Journalists’ Roundtable

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Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news 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 Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio. The Russell Pearce recall election again leads the Journalists' Roundtable and we've got something that happened not too long ago, boy, the fussing and fighting never ends.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And right before 5:00, a lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court asking to toss Olivia Cortez from the ballot. Claiming she's a sham.

Ted Simons: After the secretary of state to do the same thing.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right, and earlier, the secretary of state's office in response to the request to toss, no, we can't, it's not within our jurisdiction and now we have a lawsuit and we'll see how that proceeds. We don't have a judge or a hearing date yet.

Howard Fischer: And this becomes the problem. How do you determine what's a bad reason for running for office? First, how do you prove she's only there to siphon votes, unless she's willing to admit. She won't talk to us on anything. You can run for office for any reason. I like the title. I want the parking space near the capitol. What is the sham candidate? I don't see any way they can throw her off the ballot. I talked to attorney Tom Ryan and the said I think I can stop the ballots from being printed but if they're printed already, even -- people will vote for her even if the votes don't get counted and siphon on the votes.

Steve Goldstein: So far this is the only scintilla of evidence that she's not a true candidate. A tape recording of the petition gathers saying she's in this to siphon votes, but we need something more.

Howard Fischer: It doesn't matter what the petition circulators say, it's what she says. Channel 12 turned up evidence today that people who circulated petitions are Russell Pearce's nieces and one has Russell Pearce signs on the lawn. That suggests a lot of issues but again until you can get the candidate herself to admit she's in it for bad reasons, I don't think you've got a case.

Ted Simons: Didn't the secretary of state say that -- the official elections say that she can run whatever race she chooses? Which means if you want to run and have Russell Pearce's relatives helping you out, I guess -- at what point does fraud rear its head?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I don't know. Maybe this will test it. If you remember last summer we had sham faux green candidates running around. Most stayed on the ballot and as I remember, the few that got tossed because they had been incriminating themselves, their own words, but as Howie said, Cortez hasn't said anything and lo and behold this afternoon, she debuted a website, in which she explains her reasons for running for office and gives biographical information and you can point to that that she's a candidate.

Howard Fischer: And when the financial forms come out, even if you can prove that Russell Pearce gave her money, that doesn't prove anything because you need hard evidence and the case that Mary Jo was referring to where the candidate says I was put up for this because I was told it would help someone else.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is going to go on and on probably until November 8th when the election is held, but there's all kinds of reasons that you can argue she's a legitimate candidate.

Ted Simons: Well, and I believe there's Latino residents of that district, basically went, I think, to her house. It seems everyone and her brother has walked up those steps to try and get her to speak.

Steve Goldstein: Haven't got a glimpse of her yet other than the facebook and website that I know. The burden of proof, a candidate can run however a candidate wants to and I think a lot of us speculated there would be more sham candidates to fill it out and it hasn't happened.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, Mary Jo, and without going too far with opinions, but again, mentioned Latino activists, residents trying to find out who are you, are you using this as a sham thing and get no response and they get no response and at what point does the Latino community say I'm not buying this but is energized to go against it.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That's the big question. That's why people who oppose -- who are supportive of the Pearce recall keep pushing. As long as you keep it in the headlines and keep talking about it and making strong suggestions that Olivia Cortez is a sham, people might say, I get it and not vote for her.

Howard Fischer: I think you're giving voters a lot more credit for their intelligence.

Ted Simons: Nothing personal but you're sounding like the Russell Pearce campaign. But I'm saying if you give enough attention to the fact that this is a quote/unquote candidate, it will mollify the effect, will it not?

Howard Fischer: It will, but there will be people who will go, look, we've had people voting for candidates who were dead long before the election. It doesn't matter. There will be people who don't watch this show, the brilliant people obviously watch this show and will know everything, but the people who aren't paying attention to the newspaper and go in there and see a name of a Hispanic woman --

Ted Simons: Do you agree? With all of the attention this is getting this may not -- I'm saying this is a possibility, the backfire.

Steve Goldstein: There's always the possibility of a backfire. I'm looking for the Mesa chamber of commerce the week after next, hosting a debate when we see Pearce and Lewis and Cortez all taking part. If she doesn't show up at that point, to me, that says something.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This shows you how closely contested this race is perceived. Maybe it takes 10 votes for Olivia Cortez to tip the balance. There can be the backfire effect. Just enough votes to help out senator Pearce. I'll make a prediction she gets at least 7% of the vote. If her name remains on the ballot.

Ted Simons: Regardless of the Latino community going door-to-door, saying she'll still get 7%?

Howard Fischer: You heard it here.

Ted Simons: How do you arrive at 7%?

Howard Fischer: I was going with 10% but thought, better back up.

Steve Goldstein: Maybe -- is there something you're looking for?

Howard Fischer: I just think close to 7%, but I think there will be people who will do this. There was a guy who ran against Babbitt in the primary in 1982 who was dead, everybody knew he was dead and he got 17%.

Ted Simons: I'm just saying in this kind of close race with a small turnout and localized electorate, I'm not sure. We'll find out. 7%?

Howard Fischer: 7%.

Ted Simons: Let's move on, Andrew Thomas, the hearing continues.

Steve Goldstein: And only lasted three days. Imagine that. The most interesting thing to remain in effect, on Monday, there was a active between O'Neil and the attorney -- what could impact things is the testimony of Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox. Stapley poured it out. His wife was crying that his life was ruined by Andrew Thomas. We're not looking at a Don Stapley lawsuit which is what we're maybe setting the stage for.

Howard Fischer: That's the key. This is being tried in front of a judge, essentially, and they say it's nice. But the question becomes did you violate your oath, particularly as a -- serving the public to only follow the facts. That's all that matters. Whether Don Stapley's feelings were hurt, nobody cares.

Ted Simons: Actually, someone does care. We had a legal expert on the show and she said if you can show injury and that his actions caused harm to people, it will affect a three-panel jury there.

Howard Fischer: You need more than emotional harm. You're right, of course, there's financial harm, if there's physical harm, yeah.

Ted Simons: But --

Mary Jo Pitzl: He testified to financial harm.

Ted Simons: And she was saying if you can show direct result, harm there, that can be a factor -- I thought it was interesting you were saying about setting up for other lawsuits and the blowup with the judge -- that could be setting up a direct appeal to the state supreme court.

Steve Goldstein: The attorney that is representing him, he'll -- he's saying he's pro bono, but he may not be if there's lawsuits won along the way. I want to throw in, a colleague of Mary Jo's wrote in a column, maybe Mary Rose Wilcox would not run for supervisor again. The only way I could imagine that happening if redistricting opens up a congressional seat for her.

Ted Simons: A former chief deputy of Andrew Thomas telling him don't do the RICO suit. There's a -- it's a -- the RICO suit and he did it anyway.

Howard Fischer: He was a straight shooter. A liquor chief and pretty much down the line and I think he was being honest. He was under oath and he said, look, truth be told, I didn't think this was one of the more brilliant ideas.

Ted Simons: Bundgaard, now people temporarily recusing themselves? What's going on.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Early last week, Bundgaard's attorney, they're trying to get a couple of the members of the ethics committee dismissed. Bundgaard should have stepped down a long time ago. And Taylor filed a complaint against senator Bundgaard which was dropped and they've gone down that path. And earlier this week, filed a request can you remove these people. Didn't file it properly and they came back and filed it as a proper complaint to the ethics committee and the three ethics members in question recused themselves, they can't vote on a matter involving them. And so Pearce has replaced senator Gould, Taylor and -- with three other senators for the purpose of deciding if the other three are biased and he put Andrew Biggs in charge of the committee and Gould is recused.

Howard Fischer: What's interesting is we were sitting in the press room and -- we're pretty sure we know how the Democrats are going to vote, that's prejudging it, but Linda gray is not the kind of person, who goes, Scott is one of ours and we'll accept it. She's independent thinking on a lot of things and probably has feelings on as a woman on issues of domestic violence.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But she's not there to decide that.

Howard Fischer: Understood.

Mary Jo Pitzl: She and senator Mesa and Jeff Jackson junior are going to be asked is there evidence that the other three are biased.

Howard Fischer: Understood, but if you're a good party hack, I'll use the word, you'll do whatever it takes to get Scotty what he wants. I don't see Linda playing that game to get rid of Gould. Gould said, hey, when I was growing up and somebody beat up your sister, we had a way of handling it.

Ted Simons: You called him Scotty.

Howard Fischer: Oh, yeah, we double-dated.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That issue should be decided early next week. When BIGGs comes back to town. He may not convene the panel. At the senate, there's a great deal of discomfort about this thing proceeding and basically going to trial and the attention that will bring. So there's a lot of people that would like to see this go away.

Steve Goldstein: When attorney Austin woods, the attorney for Scott Bundgaard sent a letter to senator Pearce, did senator Pearce, was his response such that here's what you need do here in his response?

Howard Fischer: Russell has his own problems, as we just talked about. He wants to make sure he's doing this by the book. You can't ask him to say these people are biased. You have to file a complaint. Did he give a roadmap? Sort of. It wasn't just Russell. It was the rules attorney who gave him the road map and said, here's the procedure.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What was interesting in the response to the first letter, he said, by the way, I'm a little uncomfortable about the idea of taking this misdemeanor charge to a ethics hearing but be that as it may, he was going to let the members stay on.

Ted Simons: Let's move on and, Howie, ninth circuit, the California, Redondo Beach, a law over there based on a law over here, could impact a law still being looked at.

Howard Fischer: This is a wonderful case. Many years ago, the city of Phoenix adopted a law aimed at people panhandling -- even before the people hanging around the Home Depot. It went to the ninth circuit and it upheld the law and Redondo Beach upheld the same law. And this past week, the full nine circuit said you're into constitutional rights here. If you're concerned about people in traffic, there are laws about that. Struck that down, the Redondo beach law. Here's the problem. When judge Bolton was ruling on S.B. 1070 last year and asked by the federal government and other plaintiffs to knock down one provision dealing with loitering, she said the ninth circuit earlier upheld the earlier version, the Redondo beach and now the ACLU is back in court saying, now that we have this new case law, we're going to seek a new injunction.

Ted Simons: Judge Bolton could say, I looked at the ninth circuit last time, maybe -- supporters of S.B. 1070 say the law is written much more narrowly than what was in Redondo beach. Getting in traffic and soliciting work.

Steve Goldstein: That's what representative Kavanagh wants us to believe. The -- it's a narrowly written law.

Howard Fischer: Again, the issue becomes as the ninth circuit said, you need a special law aimed at day laborers when you have existing laws. It's illegal to stop in traffic in the middle of the block for no reason so can you use existing laws?

Ted Simons: You I think also the question was first amendment rights and protections and when talking about soliciting work on a street corner, I'm telling you I want to mow your lawn and by the way, isn't so and so a such and such -- when you're stopping and jumping into a vehicle to go mow a lawn, that's commerce, business, so --

Howard Fischer: Well, in fact, the ninth circuit said this means if you've got a bunch of girls on the sidewalk with a sign saying we'll wash your car, you've violated the Phoenix ordinance. Kids selling lemonade and if you've stopped in traffic, hey, neighbor, can your kid come over and mow the lawn, you've broken the law.

Ted Simons: And girl scouts selling cookies on the side of the road, getting a misdemeanor --

Steve Goldstein: I don't know if your viewers watch "curb your enthusiasm" but that happened. [Laughter]

Ted Simons: Who is Don Bivens?

Mary Jo Pitzl: He's the former chairman of the state democratic party and wants to run because it's an open seat. There are no Democrats for the seat that Jon Kyl is going to vacate.

Howard Fischer: The former surgeon general let it be known -- leaked heavily this week, people from Giffords' office said he should consider a senate run. That not only opens that up, but is a signal whatever gabby is going to do as far as her house seat, she's definitely not running for the senate. Her staffers are very, very loyal. They wouldn't urge someone to run against her if she had any intention of running. So this could get real interesting.

Steve Goldstein: His career has been mixed. He was the state democratic party chair and then lost and his replacement -- doesn't have a lot of charisma, I think he says chair of the party, we need someone, at least I'll hold the seat warm.

Howard Fischer: One time, people thought maybe Dennis Burke would be the Knight in the shining armor. Well, we thought that self-imploded.

Ted Simons: And pastor, a possibility here?

Steve Goldstein: He's very media shy. He has a safe seat, redistricting can't affect that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He's been talked up, the senate thing, I'm not sure who he's trying to keep at bay, probably trying to keep his name out there.

Howard Fischer: He has a safe seat. There will need to be at least two congressional districts.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about that, Mary Jo, the restricting committee, the update. Sounds like partisan fighting, whether the right criteria -- what's going on here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They're getting down to the real -- to the final maps, or at least the first draft. They've got to put something out there and they'll have something probably within the next 10 days, although we keep saying that. There's been a very robust discussion, how do you define what competitive is? But it's one of six criteria and depending on which commissioner you talk to and who -- whose interpretation of the lawsuit or court ruling you listen to, you know, competition is the last thing you should consider or it should be considered somewhat on the same par as that. Most of the discussions on the congressional front, there's a lot of support for -- especially Republican circles for two entirely rural congressional districts. One along the east side of the state, one along the west side. And neither touching Pima or Maricopa County.

Howard Fischer: And what's interesting, the other fight that's playing out, which has to do with majority-minority district, we know there needs to be some, unless Tom Horne gets the voting rights act overturned in the next week, which ain't going to happen. People like Representative Richard Miranda, say that in order to be considered a majority-minority issue, we need 67% or more Hispanics. Wait, why is that? We don't have the turnout. Isn't that your problem, he insists that's the test. And if you try to pack more Hispanics into certain districts, this means harming the democratic interests.

Ted Simons: Sounds like Yuma and western Tucson, the general consensus to keep those as Latino as possible, is that the --

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, that would be one and the other majority-minority district would be in the Phoenix metro area.

Ted Simons: And the current map is like seven of eight districts are in or around Phoenix or Tucson, right?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Seven of the eight.

Ted Simons: Right now.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Currently, yeah.

Ted Simons: And -- the rural folks are -- basically saying top to bottom on the east, top to bottom on the west. Almost like bookends for the state.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Uh-huh.

Howard Fischer: That's the only way you can do it. We've seen the census figures. The growth is in Maricopa, Pinal, up in Yavapai and Mohave. Tucson isn't growing as fast. If you add a district and divide it by nine, there's not the population out there to support it.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we go, we teased this so we have to talk about it, the idea we could be seeing gas under $3 a gallon. Blending things usually knocks the price down. Who is making this bold -- not you.

Howard Fischer: 7% of people -- no! [Laughter] Dennis Hoffman is a bright economist here at Arizona State University and I was talk to him about gross domestic product and -- and he said while I have you, I've been studying the wholesale price of gas and before the end of the year, we'll have gasoline below $3 a gallon. The numbers aren't working that way and he has a reputation of being a optimist, but it's an interesting prediction. You would really have to presume that the supply is going to outstrip the demand.

Ted Simons: It's already dropped by 40 cents --

Steve Goldstein: I paid $3.39 a gallon and when I look at the stock exchange going down and wages not going up and -- going down, terrific. I drive a car every day.

Ted Simons: Before that particular bold prediction, basically, the economy in Arizona, slow but steady?

Howard Fischer: The total personal income is up about 5% over the last couple years. Of course, as the economist from the U of A pointed out, yeah, five years ago, three years ago, we were basically in the tank and they revised the other numbers down so we look a lot better. Slow, steady recovery, but as they point out, when Wall Street drops 5.5% in two days, you never know.

Ted Simons: And if you can get more people spending you have more revenue coming in and we have another battle as far as state revenues are concerned.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, and we'll hear that next week when the committee meets at the state legislature on debt.

Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye out for that. Thank you so much for the predictions, Howie.

Howard Fischer: I'm sure I'll hear about it if I'm wrong.

Ted Simons: Yes, you will.

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