Journalists’ Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable," it's the final weekend before the general election. We'll have a preview of Tuesday's vote. And we'll discuss the surge of outside money pouring into state election races. The "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable." I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of the "Capitol Media Services," and Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business Journal." Election night is fast approaching, Mary Jo, and can it get here quick enough?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, I'm sure about everybody in the state is ready to turn off their television sets and they have had enough of ads. If they are not persuaded by now, I don't know what else it's going to take.

Ted Simons: What else is it going to take as far as the candidates?

Mary Jo Pitzl: A lot of canvassing over the weekend. We have really nice weather through most of the state and especially the Democrat resource making a big push to go door to door knocking. Their rate of return on the early ballots is much, much lower than that of the Republicans who have historically been much better as mailing in ballots.

Ted Simons: Is that unusual for the Democrats?

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, I think that's pretty typical.

Howard Fischer: Theoretically, the Democrats were supposed to have the better ground game, the groups and unions gathering the ballots, getting out the vote, doing the calls. But the Republicans through some of the Koch brothers' finance groups are going out there and doing the same sort of ground game for them. Given they have a lower propensity group of backers, Latino voters are lower propensity, younger voters are lower propensity, I don't know if it's going to make a difference.

Ted Simons: There is a get out the vote effort?

Howard Fischer: Every year we hear, this is the year. We've got folks registered. They have done a great job registering Latino voters. The problem is translating that to get to the polls or return the early ballots. That got us into the whole flap about going door to door and collecting early ballots and whether that's proper or legal. Latinos will account for about 14% of the vote if year if you believe the predictions. CD-1 and CD-2 in Tucson, that could make the difference.

Mike Sunnucks: Statewide there's nothing engaging Hispanic voters, younger voters, not a presidential year, not a ballot measure drawing voters to the polls. Nationally Republicans have an advantage in terms of the turnout and mood of the country. The challenge for Democrat is is getting voters to come out where there's not a lot of engagement and regular folks paying a lot of attention to the statewide races.

Mary Jo Pitzl: One exception on Latino votes, David Garcia's presence on the ballot as a nominee for the Democrats might bring out more Latinos, that you might expect.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised not to see him out stumping for others as he stumped for himself?

Howard Fischer: It's easy for us to say, you've got David Garcia who has the backing of business groups and across the board, he's got the money. You've got Diane Douglas running with public funds and just has a few signs around. He's got an uphill fight in his own way. Not only because this is a down-ballot issue and Republicans tend to do better. But because Diane has a single issue that does connect with voters and that's Common Core. Each people who don't know about common core see it at Washington intervention.

Mike Sunnucks: I see that as kind of a bellwether of how much of a Republican win it's going to be. People are voting straight party ticket all the way down, so I think that race and maybe the Goddard-Reagan race could show what kind of Republican year we're having.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Sort of every man or woman for her or himself. You don't see a lot of tickets being promoted. Reuben Gallego says he's got his people out working for DuVal and the Democratic ticket, trying to share the wealth. You don't see a lot of that combined campaigning.

Howard Fischer: Curiously enough, on the Republican side Doug Ducey has gotten a bus, John McCain is on the bus, Diane Douglas is on the bus, you know, the whole crew. In fact, tomorrow they will be up in Prescott and they are going around the state trying to rally. What's been interesting, there are so many people who are the guests of honor in some places they exceed the audience.

Mike Sunnucks: Where you've seen Republicans try to team up is for Reagan, that's where I think they believe they are the most threatened. She has had some missteps and Goddard has pretty good name I.D. You've seen Ducey and some other Republicans step up and try to push her over. Maybe she's trailing on the polls. If they win on turnout and it's a big Republican year, that could help her win.

Ted Simons: That's a question as well regarding the Governor's race. How much of a down-ticket impact do you think that'll have?

Mike Sunnucks: I think it impacts how much Ducey is going win by. If he wins by five or less, not much. But the down-ticket thing, if it wins by 12%, it helps Douglas and Reagan and Brnovich.

