Former Arizona Republic reporter speaks about her experiences with Sen. John McCain

More from this show

Former Arizona Republic reporter Kris Mayes talks about her experiences covering Sen. John McCain during his 2000 presidential bid, where she was left off McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” bus while other reporters were allowed on.

JOSE CARDENAS: SENATOR McCAIN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH JOURNALISTS WASN'T AS FRIENDLY AS RELATIONSHIPS WITH SPORTS FIGURES LIKE LARRY FITZGERALD. JUST ASK ANY LOCAL JOURNALISTS WHO COVERED McCAIN AND YOU WILL HEAR TALES OF SOMETIME ADVERSARIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESS. KRIS MAYES IS A PROFESSOR OF PRACTICE AT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR COLLEGE OF LAW, BEFORE THAT SERVED ON THE CORPORATION COMMISSION IS A REPORTER FOR "THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC," DURING HER STINT WITH THE REPUBLIC, SHE FOLLOWED McCAIN’S STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS BUS IN A RENTED CAR WHILE OTHER REPORTERS RODE INSIDE THE BUS BECAUSE OF HIS CONTENTIOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH ARIZONA REPUBLIC REPORTERS AT THE TIME. HERE NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS IS KRIS MAYES. KRIS, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "ARIZONA HORIZON."

KRIS MAYES THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU WEREN'T IN THE BACK OF THE BUS, YOU WEREN'T ON IT AT ALL. WHY WAS THAT?

WELL, YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING AS I LOOK BACK ON IT I THINK THAT SENATOR McCAIN, LIKE A LOT OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES HAD A TUMULTUOUS, SOMETIMES TENSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR HOMETOWN NEWSPAPER WHO, WHICH, OF COURSE, SPENT YEARS, YOU KNOW, PROVIDING TOUGH BUT FAIR COVERAGE, AND, YOU KNOW, AND IN THIS CASE THAT WAS CERTAINLY TRUE, THE SENATOR HAD A TUMULTUOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC. I THINK EVEN HE WOULD HAVE ADMITTED THAT AT THE TIME, AND I HAPPENED TO BE THE CUB REPORTER, THE YOUNG REPORTER THEY SENT OUT TO COVER HIS FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN 2000. SO IT CERTAINLY WAS A GREAT HONOR OF MY LIFE TO HAVE BEEN THERE, TO HAVE BEEN A PART OF THAT, BUT YEAH, I WAS NOT ON THE BUS.

JOSE CARDENAS: WHAT MADE IT EVEN MORE STARK WAS THE FACT HE WAS A DARLING OF THE PRESS, NOT JUST THE NATIONAL PRESS BUT THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS.

KRIS MAYES : YEAH THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST MAGICAL THINGS ABOUT THE CAMPAIGNS. YOU HAD REPORTERS COMING FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, JOSE, FROM DENMARK, AND AUSTRALIA, AND THE UNITED KINGDOM, EVERYWHERE! YOU NAME IT, FRANCE. ALL CLAMORING TO GET ON THE BUS, WHICH WAS SORT OF ROLLING THROUGH NEW HAMPSHIRE AND SOUTH CAROLINA AND MICHIGAN AND CATCHING FIRE AS IT WENT ALONG.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND I WAS GONNA SAY--WHY WERE THEY CLAMORING? AT THE BEGINNING HE WAS THE UNDERDOG, HE WASN'T THE FRONT-RUNNER?

KRIS MAYES : NO, NOT THE FRONT-RUNNER. THAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING THINGS TO WATCH ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN, YOU COULD SEE HIM CATCHING ON, TOWN HALL BY TOWN HALL BY TOWN HALL, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE WOULD COME TO THE TOWN HALLS. I CAN REMEMBER HIM COMING TO ONE TOWN HALL WHERE PEOPLE ARE LITERALLY HANGING OFF THE RAFTERS OF A CHURCH TO SEE HIM. SPILLING OUT OF THE DOORS TO COME SEE HIM, AND THERE'S NO EVER WAY TO DESCRIBE IT, BUT IT WAS A MAGICAL CAMPAIGN, AND LIKE NOTHING ELSE THAT I'VE SEEN BEFORE, AND HE DID PERFECT, I THINK, SORT OF THE MODERN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. HE PERFECTED HOW TO WORK WITH REPORTERS, OF COURSE, EXCEPT FOR THE HOMETOWN PAPER, BUT HE INVITED THESE REPORTERS TO THE BACK OF THIS BUS AND TOOK EVERY QUESTION THAT THEY WOULD ASK, AND NO OTHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HAD DONE THAT. SO HE REALLY DID MANAGE TO DO THAT WITH MOST REPORTERS AT LEAST.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU KNOW, IN HIS BOOKS HE TALKS ABOUT THE MAGIC OF THAT CAMPAIGN AND THE STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS, AND YOU JUST NOTED, NO OTHER PRESIDENT HAD DONE THAT. IN HIS 2008 CAMPAIGN, HE HIMSELF DIDN'T DO THAT.

