a little bit.

Ted Simons: You mentioned the money, this is interesting. Right now, correct me if time wrong, Pearce can get as much money as he can corral as long as it's not union or corporate.

Howard Fischer: It's not Pearce. The Chinese wall, this is the committee to oppose the recall.

Ted Simons: FOPs. Friends of Pearce.
Howard Fischer: Friends of Russell that can take as much as they want. You can write out a check for $2,500, $5,000, which normally you can't do in an election for a candidate, as long as you point out its not corporate or union money. At the point it becomes -- there's a separate committee, the Russell Pearce re-election committee, that's limited to $400 to $450 for individuals. The wildcard is independent expenditures. If the four of us want to form a committee to help defeat Russell or support him, as long as we're not coordinating with him, we can take any amount of money and support him and take out ads and say vote for Russell, vote against him and that could be where the real money come from. And given the nature of an off-year election, we'll only see financial disclosure once in late October. It will be then when we know who is giving and how much.

Mike Sunnucks: It will be interesting to see, the opponents. A lot of people didn't think they'd get this far. But can they raise a big amount and get a wildcard to fund something that can do something -- send out mailers and work against him? We know that Russell has the means and supporters to get his money in there.

Ted Simons: Last question on this, similar track. For those who do--say you are a republican, say you do want it see Jerry Lewis succeed or just donate to the campaign, you got to think about repercussions and ramifications, don't you?

Mary K. Reinhart: I think so. And I think that's the message that Mr. Huffman Linn intended to -- will Coughlin intended to send. I think we're talking about a lot of money and coming from outside, independent expenditures but I think there's perhaps a wildcard. These are pretty involved voters in this district. I don't think this is a district of people who, you know, don't know what's going on in this race. They -- I think if the individual voters get involved and get -- and become involved financially, then, you know, maybe they won't care what Chuck Coughlin thinks. They're not planning to run for election or becoming part of the food chain.

Howard Fischer: Here's the point where Chuck Coughlin is blowing smoke. There are primaries every two years. Republicans run against Republicans. If it's one Republican, Jerry Lewis, against Russell Pearce, a Republican, you can't fault someone for saying this is a better Republican. If it's a democrat running against Russell, then you're dead. But to threaten these people may come around and bite him.

Ted Simons: Interesting, we'll keep a eye on that, so to speak. Let's talk about new lawsuits. Hundreds took effect this week. Some getting more attention than others.

Mike Sunnucks: There's abortion law, tax deductions, some of the abortion laws that they passed were being challenged. The Grand Canyon state and we had the usual human smuggling type of things and there was a long list of those and tax cuts that were passed and coming down the pike after the budget was solved. Some is now and some is in December.

Ted Simons: The idea of married couples getting preference, all things being equal otherwise, is law. And in terms of abortion, something like you have to have an ultrasound or something like this prior to the procedure. Abortion issues, as Mike mentioned, some delayed but some are in.

Mary K. Reinhart: Right, this is the second, maybe third year of three significant restrictions on abortion. Most of the laws passed that are being challenged in court. One in particular would restrict the access to what they call the medical abortion. And restrict who can provide that access. Whether a nurse practitioner -- up until the law was passed were able to provide the medication to women. That law is being challenged. If that law were to take effect, that would limit access to Maricopa and Pima counties. The adoption law, another one, they tried to get through last year and were unable. It will be interesting to see the results. It's been crafted carefully and it's supposed to be all things equal, we'll pick a mom and dad over just a mom or just a dad. A lot of opposition to that measure over the years, we'll see if it results in fewer kids becoming adopted.

Howard Fischer: The legislature has been busy in the social morality area. One of the new laws says if you're a club -- at Arizona University, you can turn away people who don't believe what you believe in. And parents that pull their children out of certain assignments, if they determine them to be, quote, harmful. And all of this stuff. And now the most important one, we have a official state firearm. The colt, single army action revolver. And if nothing else happened this session, I'm so proud.