Howard Fischer: On the one hand he wants to keep the money coming in. On the other hand, he does not want to be too high up in the polls, so he says I don't want to bother going to the polls on Tuesday. It's a very delicate balance.

Ted Simons: Not too many hotly contest bud a few out there.

Mary Jo Pitzl: As always with the legislature, usually the big contests are in the primary, that's behind us. With the general we have the potential, you know, first possibly happening up in North Central Arizona where we have a Senate rate between O'Halleran a former Republican who's reregistered as an in any event running for a Senate seat. And Sylvia Allen is trying to make a return bit on the Republican ticket. That'll be a really good one to watch. The state has never elected an independent to a legislative office.

Ted Simons: Where would he caucus?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, he's not saying.

Howard Fischer: Wherever he wants to, whoever you wants to. One interesting case, and your right about everything occurring in the primary, actually is a district that involved Shawn that bullock, and McGee and Eric Meyer, a lone Democrat running there. But Shawna would be just as happy if she managed to bounce Kate Brophy McGee. You have a sort of funny rivalry there going on. While both are running against the Democrats they are also running against each other.

Ted Simons: Is that another bellwether race?

Howard Fischer: It depends. Again, Meyer is certainly Democrat, moderate from Pavel. Kate has also aligned herself with the moderates, there. If she knocks off either of them, that becomes an interesting question. It may just be it's a Republican year.

Mike Sunnucks: I live in that district; I get mailers for or against Meyers or Shawna every single day. It's not a super conservative district. He's been elected there, it's a moderate district. If she somehow wins that race, it shows conservatives are turning out and energized.

Mary Jo Pitzl: If that happens it would be a lot of strength of the agenda being pushed by the center for Arizona policy, the whole abortion, right to choose argument is playing really big in that race. And not necessarily from bullock herself but from the Center for Arizona Policy Action, I forget the name of their PAC. They have been single-shooting Bullock, which has the effect of being a no vote for the other Republican on the ticket, who's Brophy McGee.

Ted Simons: Kavanagh having any effect out there in Fountain Hills?

Howard Fischer: It's hard to say. John is sort of a legend en his own mind, the sort of larger than life, unavoidable for comment if you hand him the microphone. I don't know that he is unless you have an alternate theory on that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He had a challenge in the primary from a moderate who you could argue was more in the penny packer mold, with you even those Paula Pennypacker has been running a disciplined campaign, I don't see --

Mike Sunnucks: There are advantages for any Republican running in that race. All the handwriting in the wall, energy favors Republicans overall.

Howard Fischer: An interesting race going on in Tucson, in a district that could be considered Democrat district, is trying to hang on to a seat. You've seen Ethan do a few interesting things, like proposing legalization of marijuana. It's been fascinating to watch how he's doing a little southern Arizona dance to convince people he's really a moderate.

Ted Simons: As far as the legislature in toto, though, more conservative? Less conservative? More or less moderate? And how are they going to work with the new governor?

Howard Fischer: We have second question first is who is the new governor, of course. I think given who's out there, folks who have been defeated, I think we end up with some of the same fights we've had before over 1062 or son of 1062. You know, if Doug Ducey is governor, I think Doug is a pragmatist and so is DuVal. Obviously DuVal was much more in the….

Ted Simons: What's the likelihood of a Napolitano redo?

Mike Sunnucks: The starting point is much more to the right than with Jan Brewer. With folks on the right f they take that ball and run the a little farther. I think you see more conservative.

Howard Fischer: But the question is, for all of this talk about everything, I'm going to eliminate the income tax. Well, maybe not. I'm going to maybe drive it down to zero. He hasn't -- he's quote, unquote, prolife but hasn't made that an issue. Something funny happens to folks, oh, man, I'm in charge.

Ted Simons: You're the caucus of one and representing everyone, not just --

Mike Sunnucks: I don't think he's being as combative as Brewer. She's been a very liberal governor on some issues. Medicaid, the sales tax. I don't think he's going to do that. I don't think he'll fight those big fights like she did.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm going to disagree with Howie a little bit on the legislature being more conservative. If O'Halleran knocks off Sylvia Allen, that makes the Senate a 16-13-1 body. Then you have a potential for coalitions. Democrats, a few moderate Republicans left, and O'Halleran. Bring that together you might get a coalition. You've got some of that coalition still in the house. Again, depending on what happens with a couple of races in the House, I don't think the groundwork is there to overturn Medicaid expansion.

