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 Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. And Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." Rallies and mailers and TV ads -- must be getting close to election time. We'll start with the Russell Pearce recall election and go to the Phoenix mayoral race. Got a pro-Pearce rally at the stadium in Mesa?

Dennis Welch: Why not, it's the beginning of early balloting and the people will start making choices and decisions in the historic recall so he's going to have people come out to where the Cubs play their spring training, rally the troops for a big weekend of events. Tonight is the rally and tomorrow, a canvass in the neighborhood and a district 18 meeting to rally the troops behind Russell. And this is just a part of all the events going on in this final month before the end of the election cycle.

Howard Fischer: Part of the reason you have a rally, the TV cameras will there and pan the crowds and, the guy must have support. It tends to build, it's a P.R. stunt but a good one.

Ted Simons: Who will be out there? Is Salmon going to be there? I heard Arpaio is going to be there?

Mike Sunnucks: That's the key, Joe Arpaio is going to be there. That will bring the TV folks and they hope that rallies the hardcore Republican troops. This still know Arpaio has a lot of cash. And Salmon also helps at these rallies.

Dennis Welch: A former Colorado congressman is supposed to be there. It's a who's who of Arizona Republicans out there.

Mike Sunnucks: The machine popped up the last couple weeks, going after Lewis and being critical of him and trying to build momentum and it's what you do in campaigns and Russell has chips to call and he's got some pretty influential allies.

Dennis Welch: This election is about getting the people out to the polls. This is a small legislative district race and goes on every couple years but doesn't normally get this media attention. It's about getting the people out to the polls.

Howard Fischer: And because it's the only thing on the ballot. It's not like there's a school district bond or a gubernatorial race. This is it! You've got to get people to care.

Ted Simons: Is there any indication that the Cortes affair is keeping high-profile politician, are they backing away at all or is it already old news?

Howard Fischer: It's already old news, I don't think the folks who are going to come out, would have been dissuaded one way or the other.

Ted Simons: The high-profile --

Howard Fischer: These are people who never believed Russell was involved. I mean, they heard about his nieces being out there, and the folks from the east valley tea party but didn't care, they never believed Russell was involved. He kept saying I never met the woman. Don't know her. Plausible, and the fact is there's still ballots going out. The absentees are in envelopes and theoretically, not been counted but I'm sticking to my prediction if you add the Lewis votes and Pearce and subtract the total number ballots cast, there's 7% of the people who are going to vote for Olivia and it accomplished its goal.

Mike Sunnucks: What you're seeing, they've sent out lawmakers, LDS, salmon, and does that send a message that the church can even though it hasn't taken a stance, is still -- people within the church are still with Russell and the influence that Arpaio has in a race. He had influence with bill Montgomery. And we'll see how much they leverage him going down the home stretch.

Ted Simons: One thing about the Cortes question, is that something that maybe high-profile names might have been out there or --

Dennis Welch: I don't think it's had an effect on the type of candidates who were going to support him. I think he had a lot of those lined up before all of the Cortes stuff and I haven't seen anyone who dropped out.

Mike Sunnucks: This isn't a moderate crowd. Hardcore folks.

Dennis Welch: My theory, the Cortes two all right. It might hurt Pearce, the independents and the Republican women who Pearce, if you look at his mailers, been targeting them and talking about education and talking about everything else, really, but immigration. Because doesn't need to talk about immigration, the independents and moderates, education is their focus.

Ted Simons: The Pearce TV ads does talk about immigration. Does it not? He's starting to play that card.

Howard Fischer: He has to mention that, you think of Russell Pearce and that's who you think of. He's the immigration guy. And certainly, he needs to talk about protecting our border and respecting the rule of law. What part of illegal don't you understand? And certainly that has to be a piece of it. But he's got to go beyond that, otherwise, the folks who would stay home, they say, I don't care about the immigration issue. He needs to bring them out, he needs to say, we could have -- we really did protect education as much as we had to cut, it could have been worse.

Mike Sunnucks: This race could be won with high efficacy voters. You can run commercials and this will get on TV but people on the fence aren't going to vote in this election. They don't know it's going on if you're not active and going to district meetings and involved in the Republican party and politics here. I think everything in the trenches is going to decide this and these public events are peripheral.
Dennis Welch: The ad you are referring to when he mentioned immigration, he mentioned it in a way that's important for him to talk about this, he says that the people out to get him or the ones who support the open borders. All of these immigration measures, it's not just a Republican issue. A lot of things pass with big numbers. Democrats have supported some of these things in the past. Independents want something done with immigration so I think it's -- that also speaks to that point.

Ted Simons: Are we going to see a ramp up in nastiness?

Howard Fischer Depending how the polling goes.

Ted Simons: How is the polling going?

Howard Fischer: Look, let me put it this way, I'm sure Lewis and Russ will have people making calls. You call 600 people a day and keep it rolling in and out. If they see a vulnerability you bet it's going to turn nasty. I think we'll have someone -- we'll have someone parentage questioned. It won't be the candidates. They're above that, others on their behalf.

Dennis Welch: We've already seen a little nastiness come from the Russell Pearce side. The mailer, I think hit yesterday that said Jerry Lewis is embarrassed of Arizona and Mesa and all of this other stuff. So you've seen a little bit of that which I would only expect to get worse from his side. What I found interesting, the difference in style between the two candidates, Russell saying -- almost an attack style ad and contrast with it Jerry Lewis, a nicer tone.

Howard Fischer: Wait a minute.

Howard Fischer: He doesn't -- look, there's an ad out there where he talking about the free gifts and travel and limousine and that stuff.

Ted Simons: In terms of tone, can Lewis afford to be that kind and gentle? At what point does he have to come out and --

Mike Sunnucks: You've got to give voters a reason to dump Pearce and being nasty and showing these --

Howard Fischer: I think the voters with Pearce are going to be with Pearce anyway. He's got to get the people who weren't going to vote.

Mike Sunnucks: Those people aren't going to turn out.

Ted Simons: You've got to get them out.

Howard Fischer That's what he needs. The people for Russell Pearce, none of them are going to change. Nothing will change in terms of his backing. Lewis needs to find ----

Mike Sunnucks: The silent majority. I don't think those people are going to turn out. It's a tough row to hoe.

Dennis Welch: If Lewis turns nasty, it goes against one of the core themes of his candidacy. We need someone to bring a different attitude to the legislature.

Mike Sunnucks: You're telling people we need to kick this guy out. You've got to give them a reason.

Howard Fischer: That's why you have people acting on your behalf.

Mike Sunnucks: Voters are smart enough to know those are from the campaigns.

Howard Fischer: You keep thinking voters are smarter than they are.

Ted Simons: Howie is the 7% solution over here. The Phoenix mayoral race, that's been a little scratch and clawing the whole way through.

Dennis Welch: Can you blame them? You know? They've squared off at different forums, I think it's up to over 40 at this point.

Ted Simons: Rumor has it they were even here.

Dennis Welch: They were here. And getting into it here, I think, you know. It's getting down, it's the final month of this campaign and it's still -- going back and forth. You know, still trying to argue who is the bigger lobbyist, him or the other. So we're seeing a lot of that kind of stuff.

Mike Sunnucks: There's no issue, no issue, no personalities popped up in this. The food tax popped up a little bit. Wes' lobbying ties. But there's no hot button thing through the whom race which gives the advantage to Greg.

Howard Fischer: That's the thing, as much as Wes wants to talk about the unions and the red meat Republican crowd, that's always a good thing. But again this are people who will vote for Wes in the first place.

Mike Sunnucks: This is Phoenix, not a red meat Republican city.

Howard Fischer: It's how everyone hates the unions.

Ted Simons: Were you have surprised that Wes Gullett got the endorsement of the "Republic"?

Howard Fischer: YA! Have you watched the "Republic"? They occasionally endorse a democrat just to confuse people.

Dennis Welch: This is the second time they've endorsed him. They've endorsed him in this runoff, what's interesting is the tone in which the editorial was written, it wasn't like a glowing endorsement of Mr. Gullett, he's not perfect, but can probably shake up city hall, and then went on to say a bunch of nice things about Greg Stanton.

Ted Simons: It's like it's this is the time for a Wes Gullett. Were you surprised by the endorsement?

Mike Sunnucks: No, both of them are middle of the road candidates, he's a moderate Republican overall. Not shocked. There's a theme, we don't need new leadership -- I don't know if Wes has taken advantage of that during this runoff but there's a theme among some folks.

Howard Fischer: But here's the other thing, this goes to Dennis' point, how the editorial, yeah, we like Greg too. With few exception, obviously, the endorsement of Lewis over Pearce, the "Republic" wants to hedge its bets. It knows it could get it wrong and doesn't want to tick off the folks so that for the next couple years, nobody in the mayor's office is talking to them.

Ted Simons: Compare Gullett with Giffords' camp saying nice thing, if not out right endorsing Stanton.

Howard Fischer: We're down to the fact that it's a surprise. The Republicans endorsed Gullet, the democrats endorsed..

Ted Simons: I'm not asking if it's a surprise, I'm asking if it's a impact.

Howard Fischer: Hard to say, gabby is a Tucsonian which makes her hated anywhere north but she's Gabby. What it may do is get votes out. Are there folks in the valley, Democrats who might say, oh, I don't care one way are on the other. Who might say, well, maybe this will get me to the polls.

Dennis Welch: I just don't see the effect of her jumping in on a city race that's going to sway anyone's minds that aren't already made up. To me, what I found interesting of her getting involved, it shows how important this race is to democrats. There's been a lot written how Democrats don't have a lot of talent out there and got swept last year in all statewide offices and had a couple of down election cycles and Democrats, even though it's a nonpartisan race as something to build something off of. If can get a democrat in the mayor's office. That can help build and win some other offices.

Mike Sunnucks: People read stories about Gabby Giffords since the shooting. She's a compelling character and her husband is. I think more people read that than the editorial in the "Republic."

Ted Simons: The draft map released. There was much hewing and crying over the legislative map.

Howard Fischer: Yes, but from the other side. The Democrats are unhappy, not because they thought they'd take a majority of the seats but they believe there should be more competitive districts. Because we still suffer the same 30 districts and the growth largely in Republican areas. 16 of the 30 districts will have comfortable Republican majorities, perhaps nine have comfortable democratic majorities and the chairman of the party says, these supposedly swing districts, they're not really swing, they're really Republican districts and he believes they could be competitive if they had another chance.

Ted Simons: We've gone through this process and the best you can do is six out of 30?

Howard Fischer: On the one hand, they're saying protect the areas of interest and don't gerrymander. Democrats are in -- are an endangered species. You'll never draw competitive districts in certain areas and you have the voters' right act which requires at least 10 majority-minority districts which sucked a lot of Democrats into that to help them. What did that leave left?

Ted Simons: Don't you look at voting patterns, there are areas where -- patterns, but there are areas where they wound up going for a democrat in recent elections. Is that possibility out there?

Mike Sunnucks: There were so many factors. Republicans seem to love communities of interest for some reason -- and Democrats like want more competitive. Republicans ought to point out it's the Republican areas of the state that are growing and think it's a validation of what they've done and people want to live in Republican areas because they like their message better. Democrats don't have the a lot of candidates and maybe they should have a better message and better slate if they want to win the races.

Howard Fischer: The fact that you have some incumbents in the same district and there were people saying well, they purposely did that. No, the constitution said you can't look. You draw the maps -- and so you've got a situation coming back to this. If Russell Pearce wins, he's in the same district as the other incumbents from the Mesa area who is Rich Crandall -- and southern Arizona, two Republicans in the same district and there's a concern there. The plain fact is as you pointed out, it was a lousy year for Democrats. There aren't enough --

Ted Simons: That's my question, if it's a lousy year for Republicans or Democrats, are these districts so locked solid that in a lousy year, the other party still has no chance?

Howard Fischer: It's not no chance. There are some districts -- when the speaker of the house and there was the fuels fiasco and -- the fact is that a lot of people, particularly if they don't know anything about the race, they vote their party and the independents, a lot of them vote the party they left. There's some changing demographic there. I talked to someone from behavioral research and he said a lot of new independents vote issues. They can make a difference. To the extent you have an issue out there. And in some districts, independents are 40% of the registered voters.

Mike Sunnucks: The fact, they're putting incumbents in districts together. In the past, you see legislatures when the politicians do it, they protect the incumbents and at least they're willing to do that and shows at some levels they're neutral --

Ted Simons: And we need to mention that the public hearings still have to happen. This is not necessarily locked in stone.

Mike Sunnucks: No.
Ted Simons: But a good idea. Got to keep moving. Mike, you were out among the protestors today. Was it a trial run?
Mike Sunnucks: About 300 folks out. They hit chase and they were outside of the "republic" building. Corporate greed, bailouts and the 99% of us have been left behind, all of the contradictions of capitalism.

Ted Simons: Who are these people? What do they want, what do they not want? We had a spokesman for the group on last night and it was difficult to get a concrete response. I don't know if there is an answer.

Dennis Welch: There's a movement that's still searching for what their purpose, goal is. They're out there, they're angry, there's a lot of people scared, who have lost their jobs and you've got a lot of young people in this movement. A lot of young people who have graduated from college and their job prospects are terrible. Can't find real work out there. There's a lot of that frustration out there and maybe they don't know what they want yet, they just know whatever is happening now isn't good for them and they're mad.

Mike Sunnucks: Mostly folks from the left. On the left.

Dennis Welch: They've got a lot of common with people on the right.

Mike Sunnucks: Just like the Tea party doesn't like the government. These folks don't like corporations and CEOs and feel the system has been rigged.

Ted Simons: That's what my impression was from the spokesman last night. They're against corporate greed and tea party are against government greed and malfeasance. Howie, does this change the mind of anyone not demonstrating? How much does occupy Phoenix, occupy San Diego -- they're pepper spraying people in San Diego today. How much does it matter?

Howard Fischer: Very little. Demonstrations are good for one day to get attention. But when you're sitting in the park off Wall Street for almost a month, at that point, you just become part of the scenery.

Dennis Welch: Are you saying that demonstrations don't matter?

Howard Fischer: They don't! Unless you have a clear goal and prepared to make it happen. The difference in the '60s, you had a clear goal and went out to try to elect the people who support what you want.

Dennis Welch: This is starting out just like the tea party did. It started out like this and it's been growing and evolving, I think it does change.

Mike Sunnucks: They have the potential to move the democratic party to a more populist left position. They're for unions and for government programs, these folks are against the corporate greed and the influence of businesses and all of these bailouts. And they want to move the democratic party and the left into something that works for regular folks instead of big democratic institutions.

Howard Fischer: And if they register to vote, then we can talk about this. That's the problem.

Mike Sunnucks: The tea party -- I think one thing their message resonates. People don't like the $5 debit fee and the foreclosures and job market. That resonates. The left in the past had a hodgepodge of crazy issues, this is more salient.

Ted Simons: Again, my questions to the spokesperson were trying to find a focus and he was saying we've only been around for three weeks, give us time.

Dennis Welch: An interesting story, shows that even -- they don't know how -- the politicians don't know how to react. It's called occupy Phoenix, you would think the guys running for mayor of Phoenix would be interested. And none of them really had an opinion. Because they don't know what they're talking about. And don't know how to deal with this.

Ted Simons: Ok. Howie, this is a big deal for you. Getting the Super Bowl in 2015. How excited are you?

Howard Fischer: Whoop DI-DO. Driving up the 101 is going to be a nightmare.

Ted Simons: How big is it though for people other than Howie Fischer?

Howard Fischer: It's a big deal for the tourism and the people who come to town and the hotels they fill. I think there's a certain amount of civic pride and the station that broadcasts it is going to talk about the valley. Won't be talking about 1070 for a change. For the rest of us, we can't afford the tickets so we'll sit down and watch it.

Mike Sunnucks: Good for downtown Phoenix. The stuff in Glendale, a lot of stuff in Scottsdale, they'll move down here and it's a big win for the cardinals, they brought the team here. A lot of bad P.R. over the years. They've changed that image over the years.

Ted Simons: $500 million to $600 million in direct and indirect spending the last time it was here, but most economists say it's temporary and mostly tourism and restaurants and short-term economic acceleration.

Dennis Welch: You're not going to turn down half a billion dollar stimulus.

Ted Simons: Should we are more excited?

Dennis Welch: Of course we should be excited. It's a Super Bowl, it's one of the biggest events in the world. It's going to showcase the valley and it's a big deal. Now, Howie, who is obviously not a football fan --

Ted Simons: You don't have to be a football fan with the spending going on.

Mike Sunnucks: We have a lot of service workers here, this is good for them. We've got a lot of folks that work at hotels and that's their skill set.

Ted Simons: Glendale is peeved. They had to spend money on security than direct spending. Are they still peeved?

Mike Sunnucks: No, they waived all of the taxes on the NFL to get the game. They'll work it out so they'll break even.

Ted Simons: Want a prediction. I know you're a sports fan.

Howard Fischer: Don't know and don't care.

Ted Simons: We'll leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

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