Journalists Roundtable 06/09

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Three local journalists will give their insight into the week’s big stories.

RICK DEBRUHL: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA ROUNDTABLE, HEAR ABOUT THE LATEST DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE TO THROW HIS HAT INTO THE GOVERNORS RACE, AND WE'LL TALK ABOUT THE GOVERNORS DECLARATION OF A HEALTH EMERGENCY IN ARIZONA TO TACKLE THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC. JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE IS NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

"ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. THANK YOU.

RICK DEBRUHL: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON'S JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE, I'M RICK DEBRUHL FILLING IN FOR TED SIMONS. JOINING US TONIGHT: HOWARD FISCHER OF THE CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES... AND RACHEL LEINGANG OF THE ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES....

RICK DEBRUHL: OUR FIRST TOPIC, TUCSON DEMOCRAT STEVE FARLEY ANNOUNCED EARLIER THIS WEEK HE INTENDS TO TAKE ON DOUG DUCEY FOR GOVERNOR. FIRST, HE HAS TO WORK HIS WAY THROUGH WHAT IS A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR GOVERNOR. WE HAVE STEVE FARLEY, DAVID GARCIA AND A THIRD CANDIDATE WHO DECLARED A LONG TIME AGO.

MARY JO PITZL: RIGHT. NOAH DYER, HE HAS ATTENTION FOR THINGS THAT DON'T HAVE A LOT TO --

RICK DEBRUHL: HE HAS AN INTERESTING WEBSITE, DIDN'T HE?

MARY JO PITZL: FARLEY IS CURRENTLY A STATE SENATOR FROM TUCSON RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR FOR SOME TIME. THERE WAS QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER HE WOULD FOLLOW THROUGH. HE WAS SERIOUS. FARLEY IS THERE. HE WILL RUN HARD. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY SINCE GUTIERREZ AND PALATANO.

HOWARD FISCHER: THIS IS CRUCIAL BECAUSE I HEARD A REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR SAY, "OH THAT'S OK, THEY'LL BEAT EACH OTHER UP!" A PRIMARY HELPS BECAUSE IT SHARPENS YOUR FOCUS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU KEEP YOUR EYE ON BEATING DOUG DUCEY, AND IT GETS YOU THE INK YOU NEED. WHEN FRED DUVALL WAS RUNNING IN 2014, HE KEPT TRYING TO GET INK. COME TALK TO ME AFTER THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY. THAT'S ALL WE PAY ATTENTION TO NOW. IF WE PAY ATTENTION TO DEMOCRATS, THE EARNED MEDIA, THAT WILL MAKE FOR A SHARPER RACE TO MAKE THE GOVERNOR VULNERABLE.

RICK DEBRUHL: DO THEY HAVE TO SPEND MONEY THEY DON'T HAVE FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION?

RACHEL LEINGANG: IT'S GOOD FOR FIGURING OUT WHAT KIND OF CANDIDATE YOU ARE. FROM THE SECOND YOU START RUNNING, WE ARE BLEEDING MONEY. WE'RE ALREADY 18 MONTHS OUT FOR THE 2018 ELECTION. DUCEY WON'T HAVE TO SPEND UNTIL JANUARY AT THE EARLIEST, WHILE THESE GUYS HAVE TO START NOW.

HOWARD FISCHER: AND DUCEY IS A MONEY MACHINE. LAST TIME AROUND WHEN THERE WAS AN OPEN SEAT, HE SPENT CLOSE TO $8 MILLION, PROBABLY AN EQUAL AMOUNT FROM THE DARK MONEY SOURCES. THAT'S A PHENOMENAL AMOUNT TO BE SPENT ON THE STATE WITH 3.2 OR SO MILLION REGISTERED VOTERS.

RICK DEBRUHL: EVEN IF YOU HAVE A KILLER PRIMARY WITH ALL OF THIS NAME RECOGNITION, IN REALITY, WILL THE CHALLENGES UNSEAT GOVERNOR DUCEY?

MARY JO PITZL: YOU NEVER SAY NEVER IN AN ELECTION. DUCEY WILL BE FINANCED, A LOT OF OUTSIDE SUPPORT. DEMOCRATS NOT SO MUCH. DUCEY IS GETTING A LOT OF BLOW BACK FOR THE EDUCATION POLICIES. THIS LAST SESSION, THE VOUCHER BILL SUBJECT TO A REFERENDUM. YOU HAVE THE FINANCE ISSUE.

