Political Roundtable

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Political analysts Chris Herstam and Alfredo Gutierrez discuss the Phoenix mayoral race, the race for Senator Jon Kyl’s congressional seat, the Senator Pearce recall election and other issues making political news in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: The Senator Pearce recall election is next Tuesday. On the same day, Phoenix voters will also be going to the polls to decide who will be their next mayor -- Greg Stanton or Wes Gullett. With me to talk about these elections, as well as other political news in Arizona, are Chris Herstam. He served as Governor Fife Symington's Chief of Staff and is a former lawmaker. Herstam now works for the law firm of Lewis and Roca. Also here is Alfredo Gutierrez, former state legislator, political consultant for Tequida and Gutierrez, and editor and founder of LaFronteraTimes.com. Chris, welcome back to "Horizonte". It's been a while. I do want to talk about the mayoral race and the recall election coming up. But first, let's talk about a couple of things that have a little bit longer horizon. Senator Kyl, the race to fill his seat. Your thoughts, thus far.

Chris Herstam: I personally think it's Jeff Flake, the clear favorite here and I question whether he can be stopped. I think he's a tremendous fundraiser and a tremendous candidate from a visual standpoint and knows how to work a crowd very well and he's a libertarian on social issues which will haunt him in the Republican primary but his fiscal conservative is solid.

José Cárdenas: You don't think Wil Cardon is a significant challenge?

Chris Herstam: I think because of the money the Cardon family has and their name in the East Valley is so well known, he'll be a credible candidate but I think Flake should roll in that primary and, you know, this week we heard Terry Goddard is seriously considering running for the U.S. senate as long as Congressman Giffords and Rich Carmona he said he would consider seriously running. The Democrats may end up with a high-profile candidate and while I respect Terry Goddard a tremendous amount, I still think Flake would still be the solid favorite in a U.S. senate race.

José Cárdenas: Chris talked about Flake's libertarian streak, but he seems to have modified his positions on immigration where he is more of a proponent of a liberal policy.

Alfredo Gutierrez: That's exactly what he's done. He's preparing for a tea party primary and he's going to get one from Wil Cardon and preparing for that by moving to the right. The most significant issue in which he's vulnerable to the right is on immigration. It's in questions with Latin America. He supports opening a trade with Cuba. He has consistently taken a position on immigration that's from our point of view, absolutely reasonable and that's beginning to change, that's the point where he's vulnerable.

José Cárdenas: Will the Democrats field a viable candidate?

Alfredo Gutierrez: I don't know, I think the question to that, rather the answer comes in two parts. Can a Democrat raise $25 million $30 million, in this state and in this circumstance? That's first. And secondly, is there a new and viable candidate that will electrify the party, if you will. A party that's becoming accustomed to losing, and moved to the right in order to capture Republican votes and that's sort of lost its way. There's one interesting candidate. Or potential candidate. And that's Reverend Warren Stewart. The Reverend--

José Cárdenas: Haven't heard that name before. I mean in this context. Everybody knows who he is.

Alfredo Gutierrez: It's in the past few days that the name has begun to move about. And apparently there are a number of supporters already. It's the kind of candidacy that can, in fact, electrify the party. In fact create great enthusiasm. And on the other hand, can he raised $25 million, he certainly doesn't have it. Can he raise $25 million, it's a question that truly is up in the air in his case.

José Cárdenas: Do you not think Carmona would have that kind of appeal, as the former swat team member, physician, former surgeon general for the United States?

Alfredo Gutierrez: No, I don't. I know he would be an interesting candidate. He's a very tough outspoken fellow. Extraordinarily capable, but no, I don't think he's going to bring the progressive wing of the party into a race.

José Cárdenas: One last question on democratic candidates. Don Gibbons has declared he's running.

Alfredo Gutierrez: I think he'll go the other way of other who is walk into the democratic party and try to buy a nomination.

José Cárdenas: Gabby Giffords?

Alfredo Gutierrez: No, I don't think so. I think we all pray for her, hope for the very best. But that -- that journey of recuperation -- has just begun.

José Cárdenas: Andrew Thomas, the hearings have been going on, the disciplinary hearings. We've had interesting testimony from sheriff Arpaio and his chief deputy and from Andrew Thomas himself. Your assessment where things are.

Chris Herstam: This week, things are Petering out. They're doing character witnesses. It's just about done. Unfortunately, it's going to take a while before we hear the results. They don't expect the disciplinary panel of the bar to come with any recommendations or results until early next year. A tremendous amount of transcribing of the testimony, eight weeks of testimony has to take place to make the record and so forth, so we're going to have to be patient. But from looking at the testimony and people, lawyers and so forth I've talked to, I think Andy Thomas is toast. He was in a situation where he had to deny he did anything wrong, because frankly, the federal government, the federal grand jury is looking at abuse of power towards him so Thomas could not bend and had to go in there with the attitude he'd done nothing wrong and when you compare that to all the other witnesses, it did not look good. And sheriff Arpaio couldn't recall anything. Because he didn't want to establish a record that the federal investigation could use. I think that's the fascinating part. It lays the foundation for the federal government to glean a lot of information and hear a lot of testimony that they would hear if there were indictments from a federal grand jury on abuse of power. It will be fascinating to see whether the disciplinary action assists any federal charges in the future.

José Cárdenas: We had supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox on the show last week and she felt strongly that the motivation for Arpaio going after her was her stand on immigration.

Alfredo Gutierrez: There's no question about it. In her early career, she was not strongly visible, highly visible on this issue. But the moment she became outspoken and critical of the sheriff, this -- this drama began. And so I -- I don't think there's any question about that.

