Political consultants Jaime Molera and John Loredo talk about the recently concluded State legislative session, congressional races and other political news in Arizona.
José Cárdenas: The 50th Arizona State Legislature wrapped up its session earlier this month. It was 116 days of heated debates on women's health care, political redistricting, guns on campus, tax cuts, and other issues. Joining me to talk about this past session and other political hot topics in our state is John Loredo, former Democratic state lawmaker and now a political consultant. Also here is Jaime Molera, political consultant with the Molera Alvarez Group. he was also the former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. Gentlemen, thanks for being back on "Horizonte." A lot to talk about. Let's start with just an overall impression. You first, Jamie.
Jaime Molera: I think it was a different legislative session than past years. I've said that with the leadership that's been in place with Andy Tobin in the House, the Speaker of the House, Steve Pierce, the President of the Senate, the real issues that were battled revolved around economics and the budget, even though there was a last-minute push from the conservative wing understanding that the numbers are going to change in the next legislative cycle, they're not going to have the two thirds Republican dominance anymore. You saw a lot of social conservative issues pushed at the end. But it was different. I think it was much more focused on the issues that I think Republicans should be focused on, which is jobs and the economy, and really much more targeted to those areas that I think make a difference for Arizonans.
José Cárdenas: John, Your overall sense?
John Loredo: I think it was -- it was pretty extreme. I think that you had a lot of members in the Republican Caucus who understand they're going to lose seats next time and I think they pushed a lot of issues that they probably would have balked at before for political reasons, they kind of looked at this and said, "This may be the last chance that we get to push a lot of these larger social conservative controversial issues." And so they tried, they tried hard to kind of throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. A lot of it died. I think leadership did a good job trying to keep a cap, try to keep people focused. That's the down side of having a supermajority in both chambers is you have more people to try to keep in line. So, you know, all of those things are hard to manage when you're in leadership because a lot of times what you're doing is you're buying time to work on the budget. The rule of thumb is that the longer you are there the worse it is because people just start throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the mix.
José Cárdenas: So you're suggesting that the tone it was a more conservative legislature, even though Russell Pearce wasn't there?
John Loredo: I think so. I think the leadership dynamic was definitely different. It wasn't as contentious between the Senate and the House and the governor as it was when Russell was there. But you also have a supermajority in both chambers that had, there are factions within factions. So you have that many people, I think they try to push a much more conservative agenda that even leadership were comfortable with.
José Cárdenas: Jaime, your take on it was in fact, it was not as conservative because at least they beat back some of these more extreme measures?
Jaime Molera: I would say not as social conservative.
José Cárdenas: And you say that even with respect to the abortion bill and the proposals that were pushed and passed in some form regarding contraception?
Jaime Molera: There were a lot of proposals that were put on forth, guns on campuses, for example that Ron Gould wanted to push. If you look at the big - issues that got done, personnel reform, that's been a major issue across the country for conservatives. You look at the budget where they really kept a line on spending but at the same time, they looked at tax relief in certain areas that the business community wanted. They really were much more guarded on a lot of the social conservative areas. It wasn't as extreme, in my opinion, as it has been in the past sessions. There really were no bills on immigration reform. Immigration that has been talked about a lot about trying to continue to repeal the 14th Amendment and all these other different kinds of things that the conservatives wanted. You just didn't see that this legislative session. So a lot of the reason is because you had a speaker and a president, they're more focused on the financial business fiscal conservative issues. So it was a conservative session, don't get me wrong but I think the extreme elements of it were -- I didn't see it.
José Cárdenas: You also said, though, that there was an attempt to get some of the more extreme provisions passed because it's kind of the last hurrah because the last two thirds will go, because of redistricting?
Jaime Molera: Redistricting, if you just look at the numbers, simple math of how these new districts are drawn, it's going to be very difficult for the Republicans to maintain this 21 seat to nine advantage in the Senate and 40 seat advantage to 20 in the House. The numbers are going to draw that down. The way those lines are drawn. I think the Republicans know it, Democrats know it. It will be hard for the Republicans to get to 18 seats in the Senate. I think it will hard for them to get to 37 seats in the House. You're going to see a contraction. For that reason, there were certain members in the very conservative wing that yes, did want to push hard because they knew you're not going to have these kinds of supermajorities anymore.
José Cárdenas: And John on the two subjects, redistricting and Democrats, first on redistricting, that blew up in the session to the embarrassment of the legislature and the governor.
John Loredo: Sure it did. I think when you have an Independent redistricting commission that really created more competitive districts, much more competitive districts than we have ever had in Arizona, and there's one thing that you can count on from politicians is they don't want the competition. They want easy races where they can coast and be there forever. They did not want to compete. And so when those districts came down, they fought tooth and nail to try to get rid of those districts and attack the commission for doing it. It did blow up in their face because there's no way that politicians can act in their own self-interest that blatantly and look good doing it. They just can't. And it doesn't matter what type of voters you're doing it in front of, voters will reject that every time.
José Cárdenas: Now on Democrats, usually when we have these sessions with you guys, a common note is you didn't see or hear from them and that's true in the sense of legislative accomplishments. But we saw a lot about Democrats in a very embarrassing light. Patterson resigning, Richard Miranda resigning because of a plea agreement and this week, Ben Arrendondo an indictment.
John Loredo: Sure. Issues in the Republican side as well with Scott Bungard.
José Cárdenas: They seemed to have overshadowed that.
John Loredo: And Bungard's thanking his lucky stars that he went first. You don't remember the first one, you remember the last one. There have been those issue. I think those issues have everything to do with the status quo in terms of money in politics and influence and special interests that they have over both parties. You look at the Arredondo indictment and I can guarantee you that members of both sides of the aisle are sweating bullets right now because if you look at the gifts, the tickets, and legislators asking special interests to buy tables so they can put people at, I've got to tell you, there are people sweating bullets over there and a lot of them because that is the norm. So it is a bigger issue and even bigger than that, you had several bills that were pushed by Democrats and you even had some Republicans who had signed on to ban gifts, to ban tickets, to ban tickets to ballgames, to ban tickets to special events. Those bills didn't see the light of day because you got push back from the special interest that use those things as tools to buy votes. So the legislature had a chance to fix that end of the system and they chose not to.
José Cárdenas: Is it going to impact the elections for incumbents the next time around?
John Loredo: I think it absolutely does. It will impact those who were soiled by the Fiesta Bowl, it will impact those people who were in position to hear those bills, to fix the problem and chose not to, members of leadership who chose not to. There's enough to go around for everybody.
José Cárdenas: Jaime, a couple of other points regarding Russell Pearce. One, the attempt to get reimbursed for campaign expenses, that fizzled.
Jaime Molera: It had been talked about for a while but there was a push by strong conservatives, Russell supporters by in large, that would have paid him back the money that he raised for his recall election to the tune of about $260,000. And that money essentially would have been a check because they said the Constitution is simple, you're going to get involved.
José Cárdenas: Even though he didn't personally incur those.
Jaime Molera: He had raised that money so they were saying he deserved that $260,000 and the political watchers understood that that money by in large would have been used in his race against Robert Worsley, a very wealthy retired CEO of Skymall who's supposedly going to be self-funding his campaign to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.
José Cárdenas: Which leads me to my second question. It looks like Worsley is going to win that race and may win it handily.
Jaime Molera: It's premature but there are some indications that he's doing well. He had recently, the announcement that the Mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith, who's also going to be a very strong legitimate Republican contender in 2014 for governor. When you have people like that starting to line up, the tea leaves are pointing and because of the money that Worsley has and the lack of money that Russell Pearce has, those things can be problematic for him.
José Cárdenas: John, another election, we got the tentative results of the Tempe mayoral election, Monti is ahead. But we won't know for sure the numbers until Friday and even then, there may be a recount.
John Loredo: Sure. I think the latest numbers I saw at least were a couple of hundred votes that Monti was ahead. There are still I believe a couple of thousand ballots that are out there to be counted. These are ballots that were either absentee ballots or they were ballots that were turned in at the polling place instead of mailed in. Typically Monti led Mitchell with early ballots, Mitchell led Monte at the polls. If that trend continues and you've got a whole bunch of ballots that were turned in at the polls that favors Mitchell. Whether or not there are enough of them out there, it remains to be seen but with a couple of thousand outstanding votes and the margin being a couple hundred if I'm Mitchell I'm probably counting on most of those being for me.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk quickly about some upcoming elections, the congressional races. Your take on those. What are the most significant races out there?
John Loredo: Certainly you've got the election, Gabby Giffords' old district with Ron Barber, former staff memberm running against Jesse Kelly, who ran the last time. And Gabby defeated him. By all accounts, that's razor thin. It could go either way and it's all going to come down to turnout. So I think both sides are going to be watching this race. If it's razor thin this time for the special election, you're going to see a massive amount of money dropped up on both sides of the aisle for the general election in November.
José Cárdenas: Jaime, the Senate election, the guy you used to work for, being one of his campaign leaders, Senator Kyl is retiring, that's opening. How do you see that shaping up between Flake and Carden and in the general where who need wins that will go up against Carmona?
Jaime Molera: Well, Jeff Flake knows that he has a serious contender in Carden just because he has so much money. The concern on the Flake campaign is will they have to spend money to keep him from getting close in the polls? Right now, Flake is considered to be very high above Carden in the Republican side of the aisle. It's going to be a tighter race with Carmona. At the end of the day, I think Flake will be a very tough candidate to beat for two reasons. One, even though he's a very strong conservative and he's known to be a very fiscal conservative, you look at his record on a number of things, immigration, for instance, he supported comprehensive --
José Cárdenas: Comes across as more reasonable.
Jaime Molera: Much more reasonable. He also has quite a bit of resources. Club for Growth has pegged Jeff as one of their big candidates, they want to have in the U.S. Senate. Club for Growth is a national organization that really can give them -- him a lot of good resources.
José Cárdenas: Plenty of money.
Jaime Molera: And he's already amassed a consider amount of resourced. The question is will he have to spend some of that if Carden makes a move? Right now, I don't think so. I think Jeff is doing all the right things he needs to do and the other thing is that Romney is very formidable in Arizona. Every poll indicates, even though if Obama tries to make a play in this state, every poll shows Romney is up there. That coat tail effect will be a big help.
José Cárdenas: There's so much more we could talk about and hopefully, we'll have another opportunity to do to do that but we're out of time. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."
Jaime Molera:Political consultant; John Loredo:Political consultant;