RICK DEBRUHL: GO BACK TO THE LAST ELECTION, SENATOR MCCAIN WAS "VULNERABLE" BUT HE HAD AN OVERWHELMING VICTORY.

HOWARD FISCHER: THIS IS NOT A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. THE COMMON WISDOM IS THAT THE PARTY NOT IN POWER DOES BETTER. WE ARE TALKING CONGRESS FOR A LOT OF THIS. YOU HAVE A LOT OF REPUBLICANS NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE ORANGE HAIRED DUDE IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND WHAT HE MEANS IN TERM FOR THE PARTY. YOU HAVE THE QUESTION OF THE REFERENDUM ON THE VOUCHERS, BUT THIS GOVERNOR SIGNED TWO MEASURES DESIGNED TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR PEOPLE TO CREATE THEIR OWN LAWS. IF THAT GOES ON THE BALLOT AND THIS FIRES FOLKS UP, THEY ARE PEOPLE NOT VOTING FOR DOUG DUCEY. THAT MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE. IT IS A RED STATE, NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT. THE FORCES OF BUSINESS AND DARKNESS AND EVIL WILL PUT LOTS OF MONEY KEEPING DOUG DUCEY THERE SO HE CAN DO THEIR BIDDING IF YOU WILL. THE FACT IS, A PROPERLY RUN CAMPAIGN, YOU CAN USE THE OTHER SIDE'S MONEY AGAINST THEM. WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM? YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD AT IT.

RICK DEBRUHL: DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO MATTER?

RACHEL LEINGANG: IT'S GOOD TO BE SKEPTICAL, BUT YOU CAN'T DISMISS THE GRASS ROOTS DISCONTENT ON THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. THEY ARE UPSET ABOUT WASHINGTON. IF IT'S ENOUGH, WE ARE TOO FAR OUT TO FIND OUT WHAT KIND OF CANDIDATES FARLEY OR GARCIA WILL BE. WE DON'T KNOW HOW STRONG THEY'LL BE ON ISSUES THAT THEY ARE NOT THAT COMFORTABLE WITH. FARLEY IS ENTRENCHED IN LEGISLATIVE POLITICS. BOTH HAVE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE. IT DEPENDS ON HOW THEY'LL RUN THEIR CAMPAIGN.

RICK DEBRUHL: THE GOVERNOR DECLARED A HEALTH EMERGENCY AS A RESULT OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, AND WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THAT?

HOWARD FISCHER: WELL, WHAT IT MEANS, THE GOVERNOR WANTS ATTENTION. I'M THE SKEPTIC HERE. THE GOVERNOR GOT HIS HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO PUT OUT A REPORT, EARLY A WEEK AGO SAYING WE ARE LOSING TWO PEOPLE A DAY TO OPIATE ABUSE. THAT'S A LOT. NOT SAYING THERE'S NOT A QUESTION THERE. NEXT WEEK HE SAID I READ MY OWN REPORT. WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY HERE. YOU CAN SHIFT AROUND MONEY, ENACT RULES FOR REPORTING. IT ALLOWS HIM TO GET DAILY DATA. THE REASON IT'S IMPORTANT IF SOMEONE IS WILLING TO FOLLOW THROUGH, YOU HAVE 431,000,000 PILLS A YEAR COMING INTO ARIZONA. THIS IS A STATE WITH 6.9 MILLION PEOPLE.

RICK DEBRUHL: AN OPIOID IS A PAINKILLER, OXYCODONE, HYDRO-CODONE. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE THIS PROBLEM AS A RESULT OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AND BECOME ADDICTS.

HOWARD FISCHER: EXACTLY. THE QUESTION BECOMES, THESE ARE TO BE PRESCRIBED, YOU BREAK AN ARM, PRO SURGERY. DOCTORS SOLD ON THIS BY THE MANUFACTURERS USE THEM -- PASSING THEM OUT LIKE CANDY. THERE IS HAS QUESTION OF WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS. YOU HAVE EXECUTIVES, A LOCAL FIRM WHO RECENTLY PLEADED GUILTY TO PROMOTING THESE DRUGS TO DOCTORS. WE NEED TO LOOK UPSTREAM AT THE SOURCE AND PERHAPS THE EMERGENCY WILL GIVE THE GOVERNOR AND HEALTH DEPARTMENT THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO GET --

RICK DEBRUHL: HE DOESN'T SOUND LIKE A COMPLETE SKEPTICAL.

MARY JO PITZL: THEY ARE LOOKING FOR MORE DATA.

RICK DEBRUHL: HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS WE HAVE? WE ARE TALKING TWO PEOPLE A DAY.

RACHEL LEINGANG: SMOKING IS THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF PREVENTIBLE DEATH. THAT'S A LESS SEXY TOPIC. A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE IT'S A LOT OF HEALTH PROBLEMS TOO.
MARY JO PITZL: EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT THE OPIOID CRISIS. THE GENERAL DID A NEWS CONFERENCE A COUPLE OF RESEARCH ON THE TOPIC. A LOT OF REPORTS OF NEGLECT ARE DUE TO DRUG ABUSE. IT'S HARD TO BREAK IT DOWN BY WHAT KIND. THEY DON'T KEEP STATS ON THAT. IT'S WIDELY BELIEVED OPIOIDS PLAY A BIG PART IN THAT. MAYBE YOU CUT THOSE TWO A DAY.

RICK DEBRUHL: THOSE ARE JUST THE DEATHS, OF COURSE. WE'RE GONNA LEAVE IT THERE, AND TALK ABOUT THE CORPORATION COMMISSION. GARY PIERCE, SHERRY PIERCE, JIM NORTON, UTILITY OWN GEORGE JOHNSON ALL DECLARED NOT GUILTY TO CHARGES OF FRAUD, BANKRUPTCY, CONSPIRACY.

MARY JO PITZL: NO SURPRISE THERE.

RICK DEBRUHL: WHERE ARE WE AT IN THIS PROCESS? IS IT GOING TO WHITTLE IT'S WAY THROUGH? FOR THOSE THAT DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT, EXPLAIN THE SITUATION.

HOWARD FISCHER: GEORGE RUNS JOHNSON UTILITIES IN PI NELL COUNTY. HE, ACCORDING TO THE INDICTMENT, FUNNELED MONEY THROUGH JIM NORTON TO SHERRY PIERCE, WIFE OF GARY PIERCE CHAIR OF THE ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION.

RICK DEBRUHL: WHICH REGULATES UTILITIES.

HOWARD FISCHER: ORIGINALLY A COUPLE OF MATTERS, TAX TREATMENT WHICH ALLOWED GEORGE JOHNSON TO CHARGE FOR PERSONAL INCOME TAXES AND PUTTING MONEY INTO THE RATE BASE. THAT DETERMINES HOW MUCH YOU CAN CHARGE CUSTOMERS. THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO PROVE THE TIT FOR TAT ON IT. THEY ARE GOING TO START SQUEEZING PEOPLE. THIS INVOLVES PIERCE'S SON, JUSTIN, ALLEGATIONS, HALF A MILLION DOLLARS DARK MONEY THERE. ALLEGATIONS HE WAS GETTING DONATIONS FOR HIS SON.

RICK DEBRUHL: SO WE ALREADY SAW THIS RIPPLE OUT.

RACHEL LEINGANG: THE CORPORATION COMMISSION HAS TO DECIDE DO WE REVERSE THE DECISIONS? THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT PAID A LOT MORE BECAUSE OF THEM. SHOULD THE COMMISSION GET THE MONEY BACK? WERE THEY DONE TO REVERSE THEM? DO PEOPLE GET MONEY BACK? ALL OF THOSE QUESTIONS.

MARY JO PITZL: THERE IS AN ARGUMENT THAT THE DECISIONS WERE MADE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. PIERCE DIDN'T MAKE IT HAPPEN HIMSELF. HE HAD TO HAVE A MAJORITY VOTE. THERE ARE NO OTHER COMMISSIONERS WITH INDICTMENTS HANDED UP. YOU COULD ARGUE THIS IS A SOUND POLICY FROM THE COMMISSION. THERE IS A STRONG INTEREST IN REVISITING THE POLICIES NOW.

HOWARD FISCHER: THE FUNNY PART ABOUT THIS, THERE IS $300,000 WORTH OF LAND. THE AMOUNT OF MONEY IS $31,000 WHICH HAS LED TO A LOT OF JOKES. NOT THAT POLITICIANS CAN BE BOUGHT BUT HOW CHEAPLY THEY CAN BE BOUGHT.

RACHEL LEINGANG: ANOTHER PART OF IT TOO, THEY WERE HEAVILY INVOLVED IN POLITICAL LIFE AT THE CAPITAL. THEY DONATED TO SO MANY PEOPLE.

RICK DEBRUHL: ARE THEY GIVING THAT BACK NOW?

RACHEL LEINGANG: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT? A LOT OF THEM WAITING FOR THEIR DAY IN COURT.

HOWARD FISCHER: WHICH IS INTERESTING BECAUSE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY CRITICIZED PEOPLE WHO TOOK MONEY FROM THE FOLKS THAT OWN THE TIMES AND BACK PAY WHICH HAVEN'T BEEN CONVICTED OF ANYTHING. DEPENDING ON THE SIDE OF THE STREET YOU ARE ON, SHOCKING.

RICK DEBRUHL: CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS TALKED ABOUT SIX CIVIL WAR CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS IN ARIZONA. THEY SAID THEY ARE SYMBOLS OF HATE AND SHOULD BE TAKEN DOWN. IS THIS GOING TO HAPPEN QUICKLY? NOT AT ALL? SO FAR, WHILE THEY HAVE THE NEWS CONFERENCE, WE HAVE NOT HEARD MUCH AFTER THAT.

MARY JO PITZL: I'M CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT STARTED ALL THIS. WE HAD THE CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS IN ARIZONA AND NOBODY SEEMS BOTHERED BY THEM. A WEEK LATER COMES THE NEWS CONFERENCE SAYING THESE ARE SYMBOLS OF HATE. THEY HAVE TO COME DOWN. ARE THEY HISTORICAL MONUMENTS TO BE RESPECTED FOR THEIR PLACE IN ARIZONA HISTORY, OR ARE THEY SYMBOLS OF RACISM.

RACHEL LEINGANG: THE NEW TIMES HAD A HISTORICAL LOOK AT THESE MONUMENTS, AND THE MOST RECENT ONE WAS PUT UP IN 2010.

RICK DEBRUHL: THEY WERE PUT UP 1943-2010.

RACHEL LEINGANG: WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT THINGS THAT HAPPENED DURING THE CIVIL WAR. THIS IS A CAMPAIGN RECENTLY. THIS IS A NATIONAL ISSUE FOR THE LAST FEW MONTHS, A LOT OF PLACE IN THE SOUTH ARE CONSIDERING WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH OUR SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATION? IS IT RACIST, OFF BASE? ARE THERE BETTER WAYS TO DO IT? IS IT OFFENSIVE? THERE IS A LOT THERE.

MARY JO PITZL: FOR THOSE ARGUING ON CIVIL RIGHTS, THEY POINT TO THE GOVERNOR. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. WE HAVE THE HIGHWAY MONUMENT. HE'S POINTING BACK AT OTHER ENTITIES SAYING, SAYING IT'S NOT MY OFFICE.

RICK DEBRUHL: THE GOVERNOR -- WHICH WAY IS THE WIND BLOWING ON THIS?

MARY JO PITZL: I GUESS DHS IS IN CHARGE OF OPIOID EPIDEMIC.

HOWARD FISCHER: THE NAMES BOARD IS FULL OF PEOPLE HE APPOINTS. YOU REMEMBER JANET NEPALITANO GOT BUSTED KNEECAPS ON THIS. IT'S ONE THING TO SAY, WE HAD A CIVIL WAR BATTLE. YOU WANT TO PUT UP A MARKER. HERE'S WHERE THE BATTLE OCCURRED. YES. WHILE THE CONFEDERACY CLAIMED ARIZONA, HECK, WE WERE TERRITORY THEN. WHEN YOU ARE PUTTING UP MONUMENTS, DURING THE CIVIL RIGHT'S MOVEMENT, YOU HAVE TO WONDER WHAT THE POINT WAS. THAT'S THE BIGGER CONCERN. WE DON'T HAVE A STATUE OF ROBERT E. LEE OR CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS THERE. YOU HAVE TO WONDER, WHAT IS THE MOTIVE.

RICK DEBRUHL: BRIEFLY, IS THIS A DEBATE THAT WILL CONTINUE ON? OR WILL IT BE, THEY HAD A NEWS CONFERENCE, PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT IT.

MARY JO PITZL: MY MONEY IS ON THE FORMER. STATUS QUO.

HOWARD FISCHER: THAT'S A HARD ONE. YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHO LIKE JARRED MOP WHO WON'T LET IT GO. HE HANGS ONTO THINGS. IT IS A LEGITIMATE DEBATE. TO THE EXTENT OF MONUMENTS BEING TAKEN DOWN IN THE SOUTH, AND PEOPLE BEING SHOT AT FOR TAKING THEM DOWN. THIS ISN'T LIKE THE CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG THERE WHICH IS A SYMBOL OF RACISM.

RICK DEBRUHL: THERE ARE 10S OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THAT DIED ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE.

HOWARD FISCHER: IS THE MONUMENT PUT UP 1961 TO 1965 A SYMBOL OF RACISM? PUT UP BY THE DAUGHTERS OF CONFEDERACY - THERE'S A QUESTION THERE.

RICK DEBRUHL: SPEAKING OF THE SOUTH, SOUTHERN ARIZONA! CONGRESSMAN SALLY WAS SPEAKING TO THE ASSISTANT BANKERS ASSOCIATION. THIS GOES TO THE BEGINNING OF THE PROGRAM. IS THIS A BLUE MIDTERM IN 2018 AS A RESULT OF WHAT'S GOING ON. IS SHE AT THE POINT GIVING UP THE BOAT TO WIN THIS?

RACHEL LEINGANG: TALK ABOUT PEOPLE GIVING MONEY, IT COULD BE MORE COMPETITIVE, SO GIVE ME MONEY. THE THING I FOUND INTERESTING IN DISTRICTS LIKE HERS, THEY HAVE HAD TO ANSWER EVERY TWEET FOR EVERY MISSTEP, EVERYTHING. SHE HAD AN INTERESTING QUOTE WHERE SHE SAID I'M LIKE HIS TWIN SISTER. I HAVE TO ANSWER FOR ALL OF THESE THINGS. YOUR PARTY IS IN POWER. DEMOCRATS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING GOING ON.

HOWARD FISCHER: WHAT'S FASCINATING ABOUT THIS SI THAT SOME REPUBLICANS ARE SAYING, "WE DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING SAID BY SOMEONE ELSE," BUT THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT SAY EVERY MUSLIM HAS TO STAND UP WHEN A MUSLIM DOES SOMETHING. YOU ARE THE PARTY IN POWER. THIS IS YOUR PRESIDENT. YOU VOTED WITH HIM. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SAY, NO, MR. TRUMP, THAT'S NOT WHAT MY CONSTITUENTS WANT.

MARY JO PITZL: IS THIS A BLUE SWING?

RICK DEBRUHL: NORMALLY AFTER 2010, IT BECAME A RED MIDTERM. THAT IS A COMPETITIVE CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. SHE'S NAILED DOWN SUPPORT. THE ENVIRONMENT ISN'T FAVORABLE FOR REPUBLICANS IN A TIGHTLY DRAWN, COMPETITIVE DISTRICT.

RICK DEBRUHL: ALMOST OUT OF TIME. ONE LAST TOPIC I HAVE TO SQUEEZE IN. DIANE DOUGLAS WAS BRIEFLY THE GOVERNOR OF ARIZONA. THE POINT BEING THAT THE GOVERNOR WAS GONE, SECRETARY OF STATE WAS GONE.

HOWARD FISCHER: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL. HE WAS FIFTH. IT'S AN INTERESTING SITUATION. IT'S NEVER BEEN AN ISSUE IN ARIZONA. WE HAVE HAD SITUATIONS WHERE THE REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR, SECRETARY OF STATE. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME JERRY BROWN WAS GOVERNOR, MIKE WOULD BLOW STUFF UP AND APPOINT THINGS. THERE HAS BEEN A LACK OF BETTER WORD, GENTLEMAN'S UNDERSTANDING HERE, YOU DON'T DO THAT KIND OF STUFF. WE NEVER HAD A GOOD TEST, WHEN THE GOVERNOR LEAVES THE STATE, IS HE OR SHE GOVERNOR?

MARY JO PITZL: DOUGLAS TOOK A LIGHT HEARTED APPROACH. SHE ISSUED A PROCLAMATION. SHE DIDN'T FORMALIZE IT. CREATING A TEACHER DAY, WHO'S GOING TO ARGUE WITH THAT?

RICK DEBRUHL: MONDAY ON ARIZONA HORIZON: LEARN ALL ABOUT THE DAVID WRIGHT HOUSE BEING DONATED AS A FUND-RAISING EFFORT. AND HOW A SUMMER CIRCUS CAMP IS HELPING CHILDREN AVOID THE SUMMER SLIDE. THAT'S IT FOR NOW. HAVE

Mary Jo Pitzle: Arizona Republic, State Government Journalist.

Howard Fischer: Capitol Media Services, Journalist.

Rachel Leingang: Arizona Capitol Times, Reporter.

Rick Debruhl: Reporter

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