Journalists’ Roundtable

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

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business Journal," and Mark Brodie of KJZZ-FM Radio. A ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week on the Tohono O'Odham Nation's attempts to build a casino near Glendale, Mary Jo, this has been a long-drawn-out process. Does this end all this?
Mary Jo Pitzl: It's unclear if this is the end for this long battle, as you mentioned. The city officials and the Gila River tribe which had brought the suit against the Tohono O'odham said they hadn't made a decision on whether to appeal to the Supreme Court or to ask for a review. The whole issue still hangs for now. It's going to color the mayoral race, as well.
Ted Simons: Mike, I know you've reported on this, as well. The city is looking at rescinding the sales tax. There are so many layers, the sales tax vote, the Coyotes we will talk about in a second here, as well, and they keep losing on this casino deal.
Mike Sunnucks: There's a federal law from the 1980s when the tribe had lost land for dam construction that allowed them to replace this for unincorporated land. Glendale didn't like how they went about it, they don't like that there's going to be a casino plopped down on their doorstep. The law is on the tribe's side, so far. They can keep trying another time.
Mark Brodie: And this could be potential lost revenue from Westgate, which is already facing some hard times. We'll talk about the Coyotes and the potential lost revenue from that, as well. The other thing to keep in mind, this is just the first part of this situation. There are also challenges as to whether or not the tribe, once the land is taken into the reservation system, then they have to get federal permission to actually put a casino on that land. There will be most likely some legal challenges with that, as well.
Mike Sunnucks: If we have a change in administration, if Romney wins, does that change the approach to that? They got approved by the interior department under Obama. So that could be a fly in the ointment. Again, I think the opponents of this have tried to delay this as long as possible. I don't think the Tohono O'odham tribe is going to go away. They want this thing. It's a lot of money in the long run. They are going to stick this out.
Ted Simons: I think part of the City's claim was that this unincorporated land was part of the city limits.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, there's an argument if something is within -- this is like a little island within -- surrounded by the City of Glendale. If you're just an island, perhaps that's within the city's corporate limits, something that the City might eventually someday reach out and incorporate into its boundaries, that's another legal point we may see parsed down the road.
Ted Simons: Sounded like the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel didn't buy that at all.
Mark Brodie: The City is saying its part of its Municipal Planning area. When it looks at where it has to potentially build sewers and get electricity to it, that's part of it. That argument kind of undermined in the past the legislature has tried to allow Glendale to annex that bill in an emergency manner. It's hard to make the argument this land is part of the city, while at the same time trying to annex it into the City.
Mike Sunnucks: Peoria doesn't have the same types of problems with the casino that Glendale does. There's an interesting West Valley rivalry there.
Ted Simons: No construction on slot machines anytime soon?
Mary Jo Pitzl: No construction anytime soon. If you're planning to do some gambling in the urban area, probably better to stay on the east side or the west.
Ted Simons: Keeping with this area and Glendale, Perhaps even with tribal concerns, what's going on with the Coyotes this week? We've heard maybe the tribe could be involved in the ownership group.
Mike Sunnucks: There have been talks about the tribe being part of Jamison's group. They may not have a stake in the Diamondbacks or Suns but they are really big sponsors so they have some money to throw around. We'll see if he closes on the deal, what kind of role any of the tribes made have out there. Shane Doan re-signed with the Coyotes, a pretty good sign that the deal is going to happen. He said he was going to leave unless Jamison bought the team. decided to sign, he stayed here. There's no deal yet out there but it's a good indicator that maybe something is going to happen.
Ted Simons: Why is there no deal yet? I thought there was an agreement and everything was ready to go. Now Glendale says, not so ready.
Mike Sunnucks: Glendale is getting a little skittish about the deal they approved in June. With the sales tax measure going on the ballot in November, it's probably going to get knocked down back to its previous rate by voters. Glendale has a lot of financial issues if that happens. They are looking at lowering the front end of the deal with Jamison. He's not too happy about that. I think still something's going to happen, but who knows.
Mark Brodie: There's a lot of uncertainty here. You have the deal with Greg Jamison that hasn't gone through yet, and for a long time the uncertainty of would the sales tax measure get on the ballot. Now the uncertainty is will it pass. If it does pass, whether or not it can actually take effect or not. Then the uncertainty of an NHL lockout which might be starting tomorrow night. There are a lot of balls, or pucks in the air, if we're talking about hockey, but there's a lot of uncertainty with both the Coyotes and Glendale and the NHL as a whole.
Ted Simons: What are you hearing from Glendale lawmakers about this situation? Have they tried to retreat from it as much as possible? Are you seeing anything?
Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm not seeing anything or hearing much of it on the campaign trail and we have candidates campaigning for the state legislature. Jerry Weiers, a lawmaker running for Glendale mayor, did promote legislation to try to address -- I'm sorry, that was the casino.
Ted Simons: It's almost the same topic.
Mary Jo Pitzl: They do merge because it all goes to the economic fortunes of the city, yeah.
Mike Sunnucks: Elaine Scruggs isn't running again, there will be a new mayor out there. They are not too optimistic about the Coyotes deal. Joyce Clark is in a tough runoff out there. Ed Beasley, the City Manager, kind of the mastermind of the arena things is really the one that pushed the subsidies through, he's gone. So Glendale will have a very different look in January. They are kind of up against that deadline, too. Once the new council and mayor comes in, all bets are off.
Ted Simons: Mike, you were talking about how a casino could siphon some business away from Westgate. And that would be a concern for the city. Losing the Coyotes would siphon a heck of a lot out of there, right?
Mike Sunnucks: The businesses in there would be pretty unhappy if the Coyotes weren't there. There was a report the City put out talking about some of its financial obligations if the Coyotes were there and if the Coyotes were not. You don't have the Coyotes there; you have that arena the City owns. You need to put something in there. There's a lot of different venues for concerts and monster truck rallies. Goodness knows what else you could put in there. It's not like arena is the only one in town. There's a lot of concern, if the Coyotes leave, that area could be in trouble.
Ted Simons: Last question on this. There is a possibility, I keep hearing a dim and distant kind of a rumor that the Coyotes could leave Glendale and wind up downtown for ahwile, while the tribe or another arena -- whatever the case may be. Is that possible?
Mike Sunnucks: There's been a lot of rumors on this Coyotes deal, there's been a lot of talk about going over to Scottsdale, some kind of deal like the basketball and the Rockies did with the tribe over there, the Salt River tribe, and try to build something there. I don't think professional sports leagues are real keen with being in bed directly with the casinos. If they can get a deal done in Glendale, what's the best option? Scottsdale has a lot more money over there, maybe a few more business suites sold over there.
Ted Simons: We have a poll out here, really the first publicly released poll on the Flake-Carmona U.S. Senate race. Sounds like statistically a dead heat. Is that a surprise at all?
Mary Jo Pitzl: A little bit. Because Richard Carmona is still introducing himself to voters. Jeff Flake's been known as a member of Congress, and then he had this very high profile primary fight with Will Cardon. It's a little surprising to see the Democrat at 43% and Flake at 44%.
Mike Sunnucks: The poll was done by a Democratic firm, showing Romney up nine points on Obama, which is probably about right. So that kind of gives it some credence. If the race was tight on the presidential side, you would look with a little skepticism on this. Cardona was Surgeon General, in Vietnam, a SWAT team medic a surgeon. He is a Democrat in a Republican state and he's going have to talk about the issues a little bit, the differences he has with Flake and some of the presidential policies that Carmona supports.
Mark Brodie: He's a Democrat in a republican state. He's going to have to convince voters, okay, vote for Romney, but then also vote for me as a Democrat. A lot of political experts will tell you is really kind of a hard argument for candidates to make, vote for one candidate upticked and yourself as the other party down the ticket.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Even though the register from Romney and Carmona would be change. Kind of playing to the unrest voters have with the status quo.
Mike Sunnucks: This first commercial we were talking about in the green room, he's in the hospital, he's got a doctor's jacket on. He's not a politician, there's trust there. Despite his party affiliation, I think that's a big feather in his cap in this race.
Ted Simons: Do you think being surgeon general on George W. Bush is a feather in his cap?
Mark Brodie: He used the argument that the Republicans tried to recruit me, too. I spoke out when I thought there were things going out that didn't seem right that, didn't seem kosher to me. It certainly is something that his campaign is playing up the fact that he has worked for a Republican administration.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And independent voters will be getting the message that Mr. Carmona was registered independent until he decided to get into this race. That will help perhaps with that very important and growing voter bloc.
Mike Sunnucks: On the flip side of that, the fact that his background is in health care, obviously his stance on Obama care, not super popular, and things like contraception mandates and abortion, will probably be in the forefront a little more because of his resume.
Ted Simons: Another poll has Sheriff Joe Arpaio relatively close, within single digits with Paul Penzone, tightest race in Arpaio's 20-year career. Is there really any threat to Arpaio?
Mike Sunnucks: The poll came out of Penzone's campaign. I think there's more of a threat than there's been. He has the registration advantage with Republicans. Everybody in the county knows Joe Arpaio. But there's a little fatigue, did not support the birther stuff asking about the President's birth papers in Hawaii. There is fatigue with the legal fights. I think the racial profiling trials have taken a toll. And Joe is 80 years old. There's always that chance the voters will say, we need somebody new. It'll be a challenge though.
Ted Simons: What do you think of the third candidate, the independent candidate in this race? 45% for Arpaio and 39 for Penzone, that's six points, but the independent candidate pulled in eight percentage points.
Mark Brodie: We found out about the poll that Paul Penzone put out, we got an e-mail from the Mike Stauffer campaign saying, hey, look, we have this also equally unscientific poll from New Times which shows make Stauffer leading. Having two challengers will really help Joe Arpaio. If you're voting against Arpaio, you now have you two choices as opposed to one. It's still four weeks, just about a month away from when early voting even starts. You've gotta take some of these polls with a grain of salt.
Mike Sunnucks: And Arpaio has a massive war chest of money to spend worth 7 million dollars, and he can spend that with mailers. He will continue to raise money because he's popular nationally with a lot of conservatives. It's definitely a big uphill climb.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And he's spending some of that money with the kind of TV commercials this week; it's like reintroducing Joe Arpaio to voters. He's coming out and talking about children, his long record of law enforcement. Sort of the softer sell approach, which I think is a sign that he knows he's got to make a case for himself this time around.
Ted Simons: We want to get back to the sort of candidate, there are some out there, the real Arpaio critics especially, who say Stauffer is almost an Olivia Cortez in this particular race. That there's something fishy going on here.
Mike Sunnucks: You hear that from the anti-Arpaio crowd, they have their fair share of theories on things to do with the sheriff and Russell Pearce, so it kind of goes hand in hand. There is some legitimacy to that argument, maybe people who don't want Joe will look and split their vote. That's happened before in elections.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I just asked Stauffer, are you in this race as a stalking horse for Arpaio? They deny it and point out that Stauffer got into this thing way back when, as a Republican, and then switched to independent. It was only after that, that Paul Penzone the Democrat came along. There is a question about, if you really are going to try to be like Olivia Cortez, he put in a lot of money to get his signature on the ballot. That's a lot of money to just throw something off unless there's some kind of under the table deal, and there's been no evidence of that.
Mike Sunnucks: I think the only chance for Penzone to win is to see a real sea change with Maricopa County politics. Joe doesn't do very well with obviously Hispanics, the folks who don't like Arpaio usually don't turn out in the numbers to defeat him. We'd have to see a very big change change.
Ted Simons: The race with Vernon Parker, Kyrsten Sinema. Back beside Emily's list and government employees and these sorts of folks. Sinema 45% Parker, 41%. Again it's very early.
Mark Brodie: We kind of all knew that, this was considered to be the most competitive race in the state. The new district was made to be competitive and it is. I don't really think anybody should be surprised that the numbers are as close as they are, and will probably stay that way, you know, barring some major event one way or the other. It'll probably be a very close race.
Ted Simons: We're seeing Republicans and PACs and such coming out trying to suggest that Kyrsten Sinema has radical ideas from the past. You don't want those radical ideas in the future. You worked down there at the legislature when Kyrsten Sinema was quite the figure down there. Do they have ammunition here? How far can you go with that in this kind of a race?
Mary Jo Pitzl: First of all, Sinema served in the legislature for seven years I think, almost four terms so. There's a track record first of all that you can pick apart. She came into the legislature as a bit of a flame-throwing, or quite the flame-thrower, more than the very articulate Democrat who was not afraid to speak her mind. As time went on she did moderate her tone and her views, started to reach across the aisle and work a little more with Republicans for which she was punished in the Democratic primary. There's ammunition there. There's also ammunition that can be dug up from Parker, as well.
Mike Sunnucks: She's very personable with the media, and that's to her detriment, too. She talks a lot about policies and was very critical of the Republicans for some time. If you look at who's effective in that area, democrats effective in Phoenix Phil Gordon, Greg Stanton, pretty moderate. She might not fit in that mold completely, but she has personality and that'll go a ways in this race.
Ted Simons: And Vernon Parker has some baggage, as well. Does he have that kind of charisma, if you will, that kind of personality to take on a Kyrsten Sinema?
Mary Jo Pitzl: I would note he doesn't have that kind of out-there personality of Kyrsten Sinema. He has, somewhat like Richard Carmona, has a rather compelling life story, coming up from poverty and going on to become the mayor of all places, Paradise Valley, a very wealthy enclave. His story of serving in the Bush administration is a life story, sort of rags to riches.
Mark Brodie: There's going to be a lot of outside money spent in this district. Both Republican and Democratic national committees have said we're in this race. The executive director of the NRCC referred to Sinema winning the primaries as an early Christmas present. His democratic counterpart had equally nice things to say about Vernon Parker. There's going to be a lot of interest in this race and a lot of outside money. Both candidates I think are aware of some of the things that can be brought up against them. They are both expecting to have attacks against them. Definitely going to be an interesting couple of months.
Mike Sunnucks: I think Parker's big advantage is how well Romney does. If Romney does well nationally and in red states like Arizona, that could help congressional candidates.
Ted Simons: We should mention quickly in that particular poll, among independent voters Sinema was up 7% and obama would win by 6%. When you take that district as it would have been in 2008, he would have won by 4%.
Mike Sunnucks: Including ASU, that's part of it.
Ted Simons: Indeed. I asked this question before, and I will apparently continue to ask until we find out: Who is Darrin Mitchell? Why does he live?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, that is currently a question being dissected in court. The case will continue on Monday. But Darrin Mitchell was one of the winners of the L.D. 13 GOP primary two weeks ago. The guy who finished third came forward and said, I've heard he doesn't live in Litchfield park where he says he lives. Here's paperwork that shows he's living in Avondale which has a different district, which also happens to be very heavily Democratic. The trial that went on yesterday was just full of evidence, aerial photos, testimony, I mean, you know, questions about is there shampoo in the house where this man allegedly lives. Well, have you mattresses on the floor but yes, I take the sheets off at night and store them because -- or in the morning so they don't get dirty from the renovation in the house. I only sleep here when the house is under renovation. He's been living with his girlfriend in Avondale, there's documentation. He must have roller skates to move between them.
Mark Brodie: We know more about his allergy situation than any other legislative candidate or legislator similarity in Arizona history. I would have all over this to do some commercials. One of the things he was saying that is he was sort of test-driving this neighborhood, the person who owns the house's campaign chair was allowing him to live there to test-drive the neighborhood because it's on a golf course and he has very bad allergies. He's not sure he can live there and not have itchy eyes all the time. There's a great dissection of his allergic reaction in the trial.
Ted Simons: He doesn't pay rent, there is no rent agreement. He doesn't pay for utilities or upkeep. The contractor says there's no one there. The neighbor says there's no one there. What are we doing here?
Mike Sunnucks: He says he's often in Yuma and doesn't get home until late, so the neighbors are I guess asleep. We're Arizona, it's a transient place. This has come up with other lawmakers in the past about where they lived, where they limit there are some easy connect the dots, "Where's Waldo," are you running and the place you live through the voter registration.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Although the law says you need to live in the district that you represent. There was a case where Sylvia Laughter, a Representative from the Navejo Nation was living in Caliente, and she was allowed to keep serving, arguing her home was in Mesa.
Mark Brodie: The interesting thing here is that you hear so often that judges are loath to overturn the will of the voters. This isn't a pre-election type of case. He won the primary. Mitchell won the primary and there's no opposition from the Democrats. He's basically in the legislature. For the judge to reverse that, the judge has to determine this is bad enough to overturn what the voters said.
Mike Sunnucks: Let the voters decide next time or this time. I absolutely can see that happening.
Ted Simons: About 30 seconds left. Election officials have to print a ballot eventually. What's going to happen here?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, they are hoping the judge will rule on Monday after the trial concludes, there are three witnesses to call so it should not take all day. Maricopa County elections director said they can go to Tuesday. If there's an appeal of that decision, then Katy bar the door. It appears depending on what the judge's opinion is, we might have a ballot with the name of the fellow who may be removed or a ballot without his name of a fellow who ultimately will be deemed a candidate.
Ted Simons: And probably a big write-in campaign for the guy, or anyone, I suppose. Good stuff, thanks, appreciate it. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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