KRIS MAYES : I KNOW, I WISH HE HAD. AND I'LL BET, I'LL BET HE WISHES HE HAD TOO BECAUSE I THINK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN EFFECTIVE AS WELL. I THINK THAT THAT CAMPAIGN WAS NOT AS EFFECTIVE BECAUSE IT DID NOT. ONE OF THE REASONS YOU ARE SEEING SUCH AN OUTPOURING OF GRIEF AND GENUINE SORROW ACROSS THIS COUNTRY IS THAT PEOPLE APPRECIATED, ESPECIALLY IN THIS TIME OF SORT OF NON-TRUTH TELLING AND LACK OF CANDOR, THAT HE HAD CANDOR, AND HE DID TELL THE TRUTH, AND HE WAS UNVARNISHED, AND HE WOULD SAY WHAT WAS ON HIS MIND. THAT WAS WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND HE DIDN'T HOLD A GRUDGE AGAINST YOU, AT LEAST.

KRIS MAYES :NO, HE DIDN'T.

JOSE CARDENAS: HE WAS A FACTOR IN ONE OF YOUR CAMPAIGNS.

KRIS MAYES : HE WAS. IT WAS AN AMZING THING. THREE OR FOUR YEARS LATER, AFTER THAT CAMPAIGN, I WAS -- HAD BEEN APPOINTED BY GOVERNOR NAPOLITANO TO THE CORPORATION COMMISSION, AND HAD TO IMMEDIATELY UNDER STATE LAW RUN IN MY OWN RIGHT STATEWIDE AS A REPUBLICAN. I'M A REPUBLICAN. AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY DIDN'T LIKE ME VERY MUCH. DIDN'T LIKE THE FACT THAT NAPOLITANO APPOINTED ME. THEY WERE TRYING TO, THE STATE PARTY LEADERSHIP WAS TRYING TO GET JOHN McCAIN TO ENDORSE MY OPPONENT. TO OPPOSE ME. SO I WENT TO SEE SENATOR McCAIN IN HIS OFFICE, AND I DIDN'T HAVE THE TEMERITY TO THINK THAT I COULD ASK HIM FOR HIS ENDORSEMENT OF ME, BUT I SAID TO HIM, I SAID, SENATOR, YOU KNOW, JUST LIKE IT IF YOU'D STAY OUT OF RACE. AND WE CHATTED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AND THE COVERAGE AND THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, AND YOU KNOW, HE TURNED TO ME AND HE SAID, KRIS, THAT'S WHAT I'M GOING TO DO. I'M GOING TO STAY OUT OF THIS. AND I DON'T KNOW WHY IT WAS, BUT I THINK THAT HE HAD A NACK FOR DOING WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS THE RIGHT THING, AND I, IN A LOT OF WAYS, LAY MY LEGACY, WHATEVER LEGACY I HAVE AT THE CORPORATION COMMISSION, ESTABLISHING RENEWABLE ENERGY STANDARD, NET METERING RULES, ENERGY EFFICIENCY STANDARD WHICH IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY AT HIS FEET. IF HE HAD ENDORSED MY OPPONENT, I MIGHT NEVER HAVE BEEN ELECTED TO THE CORPORATION COMMISSION. SO HE HAD A KNACK FOR DOING THOSE KINDS OF THINGS.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND ANOTHER ISSUE NEAR AND DEAR TO YOUR HEART AND YOU'VE INDICATED HE WILL REALLY BE MISSED IS HIS LEADERSHIP ON THE TOPIC OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

KRIS MAYES : YEAH, A LOT OF PEOPLE FORGET, JOHN McCAIN, THIS GOES TO HIS ABILITY TO BE BIPARTISAN, HIS DESIRE TO BE BIPARTISAN, LOT OF PEOPLE FORGET THAT HE ACTUALLY TEAMED UP WITH JOE LIEBERMAN TO TRY TO PASS THE FIRST CAP-AND-TRADE BILL IN THE 2000S, BUCKING THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. THEY DIDN'T SUCCEED. THEY CAME VERY, VERY CLOSE WITHIN VOTES OF PASSING THAT CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION.

JOSE CARDENAS: SO, HE WILL BE MISSED THERE.

HE WILL BE MISSED DEARLY THERE, AND SO MANY EXAMPLES WHERE HE WAS WILLING TO STAND UP TO HIS OWN PARTY LEADERSHIP AND HAD THE COURAGE TO DO IT, AND LOOK AROUND THE LANDSCAPE AND YOU DON'T SEE THAT.

JOSE CARDENAS: IT WILL BE A DIFFERENT WORLD. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT HIM.

KRIS MAYES : THANKS JOSE .

JOSE CARDENAS: COMING UP ON "HORIZON," TALK ABOUT WHY THE ARIZONA SUPREME COURT KICKED AN EDUCATION FUNDING INITIATIVE OFF THE NOVEMBER BALLOT.
BUT FIRST, HUNDREDS OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AT BROPHY COLLEGE PREPARATORY TOOK TIME OUT OF SCHOOL TO PAY RESPECTS TO THE LATE JOHN McCAIN TODAY. CRONKITE NEWS REPORTER HOLLY BERNSTEIN THERE TO GET STUDENTS' REACTIONS AS THEY SAID THEIR FAREWELLS.

Former Arizona Republic reporter and current Sandra Day O'Connor professor Kris Mayes

A graphic for the Arizona PBS news show,
airs April 13

This week on Horizonte!

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024
aired April 4

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates as part of ‘AZ Votes 2024’

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 12

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

The Capital building with text reading: Circle on Circle: Robert Lowell's D.C.
May 2

An evening with ‘Poetry in America’

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: