Journalists’ Roundtable

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Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of capitol media services, and Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix business journal. Well, Mitt Romney wins Arizona's presidential preference election. And Mary jo, it's not really a surprise but close, not close, either.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Not close by, by any stretch of the imagination. It was Romney's biggest margin of victory. Any of the caucuses, primaries he's been through thus far.

Ted Simons: Was it ever -- the polls suggest that maybe a, a bit of a, a narrowing of the gap, but was it ever really all that close?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No. The outcome shows that, and there was sentiment that showed more support for Rick Santorum, but Romney had, had outpaced him and anybody in terms of organization and money. And, you know, you saw very, very, Rick Santorum came into the state's airwaves very late with very little.

Mike Sunnucks: Mary is right, no, no resources, money, or TV for Rick Santorum. He put it all in Michigan. He got a boost after he won those three states, Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota, a boost in the polls. But, Romney pretty much carried everybody, women, catholics, big Mormon vote.

Howard Fischer: But Rick Santorum self destructed towards the end. A lousy performance in the debate. If you are trying to appeal to the Arizona crowd, could you say something about immigration, perhaps? Some of the national stuff going on about the role of women. Satan taking over the United States. I mean, on and on and on, and it was just not a good week for him, and I think folks will, were looking for an alternative to Romney. How many Republicans have you talked to say, ok, I will take that.

Mike Sunnucks: I think that's true nationally but not here in Arizona. The Mormon vote was 91% for Romney, so he had that. He was very hawkish on immigration, more than Newt Gingrich, and even Rick Santorum, who hasn't talked it up like Howie said, so he had that group, and he carried catholics. So, where there's a lot of Republicans nationally, looking for somebody else besides Romney, it didn't appear here.

Howard Fischer: But, you make a lot out of this, this Mormon vote. They are, what, 6%, 7%? So 91% of 6%.

Mike Sunnucks: So, a Huge part of the Republican primary.

Howard Fischer: But, it's still not the issue. I think, it still comes down to the fact that Romney is everyone's second choice. He's the safe choice. He hasn't stumbled. He also doesn't do interviews, too, for exactly that reason, but I still sense that even in Arizona, a sense of, of, is this the best we can come up with? The problem is, everyone else has stumbled. Newt Gingrich did. And you know, even, you know, our good Libertarian friends couldn't, you know, Ron Paul couldn't pull anything out because he did not spend time here.

Ted Simons: And the idea, though, that Jeff Flakes camp really helped Romney and had some support behind Romney, that bodes well for the Flake campaign as it goes forward, does it not?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Certainly, that's a feather in the cap for the flake for U.S. Senate campaign, that he's already gotten. It's sort of a trial run for a statewide race, and I will point out, how Romney is everybody's second choice. He won Arizona big. But, the celebration parties were not real big. You know, I have heard other people say I have had more people at my Christmas party than showed up at the celebration in downtown Phoenix. In that might be because everybody knew what the outcome would be, so no big surprise, no big moment.

Mike Sunnucks: He's the second choice Compared to no one, everyone else has really not been legitimate. Newt Gingrich, Cain, and Rick Santorum, so while people are not jazzed about Romney, he's the default first choice.

Howard Fischer: Except for if we go into the ceremony of a brokered convention, and you know, you and I talked at the year end show about, you know, you remember President Chris Christie in all of that? I don't know that Chris Christie is logical nominee but there are so many folks saying if we are going to take on Barack Obama, we need somebody who's got the passion, the fire, and this guy ain't it.

Ted Simons: Impact of, of a Romney-topped GOP, candidacy for President. Impact of that on Arizona races. Would turn out with the candidates running. How much of a difference does that make?

Mike Sunnucks: I think it helps the Republicans here. He did pretty strong here. The Mormon vote is a big block. They turn out to vote. And I think that will energize that part of the Republican base. I think Obama has got bigger fish to fry in the west, Nevada, Colorado, new mexico, where he won, and he certainly can carry new mexico, and Colorado again.

Ted Simons: Speaking of Arizona races, it seems like we're getting a lot of new candidates running for some of these congressional spots. Don Stapley deciding to leave the board of supervisors, going into cd9, which is an interesting district. I don't think he lives there right now but plans to move there. He's going in there. Sounds like Martin, Chandler councilor will go in there, and you could have a Vernon Parker and Hugh hallman, and in Tucson, you have got Steve Farley deciding to go for a seat. Tell us about Steve Farley. Who is he and his position at the legislature. What's he known for?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Steve Farley is a third term lawmaker, democrat from Tucson. He's known for pushing texting bills. Texting ban bills. Every year in the legislature to no avail, and he's a big transportation advocate. And although, when he talks about his congressional goals, he's not really talking so much about transportation as he is talking about health care. And education. He's the number two guy in the, among the house democrats. They are in the minority, and leads a lot of the discussions that they have, policy-wise, and never one to shy up and stand up to speak on the floor and give his opinions about bills.

Howard Fischer: That's what's interesting. You have other lawmakers who have shown interest in it, obviously, in terms of Paul, who likes to talk, and occasionally Matt hines, and as each looks for that bit of not just TV time, but for example, for the Arizona daily star and the Sierra vista paper, the people they need to appeal to, muscling their way into the newspaper, and who is going to be a little more outrageous? Who is going to give us that sound byte that we need.

Ted Simons: The idea that Daniel Hernandez, who is with Gabrielle Giffords and helped to save her life and is part of the Giffords camp, is the campaign manager for Steve Farley. That's -- or, is he not the campaign manager?

Mary Jo Pitzl" He's his congressional campaign manager but also his legislative campaign manager. This is not a new relationship.

Ted Simons: Not a new relationship but one for his campaign. How does that influence everything?

Mike Sunnucks: It helps him. Whoever gabby endorses, in that primary will win. The dynamic there is you have two men versus a woman just like up here in the democratic primary. And, and, and Schapira and Sinema, so she might be able to, able to appeal there on that front be but have anyone with the Giffords camp is a good thing.

Howard Fischer: One of the unknowns is Ron barber. Barber originally was, I'm going to fill out gabby's term, but he never got to the point where he said, I'm definitely not running for the new cd2. And if Ron barber goes to Washington and says, this ain't a bad gig here, and gets some headlines for himself, and, perhaps, a couple of bills passed, who knows.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I was just going to add that, that in the new cd2 race, Nan Waldon is also running on the democratic ticket, so it's not about, about the female vote, alter herself, if you would. It's a very crowded field. And you were talking about the new, the new congressional district 9, and that has everybody pouring in, and as you point out, Stapley doesn't live there but will soon. Kyrsten Sinema doesn't but has moved into the district. But this shows, you know, the redistricting commission set out and said, we want to make a competitive, congressional district in the center of, of the state. The center of the metro area. Well, I guess that they have got it. If you look at the number of candidates.

Mike Sunnucks: Making the competitive district was not supposed to be the main charge, and it was high on the list.

Ted Simons: If you have a Don Stapley who thinks that he can win and a Kyrsten Cinema, that sounds like a competitive district.

Howard Fischer: Exactly, and that was the point because despite the complaining, and, and, the, the incumbent in the district moving out, you really have got a situation where they looked at the numbers. I had folks with Republican national campaign committee saying, we have analyzed this. We think that we can win this, this district, and if you have got somebody with name I.D. like Stapley, and curiously enough, I know that everyone said, well, wasn't he the guy urn investigators by sheriff Joe? I think that he can use that to his advantage. He can say look, I was attacked by sheriff Joe. I was attacked by the former county attorney. I survived. I was cleared. I'm, actually, Suing them, and he may be able to turn that around and say I am an underdog.

Ted Simons: What do you think about that?

Mike Sunnucks: To have a mug shot of yourself, and have it be widely distributed. It's probably not a good thing in the campaign. But, Howie is right, he can play that up. He has a bit of name I.D., and Hugh Holman, who people don't expect to get in, the Republican's best chance in the district in terms of the name I.D His policies, but I don't think that he's going to get in. It's wide open. The democrats have a, a, like a four-point registration advantage. A lot of independents. The best candidate will win. If there is a better Republican than whoever the democrat, is they could win that, all things being equal, I think that you got ASU there, and it will be leaning towards the ds.

Ted Simons: I think the, I thought the Republicans had a slight advantage.

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, they do. You can look at that redistricting data and slice it up, but in terms of the most recent registration, there is a slight GOP registration edge.

Ted Simons: All right.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But most importantly there is a big, big chunk of independents 9 in that district.

Ted Simons: And Daniel Patterson, here we go again. Rewind the tape and start all over with a new name and situation. Domestic abuse accusations involving a livein girlfriend, who was his campaign manager. It's a he said he said. No arrests made.

Howard Fischer: No arrests made, and unlike a certain other lawmaker, who got into a situation, no claim of, hey, I'm a member of the legislature, and you cannot arrest me. This is, really, a he said he said. We have got a, a police reporter, and we have a complaint, an order of protection that she filed saying that he was abusive towards her, a fight, and whom, depends on who you talk to, and he's released information saying that the girlfriend has a history of domestic violence, that she has abused people, disbarred in California, under a different name. And what's fascinating about this, is the politics around it, that the democrats were so anxious to make sure that they got out ahead of this, that, that the ink on the order of protection was not dry, and they were already calling for him to leave.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And the reason that they are doing this, for those that, that need to be caught up on there, is that they don't want to have a Scott Bundgaard situation, which is what happened with the Republicans after he got into his troubles last year. First it had to come to light in press accounts, and then it took a long time for people to sort of gear up for the Republicans to say, maybe we should take a look at one of our own and seeing if this is something that is not becoming a state lawmaker. Democrats who were pounding the drum on that Bungard thing are trying to get out ahead of this on the Patterson thing, and they have isolated him. He's a pariah in his own party.

Howard Fischer: That's the other half of the issue, is that half of his own caucus members were in disputes with him. Obviously, not domestic violence, but he's, he's, obviously, a forceful personality. Bunn. Is that a nice way of saying it? He's built no friends there. His reaction is the typical Tucson card. If you want to get publicity in Tucson, you criticize Phoenix. These liberals in Phoenix, these party officials in Phoenix are trying to get rid of me because I'm an effective Tucson lawmaker. And I don't know how well that plays, and obviously, as stuff dribbles out, he has to survive, you know, again, the ethics investigation, he has to survive.

Mike Sunnucks: The Bundgaard thing will make this all more vigilant and aggressive.

Ted Simons: It sounds like Republicans are not in any rush to get the ethics hearing going.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, it's a stampede. I mean, I think it's just that 11 they have had a busy week at the husband of representatives. Just had a session that went into about 7:30 last night, came back this morning at 9:00 and worked. Ted, the chairman of the ethics committee, said he needs to make sure the complaint has been filed by the democrats, gets circulated to everybody, and --

Mike Sunnucks: They don't want this dragging out into the election season. Where he was on hoof looks like here, it was all the off-year stuff, so you don't want to see this happen in the fall for the Republicans. They don't want something like this going on, in the summer, when people are trying to run for office.

Howard Fischer: And there is another procedural problem. The ethics committee had rules. You respond with a certain number of days. The committee gets it. The chairman gets to make a decision, and a certain number of days later the committee meets. I talked to Ray Torrez, the house publicist, and he said, I don't know. They have no idea what the rules are, and these are people who went through AZSCAM and you would think would have specific rules of ethics.

Ted Simons: As we continue on the aspect of what's happening in the news, Paul Babeu, is more information coming out about the school that he ran for troubled youth, or interesting youth or whatever this, the youths were back there in Massachusetts? We're getting all sorts of Allegations there. 12 What's going on? He is still running for office.

Mike Sunnucks: He had his sister in Massachusetts, and he had this, this school, looked like it was from a horror movie or an Edgar Allen Poe story that was very Eerie, and channel 15 ran a series about allegations of abuse, and his sister, who he supposedly is estranged from, had accusations of him having relationships with some of the, an older student there. And it's, it's -- pretty much dooms, his chances. It's one thing to have all the stuff come out about the ex-boyfriend, but when you have your sister and this school and this Eerie looking school out there, national media, it's going to be hard for him to ever recover from two, two of those things, regardless of the truthfulness of the accusation.

Howard Fischer: And unfortunately for politicians, they don't understand the old saying denial is not just a river in Africa. I don't know whether he's got consultants whisper in his ear saying, you can beat this. They are getting paid. Put a fork in it. It's done. The money is not going to come in. Nobody is going to believe you can win. It's in the like he had a publicly funded campaign and he can go ahead and survive this. It's done. And to the extent once he gets out, and that's going to have to happen, then that question becomes who else gets in. You have got questions of Andy, or, you know, possibly, because I think he's always had a bit of the potomac fever, and I have Paul, nobody knows who he is, and they say, I feel a draft.

Mike Sunnucks: Think about, the thing about the sheriff, you talk to any political consultant, the first thing they ask, is there anything that we should know about this? And he seems to have a lot of things people should know. And he's not hiding it wasn't hidden. There was the investigations in Massachusetts. Obviously, we talked about him posting the pictures on the dating sites. It has to be humorous at some point that you are not, you are not going to disclose this to people or, or come out and say something, pardon the pun.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He doesn't need to disclose it because the media is doing it for him. Everybody is looking into Paul Babeu's background.

Ted Simons: And again, you have to wonder about the efficacy of trying to make your sister out to be a crazy person because of this, that, and the other. That is strange in and of itself.

Howard Fischer: Here's the other thing, you know, at one point, if the only issue had to do with sexual oh, the gay community would rally to his side. He has set back the political ambitions of the gay community, if he hangs in there, with all this stuff, the gay community is going, oh, you know. We don't want him as our poster child.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's more about his personal judgment. People are going to look, you have hidden your lifestyle, that's fine, but you posted nude pictures on this site and you have your sister coming out and making these accusations at this creeping looking school in Massachusetts, and you are disparaging her, and people are going to say, is this really what I want out of a congressman?

Ted Simons: We had a birth control bill passing the house and onto the state. And this is similar to what's happening back in Washington. At least the wording and the ideas?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Basically, this measure is a mirror of what Washington was trying to do with the Senate Republicans are trying to do in Washington. To block employers from providing health care services, women's health care services, if it involved contraception, if that was against the employer's religious and moral beliefs. That amendment, the amendment failed in the U.S. Senate, but you come to the Arizona house, and basically, the same version passes the house here, says that you cannot -- not --

Mike Sunnucks: We were talking about this in the green room. The problem here is, if the marketplace decides this right or wrong, there is, the companies can decide what they want to do. People can criticize. When the Government gets involved on either side, you are telling somebody you have to provide birth control, which catholics and religious folks don't like, or conservatives are telling folks, you can opt out. We're going to -- so people get upset when the Government is dictating this. Where the marketplace is more equal.

Howard Fischer: And to a certain extent, all this is very overblown. What we're talking about here is the existing 2002 Arizona law says churches, and certain church related affiliates, if you serve people largely of your own faith, and employ people of your own faith, the objection back then was, what about St. Joseph's hospital? What about St. Vincent de Paul? It doesn't qualify. Those are the groups that are trying to go to the in, which is where the Arizona catholic conference is involved. The idea that coca-cola or Amazon are going to start saying oh, we're not going to offer it because we decided we have religious objections, I don't see that happening.

Mary jo Pitzl: With all that said, if this law proceeds in Arizona, there is an issue of constitutionality because if the Federal law says one thing and Arizona law the other way, that's another lawsuit.

Ted Simons: What a surprise. It will wind up in court.

Mike Sunnuscks: There is this focus on either side of the extremes, especially on the right, that all they know how to do is social issues. That's the Rick Santorum crowd. They don't know anything about housing or the economy. So, they saw this as a wow, this is a chance for us to jen up the base and get back to our core issues.

Howard Fischer: There is a real issue here and this came up with the pharmacist bill a couple years ago about the morning-after pill. That pill is a massive dose of hormones that if you have had unprotected sex you can take. One theory says it prevents an ovulation, but the other theory is that it prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. If you believe that the moment the sperm and the egg meet, you have created a life, that's an abortion. So, for a lot of people, this is a very real issue here.

Ted Simons: All right. Boy, we could go on forever on that particular topic. But let's go for something --

Mike Sunnucks: Where life begins.

Ted Simons: Exactly. [Laughter] Unions, kind of a pro union rally at the capitol that did not include some public-employee unions, if I understand correctly?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right. There were private sector unions that came out to show solidarity for the public sector unions, which are the target of four bills that are still alive in the legislature. And their argument is that, well, you know, if this happens to the folks in the public sector, and, you know, we'll be next. So, you know, there is a solidarity of brotherhood issue here.

Mike Sunnucks: It's probably an at will to work state, and they are trying to draw a line, we are a union bashing state, and this is another broad stroke at that.

Howard Fischer: But, what rally? You remember the pictures of Wisconsin?

Ted Simons: Yes.

Howard Fischer: Do you remember the banners hanging off the rotunda? I mean, it wasn't a bad turnout, but --

Mike Sunnucks: It goes back.

Howard Fischer: But not just laid back, but I don't know what makes the unions believe that a show of force of however many out there, is, in fact, going to make a difference.

Mike Sunnucks: What's going to make a difference, and you know this, is the firefighters and the police officers. Public safety. They are popular. People like them there. Here in the state, and if they can -- if you can galvanize them, the bill changes.

Ted simons: But they weren't out.

Mike Sunnucks: They were not.

Howard Fischer: But what's really going to happen? A couple things are going to happen. Number one, Rick murphy doesn't know he has the votes for the most massive bill, which is the ban on collective bargaining, and number two, I would be willing to bet you lunch that if that gets the Governor, to the Governor she vetoes it because she's a believer in local control. If the county decides we'll negotiate, who is the state to say no?

Ted Simons: We'll watch for that. Last story here is probably the biggest story of the week. Apparently, President Barack Obama's birth certificate, is a fake. 18

Howard Fischer: I'm shocked. I'm shocked to hear that. I want you to know.

Mike Sunnucks: The volunteer posse investigation of our fair sheriff, and, you know, our pile got a few headlines, and the birther movement is not dead yet. He's revised, it at least for a few more days.

Howard Fischer: This is an interesting question. Look, you know, are I know enough to be able to manipulate photographs and such, and, you know -- I was involved in this conspiracy. You have got to have certain leaps of faith. They took the electronic document the White House posted last April. And they did some analysis on it, and said well, if it's optimized for the web, it should have 23 layers. And certain things shouldn't be moved around. And this one had nine layers, and I could move the, the official stamp, and everything else, and then his social security, his selective service registration. The stamp was irregular. And you know, we're still down to the basic question that I asked the sheriff yesterday, that I said, people have had 3.5 years are all over the world, 3.5 years to figure out if Barack Obama was not born here and the sheriff of maricopa county has come up with evidence? Well, you know Howie, I'm a law enforcement official and I looked at the things they did not look at.

Ted Simons: Does this suggest that there is nothing more pressing for this volunteer posse to be addressing right now in maricopa county?

Mike Sunnucks: That's what the critics of the sheriff have brought up. The unprosecuted and lack of prosecution, some of the molestation cases out in el mirage. This comes up with the sheriff everybody time he goes on one these escapades. People say we have these warrants out and all these things. It makes sure the sheriff is re-elected because he'll Fund raise off this and galvanizes the conservative base around him.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And you have got to keep the context in mind. He did this investigation, but Joe Arpaio is the subjected of a Federal investigation for civil rights violations, so it just -- it muddies the waters. It's really hard to see where you can get a clear line out of this.

Mike Sunnucks: They talked about the manipulation and stuff, that really wasn't covered by most of the media. The media covered, here's sheriff Joe, a media circus and he's saying this. He really didn't get into the nuts and bolts.

Howard Fischer: And the funny thing, is it's like the investigation they did of Stapley and everything else because they muddied it so much, there may have been something there. He may be right. But the fact that it's Joe Arpaio, with a theory, makes me tend to doubt it. Just because of where he's coming from.

Ted Simons: Joe Arpaio may be right, we'll stop it right in? That's scary.

Ted Simons: Good to have you all here. Monday on "Arizona Horizon," a new report shows that there's room for hope and concern for Arizona non profits as they expand services despite check challenges. And we'll look at Arizona's contribution to the latest research on Alzheimer's Disease. That's Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, state lawmakers debate a bill that establishes a volunteer militia to patrol the Arizona, Mexico border, Wednesday how ASU is teaming up with the whitehouse to support entrepreneurs. Thursday an update on gas prices, and Friday, we're back with another edition of the journalist' roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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