Journalists’ Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Coming up next on the "Journalists' Roundtable," a recount is underway to determine the winner in Arizona's 2nd congressional district. And Diane Douglas is the state's next superintendent of public instruction. The "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions of the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon" "Journalists' Roundtable." I'm Ted Simons. Joining us tonight, Luige del Puerto of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Howard Fischer of "capitol media services." and Mike Sunnucks of the "Phoenix Business journal." A recount in Arizona's 2nd congressional district race between incumbent Ron barber and the apparent winner, Martha Mcsally. Is the recount a done deal? What's going on?

Luige del Puerto: Yeah, it is a done deal at this point. What happened after the ups and downs of the -- changes in the leads over the last several days, Martha McSally had been holding on to a very small, slim lead. And finally the count is done for now, and she is leading by 161 votes. If the vote is -- if the lead is less than 200 votes, there is going to be a recount. That's certain at this point there will be a recount.

Howard Fischer: What's always interesting, people think recount and they have an image of Florida and the hanging Chads. In Arizona, recount is done by the same machines that did it before. A small hand sample. I find it fascinating when you put the same ballots through the same machines you come up with different numbers. Which always made me wonder about the whole system --

Ted Simons: We are not going to find any ballots --

Howard Fischer: There was a problem at the continental school district, and all of the sudden, hey, it's like Chicago. No, we think all of the ballots are found. Now the question becomes which provisionals get counted and which don't. That could lead to some litigation in terms of are these proper, improper, because depending on where they're from, they could help certainly Ron Barber.

Ted Simons: Surprise that this has gone in this direction?

Mike Sunnucks: Well, it was close last time. This was a republican year overall, nationally, statewide, and so, you know, Mcsally, folks thought she had maybe the best odds of the three bellwether races, battleground races, democrats won the other two. I could see litigation on this if it gets really tight. When you have to go to graham county for something, you know there is going to be some issues.

Howard Fischer: The other part of the issue, of course, we talked about it around the table, with the three competitive districts, supposably -- I think they started to see the writing on the wall in terms of Anne Kirkpatrick and that -- Ron Barber. I don't know that he has shown a lot on his own that he can do much. And how close Mcsally became two years ago, I think that became their best effort.

Ted Simons: Is there a political future for Ron Barber?

Luige del Puerto: It was a very close election. If it turns out he is going to lose by less than 200 votes, at the end of the recount, yeah, he has won one. She has won one, assuming she wins -- she won now, and assuming that the recount confirms that, it is basically one-one, or two-one, something like that. The point is yes, of course there is a future for him. The question for the democratic party, do you want him again running for that seat or do you want something else, new, fresh blood, you know, someone, a new face in the democratic party. Someone like that.

Mike Sunnucks: The challenge, it is not easy to find good candidates. Kyrsten Sinema could be beat in the district. She has won a good campaign, moved to the middle, raised a lot of money. That district is a battleground district. They haven't been able to get a first stringer on there. Tobin, they pummeled him in that race. Mcsally -- Ron Barber, are you going to bring in somebody that is better?

Howard Fischer: Democrats have never really developed a farm system. Part of it being in the minority at the legislature and not having people who can move up into that. But let's look around. Okay, who the democrats offer four years from now for governor or secretary of state. I'm sorry, Terry, it's done. Put a fork in it, it isn't going to happen. What does that leave? Look at the leadership in the house and Senate. And you know, there are some possibilities there, but not a lot. And the democrats really need to do a better job of developing --

Mike Sunnucks: I think there is a lack of diversity with democrats. You have a lot of white guys running for seats, and I think maybe it would help the democrats to turn out younger voters and Hispanics if you have Latinos running, if you have minorities running once in a while. They tend to have a lot -- it tends to be two white guys running --

Ted Simons: Garcia, basically the surprise of the entire --

Mike Sunnucks: It seems to be some of the same names too often. You don't have these fresh faces out there that people will take a look at.

Luige del Puerto: It is not too late for the democratic party to start looking for new faces. They may be grooming RANDall -- the coming legislator from Tucson. Was a doctor during the shooting of Gabby Giffords, popular in that district. You know, won his race to the Arizona house. I wonder if they're looking at him. You know, he could be someone that they can groom probably to run for something bigger, maybe a statewide office, maybe even a congressional seat.

Howard Fischer: We will have to see the kind of bills they introduce. Democrat bills generally not going anywhere. When you introduce things and put your name behind them and show you can work with folks, you may be right.

Ted Simons: Steve Farley down there.

Howard Fischer: Steve Farley somehow thought he was going to be Senate president, I think, at one point. Legend in his own mind perhaps there. He's a quote, unquote, fresh young face, but he sometimes doesn't even get along with members of his own caucus. That creates interesting problems there.

Ted Simons: We did mention that Garcia did concede his race, superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas, we had Diane Douglas on the program. And she thinks -- I am curious about this being a mandate. You are talking 40 some odd percent of the vote, .55 margin of difference. She thinks it is a mandate.

Howard Fischer: Let's parse this a little further. 45% turnout. 50% of 45% and that 45% is really only half of the people eligible to vote. Somewhere down in the 20% range here. Is it a mandate? Well, she did make it her sole issue. Garcia a quite frankly lousy campaign --

Ted Simons: How so?

Howard Fischer: Diane Douglas saying to everybody -- we don't want business people determining what is good for your kids. She said on the show here, and during the debate, business people just want to make worker bees out of people. How does David Garcia come back? Talking about the -- the business people who backed him. I will put large blame on the business community. The chamber endorsed him. Where was the money to go with that? Where was the early independent expenditure? To bring people out, to have the heads of major corporations saying if you want quality jobs in Arizona, this is how you'll vote.

Luige del Puerto: Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, and maybe not. The thing is, there was money going towards David Garcia's campaign. About $800,000 in independent spending went to try and help him win this race. And obviously what -- on the other hand, Diane Douglas did not receive -- basically less than --

Ted Simons: And that's why she is saying that this was the clearest way for citizens to reject common core, which was the alpha and omega of her campaign.

Mike Sunnucks: I think some people voted for her because of common core, folks on the right. I think a lot of people voted for her because she was a republican on the ticket and didn't really pay attention to the race. Mentioned the business community -- it is hard for the business community to cross party lines -- a lot of republican friends at the legislature and congressional delegation and when they want to go down there and get tax breaks and special treatment, it is hard for them to put their money where their mouth is on --

Howard Fischer: Kelly ward, education committee in the Senate. She has made the abolition of common core her issue. Can she get it out of the education committee -- we come back to the business community having to do what they perhaps should have done now. Coming down there and saying, if you abolish common core, you are going to destroy the job creation here. You are going to destroy the Arizona recovery to the extent that it exists. We had a guy come down the last time this came up and actually testified in front of the committee saying I will not hire Arizona graduates because I'm not convinced that they have the skills. That is where the business community needs to come in.

Luige del Puerto: The way we're looking at this right now, we have top policy makers in the education arena that are -- we have Doug Ducey, opposed to common core, wouldn't say whether he would eliminate common core on his first day in office. We have Diane Douglas, we have Kelly ward, introduce these three bills, one of them would have required the school districts to develop their own standards. Now we have a clearly anti-common core atmosphere in our top education policy offices. I wonder if the business community looks at that reality and says, well, we're not really sure what we can do. How we can fight --

Howard Fischer: I think they fight it. I would make my first 2015 prediction here tonight that a common core abolition bill does not even get to the governor's desk. I think the business community makes this an issue, and maybe some of 1062 --

Ted Simons: I tell you one thing, if the business community continues to repeat we need educated workers, we need better education, it will fall on deaf ears if they allow common core to -- we should qualify that. Diane Douglas qualifies that. She says common core bad. Let's replace it with X, Y -- she has ideas with replacing the standards and corresponding tests. It is not like she wants everything to go away and no standards at all.

Mike Sunnucks: You could see a middle ground. I'm with howie, I think it doesn't get through the Senate. I think there are enough so-called moderates to team with democrats. It could be a first real test for Ducey, who do you side with? He walked that tightrope pretty well in this race. He didn't answer a lot of things. This will put him on the spot a bit.

Ted Simons: Back to Howie's point, I think his folks will be sure that he is not put on the spot and he never gets to his desk.

Mike Sunnucks: That is good governing. A good governor. Failing in this session that 1062 made it that far and she had to veto it. If you have to veto something as governor, you want to make sure it doesn't get there.

Luige del Puerto: What clearly will happen is that Diane Douglas will use her bully pulpit by herself she cannot do anything about common core. One of 11 votes on the state board of education. She can't do anything about it by herself. But she keeps hammering that point and keeps pressuring state legislature, with the help of Kelly ward and those opposed to common core, it is conceivable that we would see something get out of the legislature and on Ducey's desk. It would be up to him what he does with it.

Howard Fischer: But the problem becomes what do you replace it with? If it is just simply -- one of the bills last year, simply as you say, let each school district make its own standards. Well, what was the whole purpose of having statewide standards? They made a clear point. AZ merits -- I think they come up with the acronym first -- latest version of the common core testing will be Arizona specific yet nationally normed. I have a feeling that there is going to be a learning curve for Ms. Douglas when she gets up there. I think that in her own way I think she would like to hear what they have to say. I think she needs to be educated about it. She may not change her mind, but at least they will have an understanding of each other.

Ted Simons: Final thoughts here by the way. First chance we have had the panel last week talking about the election. New panel this week. Final thoughts on the election. Surprises, and what happens, especially when it concerns the budget, which is hanging over everything.

Mike Sunnucks: Well, they're in a corner a bit. It is so republican dominated. They are not going to raise taxes unless it goes to the voters. A governor who opposed extending the sales tax. A lot of conservatives who signed or abide by antitax pledges. And that really puts them in a corner fiscally and financially. I think Douglas, Douglas race kind of showed the republican wave overall. I mean, that was the closest one, that was the one that people pointed to as the democrats possibly winning. Michelle Reagan winning by her margin kind of showed the republican strength. Congressional race, impact of the -- I think -- maybe want to send the three so-called democrats, a holiday card to thank them on that. That certainly helped especially Kirkpatrick, I think, hold on to that seat.

Howard Fischer: A couple of spots. The budget, half a billion for this fiscal year, equivalent of cutting a billion over the whole year. If you are not going to raise taxes, Doug Ducey said in his election night speech, we're not going to borrow. How many gimmicks can you do? $9.3 billion budget, you can't touch K-12. You can't touch Medicaid. Nobody is going to touch corrections. I don't know how much more we can cut universities without putting them out of business. Where do you do it? You can only do so many gimmicks. Other issue in terms of a final thought, if you didn't like the election results and didn't vote, don't whine to me.

Ted Simons: And a lot of folks did not vote. What happened to rock the boat and all of those get out the --

Howard Fischer: The Latino community had a big press conference on how -- yes, we got folks to register. This time we're going to come out. Whatever it was, whether it was an anti-Obama feeling because he hadn't promised -- the action that maybe he is or is not taking next week. Whether it was nobody felt connected, or whatever. We go through this. 45% turnout of the people who actually bother to register, that's sad.

Ted Simons: As far as governor like Ducey, I thought his speech on the election night with the governor on his side was interesting to phrase it. Help is on the way. We're coming. Help is on the -- the governor is standing right next to him.

Luige del Puerto: Well -- Interesting thing about this election, governor Ducey is not running on governor Brewer's accomplishments, or rather the republican party's accomplishments. He is selling himself saying I'm a businessman. I can do a better job than the democratic nominee. Very clearly he is not saying vote for me because the party has done a very good job of managing the state. Now, of course, governor Brewer faced some very tough challenges during her time. But the facts still remain that we're facing a $1.5 billion deficit. And whatever you say, they were in charge when this deficit is occurring, or had occurred, or -- we're not sure a direct result of the policy decisions that they made, but they were in charge. And, so, now my thought is that what we basically have the status quo. We have five republicans holding statewide offices and we are going to have the same thing. Ratio in the house remains the same.

Ted Simons: It is status quo.

Mike Sunnucks: Yeah. Scott Smith, the Brewer candidate, the one that liked common core, liked Medicaid, was -- Ducey was a little bit to the right. But does that make -- that makes the solutions even harder. Because he's to the right and legislatures who would love to go way far to the right. Some of them will try to do that.

Howard Fischer: That is going to be the big challenge. Andy Biggs is as the veteran of all of this will try to use his force and personality -- Doug Ducey also kind of untested as governor, and it is going to be real interesting to see how they manage to pull this out. I mean, you've got Biggs who would love to cut a half billion this year and another billion next year. Okay, and that's going to occur where?

Ted Simons: As far as the honeymoon period, how many hours?

Howard Fischer: Oh, I think it will last for awhile until all of the sudden we saw the same thing with Jan Brewer we see with every governor. They make nice and then when they send them the first bill, I told you not to send me that. And the first veto, and then, you know, or, for example, perennial bills, legislature always sends out the bill giving it control of federal moneys. I have watched lawmakers who have become governors who voted for that bill as lawmakers when they become governor, excuse me, I am the governor.

Ted Simons: To that point, will a Doug Ducey, Martha McSally -- once in office, where do they land?

Mike Sunnucks: I think there is some realism that will pop in for Ducey especially on the budget, how far he can go. I don't know. We didn't find that out in the campaign because he really wasn't pushed enough to answer --

Howard Fischer: Oh, no, he was pushed, he just didn't answer. Ask our host about how he pushed him on that.

Mike Sunnucks: We don't really know. And what happens if son of 1062 or son of 1070 come to his desk or a right wing common core thing, where does he go? We are not sure where he will go on that. Is he Scott walker -- will he take on -- I don't think he will take on directly the legislature like Brewer did on some issues. I think it will be more subdued.

Luige del Puerto: When Brewer came on the scene in 2009, her close advisors basically came to her and said this is how big the problem is. And really these are our only options. Governor looked at the problem and decided that we have to do a tax increase. And that kind of realism pervaded her administration. And we saw that time and time again when she would look at an issue and say, well, I can't -- as a republican or a conservative or whatever, I have to -- as a governor in charge of state and I have to make things run. We have seen it time and again during her administration. I wonder if we see that happen during the first weeks of Ducey's administration, his advisors basically saying look, this is the reality. You have to deal with it. Now let's make some --

Howard Fischer: That becomes an interesting question. I don't think he has any idea of the storm that is going to hit him. I mean, he knows there is a half a billion and a billion. I don't know even if he has been treasurer for four years, because he said now I'm going to study the budget, but that he has any idea of where he can cut and where he can't. Can we extend out maybe the tax cuts of the corporation -- 16, 17, 18, maybe push him back. That gets us maybe 100 or $200 million right there. Are there other options that we can do? And maybe even at some point Jan Brewer saying to voters, look, if you want to keep these things whole, maybe we need a temporary fix.

Mike Sunnucks: Brewer was poised to lose the 2010 primary until 1070 came along and -- it would be so hard for Ducey, because he opposed it. It wasn't like he was sitting on the sidelines. He was the reason the extension didn't go through. That paints him into the corner.

Luige del Puerto: We have to remember also -- voters have approved time and time again tax cuts. If it is specific and they know where it is going --

Ted Simons: Tax increases.

Luige del Puerto: I'm sorry, tax increases. If it is specific and they know where it is going, we saw that with the one cent sales tax. We saw that with early childhood development. We saw that recently in this -- in this election cycle with the hospital bond in Maricopa County. Voters, when they see there is a sense to a tax increase proposal, they will vote for it. And it will be up to Ducey to look at that and say --

Howard Fischer: Yeah, but now we have to find out if he is a pragmatist or a ideologue -- there are people who are elected, some newbies and some veterans who would be just as happy with the $5 billion dollar budget --

Mike Sunnucks: He wanted to run for governor last time. He ran for treasurer. It will be hard for someone as a candidate for --

Ted Simons: Before we get out of here, I want to know who CC Velasquez--

Luige del Puerto: She is on the run, you're right about that. She had worked in the law office since 2009, and also worked for his campaign, but you are right. She is on the run because she failed to pay fines associated with a host of traffic violations. Right now she needs to pay $2,300 fine. It is not only that. She has been caught several times violating traffic rules, and basically she needs to take care of this before the session starts, or at that point, she may have to start invoking her immunity so that she is --

Ted Simons: Out of time.

Mike Sunnucks: We haven't heard that before.

Ted Simons: Don't you know who I am thing.

Howard Fischer: Well, what's interesting, questions parallel the Deval campaign, was she driving while her license was suspended? Well, you know -- don't ask me that.

Ted Simons: No insurance, suspended license, registration, failed to appear -- she apparently reportedly a whole host of problems.

Howard Fischer: Well, you know, but people like their lawmakers. Look, I remember when we had folks elected a lawmaker who we knew the moment that the session ended, he was going to go to jail for his third DUI. Folks like their lawmakers. She is sort of an untested issue. Now this immunity is interesting. It is not really immunity. It is an exemption -- a privilege from arrest or civil process while the legislature is in session. So, if she can somehow make it until January 5th at noon --

Ted Simons: Just keep hiding out until January 5th, is that what you are trying to say --

Howard Fischer: If she can make it until January 5th, she has four, five months until the end of the session. They -- the DPS is at the door.

Luige del Puerto: Democratic caucus, should do, $100, $200 each, give it to her --

Ted Simons: Easy for you to say. They didn't get a pay raise this last go-round.

Luige del Puerto: Still have $24,000 a year.

Ted Simons: We will stop it right there, gentlemen. Thank you so much.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon," cooling temperatures signal that valley-fever season is upon us. -- Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Tuesday, the dean of the Herberger institute. Wednesday, how Arizona's international trade compares with other areas of the country. Thursday, a look at efforts to improve the state's business climate for the tech industry. And Friday another edition of "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us.

Luige del Puerto:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Howard Fischer:Journalist, Capitol Media Services; Mike Sunnucks:Journalist, Phoenix Business Journal;

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