Mary K. Reinhart: The parents' Bill of Rights was one that was watered down. You can have victory on 14, 15, 25 bills, but they're not the bills initially introduced. The question is if they have impact on schools or families.

Mike Sunnucks: The anti-abortion bill, they've tried these in other state, that's one of the more successful lobbies we've seen since Brewer was government. A lot of things that were vetoed by Napolitano. Got their things through. But there hasn't been a big fuss when it's gone through the legislative process.

Ted Simons: One of the new laws that seems to be attracting attention, the idea of building a border fence or idea of accepting donations through a website to go ahead and build a border fence. 50 somewhat thousand in first 24 hours? How realistic is this effort?

Howard Fischer: Somewhere between slim and none. Let's put it this way: Let's seen assume that Steve Smith who I know was on the show could get people to come and deliver and he's doing this nationwide effort and people will contribute and from Wisconsin and everywhere else. It costs, even by the lowest estimate - half a million a mile to build, and sometimes up to $7 million a mile. That's a lot of money! Let's assume he builds five miles, which means you go out six miles and walk around it. The other problem is - where do you build it? The federal government controls the first 60 feet from the border. I got news, Steve is saying they'll let us build there. The Obama administration, sure, Steve --

Ted Simons: He was saying as far as where to build, there were high-traffic areas they could consequence straight on and maybe the others would be so remote, and B, if Howie, the rancher decides I don't want this thing anywhere near my ranch, and I'm at the border, they'll build north of Howie, the rancher. If the ranch next to you says we want a fence here, you've got a fence.

Howard Fischer: We have 388-miles, you've got the Goldwater bombing range, that ain't going to happen. 75-miles on a reservation, I talked to tribal officials. They do not want that kind of barrier. They're ok with vehicle barriers, which Steve Smith doesn't like. We've taken half the border off limits and now you're down to Cochise county. You're right, some rancher can do here and there. Unless it's consistent and connected, Steve would say you'll funnel people into certain areas.

Mike Sunnucks: They've put some stuff in. I don't think these folks will be happy until they see something that looks like the Berlin wall or west bank. That's what they envision, that's never going to happen. They've been talking about this off and on. The minutemen were going to do it and it's a good political show and energizes their base for our fundraisers.

Ted Simons: And the Sierra club says there's wildlife concerns. I have a question. This is designed off the governor's support for the S.B. 1070 legal defense fund. Is she happy do you think that there's a competing website up there for immigration issues?

Mary K. Reinhart: I think she's in a difficult position but I don't think you'll see her writing a check to Steve Smith for the wall. There's so many ifs. The ranchers, or if we can get the private companies to donate. That's part of the plan. If we don't wipe out a bunch of wildlife. You know, it's -- it's really just a way to as Mike -- to energize the base and get people talking about the issue. All you have to do is build it -- what was the old saying building a 50-foot wall?

Mike Sunnucks: The environmentalists are always against the border wall. The people, whether workers or bringing in drugs, they trash that desert and there's a big environmental impact and they don't care about that as when there's security measures.

Howard Fischer: But there's a way of doing this. There's a way -- they're doing this along the san Pedro river which flows from Mexico north and there's a way of building barriers so that you don't block everything. As Mike points out, Steve wants an 18-foot, you know, steel or concrete wall.

Ted Simons: They're not entirely sure what kind of fence it would look like. They're looking through proposals.

Howard Fischer: Go down to Home Depot.

Ted Simons: Whatever. They're looking --

Mary K. Reinhart: And the larger issue, while we are going to Home Depot and we're talking about all of this stuff, we're not addressing the reason people come. You know, and not recognizing that the numbers are going down. It's really just a way of sort of diverting attention to something easy.

Ted Simons: Ok. We've got an investigation of the independent redistricting commission. Tom Horne says the folks -- too much smoke here. Let's look for fire.
Mike Sunnucks: The most fascinating thing about this, Horne said I'm getting calls and hear rumors and the "capitol times" says there's closed door meetings and we couldn't get public records we're entitled to. He admitted it. I have nothing solid so I'll start a investigation and publicize the investigation. I said, wait, Tom, aren't you putting the commission and any decision under a cloud? And he said they're already under a cloud. They'll thank me if I find nothing. Let's get serious about this. This comes to down to the fact that many Republicans are very unhappy because the fifth person chosen for the commission, two Democrats and two Republicans, fifth person shows and did not disclose that her husband worked on the reelection campaign of a democratic lawmaker and voting with the Democrats on a number of issues. That may be true and there are procedures for removing that person. But now there's allegations of shredded documents and open meeting laws and everything. Is it possible? Certainly, you can't say what occurred behind closed doors if you weren't there.

Mike Sunnucks: The Republicans were upset that they got a mapping firm tied to Obama. They'll make the final decision, the commission will, but there were seven firms that applied. And picked this firm out of D.C. They mined data in 2008 and the guy was a national director for Obama and Republicans look that the and say, wow this isn't going to turn out. And a lot of that stems from that. She's voted -- the independent chairwoman voted with the Democrats on a lot of stuff and they're worried about that.

Ted Simons: How far does this go? Is this the kind of thing we'll continue to hear yelling and shouting? It's the nature of the beast.

Mary K. Reinhart: Eventually lines drawn and everybody will go home. But I think it's the nature of the process.

Howard Fischer: We saw this 10 years ago. We sat around this table 10 years ago after they drew the lines and there were lawsuits and the 2004 election, and there was --

Mike Sunnucks: It's a Republican state. You know, it used to be the legislature would draw these things and they would have gerrymandered it in favor of themselves and now it seems to be slipping through their fingers.

Ted Simons: Are we -- quickly, not much time left. Surprised to see Ann Kirkpatrick raising the kind of money that she's raising to fight against Paul Gosar?

Mike Sunnucks: That district, it's impressive, that strict, I don't think money matters; it's not a big media market. It depends on how the lines are drawn. If it's advantageous to her, there are lots of democrats, she could win it back.

Ted Simons: And it may depend on how the debt ceiling argument and the battle lines in Washington are drawn. The incoming freshmen group of Republicans are making noise and it depends if CD1 voters like the noise.

Mary K. Reinhart: It's lots of tiny towns but that district has been targeted by the democratic congressional campaign committee. They think he's vulnerable. Tinkering with Medicare and the entitlement programs for seniors. Which doesn't play well in CD1. They've row bow called the district.

Mike Sunnucks: If there's a delay to social security or Medicare payments, everything is a wildcard. Who gets blamed? You can see the Republicans go down if they are blamed.

Ted Simons: And we would know earlier in Arizona. Sounds like the governor wants to move the primary --

Mike Sunnucks: She wants it next week, actually.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Howard Fischer: State law says the primary is the -- the presidential preference is the fourth Tuesday in February but the law says the governor can move that up. She figured by the fourth Tuesday, we've got other states if we can get candidates here early, January 31st, we can shine light on Arizona and force them to address our issues, border security and state's rights and finances and things. What's fascinating is there are certain party rules that say New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada get to go first. So we move up to January 31st, they move up earlier and there's a scenario under which the Iowa caucuses could be the first week in December.

Ted Simons: If you're too early and things haven't fallen out that you become irrelevant. Early and you're a factor or later on and you're a factor.

Mike Sunnucks: You look at the super-Tuesday ones, the bigger states and sometimes you're caught in the middle. The danger for Republicans, they come out and get pushed far to the right on immigration. That will be a litmus test. What does it do in the general election when they try to get Hispanics in Florida to vote for them. They could alienate themselves.

Howard Fischer: The fact that Florida is looking at a January 31st selection and they've got obviously a lot more electoral votes. Can they be forced to talk border issues and will Russell Pearce be out there questioning them?

Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

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