Journalists’ Roundtable

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Join us as reporters bring us up to date on the latest news in the Journalists’ Roundtable.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon's journalists' roundtable, I'm ted Simons. Joining us tonight: Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic. Mike Sunnucks of the phoenix business journal. And Luige del Puerto of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: It's official the courts have ruled that Arizona's same-sex marriage ban is now history. Take us through what happened here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right but then we had a succession of states' bans being overturned. Two weeks ago the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned bans in Idaho and Nevada. And since Arizona is in the same Circuit as those two states it was inevitable that this decision would come down to Arizona. And at the end it all turned on Tom Horne. Who seemed to be prolonging this saying we need to exhaust all of the options. So this morning Judge Sedwick ruled that the marriage ban in…He objected he upheld further appeals. Horne said what are we waiting for I am done I am going to issue a letter to the county clerks and allow them to start issuing marriage licenses.

Mike Sunnucks: Horne said the chances of the 9th Circuit in San Francisco of changing the ruling on this is zero. The Supreme Court hasn't shown an inclination to do this either. California, Nevada, Idaho all of these states have been overturned. And so suddenly today we have same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Ted Simons: Surprised that Horne didn't try to stretch this out? It wasn't eithcal to do so considering he had no chance of winning.

Luige del Puerto: A couple days ago we asked the Attorney General this case hinges on what he does. Weather he would appeal the case and at that point his office was pretty clear about wanting to move on. Yet when I woke up this morning to learn it was infact happening. And I think that is true for both sides of this debate.

Ted Simons: It's a bit of a shock to the point where if this had happened a year ago you would have seen people marching in the streets protesting. Its almost as if we saw this coming and they are going to get married.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Two weeks ago you could see this one coming and it became then a question of when not if. And the when was likely to happen sometime in 2014. That it happened today and not next month was maybe a little bit of a surprise.

Mike Sunnucks: Horne last in the primary. The reaction was we'll abide by the court's decision. The most vociferous opposition came from Jan Brewer who lam basted the decision. For the most part, Republicans have been pretty muted.

Luige del Puerto: And even the governor has lambasted the court for its ruling. She agreed with the decision of the attorney general not to appeal the case because mike pointed out, there's no point. You're going to the same court that already invalidated the ban in other states.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Jan brewer did not contest it. What the opponents are upset about is that voters as recently as 2008 said marriage in Arizona is between one man and one woman. And that was the will of the voters and they feel that we have a court that has now overturned the people's will and that's why Horne said I'm not on board with this decision, but I've got nowhere to go so I'm going to stop wasting money and wasting time, but I think the will of the people is what should prevail.

Ted Simons: And the governor did say she was deeply disappointed, deeply troubled, the court eroded the authority of states to regulate and uphold their own laws. Cathy Herod is grieving for children who now have no chance to grow up with a mom and a dad and mourning the loss of a culture and an ethical foundation. Does any of this impact any of the state races going on and specifically the governor's race?

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah, she compared this to the abortion rulings in the '70s, but Ducey's response was he supported Horne decision. He's been a very nuanced conservative, very conservative campaigner. Nothing he said today kind of cast that. Does this maybe energize Democrats a little more for Fred Duval? I don't know. It seems like it's a little bit separate from the statewide campaigns, especially the attorney general's race is in there. The democrat was quick to say we shouldn't drag this out and tom did what she said. I don't know what kind of impact it's going to have on statewide races.

Luige del Puerto: It's hard to read what kind of impact this would have on the campaigns. All we do know is this no longer will be an issue in the general election. We already have same-sex marriage. It's already happening. It seems like from the response that we have seen from the candidates, it seems like they have accepted this as inevitable, something that we have to live with, and so not sure if this moves the needle either way.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And I talked to some folks today. First of all, people have been voting for 10 days now or by the weekend they will have been voting for 10 days and Maricopa county has 165,000 votes already in and the candidates' positions are well known on this. This doesn't sort of blow anything up. If anything, if you're on the losing side, the theory that if you're upset and angry, maybe that animates you more than when you win. Now, you can't go out and cast a vote against gay marriage. There's no hope for that, but you might want to side with candidates who have not been sympathetic to gay marriage.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the quandary on both sides is public opinion polls have moved with the courts. There's more support for allowing same-sex marriage nationally and in states, but the electorate is older and more conservative, so the voters might not be as supportive, but it's kind of a mixed message. It's nothing there where a democrat would latch onto this and think it would propel them where a Republican would be at a disadvantage, but you did see Democrats sprinting. Greg Stanton, Fred Duval, all statements out very quickly whereas Republicans were besides the governor, were pretty quiet.

Mary Jo Pitzl: To mike's point about public opinion, Tom Horne was saying that although he doesn't support gay marriage, he's happy for the people that are getting married. And he said that it's probably, you know, suggested that if this went back to the people; there would be support for gay marriage. Things are changing and they're changing rather rapidly. Arizona becomes the 31st state to legalize gay marriage.

Ted Simons: Things are changing. How much do they change and how much I think Cathy said something along the lines of the fight isn't over, we will continue working. How much can this be worked against and I mean, just logistically, what goes on now that same-sex partners can get marry?

Luige del Puerto: It's very hard to see the United States Supreme Court taking up this issue at some point in the future and saying well all you guys that have been married all this time, we're going to invalidate all your marriages. For practical purposes, I think this is the end of the discussion. Cathy Herod vows to continue to fight. She equates this to roe V. wade and by awaiting it to that decision, she's saying look in 1973, we thought this was the end of it. It was not. Look at what's going on with the abortion fight nowadays. We are moving the ball forward. She thinks that within our lifetime we will see the end of abortion. Of course, they want to focus on Roe V. Wade. Others would want to focus on the loss that prohibited people not of the same race to hear and people -- to marry. People would say the train has left the station. We're not going back.

Mike Sunnucks: The Roe V. Wade decision left some powers to the states. Arizona's been one of the states that have pushed that envelope in terms of what weeks or restrictions are there. This is more of a black and white ruling. You want to get married? There's equal protection under the law, you can do it. I don't know what wiggle room conservatives have on that.

Tim Simons: That's what I'm asking. Can you chip away at this the way opponents of abortion rights have been chipping away at that?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm not sure. I haven't heard people making that argument, but I think this feeds into ancillary issues, such as discrimination, as someone pointed out today -- in Arizona there is no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. So we get back into the S.B. 1062 types of fights. I think that's the next frontier and maybe that base is a little more energized or perhaps a little more weakened because of today's events. I think we've got to see that plays out.

Luige del Puerto: There are some laws that give preference to married couples in our state, for example, in adopting a kid out of the state's foster care system. The law gives preference to married couples. Of course, when they passed that law, they had heterosexual couples in mind. Now, we have gay couples. I wonder what the legislature would do to that law and similar measures are still on the books. That would be interesting to see.

Ted Simons: That's why -- that's my question. There are all sorts of satellite issues.

Mike Sunnucks: You have lots of equal protection challenges to state laws and probably local ordinances that favor married couples or don't include same-sex couples. Employers are going to have to go through and look at their benefits, their policies, family leave act, health benefits, those types of things and see that they have to change those. Other states are going through. We were round zero for immigration. Right now, it's a little bit fait accompli for folks.

Luige del Puerto: What was interesting about the statement this morning was what she said we mourn a culture that continues to turn its back on god and his principles. To those who grew up in churches, this is very familiar lamentation, but it's an extraordinary claim to say that because the United States now allows same-sex marriage that it's turning its back on god and his principles. Of course, if you look at the Old Testament, you know, there's a subtext there and the subtext there is that if you disobeyed, you are inviting the wrath of god. It's very interesting for her to bring this up.

Ted Simons: But it's not surprising is it?

Luige del Puerto: It's not, because this organization has always been advocating based on a religious viewpoint and the evangelical Christian viewpoint. Of course, I must note that the Christian churches are divided on this issue. They're deeply divided. Not all Christian churches are opposed to same-sex marriages.

Ted Simons: There were Christian churches performing weddings. Are the county clerks ready for all of this?

Luige del Puerto: They seem to be. Even I think in Pima County where they were going we're going to have to change the format, yet today the clerk of the court was saying we're issuing licenses. We're rolling. Again, they saw this coming. This wasn't a big surprise. Again, it happened on October 16th and not November 27th. It's probably the biggest difference. But the indications are the clerks are rockin' and rollin'.

Mike Sunnucks: It's interesting that Cathy Herod is the voice of social conservatism in the state. 1062, everyone ran for cover on the Republican side. Today, she was one of the more predominant folks out there, five, 10 years ago, you would have seen a lot more people talk about this, members of Congress. Trent franks was pretty quiet today. But you had the governor and you had Cathy Herod and not much else. It shows where the focus is in terms of kind of social conservative strain of our politics.

Ted Simons: One not up for re-election, the other not up for any election.

Luige del Puerto: It is true. She is the voice of the social conservative movement in the state. Her organization has been the voice on this issue for I don't know 20 years now, 15 to 20 years now. They have been at the forefront of this issue.

Mike Sunnucks: Nobody else really on these issues. She's the one. The Catholic Church pretty quiet, they're changing their tune on the issue. Not as vocal as in the past. Your Republican delegation pretty quiet, Republican leadership, the legislature pretty quiet. Even the kind of what Brnovich and Ducey said was not combative.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I say that only half in jest look what happened with our conferences and his message that the church needs to include homosexuals as part of the congregation.

Ted Simons: The L.D.S. church, anything?

Luige del Puerto: We haven't heard anything. Of course, they're opposed to same-sex marriage. I think you hit an important note there. The Catholic Church, the pope has changed his attitude towards same-sex marriage. The doctrine itself has not changed. It's still very much opposed to same-sex marriage. I don't think we'll see the center for Arizona policy and Cathy Herod going away. I think they'll dig in and fight, they'll be an important voice in this issue, and I think what I foresee happening is they'll move to the next frontier, which is religious freedom, making sure that even though there's more equality in marriage and other areas of the American life, that the religious are not silenced, that churches are able to perform what they've always done, you know, for years.

Ted Simons: So you're talking 1062 plus point one?

Luige del Puerto: Correct.

Ted Simons: We had our final governor's debate, at least between Ducey and Duval. Anything new here? In front of a women's group, women's issues.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the biggest news was that Ducey walked away a little bit from his get rid of the income tax pledge. He's been a nuanced candidate; he runs the ball a lot. He's kind of got the lead in a lot of people's minds both in the primary and the general and he's acted accordingly. And so, you know, Duval has gone after him saying, you know, getting rid of big tax cuts are not the thing to do considering the state's financial situation. And Ducey's response is well I'm not going to propose anything crazy and I think that was one of the bigger things.

Ted Simons: The quote from the debate was no one's talking about eliminating income tax. I thought he was.

Mike Sunnucks: He kind of talked about that before, but he's kind of backed off of that a little bit. He wants to get it lower, as close to zero as possible, but he leaves these caveats of being reasonable and that's been a center piece of his campaign. He's a reasonable conservative.

Mary Jo Pitzl: If you go back to the primary, he was known, he and ken Bennett were the candidates that were going to get rid of the income tax. Bennett had a plan, Ducey didn't, but since the primary victory, I agree with mike. Maybe the language has become a little more nuanced, but his pledge to voters said his goal is to eliminate the income tax, and get it as close to zero as he can.

Luige del Puerto: I think it's a very smart political move on his part to now start saying, you know, we're not going to do this on day one, that emphasizing that while that is still the goal that we're going to do this over two years, that's a very smart political, two terms, eight years, political move, very smart political move because now, he's faced with his reality of a state that's not collecting as much revenue as it likes. We're facing $520 million this year in deficits, $1 billion next year, $920 million in the year after and then $787 million in 2018. That's about $3.2 billion in deficits that he or Duval has to solve.

Ted Simons: With that in mind. Are we getting any more concrete ideas? We've got the rainy day fund, you want to streamline this and you want to make this more efficient, but we're talking real money here.

Mary Jo Pitzl: You need something big and we haven't heard that coming out of the campaign trail. There's some talk about trying to boost state trust land sales and accelerate that, you know, but there's limitations on that. A lot of that is caught up in the state Constitution and voters are very leery of messing with that. The biggest hope is that the economy will improve and there aren't those indications that it's moving along quickly.

Ted Simons: Yeah, we just had new job numbers and the unemployment rate ticked down a couple of 10ths here, but 1,500 or so new private jobs? That's all we saw?

Mike Sunnucks: Statewide. Actually in Phoenix, the private sector lost job. Almost all the jobs were schools, public universities coming back into session. We're losing more construction jobs than any other region in the country. And it's very slow. It's very stagnant. We're not seeing the population growth. We're not seeing the high-wage jobs that we want. The jobs that are coming here are warehouses and call centers mostly. The bankruptcy of the apple supplier out there in mesa, they're going to cut jobs. So it's putting the candidates kind of in a box because nobody's going to propose any kind of tax increases, Ducey is a Republican and their bread and butter is lower taxes, but the writing is on the wall economically that we're not going to grow ourselves out of this suddenly.

Luige del Puerto: Obviously both candidates can't say we want to increase taxes or we want to start cutting budgets. That's just a no-no when you're campaigning to get people to vote for you. However, I think it was -- I spoke with Andy Biggs a couple of days ago, and he said the choices are going to be very stark. You either have to raise taxes which obviously he opposes, or you've got to cut, and if the candidates are now saying we will not cut education, which is $4 billion out of our budget, oh, boy I don't know what else they can cut. And where else they would make sure that we come up with $1 billion in revenues.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think bottom line there just hasn't been an honest discussion with voters about the state's fiscal situation. People get it. They know that basically Arizona's finances are upside down and on another level, people get it that it's very impolitic to talk about raising taxes or cutting budgets, but one of those has got to happen or some combination thereof.

Ted Simons: And if it does happen, if you are a Ducey or you are a Duval and you're going I did my best, but we've got to do this and we've got to do that, good luck on that re-election campaign.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well did it hurt Jan Brewer?

Ted Simons: It didn't hurt Jan Brewer.

Mike Sunnucks: 1070, it was supposed to hurt jan brewer, and then she signed the bill, but it did not in the end, and I think that's something Duval made a misstep to make the sales tax issue, which Ducey opposed, a key issue of this race. We're talking about 2 cents and here's what it would pay for. This is the schools that he wants to protect, this would help us get out of some of those financial strain and here's what we would invest it in, but you don't see that kind of fortitude in politics across-the-board now. That would be a very stark issue because that was what propelled Doug Ducey into the forefront and there's ramifications.

Ted Simons: Comparing to what the governor did, the governor wasn't campaigning at the last moment not saying anything and then all of a sudden boom we're faced with this. She had a situation where most folks thought it made common sense.

Mary Jo Pitzl: She had to grow into it. She came into office and they cut and they cut, and one day, nothing else to cut. And she came to the very hard conclusion that we needed to raise taxes, she tried to sovereign the blow by making it temporary. It passed with 64% of the vote, which made some people say shoot, she should have asked for 2 cents or a longer period of time. Maybe that could have been sold but that ship sailed.

Luige del Puerto: That just goes to show you the difference between governing and campaigning because when you are now governing the state and you're faced with those kinds of deficits, I mean, you've got to do something. And you can't be nuanced about it like the governor. She looked at the figures and said we've got to raise taxes.

Ted Simons: I guess that's my question. She looked, she acted, it got done. No one's looking hard, no one's got a chart, no one's got -- at least he had an idea, at least he said x, y. We're not seeing any of that.

Mike Sunnucks: No, no. Doug Ducey's been the frontrunner and he's run a very nuanced campaign. His answers are nuanced, his plans are nuanced. He's running on experience, I'm a good manager, I was CEO of Coldstone. Fred is running on I'm not going to cut any more to education, but I don't think he's gone after Ducey in an aggressive enough way or offered an alternative. The problem is if he says I'm for the sales tax you're going to see all these sales commercials, not only is he a slick lobbyist, but he wants to raise your taxes. You have to have the bullets in your gun advertising-wise to counter that and I don't think voters are willing to vote for somebody that's going to campaign on raising even sales taxes.

Ted Simons: And as far as the debate is concerned, any change at all, any big winners? Is this pretty much --

Luige del Puerto: I think that pretty much everybody stuck to their guns. We know their talking points, nobody strayed. Like I mentioned earlier, Ducey did a politically savvy move by moving away from his let's eliminate income tax and we'll find out in November or if he becomes governor what he's going to do with the deficit.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What stood out to me was that Duval, he opened up and made some statements about women's right to choose, right to life issues and Ducey didn't engage, and Duval didn't press him on that and that one just fell off the table.

Mike Sunnucks: It will be interesting to see if Ducey governs like this, if he's nuanced and not definitive and does the right-wing legislature lead him down that path?

Great discussion, good to have you all here. 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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