Mike Sunnucks: I have seen that 1062 has not been an issue. Goddard brought it up a little bit, and Kirkpatrick and Tobin. We're going to pull the Super Bowl and all the business groups were worried: It has not been an issue. Will it be more likely to come back with son of 1062 because of gay marriage legalization?

Howard Fischer: It says each of them has said in their own way w a few exceptions, well, it was a mistake. Doug Ducey, I won't sign 10 2. What about some version of that? I won't sign 10 2. I think we're going to see a version of that, especially with the gay marriage.

Mike Sunnucks: I don't see how you avoid that.

Ted Simons: Let's move out to dark money and the $26 million in outside money spent on state races so far in this election cycle.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think that was as of midweek. Some of that is money from groups that disclose where they get their funding and others from groups that are not required by law to disclose their donors. That is a big chunk of money for everything, common core, and the governors' races, everywhere.

Ted Simons: Is the Supreme Court ruling coming home to roost?

Howard Fischer: Partly Citizens United, but other courts have been wrestling with the issues of what is legal and what do you have to do and what do you have to disclose. We have now decided corporations are people too. They have rights and they can speak. And the funny thing is, the Supreme Court never said you can't require disclosure. They sort of left it to the states. We've wrestled with that. For all the talk among our lawmakers on how we're going to really do this, all the talk in the Secretary of State's race, I have yet to hear an enforceable plan on how to do that.

Ted Simons: I'm sure after the election we'll get much stronger numbers here. 5.8 against did you Val long. 2.2 against Ducey, Rotellini has been the target of $2.5 million. Brnovich a target. $1.3 million against that one candidate. Why?

Howard Fischer: Well, it depends on who you believe --

Mary Jo Pitzl: She's winning.

Howard Fischer: She may be winning although some recent news may justify that. But the fact is, if you believe that some of this money is coming from Pinnacle West or Arizona public service, they want a commission that's much more friendly. Sandra has made no bones about it during her prior tenure on the commission. She favors solar. She is not a fan of the utilities. She thinks they should be doing more to encourage solar. They don't want to lose that. We're sitting around here because we cannot find out who is behind the save our future now committee. The Secretary of State's office is trying to get them to disclose. Maybe three years from now when it's through the courts, we'll know.

Ted Simons: I think we're all relatively sick of seeing ad after ad after ad, and opening our mailbox to cardboard after cardboard.

Mike Sunnucks: But they work. They work for all voters, I would think. It's framed the Ducey race, the attorney general's race in favor of Republicans. You get a mailer or see an ad on "wheel of fortune," you have to look at the bottom to see whose ad it is. The dark money ads are exactly the same. Why run an ad, why send the money to those guys to do the dirty ads, but also run positive ads for you. I think it's a real game changer. This money is a drop in the bucket, some of the other states where there's big races. It's the trend.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Outside money, somebody said after the primary, the new model is you've got to have two campaigns, your own as a candidate and in the expenditure committee you don't have any association with, and the I.E. does your dirty work for you. You can be the nice, clean candidate. Most voters are not going to read the fine print on who's doing what. You've got a two-track kind of thing going on here. The candidate says I run a very upbeat campaign. This group wants to say all this nasty stuff about Sandra Kennedy --

Howard Fischer: Who are they? What's getting interesting is there's a lawsuit pending in federal court. We know there's 26 million spent partially because the groups that don't have to report their donors are supposed to report their expenditures under a section of law about if you influence campaigns. There's a challenge in front of a judge that says you have a description of who is a political committee. I can't make it out, lawyers can't make it out, therefore I think it's unconstitutionally vague. No political committees, no requirements to register, we don't even get to find out who gets to spend on what.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's connect the dots for folks to find who is a Sean Noble, who's worked for APS and Ducey, it's on us to do that. And to connect those dots for voters. The ads, going through the ads you're not going to get that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The difficulty is being able to nail that down conclusively because, under the law, these are very well crafted strategies. They stay within the law enforcement and organizations such as the one I work, for we like to do everything on the record. You've got to prove it.

Howard Fischer: If the judge decides in favor of avoiding this section of title 16, the election law, we don't even get the name of the groups, so we can't track save our future now or Americans for prosperity backing something. It leaves us without any ammunition.

Mike Sunnucks: After someone's elected you start to see who they favor, you're able to maybe connect the dots. But before campaigns if somebody's new, it's very difficult.

Ted Simons: Will dark money be a big issue next session or a lot of talk and little action?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Probably the latter. You do have both candidates for Secretary of State, the top elections post. They both say dark money, bad, we need to shine a light on it. Just last week we've seen dark money come into that race with an ad to defeat Terry Goddard. Michele Reagan said she would denounce -- both said they would denounce any dark money coming into the race. Reagan wanted to change the topic and said, I'm not going to say anything until we get Goddard to comment on something from the 2010 race. They have to make an effort. But the legislature, look what happened last time. Reagan had a bill she had worked during the off session with this plan, everybody was Kumbayah. It passes the committee and just disappeared.

Mike Sunnucks: Little talk and zero action. We'll see Republicans in most statewide things will do well. In the legislature, they view campaign finance as a Democratic issue.

Howard Fischer: That leads to the alternate thing. People out there are crafting an initiative. If the legislature does not act we will see something on the 2016 ballot to force greater disclosure. That may be the one thing that gets lawmakers -- they hate it when the voters do something when they don't do it.

Ted Simons: I can't wait to see the ads against that particular measure. The money Portland into that one will be -- Quickly, Republican officials being punished for what, supporting Democrats or not supporting Republicans enough or what?

Howard Fischer: The big tent Ronald Reagan talked about does not exist in the state's largest County. To be fair, if you are a Republican precinct committee member, an elected official, and you are endorsing a Democrat, there might be something to be said there. Can you force them out? Are you actually helping your situation with your party by making this a public issue? I don't think so.

Ted Simons: Rick Romley says it's against the law, others say it's not.

Mike Sunnucks: It's the same crew that disliked John McCain. Essentially what they would like to do is excommunicate the no true believers.

Ted Simons: And quickly, as well, it sounds like the Democrats are supporting a Libertarian in congressional District 9?

Mary Jo Pitzl: They sent out some fliers to let voters know about his position. He has the conservative position on some of these issues. Maybe you might want to cast your conservative vote for the Libertarian and not the Republicans.

Mike Sunnucks: They are just saying, he's what he believes, a lot like what you believe. We've seen where you have straw candidates or third party candidates that might hurt one party or the other. It's assumed Sinema is safe. Wendy Rogers hasn't been that strong. But they are doing this, maybe there's concern there's this GOP wave.

Howard Fischer: It would be really funny and the Libertarian got elected. It's all funny. You have to deal with this as a sense of humor.

Ted Simons: Coming Tuesday night, are we going to see any prices, do you think?

Mary Jo Pitzl: If there is a surprise, less and less as sometime goes on, how do you think he might be surprised?

Howard Fischer: If Fred DuVal goes, it'll be a surprise. Too little, too late, he pounded his shoe on the table and said, I'm really for education and Doug Ducey is not. I don't see a lot of surprises. Some of these are almost too close to call. The Reagan Goddard case, the Rotellini Brnovich.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You know what would be a surprise? If everything was definitive on nous nice.

Ted Simons: What do you think? For anybody up for surprises.

Mike Sunnucks: If Tobin wins I think Reagan would be the biggest surprise beating Goddard. Douglas and Garcia should be close. If Douglas wins by a wider margin than expected.

Ted Simons: You think it'll be tight? Interesting. Good stuff, guys, we'll see what happens on Tuesday

Mary Jo Pitzl:Journalist, Arizona Republic; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services;
Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal;

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