Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

Local Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Steve Goldstein: Governor Jan Brewer is going to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to ban same-sex domestic partner benefits for state employees. The decision caused a member of her tourism advisory council to resign in protest. Howie, where does this stand and why are we getting so many headlines on this?

Howard Fischer: Because it's Arizona and it's Jan Brewer. The fight goes back to 2008. After several years of being lobbied, Janet Napolitano backed a rule change. Well, Janet went off to Washington for her fame and fortune and left Jan Brewer in charge. She had a Republican majority and they said, wait a second here. They passed a law to trump the rule. They redefined it back to its traditional sense. They filed suit and said, look, it's fine to say you want to promote marriage, one of the reasons the legislature said they were going to do this. You do remember you did pass a constitutional amendment that says we can't marry. And several judges agreed and said, you cannot single out a group for discrimination. The 9th Circuit Court agreed, and now it's headed for the Supreme Court. It leaked out about a week after it was originally filed and all of a sudden we started to grab headlines because here's Arizona accused of discriminating against brown people, black people and now gays.

Steve Goldstein: Where does this put us, the member of the Tourism Advisory Council, does it matter?

Jim Small: I think it matters as a political point. The gay member of the council was appointed a couple of years ago, saying I can't really do this job promoting Arizona as place to come when we're not tolerant of people like myself, so -- That was what it was. At the end of the day I don't know that it means a whole lot, it's just grist for the mill, in terms of the pro and con on this issue.

Steve Goldstein: Howie, the timing is funny because tourism numbers are up almost to prerecession levels.

Howard Fischer: There was a report by the Arizona Office of Tourism this week. The tourism employment is still a little on the shaky side, but people are coming. Canadian tourism is up, Mexican tourism is up, tourism from Brazil is up like crazy. All of a sudden there's a big middle class in Brazil saying, hey, let's go to the United States.

Mike Sunnucks: There probably is a little concern in the tourism sector, which is already dealing with the P.R. issues of immigration. This kind of further burnishes Brewer's reputation with social conservatives. She's taken up their cause obviously on immigration and things like this. She's taken up the mantle again.

Steve Goldstein: The -- do we know if SB 1070 really did hurt tourism in Arizona? Where are the real numbers?

Mike Sunnucks: I think anecdotally, and there were some numbers out there, we probably lost some Hispanic meetings, maybe some government meetings because of this. Certainly some Hispanics may not come here and may go to other western locations. We can't really gauge it. Companies and organizations have a short list and they rotate around, but maybe we're not on those lists anymore. Last year was going to be a better convention year than this year because there were some big churches coming in. I think it's hard to gauge. There are some impacts but still people come to the Grand Canyon and to spring training.

Howard Fischer: Here's the real issue, most conferences are planned two and three years out. So this kind of headline becomes an issue that, if I'm a conference planner for a group and I'm looking for a place for a 2014-2015 conference, do I really want to come here? Am I going to be met with protests in the street? How are my gay and Hispanic members going to feel? That was the real loss. We didn't lose casual visitors. People still want to see the Grand Canyon and bake in the sun and turn brown. But what we've lost have been the conferences. If you're a conference planner, controversy is the last thing you want.

Mike Sunnucks: Right after 1070 was passed, Google had a big meeting in Scottsdale, but they did not cancel. With that big public company, lots of image issues there and they didn't do it. I don't know if it's going to happen. We may be off some lists, especially for the Hispanic groups.

Steve Goldstein: Jim, expressing opinions about ballot initiatives, there was a special session that didn't happen. I'll start with you, Jim. Does this look bad, when you decide to have a special session, some lawmakers say we want to have this initiative to confuse the voters -- do some voters say, if they want to confuse me so much, maybe I'll vote for it.

Jim Small: This is going to cut them to the core, and this is what they were trying to do, to prevent that from happening. Absolutely, I think they will. Whether the voters are paying attention right now, this isn't on the ballot until November. The election probably won't really heat up until mid to late September when early ballots are likely to go out in October. The latest in a number of kind of missteps and miscommunications and inability to kind of get on the same page between the governor and the legislature.

Howard Fischer: And the other piece that will come up is the fact that they are trying to knock it off the ballot legally. We will have a hearing on that. And that becomes good fodder. Bill Montgomery is arguing, you can only have one subject. The idea is you don't vote for this, because you don't want to get this. It used to be if you would want A but not B, that was considered two subjects. Then when the gay marriage thing came up, when you had gay marriage and civil unions, the courts said it's part of a consolidated scheme. We need to find out if in fact the Supreme Court will decide, and they will be the ultimate ones to decide this. Is this a consolidated scheme for open elections. You're affecting clean elections funding, how people register for parties, is it too much in there.

Steve Goldstein: Let's get to the core of not just the legal question, but why the governor is actually opposed to this and what she wanted to have in this that would have come out with the legislature.

Mike Sunnucks: It'll help moderates win elective office.

Howard Fischer: Oh, my God, we can't possibly have moderates in elected office.

Mike Sunnucks: Republicans have done pretty well. The folks on the losing end, moderates and Democrats, want to change the rules. This happens all the time in politics. They want to get more moderates in here. I don't think there's any guarantee that'll happen. Conventional wisdom on term limits, clean elections, that hasn't helped out with conservatives. If you can't run good campaigns and get your voters out, I don't know what you're going to win, either. What stops more Olivia Cortez types of candidates on the ballot? The big challenge is educating voters and convincing them to vote for this. What is this thing. I've got so many things to vote for, the president and congressional races, what's this confusing ballot issue? They will have to have money and mailers to convince.

Howard Fischer: And that's the key. You confuse people. If people are unsure, they vote no. As you point out, you've got trust lands on there, trust funds. Property taxes for businesses. You've got the whole tax, education tax thing, assuming that gets on the ballot. If people are confused, it's very simple. It's easier to vote no.

Mike Sunnucks: He's really trying to get a bipartisan, a lot of moderates in there. If this becomes a Democratic vehicle, unions, teachers unions, it'll be portrayed as a liberal mechanism to help traditional primaries and traditional votes.

Steve Goldstein: I want to take this back in history about 20 years ago, with the two MLK days. Doesn't that make people even more cynical than they already are? Why do politicians want us to be so cynical?

Howard Fischer: I think they honestly believe, for the same reason they run for office, you can put something over on somebody. I'm being a little bit of a jerk here, I realize that. But the fact is they believe that coming back to my original principle, if people are confused they vote no. If you have two measures, they can say, wait a second. Or people may figure, I can only vote for one or the other. That coupled with a larger no vote means neither one gets 50%. At this point it's an academic exercise, because the fine organization, the Senate Republicans couldn't even get their own votes together, there's only one measure.

Steve Goldstein: Why is the governor opposed to the measure that's out there?

Jim Small: She is a party creature. Like so many other people are in the state, Republican and Democrat, she's a Republican. She's going to work to do what she thinks protects the interests of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is certainly rallying its people against this issue. Who are going to support putting that other measure on the ballot, in the special session that never happened. I know some Democrats aren't really keen on this idea but they are keeping a low profile and keeping their heads down. The party hasn't taken a stand on it.

Mike Sunnucks: The Republican party has basically purged the moderates out of there in the past few years. It's working for them. They have realized, I've won and I'm in here. The term limits, they figured out how to work around that, they jump back and forth between chambers. I think they like the system the way it is and this upsets the applecart. They're the ones that are ahead right now. If they were the ones that were losing and the democrats were ahead, I think it would be completely opposite.

Steve Goldstein: Howie, when are independents going to assert their power here?

Howard Fischer: Independents actually can now. This similar measure was actually planned to be on the ballot a decade ago. And it got knocked off for technical reasons. What happened is the legislature did then what they would try to do now; I know, we'll confuse them. We'll put another measure on the ballot allowing independents to vote in primaries. The other measure faltered and didn't get on the ballot, that measure passed. The problem is the independents have not used that power. I think that the party people are not oit targeting them. If you really want to, you're registered as an independent and you want to go in in August and pick a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot, do it. But the independents don't feel connected. Paul Johnson feels if they know it's appropriate to everyone, and they don't have to request a special ballot -

Mike Sunnucks: Like Howie said, they are engaged and they don't turn out. Independents end up voting for Republicans all the time or Democrats all the time. There's no guarantee even if you change all the rules, the same people will not turn out. Hispanics haven't, independents haven't, and there's a lot of transplants here that don't care.

Howard Fischer: There's a lot of interesting problems with it. You can sketch out scenarios. Let's say you've got a race for governor. Let's not even talk about legislative districts. Let's say it's a race for governor and there are four Democrats and two Republicans in the race. The Democrats, everyone knows who's Democrat and Republican. So you could end up with a situation where four Democrats split that vote and two Republicans run in the general for governor. So there's all sorts of interesting things that can happen. It doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing, but people need to understand the implications.

Mike Sunnucks: The smarter campaign and the better candidates will win. People that resignate with the candidates will win, usually because of whatever the system is.

Howard Fischer: The smarter candidate, the better candidate? How long have you been covering politics?

Steve Goldstein: Now you're being a jerk. You spoke of the potential sales tax, which may or may not be on the ballot. The Governor came out against that this week, as well. I want you and Howie to explain this to me. The Governor was out front on the sales tax, she's against this one and saying the legislature should make the decision. Did they make the decision on the Prop 100 money?

Jim Small: It was part of the body that they had built. They designed a budget around that. The critical difference, one, she spearheaded the other one, which is a big difference. And two, that was temporary. That was the way they sold it. Jan Brewer, I don't think -- no one had the thought that Jan Brewer would be a tax increase governor. Because it was temporary, it was something that she could accept and go forward with. The argument she's actually using on opposing it, it's exactly the same as was used against her two or three years ago, saying that it's an 18 percent sales tax increase, which is technically true, but misleading deliberately.

Steve Goldstein: Howie?

Howard Fischer: I love it, how they do it; when you're in support of it, it's just a penny. If you're going from 5.6%, to 6.6%, it's an 18% increase. The last one, while it said the money was going to education and transportation, it was sort of generic and we were $3 billion in the hole then. Has very specific spots. The first amount was taken, the other was to go to education. $25 million of that goes for kids care, and then you go through this again.

Mike Sunnucks: That's the real rub.

Howard Fischer: That's really the key. Now you're budgeting at the ballot box, I'm in favor of that if you have an idea of where it's going.

Mike Sunnucks: The Governor doesn't like it because of where it's coming from. The teachers and unions, everyone who votes on one side. Folks in the legislative body don't usually like that.

Steve Goldstein: Let's talk about the nasty U.S. Senate race on the Republican side. Wil Cardon and Jeff Flake have the ominous music and they have come out fighting. They didn't get the endorsements from senator McCain and Jon Kyl. Will they help Jeff Flake?

Mike Sunnucks: I think they help him a little bit. I think it's a further narrative, he's the front-runner, the one who's supposed to win, the experienced established candidate. The people know it's still a battle. Especially the immigration front, if you run enough ads I think you'll see that. But Jeff's still the favorite in this.

Howard Fischer: I don't know, we've always talked about what difference do endorsements make, perhaps a little bit on the margins. Cardon -- Flake's being attacked on being soft originally on immigration stuff. Wasn't that the position John McCain had until a couple of years ago when he had to decide if he was running for President? I don't know how much difference this makes if you're against him because he had problems with the 1070, or he had an amnesty program, he's going to be there.

Mike Sunnucks: He's drawing a difference there. There's not a lot of differences between the two if you look at other issues, taxes, size of government, health care reform. They're all opposed to that stuff, and that's the big difference. Wil‘s doing what a challenger has to do, you gotta go after him and try to increase his negatives. Try to give people a reason to vote against him. I don't know if Wil can start a narrative of why to vote for him so you've gotta tear Jeff down.

Steve Goldstein: I was surprised with Republicans this week. They are happy Wil Cardon is in this race, because I would think he's going to run again. He's raising money, as well. Are you surprised that consultants think it's great that he's in this race?

Jim Small: Republican consultants or Democrats?

Steve Goldstein: Republicans.

Jim Small: No doubt, he's running against two people, Cardon and Carmona. They are already lobbying things out. They are doing press releases, I wouldn't be surprised if you see them spending money before the race gets going if they see they have a chance to get Cardon; to push him over the goal. They are going to do whatever they can to knock Flake down a peg or two and hurt him in the process. If they can get Cardon across, I'm sure they would take that opportunity.

Mike Sunnucks: The problem is Cardon's attacks are coming from the right. He's soft on immigration. I don't think that's going to resonate, people are going to the street. When you're attacking him from the right, you're not really weakening him in the general election. Maybe the logic is you've toughened him up a little bit. He didn't think he could skate through, which happens sometimes in these races. The favorite thinks they are going to skate through. Carmona shouldn't be underestimated. He could make a run at it.

Howard Fischer: The point is well taken. A race for the U.S. Senate, so these things can happen. There is a point at which, yes, consultants will say it toughens people up and gets them the name I.D. they need. After a certain point, you're providing the fodder for your opponent to -

Mike Sunnucks: The problem is that the parties are so far apart now that Deconcini probably was a little closer to where the Republicans were back then. They're so far apart now. Somebody that votes for Cardon in the primary is going to vote for Flake in the general.

Howard Fischer: I think you're missing the point about Carmona. I can find you statements from both Kyle and McCain, praising Carmona. She is not Kirstyn Sinema.

Mike Sunnucks: It's also running on the same ticket as Barack Obama in this state. President Obama has to be able to turn out Hispanics. He has a great life story, you have that narrative. But if he doesn't have Hispanics turn out, it's going to be a tough go.

Steve Goldstein: Jim, thoughts?

Jim Small: It forced him to spend a lot of money. He reserved $1.3 million in ad money. He's raising money, but as soon as he is raising it, he's spending it. He's gotta defend himself to get to face Richard Carmona. The last thing you would want to happen is to keep $500,000 in the bank and then loser by two points. Then where does that $500,000 get you?

Steve Goldstein: Ben Quayle had another doozy against President Barack Obama. How does this one compare to the one from two years ago?

Mike Sunnucks: He made national news two years ago for saying Barack Obama was the worst president ever, and then he came out with a new ad that said he overestimated the President. People like those ads. People on the right like that kind of red meat. He's in a tough primary race against David Schweikert, he's switched districts because of redistricting. A lot of folks on the ground think Schweikert has the advantage in the ground game. Quayle has the name I.D. and he has the ads that kind of appeal to your red meat right-winger types who want to see more Republicans talk like that about the president. They think he got a free ride. That appeals to people on the talk radio side of the Republican Party.

Jim Small: It'll be real interesting, that was a strategy that worked in 2010, where he was in a crowded field. There were 10 people in the field, and he won with 23, 24% of the vote. If that ad adds 22%, that's great in that kind of a Phoenix in a one on one field against David Schweikert, it's not going to be who can scream the most about Barack Obama. There are going to be other things that come out. At some point both Shweikert and Quayle will have to turn their sights on each other. I'm sure that's coming here in the next few weeks.

Mike Sunnucks: They are both freshmen and I think it's a challenge to tell their voters, what have I done since I've been in there. This is something where Quayle can say, you know my name, my dad and my mom, that's an advantage. Here's the great ads saying I'm willing to back Barack Obama, who all you republicans distaste.

Steve Goldstein: What strikes me, this will never happen in a tight primary like this. Why doesn't Quayle say David Shweikert is the worst Republican. He's still running against Shweikert before anyone else.

Howard Fischer: It's like saying I'm for apple pie, I'm against gay marriage given the primary and everything else. And Barack Obama is the favored punching bag. Who should I be attacking. Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, it used to be Gabby Giffords but it seems cruel to be doing that. But that's the game plan, Harry Reid. The evil triumphant in Washington, and that's why we're going to get rid of him.

Steve Goldstein: Who's going to win, Quayle or Schweikert?

Mike Sunnucks: Quayle.

Jim Small: Tough to say. I say Schweikert right now, but we've got a lot of campaign left.

Howard Fischer: Quayle has got the money. I haven't heard from Schweikert, that's the problem. Normally in the summer I wouldn't worry about it. Early primary this year in August. Schweikert has to get up on TV and do something.

Howard Fischer:Capitol Media Services; Mike Sunnucks:Phoenix Business Journal; Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times

Graphic with the words
airs July 19

Psyche Mission

Former President Donald Trump
airs July 15

Republican National Convention: Four nights of coverage

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: