Journalists’ Roundtable

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Join us for another edition of the Journalists’ Roundtable, as local reporters recap the big news of the week.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's journalists' roundtable, incumbents score victories in Phoenix city council elections, another lawmaker expresses interest in running for statewide office, and a federal judge dismisses a number of claims in a lawsuit against Attorney General Tom Horne. The Journalists' roundtable is next.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon" much journalists' roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl, Mike Sunnucks, and Mark Brodie.
Ted Simons: Incumbents were the big winners in the city council elections this week. Both incumbents, both right side of the aisle, both did well.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, there were four seats up for grabs in Tuesday's election for Phoenix and two were settled with the two incumbents winning. I don't know if that's because they are Republicans and have made a deal about being Republicans, putting it on signs. These are nonpartisan election, or if it's the familiarity, this guy has been my council member. Well known in the district.
Ted Simons: Surprised Republicans or those who lean right did so well in city council elections?
Mike Sunnucks: The districts are favorable towards them. The CCO has huge name I.D. That was the most high profile race he had lot of Democrats get behind him. Unions, firefighters came out against Sal on that. He won by a decent amount for that race. It was tighter than the wearing race which wearing won by a wide margin. You'll see one of these guys running for mayor out of this, maybe.
Ted Simons: As far as was there a message there in the Deciccio election?
Mark Brodie: The message may be this is how city council elections may be run in the future. That was nasty race there was a whole controversy about the signs put up about suggesting Sal was the developer's guy or the lobbyists' guy. A lot of money spent there. The races this year were the most expensive in city council history, so maybe the message is this is how city council races will be run in the future as opposed to the way they were in the past where they were slightly lower profile affairs.
Mary Jo Pitzl: The union muscle is there, especially firefighter and public safety union money went into trying to defeat Deciccio and he came out on top. To Mark's point about elections getting more expensive, we're going to go into round 2 for other 2 districts. I think especially in- in both I think you'll sigh the financial stakes ramp up.
Mike Sunnucks: Ahwatukee is the center of that district. That's pretty Republican area. the union money and developers didn't resonate as much there. I think Sal's name I.D. is pretty strong. He's the possible city council member people knew his name. That's tough to overcome. Keogh Parks got kind of a late start I think. The backing that she got from Stanton and other democrats kind of came in towards the home stretch. I don't know if they started earlier, if she had more money the race would have been closer.
Ted Simons: Someone with that I.D. is negative, a lot of it is negative, and Parks ran on civility, that didn't really connect.
Mark Brodie: She might have run on those issues or run that way, but the campaign was not civil. It was not pleasant there was a lot of name calling back and forth. KJJZ hosted candidate forums. The two from the get-go were at each other for basically the whole hour. So it was not -- she might have said I want to bring civility to city hall but the race was not run that way.
Ted Simons: Is that indicative- we talked about the money. What about the style?
Mary Jo Pitzl: It's the old negative stuff voters hate negative campaigning yet it pays off. Although I don't think in this case that is the instance bass the more negative attacks came more against Deciccio, from his opponent. It's been coming for a while, a change in how these non-partisan elections are becoming more partisan.
Mike Sunnucks: He's carved out a position as fiscal watch dog taking on city hall over pensions and good old boy type stuff. I think voters in big cities like someone one council to do that. I think that resonates with certainly a segment of voters.
Ted Simons: There used to be a similar presence at Tempe and he wound up being mayor. Could Sal wind up being mayor of Phoenix.
Mark Brodie: Certainly could if that's what he wants to do. His name I.D. is high in that district. I would have to think around the city people have at least heard of the name. Who knows? Certainly possible.
Ted Simons: Do you think help wants it?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, apparently there was phone calls going out in that district, the night after the election, asking people about a potential Stanton-Deciccio match-up for mayor. I don't know if that was just done to tweak the mayor or if this was seriously trying to put down a marker.
Mike Sunnucks: There's been a lot of Republicans wanted him to run and he hasn't done it, part of that is because he has two young children. I think he ran for Congress before and was unsuccessful several years ago. I think if would be tough for him against Stanton. It would be a very partisan race. You to give votaries reason to dump Stanton out of there. Maybe when there's an open seat you can see Sal or someone else run.
Ted Simons: We have a Johnson verse is depastor. Family connections there. Johnson is more fiscally conservative, no food tax, depastor not so much.
Mary Jo Pitzl: This is the reason district 4, which is a big swath of central Phoenix, dubbed the legacy district since both come from families with big names in politics. It will be- Johnson has done a ton of shoe leather in that district. Walking all over I happen to live in that district. Bumped into his father, not so much him, at least twice during the campaign. Didn't see depastor people in my neck of the woods. They came on strong at the ends with mailers. They will distinguish themselves along the food tax -- gets hard after that because everybody is for defending public safety and maybe the neighborhoods safer.
