Journalists’ Roundtable

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Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon's "Journalists' Roundtable" -- we'll discuss the disputed congressional primary in district 5 and a statewide poll shows the presidential race in Arizona is a toss-up. The "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon."

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon's "Journalists' Roundtable," I'm Ted Simons. Joining us is Mary Jo Pitzl of the "Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media Services and Jim Small of "Arizona Capitol Times." a Maricopa County Superior court judge today allowed additional uncounted ballots to be included in the nip and tuck republican primary for congressional district 5. 85, 85,000 votes, they've got less than 20 deciding this thing right now.

Mary Jo Pitzl: A judge said 18 ballots that the campaigns brought forward, 18 ballots from among those that the campaigns brought forward, these 18 need to be counted, they counted them and Andy Biggs' lead grew. He leads Christine Jones by 16 votes instead of nine.
Howard Fischer: This is not the end of it and we know this for a couple of reasons. Number one, jones' attorney point you had out these were ballots who went to the wrong polling place, were given a provisional ballot even after being told you can't vote here and were not told we're not going to count your vote and the judge said, look, poll workers should have told them that, and, therefore, their votes were cheated. There were more than 100 such ballots apparently out there and the question becomes if we're going to count these 18 should we count the other 120 or so of those? And that then bring Christine back on top? I'm assuming we'll be back in court on Monday.

Ted Simons: I remember election knit and even the day after, Christine Jones was being congratulated and beaten Andy Biggs and all of a sudden, another count and Andy Biggs is ahead. It's odd.

Jim Small: One of those, statistical anomalies -- but this was one and basically the way it worked was heading into the final day of counting a week ago today. Essentially, Andy Biggs needed to outpace Christine Jones by 7.5 percentage points. Up to that point, he was trailing and even among the ballots that had been counted after election day, the late-earlies where people show up and drop off their early ballot, he was beating her by three-ish points on average and suddenly in that one count, he beat her by seven plus percentage points and from then, it was basically over and another couple of counts that came in that Andy Biggs continued to beat her, and it was basically, you know, this one batch of the ballots when they got tabulated they came in and he hit the number he needed to.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Any reason to think they might -- obviously, this will go to a recount, but that specific batch of ballots might be examined apart from the others?

Jim Small: No indication it, could be an issue in litigation, so far, it hasn't been and whether going forward, I guess too early to see, but the way the recount works, Maricopa County did the recount -- the initial count on their machines with software, on the recount it will be done on a different kind of machine and software that the Secretary of State will arrange for. If there was a mechanical issue with the machine that the county stressed they had no problem, a full recount of the entire thing would find that out.

Ted Simons: looking at the number, it's a suburb how close the race -- absurd how close the race was. Most of the votes weren't for Biggs or Jones.
Jim Small: Andy bags stayed steady and he staid more or less steady within a percentage point of kind of his tracking, Christine Jones, instead of losing to Biggs by throw points she lost by seven, and pretty much all of the votes when you look at them, they went to Justin Olson.

Ted Simons: Where did that come from?

Jim Small: And the next batch of ballots counted, everything went back to the status quo, Jones three points behind and Olson three or four behind that.

Howard Fischer: The interesting question, who did Stapley and Olson steal from, we can sit and analyze the tea leaves, would Stapley's votes have gone to Biggs, and Justin off in his own little world. 13 votes pretty much separating them, you know, you don't know, is there a spoiler in this?

Mary Jo Pitzl: And an interesting side note to today's developments, the reason the judges allowed the extra 18 ballots to be counted, he said the county didn't instruct the poll workers on what to do. These are people who walked in on Election Day and at the wrong place, and the poll worker said you can cast a provisional ballot. But they didn't tell them it won't be counted if you cast it here, but get the instruction for the proper polling place, so there was no way for the 18 voters to remedy the situation.

Ted Simons: You're telling me the county did not tell me them to do so in the first place?

Mary Jo Pitzl: So says the judge.

Howard Fischer: That's the ruling we reviewed earlier, didn't say poll worker John Smith did this at this poll. Saying we looked at the instruction manual and the training of the poll workers, they should have been told, a, somebody walks in you tell them you can't vote here, go to your poll. If you insist, we'll give you a provisional ballot but as Mary Jo pointed out, it's not going to count. But they didn't know that.

Ted Simons: Who is responsible for instructing the poll workers?

Jim Small: That would be Helen Purcell and Karen Osborn, down the food chain to the elections department. They were, obviously, not happy with the judge's ruling, they viewed it as the judge ignoring the letter of the law and certainly made more work for them and as Mary Jo said, puts the blame at their feet and especially for Helen Purcell who ran a close primary election and has a challenger in the general, I think it's one more kind of bit of what's going on at the county, why do we keep having election problems and that will be the drumbeat we continue to hear.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Speaking of Purcell's close primary win, which is a win, if Christine Jones made the point there's 136 ballots that really should be counted that fall under this category in district 5. If you expand it how many fall into the category county wide, it's 700 sore. And Purcell only won by 200-some votes.

Ted Simons: this is a race that in the last second flipped in and of itself. Election night, looks like Helen lost.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I can never tell on election night.

Ted Simons: Well, you can never tell, but goodness gracious when you're talking nine and some odd number votes.

Howard Fischer: I remember the race against Matt Salmon and we analyzed which precincts haven't been counted. Coming from the east side, those are Matt's, or central Phoenix and that's the issue and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out who's early ballots are these? And late-early ballot, early-early ballots and overseas ballots --

Ted Simons: The recount happening next week?

Jim Small: The county board of supervisors will certify results and the state will have the official candidate and after that, they're head to court, hey, we node a recount and it will begin --

Ted Simons: and we'll congratulate Justin Olson -- goodness. The public possible, Morrison Institute and "Cronkite News" poll. Let's get to the biggies. Trump versus Clinton, the big matchup and some of the previous polls, people raising an eyebrow, I can't believe it's that close. This one says it's that close.

Howard Fischer: It's that close and that's the issue that -- we've talk about this before, everyone's expectations of trump were oh, my god, nothing is going to happen. He keeps striking cords. Now, the poll was out there for a number of weeks, I don't know what things affected -- sometimes you can tell, maybe it was the trip to medico or something else. But he's clearly struck a chord among people and plus Hillary is negative, you cannot underestimate the fact there are people out there who think she's entrust worthy and a liar and guilty of --

Ted Simons: What are you talking about --

Mary Jo Pitzl: She won, came out on top.

Ted Simons: this is a state that hasn't voted for a democrat.

Howard Fischer: I understand but that is the point. Under normal circumstances, Trump would be -- you know, he's a joke. And that is my point and Hillary should do better, even in a red state like that.

Ted Simons: We have the governor appearing with the joke -- quote/unquote, the joke. He's not that big of a joke to republicans in Arizona.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He's the party nominee. You know, most republicans are going to fall in line. Jeff Flake notwithstanding. But the poll showed a slight lead for Clinton, well within the margin of error and most importantly, 20 -- low 20% of the voters surveyed said they didn't know, they hadn't made up their mind.

Ted Simons: Undecided leaning toward Clinton, 40% to 37%. But 23% undecided? It's a toss-up in a variety of ways, isn't it?

Jim Small: 23% undecided, that number seems kind of high, if you think about it. We have two very polarizing figures. A lot of people wondering are they going to vote at the top of the ticket or skip it and go down and start with the McCain race.

Howard Fischer: That's the key, exactly the key. There are people who are going, oh, my god, can I vote for either one of these people and they can't. There's people who won't be able to do either one. That's why you have one out of four --

Ted Simons: That's a lot of undecided.

Ted Simons: Hispanics 77% against him, just against him with a plus or minus 10%, that could be key. Couldn't it. That's a big number.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And actually on that number, not too far off from something that Latino Decisions, the issue today was a poll of Latino voters in Arizona, they found Latinos favored Clinton 72% to 17%.

Ted Simons: That's a toss-up. The U.S. senate race, the polls showing that McCain, as far as favorability, 49%, Kirkpatrick's was 36%. Not bad. Not 50%, though.

Howard Fischer: Well, this is the race of his career. He's got a very popular foe who is -- taken nice conservative positions like natural resources and careful with it and not been out there a lot. Haven't seen a lot of press conferences, figures I'm going to tread water and figures that Clinton may carry him over the top. McCain is doing himself no favors with the Trump people either. He's, you know, we talked a couple weeks ago around this table the fact that Jeff Flake who is making the point that trump is saying bizarre things and here's McCain saying I'm supporting the party's nomination. [laughter]

Ted Simons: All right, those are McCain's approval ratings. Do we have Kirkpatrick's. 36%, but Mary Jo, the amazing thing about Kirkpatrick's numbers are lots of folks don't have an opinion of her. They don't know her.

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, they don't know her. Ann Kirkpatrick has been representing northern Arizona in congress for -- what? -- six of the last eight years? She was in the state legislature before that, but she's out of Flagstaff, so she's not as established in the major media market where is the population is. So her campaign's got some work to do, you can't just bank on being the "not-McCain" candidate.

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: She did a few press conferences and seems to want to say, oh, no, I'm just going to do my ad.

Ted Simons: Hispanic voters favorable to Kirkpatrick. 56% unfavorable toward McCain even though he was part of the gang of eight. I don't know what he is anymore.

Mary Jo Pitzl: He was going to build wall too.

Ted Simons: That explains that. Jim, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, at the time of the poll, they doesn't have a Penzone versus Arpaio matchup. But his unfavorable ratings in Maricopa County, are high.

Jim Small: They are. We've seen this in polls over the last decade, you can't see the trend line of Sheriff Joe going from what he claimed was the most popular politician in the country to someone very much like John McCain in kind of the political fight of his career. This is going to absolutely be a tough race. There's a lots that happened in even just the last four years since he was reelected. The DOJ stuff, the -- this contempt of court --

Howard Fischer: But does any of it matter? How much times have we sat around this table and this is the years that Sheriff Joe -- he's got unfavorable ratings and yet $10 million in the bank and takes the DOJ thing and turns it around, see, that proves Obama is out to get me. There are enough people out there who believe this. Even if he gets indicted, he'll say, look, he'll send out a fundraiser letter on that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Sheriff Joe Arpaio has become embedded into our political infrastructure. Probably more durable than the i-17. You've got pot holes and problems but there he is.

Jim Small: You're talking about the Hispanic ratings and favorability, the Hispanic vote is a key component for the democrats this year and so you've got trump at the top of the ticket who is arguably going to, you know, encourage more Hispanics to register to vote and show up to vote even if it's just a protest vote to vote against him. I think the real impact of having the Hillary Clinton camp spending money in Arizona for field staffers and get out the vote efforts is not going to be on the presidential race. There's 11 electoral votes. That's not going to swing -- it's tiny. But it's going to affect down the ticket. Ann Kirkpatrick and especially Sheriff Joe Arpaio. If the democrats are able to mobilize younger Hispanics, especially under the age of 30, they're going to -- in the polling you see, Hispanics overwhelmingly don't like Joe Arpaio or Donald Trump. I was going to say --

Howard Fischer: Even McCain. Younger Hispanics don't like McCain or Joe Arpaio. That's where you'll see the change. 16% to 17% of the electorate, if they move it north of 20%, that's bad news for republicans up and down the ticket.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Something else that will bring them out. The minimum wage. It's on the ballot. Voters will decide do we want to raise it to $12 gradually to the year 2020? That has strong appeal with everybody. With most of the -- all of the demographic groups we polled.

Ted Simons: I they which have the numbers if we can get those -- I think we have the numbers for the minimum wage. And get to marijuana in a minute. Two to one margin in favor, does that surprise you?

Howard Fischer: It didn't, remember, we didn't have a state minimum wage and we went from $5.15 which is the federal minimum wage, to $6.75 an hour and it passed by a two-to-one margin. $8.05 an hour, that is 16,000 and change a year. Can you support a family on that? Decide the restaurants saying it's a training wage, there are a lot number of people supporting a family on a training wage.

Ted Simons: How hard will the businesses fight it?

Jim Small: They're going to fight it, but I don't think it's going to be much more than token opposition, we're opposed, don't like it, put money into it, but I think they're likely to direct their money other places, making sure that John McCain gets reelected or making sure that the marijuana thing doesn't pass. There's a finite pool of resources and they have to decide where they can get the best value for the money.

Howard Fischer: Which may leave the restaurant association out there on its own, the restaurant association is fear. This is an industry that a large percentage of workers are making a heck of a lot less than $12 an hour.

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's a different provision.

Howard Fischer: Even then --

Ted Simons: It's a gradual increase. I think that was a key factor as well as well. It's not just boom --

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's a reason it went to $12 and not $15 discussed on the national level.
Howard Fischer: There's another sweetener in there. Paid time off. You get at least three days off a year paid. Five for larger employers. I've got to take my kids to the doctor, should I have to go without pay and risk being fired to take my kids to the doctor? And that's important to a lot of folks.

Ted Simons: The marijuana initiative mentioned and that was on it table a couple of minutes ago, I think, if I can remember correctly and mentioned in the polls and, you know, once again, looks like the voters are saying, at least those surveyed, ok, whatever.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well -- [laughter]

Mary Jo Pitzl: Maybe I mean, it's sort of soft. I do believe it was 50% support. But 10% undecided. And, you know, this is -- you always fight -- usually when these things start, the support side is the strongest vote you're going to get, right if and then the campaign basically if you're for it, your job is to shore up that number and if you're the opponent, erode the number, it can only go downhill and this one will be a fight.

Ted Simons: The critics and opposition are saying we haven't begun showing ads on this yet. Don't take it seriously. Howard?

Howard Fischer: The question is are they going to have the money for those ads. The fact is that the proponents fueled by the marijuana policy project and the dispensaries who stand to make millions of dollars if they get new retail stores have basically outspent the opponents three-to-one and there's new money comes out. A company called insist, which manufactures an opiate gave half a million dollars to the no side and raises questions what's the interest of a company that manufactures opiates of keeping marijuana off the market.

Ted Simons: Tell us.

Howard Fischer: The proponents of prop 205 say they just want their own more dangerous drugs there. I can't say that's true. This is an in-state company, a chandler company. The guy has concerns about the measure. But it doesn't help the optics of it. Opiates, good, marijuana not so much.

Ted Simons: Got to keep moving. The poll had an approval rating, look for governor Doug Ducey, and 44% view Doug Ducey favorably. That's good. But again, people don't seem to know who he is.

Jim Small: Not that they don't know who he is, but they don't have an opinion what kind of job he's doing.

Ted Simons: That's kind of not knowing who he is. 20% don't know or refused to answer the question. Surprise you at all?

Jim Small: No, not really, people pay attention to politics as elections come near and the new governor, he's in his second year, first term. They'll pay attention once the election is in the air, something major, something really, really good happens or bad happens, on the whole, Doug Ducey is, you know, pleasing to voter, there hasn't been any major hills or valleys.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Wait a minute!

Ted Simons: Prop 123 he was the face of that thing, wasn't he?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Prop 123 squeaked by and it passed and should have raised everybody's awareness because it was a squeaker.
Jim Small: 20% of the people voted. It didn't pass in an election where you had 70% turnout.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It was on the airwaves. It didn't really move the needle on his numbers, but at the beginning of the year, still in the 40s.

Howard Fischer: The other piece relates to prop 123. He's promised. He kept saying this was the first step of he gets an incomplete, the next thing -- I think what the 20% is hanging on to we see on the monitor, these are folks saying are you going to follow through or is this just a kiss -- and it's curious, it was today, he actually filed the paperwork for 2018 reelection campaign so we know he wants another term, whether the voters want to give it to him. We'll see.

Ted Simons: That happened today. Other breaking news, and Howie, it sounds like APS fighting the subpoenas from Bob Burns.

Howard Fischer: As we talked about before, Bob Burns, not getting cooperation from the other four, the republican the decided I'm going to subpoena the records of APS and Pinnacle West to find out what they spend on lobbying fees and he has the -- you have that authority. APS filed suit in superior court saying he doesn't have the authority. It has nothing do with what the commission is doing and how it spends charitable money and asking the judge to quash the subpoena. This is timely because next week he'll be sitting in an office, saying where is my box of subpoenas? And I don't know how quickly a judge can act but they've gone into a court.

Mary Jo Pitzl: How do you know if APS spent the way it said it did without looking at the documents?

Howard Fischer: The question becomes was the money related to ratepayers or related to shareholders and that's what the fight is going to be.

Ted Simons: That will be a topic for next Friday's "Journalists' Roundtable." Monday, we'll hear how middle school students are learning to solve crimes using stem skills and check out the winners of Arizona forward's environmental excellence awards. Tuesday, the impact of continued tax cuts on Arizona's economy. Wednesday, a debate on the proposed visitors center. And Thursday, hear about a program aimed to convince dropout students to get back to school and Friday, another edition of "Journalists' Roundtable." that's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great weekend!

Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic Capitol Reporter
Jeremy Duda, Arizona Capitol Times

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