José Cárdenas: And Arpaio, was he being evasive or a reflection he wasn't running the show?

Alfredo Gutierrez: This is a pattern with Arpaio. He has his momentary -- momentary amnesia that comes about at convenient times and claims to have written a whole book when asked about the book and the physician, he had forgotten any details of the book. In this instance, he's running and gives the impression he's an hands on sheriff. When you ask about where his hands are, he forgets he has any.

Chris Herstam: I think it's his attorneys telling him to take the fifth amendment and that's what he's doing. They're concerned about a federal grand jury indictment down the road.

José Cárdenas: Briefly about the big week's news of the week. Redistricting. And we're taping this show a couple of takes before we expect to be a special session, maybe, maybe not, on Thursday. With that in mind, Chris, summarize what the background is and the legitimacy of the issues raised in terms of the governor's call for some action against the panels.

Chris Herstam: I think we need to cut to the chase politically, this is a Republican congressional delegation with an outfit called fair trust, a group of Republican attorney types that have been working behind the scenes with congressional staff and so forth to attack this commission process, because they don't like the way the federal congressional map is coming out, frankly and that's it. This is hardball, brazen politics. The exact kind of thing that the voters, some 11 years ago, said we don't want any part of. We want an independent commission doing this. We don't want elected officials in any way influencing the process and now here at the state capitol, Governor Brewer has chosen to capitulate and a lot of the Republican legislators are in the process of doing so as well and it's sad to watch it unfold because it destroys the concept of a citizen panel doing supposedly an objective job of trying to come up with legislative and congressional maps.

José Cárdenas: How legitimate are the Republican complaints? Certainly it favors the Republicans significantly and the congressional, the biggest complaint is pits two incumbents against each other.

Alfredo Gutierrez: That's it. I mean, that's the complaint, the complaint is that the Republicans have a seat in jeopardy. But this was done, the process was done precisely as the constitution describes and the only reason to remove members which is why the governor would call a special session is for gross misconduct. What you have on this commission are people in the height of extraordinary careers, an attorney and there's --

José Cárdenas: She's the independent.

Alfredo Gutierrez: No --

José Cárdenas: Sorry, the democrat.

Alfredo Gutierrez: There's a major executive with healthcare corporation, she's the independent and you have an individual who heads the accounts' association. Extraordinary people who now threaten to -- ruin their careers. For saying that they have operated in gross misconduct. Obviously, they're going to fight back and they should. But behind that, you have a very simple political -- excuse me -- power grab. That is transparent, that's ugly, that's going to ruin people in the process. This is extraordinarily -- and you know, I -- I was a democrat, I was a democratic leader and took part in two redistrictings when it was done the old-fashioned way. That is, hard ball politics but I don't think anyone in the country has seen anything as brazenly political and as transparently stupid, and I use that word guardedly, this is not right. This is not smart. The outcome of all of this is as they proceed forward will almost certainly be the department of justice stepping in to the process. Because Arizona is still a suspect state under the voting rights law and the most likely outcome, the Department of Justice will ultimately draft the lines in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: Let me move on to -- we talked about hardball politics. We have two races that will be decided next week and things seem to be getting heated. Let's begin with the mayor's race. Chris?

Chris Herstam: That's a fascinating race to watch -- a fascinating race. Two campaigners, they have good organizations and the parties gotten involved, one brazen, and it's their right to do. The Republican party has done four mailings to Republicans in the city of Phoenix. The Democrats haven't done any, but they've used their county system to get out the vote work for the Stanton campaign. So the non-partisan election, more and more partisan. And polling data I've seen and people I've talked to, I think Stanton will win and by double digits.

José Cárdenas: Do you agree?

Alfredo Gutierrez: I'm not sure about the double digits, I agree that the polling indicates that Stanton is going to win.

José Cárdenas: There's a democratic edge within the city limits, correct?

Alfredo Gutierrez: That's correct. And I think Wes made a fundamental error, concluding that his best chance of winning was to politicize an historically non-political campaign. To clearly make it Republican, clearly make it a conservative versus liberal, anti-union, etc. He took to the right.

José Cárdenas: And you think that was a mistake?

Alfredo Gutierrez: I think it was a serious mistake. I think voters for a city election are now really accustomed to one non-partisan races and they're really about when is the garbage going to get picked up and the police when I need them, are the streets clean? Why do they have those crazy lanes on seventh avenue and seventh street. Very localized issues in a city election.

Chris Herstam: I think the main reason Stanton will do well on Tuesday, his old council district he served for nine years, happens to be the district that -- that traditionally has the largest turnout. It's in all of the areas that are solid Republicans that Gullett has to carry, I think Stanton will win it. It's -- and overcome all of that and that's why --

José Cárdenas: Almost out of time and the other important election, of course, is the Pearce recall. Your thoughts.

Chris Herstam: If you would have asked me four or five days ago, I would say a close election but follow the money, I'd give the edge to Pearce. Just in the last few days, I've changed my mind. I know -- I think it's going to be close, but I would give the edge to the challenger, Jerry Lewis.

José Cárdenas: Alfredo.

Alfredo Gutierrez: I agree. Let me tell you one other implication of this election. It's back for the Latino community and Mesa, a place -- where Mormons stand on immigration. What you've got is the most offensive anti-immigrant legislator who has shrouded himself with the Mormon church and so it's -- that really has become the issue to so many Latinos, where is the church? And the church is embarrassed by Russell Pearce. And I think they're quietly going to make that known to -- to those people that can influence.

José Cárdenas: And we'll soon know the results of the election. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Chris Herstam:Political Analyst; Alfredo Gutierrez:Political Analyst;

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