Mark Brodie: That was a really close race. Johnson came in first in that district by less than a couple hundred votes. That will be a really interesting one to watch. District will be interesting as well although Kate Gallegos won handily, 47% of the vote, just missed the 50% plus one needed for no runoff.
Ted Simons: Was that a surprise that she did so well in a district that historically has been represented by African Americans?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Not terribly surprising. Because of the dynamics of the race her major opponents were both African-Americans. They sort of split that vote. She was a prolific fund-raiser, had a good ground game and was out early. Going forward as she runs against Warren Stewart for the seat I think the dynamics shift.
Mike Sunnucks: That works out in the Johnson-pastor race. Where Lujan finished third, people think they may go to pastor. That may give her a slight advantage. It will be close.
Ted Simons: Was that a surprise, Lujan finishing a distant third? I mean he had name recognition.
Mark Brodie: I think name recognition among those who follow state government, I'm not sure how many do that in the general public, but he had a tough time raising money. He had some good endorsements but not a ton of money. As has been said, pastor and Johnson both have at least last name identification and had an easier time raising cash.
Ted Simons: As Phoenix was elected folks to city council or getting close Glendale was firing folks and putting people on suspension, wondering how someone who could get paid a lot of money could be work a couple days of the month from Mississippi. What is going on over there?
Mike Sunnucks: A much anticipated audit came out, most of it under the tenure of Ed Beasley, the former city manager. Him and Elaine Scruggs were the masterminds of bringing the stadium out there the coyotes, arena, Westgate. It showed a lot of problems that they had to pay a fine for an early retirement program, the city management misled the council on was going on with that. That the juicier stuff was how Art Lynch was assistant city manager retired then was hired back as a consultant, made about $900,000 over several years. If he had stayed with the city they would have saved four or $500,000. You mentioned Alma Carmichael, human resources director who worked for Mississippi while still with the city. Both were top aides to Beasley. There's a lot of more house-cleaning going on. It looks bad for a city that went through a lot of troubles with this coyotes mess.
Ted Simons: Was the council- was everyone asleep at the wheel? Was Beasley running a dictatorship?
Mike Sunnucks: This was when Elaine Scruggs was mayor. A lot of the council members have complained over the years about not being included. Beasley retired last year. So there was basically the city management and city council were not always on the same page on some of these things. Some of the things the city council signed off on, on the consulting contract for art lynch, who was assistant city manager, then came back as a high paid consultant. Things were rubber stamped.
Mary Jo Pitzl: You wonder given this chase anything experience, more of a watch dog out of your city council. A new mayor who said we're going to bring this out in the open, but that's why we elect people is to ride herd on appointed staff.
Mike Sunnucks: The problem is people had issues with the coyotes deal were upset because the audit came outweigh after the city approved the arena deal and the team was sold this. Would have came out before it might have changed the dynamics.
Mark Brodie: One interesting word, house-cleaning. That's new city managener Glendale now. If you're in the city government, city structure you have to think to yourself, when this is going to end? When are we going to be viewed favorably? You wonder how much house-cleaning will go on over there to get rid of the bad stuff, start fresh. You have the coyotes now. Football season starting up again. You're trying to get yourself out from under all of it.
Ted Simons: Spring training is around the corner. You have camelback ranch, a beautiful facility out there among the birds and the crops.
Mike Sunnucks: That's a huge debt issue for the city as much as the coyotes. They have to refinance that or they will pay a lot. Because the coyotes messed the city's bond rating aren't good. Everything looks bad but they've cleaned, a lot of people have left. They've gone through a few city managers, city attorneys, gone.
Ted Simons: They are all going to Mississippi apparently. ICE rules on same-sex marriage this. This is obviously dealing with federal tax returns. Tell was happened and how it might impact couples who may have married somewhere else and want to move to Arizona.
Mary Jo Pitzl: What the IRS did in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling about gay major said, okay, anybody that is legally married as a gay couple can file, should file jointly unless they opt to file individually I guess as a married couple, so that sets all dual track system when it comes to Arizona. If you are a gay couple in Arizona you have been married, you can't be married legally in Arizona but if you're married legally elsewhere and reside here you can file your federal taxes jointly but state taxes have to be filed individually which one accountant and the told my colleague, the way you do that is do a shadow state income tax return as if you were filing- do a shadow federal individual income tax form as if you were filing singly so you move the federal adjusted gross income. Bottom line it's not expected to make much difference in terms of savings. There's something strongly symbolic in saying you can file jointly as a married couple.
Mike Sunnucks: I would imagine some of the same sex opponents, conservatives probably will challenge this saying the IRS overstepped their bounds. It's a constant fight between legislative and executive branches what an executive can do on their own, an agency, what has to have legislative approval.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Since Arizona's tax form is tied to the federal one any challenges have to happen on the federal level.
Ted Simons: In terms of symbolism what does it do to another push to legalize gay marriage in Arizona?
Mark Brodie: There's a push to get it back on the ballot next time doesn't seem to be going that well. You know, it's tough to say. Something like taxes- other than as Mike said maybe somebody saying the IRS overstepped its bounds, this doesn't seem to be something that other than the symbolism, maybe the ease for some folks of being able to file jointly I'm not sure this is going to move the needle on same-sex marriage.
Mike Sunnucks: I think the fight is more at the national and federal level. See if they can invalidate all these same-sex marriage bans in all the states.

Ted Simons: We move now to marijuana possession and Feds come down and there's going to be fights between Feds and states here because guidelines have changed. Who wants to take this one?
Mark Brodie: Basically what the Department of Justice said to Colorado and Washington, both of which have legalized recreational marijuana recently, we're not going to go after you for this. We want to make sure you're not selling it to kids, that revenue isn't going to cartels and other bad stuff that shouldn't be happening anyway. As far as some guy smoking a joint on street corner we're not going after that person. We have bigger things to worry about.
Ted Simons: One of those prioritization things. Saw something similar when it came to illegal immigration.
Mike Sunnucks: Well the federal drug laws, they don't apply in certain circumstances. That's been the realty understand a number of administrations, Republican and Democrat during these medical marijuana debates this. Pours more water on critics of medical marijuana here, the governor, Republicans in the legislature who always bring these federal things up. If a County official approves a permit for a marijuana clinic we'll get prosecuted under federal law. It kind of pours water on that argument.
Ted Simons: That County suit against the clinic I think that's still out there. Impact of this particular new guideline on that?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, certainly it could be entered into the argument that it suggests that Feds are not going after a clinic if it follows the rules of the state for dispensing medical marijuana. It's not going to get that kind of scrutiny.
Mike Sunnucks: It's an incremental victory for folks who want legalization of marijuana beyond the medical-
Ted Simons: I guess a superior court judge already ruled for the clinic. Last question. Regarding same-sex marriage, the idea of getting a Colorado-Washington kind of deal here in Arizona. Does this help that?
Mark Brodie: That's a really good question.
Mike Sunnucks: I think voters have approved these a couple of times. They got tossed on a couple of technicalities or those issues. I think it's more likely to see a further marijuana legalization than same-sex marriage.
Ted Simons: You agree?
Mark Brodie: Don't know. I do remember, though, that when medical marijuana passed it was very, very close. The idea that voters here are ready to legalize recreational marijuana. I would be skeptical of the argument that voters here are ready to do that. Even with this new DOJ information.
Mary Jo Pitzl: I agree with Mark. The whole medical marijuana concept is new in Arizona. We'll see if it just becomes part of the fabric. If it's not proven to be detrimental to overall societal operations perhaps that starts to change attitudes.
Mike Sunnucks: I do think the country as a whole is changing on both those issues, so I think both are trending towards the legalization of both. I think marijuana maybe is more ahead of the curve out west at least.
Ted Simons: Mike, the civil suit against Tom Horne, a top aide, a lot of the claims dropped, not all, though. So it moves forward, fractured but still moving.
Mike Sunnucks: The whistle blower Meg Henchy filed a $10 million claim that she was being retaliated against for talking about Tom Horne's activities. A lot of it got tossed but the problem is that with a lot of these cases, if it's the private sector, it gets settled and goes away. But he wants to run for reelection. If you settle something you're admitting guilt in the public realm. It could have a big impact on the Attorney General's race whether he face as primary opponent in the gaming director and whether his other opponent has better odds to knock him off this time.
Ted Simons: It sounds like a judge tossed discipline without cause and her privacy violated but he let stick the idea she may have been defamed because she was called a liar, a perjorer, an intimate- that doesn't look good for him.
Mike Sunnucks: He's had a lot of legal issues but also in the public relations realm, the aides, the FBI following him around, his little hit and run fender benders in the parking lot. None of this looks good politically. Legally we'll see what happens.
Mary Jo Pitzl: It says something about how the office is being run. What he's doing while he's Attorney General. Certainly there are the prosecutions and all the things that press office churns out there. His own troubles, that does not seem to eclipse his own problems.
Ted Simons: The office is quick to point outgoing ahead with the suit is not equal validity. Is it Yavapai County? They have what she gave over to the FBI in the first place. That can't be helpful.
Mark Brodie: Legal cases that you're involved in if you're a politician are generally not a good thing.
Ted Simons: No, especially when we're talking about being reelected. Speaking of statewide offices- Michelle Reagan.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Surprising no one. Announced that she's had an exploratory committee open for like a year. Now she filled in the blank on what she's exploring, which is, surprise, surprise, Arizona Secretary of State. She announced that this week and proceeded to tour around the state to make that proclamation. She will be seeking the Republican nomination.
Ted Simons: Exploring. Will Carden has made it known he and his bank book are interested in this. It sounds like that bank book already got rid of one potential candidate in Steve Montenegro. Could this be a healthy fight on the Republican side?
Mark Brodie: Michelle Reagan has been setting herself up for this for a while. She chaired the newly formed elections committee in the state Senate. She had a lot of election related bills that went through the legislature. I believe she's behind at least one of the committees that has formed to defend the election omnibus bill if opponents collect enough signatures to refer it to the ballot. She's setting herself up as something who is an expert on election related issues, somebody who theoretically would be good for that job.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Carden as we all know does have a lot of money, but her name is Reagan running in a Republican primary. That's going to mean a lot to a certain sector.
Mike Sunnucks: The jerry Lewis Dean Martin dynamic. Michelle has got a lot of bills in the legislature and she holds a firm stance on some stuff.
Ted Simons: Talk about those bills. Will they help her?
Mike Sunnucks: In the primary, it becomes an issue, it could hurt her. She's taken moderate stances on spending issues, immigration and those things. That could go against her.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Here's one that will hurt in the primary, on Medicaid she was on both sides of that vote. She voted for it then against it in terms of Medicaid expansion. That does not go over well really with any side of this debate but especially people who oppose Medicaid expansion, which happened to be grass roots of the GOP-
Mike Sunnucks: The Carden name is well known from their business ties, philanthropy, the hospital, but the Reagan name helps her. She's a woman running against a bunch of guys. That helps her in this state.
Mary Jo Pitzl: And we should know that representative Justin Pierce is exploring in the GOP nomination for Secretary of State and we haven't seen him be frightened off yet by either Reagan or Carden.
Ted Simons: What about Taylor or Holbert on the democratic side? Neither one has been announced yet but there seems to be rumblings and rumors. Could that become a contest in the general?
Mark Brodie: Well, it certainly-
Ted Simons: In other words does a Democrat even have a chance in a race like this?
Mark Brodie: It depends who it is and the dynamic. That's a long time from now. Lee Landrum Taylor still has another session in the legislature. That's lot of things that could happen there. There could be other candidates as well. Who knows?
Mary Jo Pitzl: If it's Carden that advances, you know, he didn't do so well when he ran for Senate. He couldn't get out of his primary. If it's Reagan that advances and she gets into a general election., she's tied tightly tied to the omnibus bill likely to be referred to the ballot. The whole campaign to support or kill that bill will probably be linked to the Secretary of State's race.
Mike Sunnucks: I think if you had a high procedure file candidate, Terry Goddard, former Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon, somebody like that against this group of Republicans could give them a contest. I don't know if lower profile Democrat would have a chance in this race.
Ted Simons: The house apparently has a trade mission to Mexico city, the speaker is leading a bunch of representatives down there. Obviously the governor is involved. Obviously other avenues of the state are involved.
Mary Jo Pitzl: Speaker Tobin is going to lead six members of the house, Democrats and Republicans, down in Mexico City. They want to repair Arizona's image in the capital of Mexico and try to open it up for business opportunities. They say the governor is aware of it but the governor learned about it through third parties. They didn't invite the governor or the Senate. To make this trade off happen, they need legislation, so it's a curious way to start.
Ted Simons: House opens its own trade office in a foreign-
Mary Jo Pitzl: No, it would have to be a state of Arizona one, which by not inviting these other parties you sort of dig your hole.
Mike Sunnucks: Greg Stanton has been there a couple times. If they want to repair things with Mexico how about not passing a decade full of anti-immigration legislation?
Mary Jo Pitzl: Well that's the point. They're trying to unring that bell on SB 1070, but they both voted for 1070, except nobody in Mexico knows who they are. They think 1070 and they think Brewer and Arpaio.
Ted Simons: Interesting. We have to stop it there. Good stuff. Thank you for joining us.
Ted Simons: Monday, we'll hear from a university professor who thinks it's time for American Indians to have more of a say in American Indian history. That's Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday U.S. representative Kirsten Sinema will be here. Wednesday a debate on the Government's role on economic development. Thursday a Phoenix dance company that's gathering international acclaim and Friday another edition of the journalists' roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us and you have a great weekend.

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