Journalists’ Year in Review 2012

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Local journalists Sandra Haros of KTAR Radio, Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Mike Sauceda of EIGHT’s Arizona Horizon, KTAR Radio, and Skyview Networks, and Monica Alonzo of the Phoenix New Times look back at stories and issues that made headlines in 2012.

Jose Cardenas: Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Thank you for joining us. This is the annual year in review show. Our journalists for tonight are Mike Sauceda executive producer for eight's "Horizonte," and reporter for KTAR radio and skyview networks. Jim Small, Arizona news editor for the "Arizona Capitol Times" And Monica Alonzo, reporter for the "Phoenix New Times." Monica, let's start with one of the bombshells, most of the topics we'll talk about tonight, the sheriff, and specifically pal Babeu, have some connection to elections that just occurred, but let's save that for a little bit later. The big bomb shill was the pictures that came out, you covered that a lot for the new times.

Monica Alonzo: That turned out to be quite an exclusive story, the sheriff of Pinal county being accused by his Mexican lover of threats of deportation, and that sort of thing. And along with the story, he provided for us some photographs of -- That just showed pretty poor judgment on the part of the sheriff in terms of sending these half naked pictures of himself to individuals that he didn't know -- He didn't know exactly who he was sending them to, and pictures he had taken of himself, and put up on a website where he was sort after hook-up site for gay men. Somehow he -- It was enough to knock him out of a congressional race.

Jose Cardenas: He had already declared his candidacy for Congress. He was running on a pretty tough immigration anti-immigration platform. And he did try to stick it out for a little while before he gave up the ghost.

Monica Alonzo: He did. He said he was -- He was going to win, and he -- Right up to the end they said they were still fund-raising for that campaign, the congressional campaign. It wasn't until -- Toward the end there that he finally just realized the money was dropping off, the support was dropping off, he had already resigned from -- As Mitt Romney's co-chair during the presidential election here for Arizona. And things just weren't looking so good, so he forced out the number two guy, who he had been supporting in that sheriff's race, chief deputy Steve Henry. And fell back to what was familiar, the sheriff's race.

Jose Cardenas: Jim, many people that was amazing that the only consequence seemed to be that he was forced to withdraw from the congressional race. I think other people would have expected given the seeming lack of judgment in engaging in this kind of conduct, he would have ended up losing his job.

Jim Small: Yeah, I know there was certainly some talk about that, and some questions about what the consequences would be. Clearly if he had stayed at the congressional race he would have lost that race. It -- He was in a three-way primary. He was front-runner, but it became clear quickly that voters in that district weren't happy witness. So when he went back to the sheriff's race, I think he had the advantage of being the bigger fish in the smaller pond. And being popular before that whole thing happened and -- It gave him the luxury of putting a little distance between himself and the events in February by the time he moved into that race I think it was April. And by the time the election happened it was August. He didn't really have any notable competition. There was a Republican and an independent -- A democrat and independent, so he didn't have to worry about getting knocked out. And the Republican primary I think is where he would have been most vulnerable given the typical social stances of Republican voters.

Jose Cardenas: Mike, another sheriff, many consider the role model for sheriff Babeu, sheriff Joe Arpaio, news maker throughout the year as you might expect, but one of the big surprises to a lot of people anyway was the department of justice decided they were not going to pursue criminal claims against him.

Mike Sauceda: And they chose to announce that on a Friday, a holiday weekend. I was working in one of my jobs there, and we get this press release from the department of justice saying they're not going to pursue charges. Had very little information, I think it's strategic to release it on a weekend and even a long weekend, if I remember correctly. And we were having trouble figuring even how to report this with just the scant information we had. So that was certainly I think a surprise to a lot of people, and it certainly surprised us. We couldn't unveil the surprise at that moment, because we couldn't get anybody. Monday, you know, Tuesday whenever that came around, we got more information.

Jose Cardenas: But there was a lot of coverage of the ongoing lawsuit against the sheriff, and in many respects it was not a very flattering picture of the sheriff. It seemed to be the defense was, we don't listen to what sheriff Arpaio says, we do our job, these are his deputy and what he says is for public consumption. We don't pay any mind to it.

Mike Sauceda: I think a lot of what the department of justice was focusing on actually rallies his troops. They like some of that, the racial profiling, and so I think that in a way helps give him publicity, he likes that. And going back to Babeu, I think that says a lot about Pinal county and how that's changing demographically.

Jose Cardenas: You grew up there.

Monica Alonzo: I did. And politically it was the previous sheriff was a homegrown guy from Eloy, and it's changing. I think that tells you a lot about that county.

Jose Cardenas: Jim, what about that lawsuit against the sheriff? Again, it was not a flattering picture, and yet he seemed to come out of that pretty much like Babeu in the sense of Teflon and things don't stick.

Jim Small: Yeah. And obviously there's been a lot of criticism, he's had his critics for years, and a lot of them were putting their hopes in the justice department, the criminal investigation, that they would finally get what they perceived to be justice when the justice department finally stepped in and indicted the sheriff. That didn't happen, so there's still this civil lawsuit about the racial profiling, and I think the most recent development in that is that the office can't be sued, but that sheriff Arpaio can be personally held liable and responsible for the actions. So --

Jose Cardenas: that's the most recent development.

Jim Small: Yeah, that was a couple weeks ago. We'll have to see where this goes from here. I'm certain we have not seen the end of litigation involving sheriff Arpaio. He just won another term, so we've got at least four more years, and I would imagine all four of those years will be filled with plenty of time in the courtroom.

Jose Cardenas: We'll come back to talk about the election results involving the sheriff and others, but another huge story near the beginning of the year was the decision by the Tucson school district to shut down their ethnic studies program.

Jim Small: They were threatened, basically they were facing the loss of up to 10% of their state revenue. In response to a law that was passed the year before, passed in 2011 that essentially may prohibited certain programs, certain kinds of classes, especially if they encouraged racial solidarity, if they encouraged to overthrow of the U.S. government, things like that. It was designed to go after this program. And superintendent -- Former superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne on the day before he left office, said his basically his final act was to announce that he found these programs violate the law and he turned over the reigns to john Huppenthal, and he did an investigation, and concluded that the program violate the law, even though the actual investigation found -- Didn't reach those conclusions, he looked at the result and said investigators got it wrong. So they were going to take away the money for the school district. And the school district pulled the plug on the program. And said, OK, we're not going to do this because we don't want to lose this money. It's $50 million a year. And so now they're going through this whole desegregation order with the federal government that's been in place for a number of decades and one of the ways they're looking to comply is to actually bring back a version of the ethnic studies program. So it won't be the same, the board I think just voted to approve it a couple weeks ago. So kind of reigniting all of the strife and all of this tension, especially from conservatives and from Republicans towards what they feel is a program that indoctrinates Latino students in particular against conservatives and against Republican values.

Jose Cardenas: You mentioned strife. There seemed to be a lot of it in the school board meetings. I don't know if either one of you covered that, but it got kind of ugly.

Monica Alonzo: There was definitely a lot of emotion there. People were talking about -- When they would go to the podium and there was tears, there was shouting, there was pleading. It was a very emotional issue. When they started the board looked at removing one of the people that was in charge of the program, they said it was for financial reasons, that the contract didn't have enough money for the contract. But that isn't how it felt to the individuals who were part of that community, and something that came along with it too was the books that were removed from the classrooms, it was widely reported the books were banned, the school district tried to come back and say, they're still available in the libraries, but for the teachers and the students, just seeing the books physically removed from the classroom, it was a very emotional thing for them. And very heated politically, students chaining themselves to chairs, and to each other, and -- Yeah, very emotional, tragic sort of situation for the students in Tucson, and the teachers.

Mike Sauceda: The desegregation order you're talking about as well sets up the mechanism for African-American studies as well, not just Mexican-American studies. So that's for some reason that's not a big part of the uproar, but that's included in that. And it looks like it could all come back next year.

Jose Cardenas: Well, and it also led to a rather famous interview of one of the school board members on the daily show that brought a lot of derision. It was certainly not the school district's finest moment. But we had that, it does look like it's coming back. Followed by the Supreme Court's decision on SB 1070.

Mike Sauceda: Right. The one out of the four was upheld, as we --

Jose Cardenas: one of the four provisions at issue.

Mike Sauceda: Right, of SB 1070. Back in June, that was announced. And it was basically the most controversial so-called show me your papers one, and I don't know if that's had much of an impact. It seems like it's gone away since then. I know that the police departments were getting ready to do this, and it was going to cost a certain amount of money for them to ramp up and do this, but ever since that ruling, it's almost been like a nonissue.

Jose Cardenas: Though in a way it's kind of a symbol of the tension between Governor Brewer and President Obama, you had the famous incident on the tarmac.

Monica Alonzo: The finger pointing, yeah. That was a pretty amazing picture with the governor's finger right up in the president's face. And it's been that way for most of the year. We have the administrative order that the president issued in terms of deferred action for certain young undocumented immigrants, and the very day the federal government started accepting applications for those young people who fit certain criteria, she issues her executive order denying drivers' licenses to those young people who now have a permission, or would have permission to work and remain in the state in the country legally.

Jose Cardenas: And Jim, why do you think she did that? State law clearly accepts the kinds of documents people who get deferred action would have, the work authorization card, for example. But she said, these deferred action recipients are different.

Jim Small: Yeah. And I think it's the idea that these are people who are getting this deferred action, getting this permission to stay here, essentially as a freebie. They go through the normal process where they earn the right to be here, or they go through the legal channels. Certainly politics are at play here. Talk about the finger wagging incident on the tarmac, and before that Arizona versus federal government in SB 1070, and Arizona versus the federal government -- I think you going back the last two years and say Arizona versus the federal government and pick an issue. We've had a lot of that.

Jose Cardenas: And now on health care.

Jim Small: And now on health care. And I think this executive order is really kind of emblematic of that entire fight of Arizona and Governor Brewer really trying assert the state's position and its ability to do what it wants and set its own policy and not be beholden to the federal government, especially on issues where there's a fundamental disagreement between her office and the president's office, or the Republican controlled legislature and the president's office.

Jose Cardenas: And some people do think on the issue of health care the governor recognizing the fact that this legislature isn't going to let her do any deals with the federal government. So why do we move to the results of the election at the local level. Mike, what do you think was the most significant result of the legislative elections?

Mike Sauceda: I think the fact that the legislature lost its super majority, and there's talk that maybe the democrats will be in play a little more, have a little more say. I don't know if I see that, I don't know if I can agree with that unless they can peel off some of the moderate Republicans and form a coalition like we have in the past. If they can start doing some of that, but we'll have to wait and see if they can accomplish that and maybe have a little more. And if nothing else, be obstructionist if all else fails for the democrats.

Jose Cardenas: Monica, their chances of maybe peeling off some Republicans, I would think have been enhanced by the fact that Steve pierce who was considered relatively moderate, got bumped in a leadership bid.

Monica Alonzo: Yeah. You do see a changing demographics, a changing of vote pattern here in Arizona. Latinos are pushing a lot harder. I think that it's -- I think that it is sort of symbolic of what's to come down the line, and in elections in general, just looking at someone like a candidate like - Carmona going against someone like Jeff flake, a few years ago someone like Carmona wouldn't even have a chance at a seat like that. But it is getting more competitive, there is more pushback from the democrats, more grass-roots organizing. They still have huge hurdles in terms of getting registered voters out to the polls. But pressing on, I think there is change destined to come. Some of it is just demographics are changing, and down the line the Latino vote, the Latinos will have the majority in the state, and that's going to have a huge impact.

Jose Cardenas: I want to come back to the significance of the Latino vote, but Jim, some people think that Carmona's relatively strong showing was both the function of the Latino vote but also the bruising that Jeff flake took in the primary.

Jim Small: I think there's probably -- There might be something to that. But I think at the end of the day, democrats in Arizona it's been a long time since they've been even talked about as a competitive -- Someone being competitive in a primary it's like you look back in the last time -- Rodney glassman got pasted by John McCain, before that you had Jim Peterson and Jon Kyl. And that was still eight to 10-point difference. I think Sam copper Smith was the last democrat who won election for the senate. That's been 20 years. So I think the fact Carmona did this is a testament, certainly to the organization of what Monica was talking about in terms of the grass-roots and getting the Latino vote energized. I think it's also the fact Carmona was really kind of an appealing candidate. He was someone who was -- Had a great resume, wasn't seen as a hard core partisan, and I think that's typically what turns off independent and center leaning Republicans in this state, is when they see the Democratic nominee is far to the left. And Jeff flake was certainly far to the right and I think for a lot of people --

Jose Cardenas: he moved to the right further than he ever had.

Jim Small: He certainly did, but he moved to the right a little more on immigration, repackaged his stance on it. But he's always been far to the right on fiscal issues. He's generally perceived to be kind of a fairly libertarian leaning Republican. So there's a lot of Republicans I think who don't necessarily don't buy into the crusade against ear marks and don't buy into a lot of the hard lined fiscal stuff. And so I think flake kind of -- Would set those people off, and because they had someone like Carmona to go to, to cast their vote for, I think you saw -- Certainly the independents, the conservative leaning independents who said, I kind of like this guy, and he's got a good resume, he's from the bush administration and I like George Bush, he's a police officer, he's an army vet, he's got all of the surgeon general, he's got all of this great pedigree, and he wasn't someone who was -- Who you would normally label as a progressive or liberal.

Jose Cardenas: Mike, there seems to be not necessarily mixed signals, but certainly it's a little puzzling to figure out what's going on with the Republican party, at least in the legislature. So you do have pierce getting bumped from his leadership position, apparently in retaliation for not supporting more conservative candidates, at the same time you have Mr. Worsley soundly thrashing Russell Pearce, and I assume we've seen the last of Russell Pearce in elected office anyway.

Mike Sauceda: He may come back in the background, not in the elected office. Though in legislative district 25 some of his supporters got vote out of their party position, and I think that's being contested now. So maybe even in that part of the Republican party there's a push to get away from that type of candidate.

Jose Cardenas: How much was the role and influence of the Mormon church?

Mike Sauceda: I wouldn't know that.

Jose Cardenas: There's been speculation Russell Pearce was a problem for the church.

Mike Sauceda: Well, in that indication if you look at Utah, they certainly coming out of the headquarters of the church they certainly had a different viewpoint about immigration reform, about how to treat and present their faith to Hispanics. So I think that's -- That was certainly a difference there I think.

Jose Cardenas: And speaking of Hispanics, going back to the issue of the Latino vote, the results of the election at least on the national level have generated a lot of renewed interest in immigration reform.

Monica Alonzo: Absolutely. You have Republicans now high ranking ones talking about immigration reform in the days after the election, I think there's definitely that acknowledgment that the latino vote is key going on, moving on into the future. And what's happening here in Arizona is interesting. There was just a short time period there, but Arizona was actually one of the swing states in the presidential election. It didn't stay on the swing list long, but it -- The changing, the changing -- The changes happening here in Arizona are very interesting. When you talk about Russell Pearce, the recall of his recall, obviously it was the Mormon community heavily in that district there that booted him out of office. So I think there was definitely a lot of influence there from the Mormon community.

Jose Cardenas: Jim, going back quickly to changes at the state legislature, some of those were not inflicted by the election results, we had a series of legislators get in trouble with their personal life and being forced to resign or who were indicted.

Jim Small: You could almost sum up 2012 in a lot of ways from the state capitol as the year of the scandal. First you had the Babeu thing started the year off, before the legislative session began in January, senator Bundgaard had been arrested for getting into a domestic violence incident his girlfriend, he resigned, in the middle of an ethics trial you had senator Daniel Patterson who -- Another one accused and later exonerated of assaulting a girlfriend. And he ended up getting forced out, Republicans and democrats kind of found something to agree on and they went ahead and were able to get him out of the legislature. And then you had the FBI really played a major role. These investigations that have been going on for a couple years, I think four years, and they nabbed Richard Miranda, a state representative for essentially defrauding a charity that he ran. And Ben Arrendondo, a democrat from Tempe who Genoas involved in defrauding a scholarship fund that he ran and also taking tickets and essentially they basically accused him of a form of bribery. And influence peddling.

Jose Cardenas: So before we get to the predictions, I'll put you on the spot for next year, Monica, very quickly, Tom Horne.

Monica Alonzo: Very interesting situation there with him. You've got as Jim was pointing out, a sex scandal, an FBI investigation, and still, I don't know, some people are talking about is he going to run for governor, you know, some other elected office. But definitely the year of the scandal. Just -- You picture the attorney general getting caught up in this scandal, this sort of extra marital affair that he's been accused of having, and putting on a baseball cap, switches cars, and -- I mean, politics in Arizona is definitely been very interesting year.

Jose Cardenas: We've got two minutes, let's talk about predictions for next year. I'm not trying to influence your judgment, but if you have some thoughts on who's likely to run for governor, and the upcoming election, you're welcome to voice it.

Mike Sauceda: Mesa Mayor Scott Smith from Mesa comes to mind, Felecia Rotellini for the democrats. I'll stay with that.

Jose Cardenas: Do you have any other predictions for the upcoming year?

Mike Sauceda: Any other predictions? I think you're going to see some type of comprehensive immigration reform.

Jose Cardenas: At the federal level.

Mike Sauceda: Yes. I think it will happen.

Jose Cardenas: Monica.

Monica Alonzo: I agree. Some type of immigration reform at a federal level. I think that there might be -- I've heard talk about a recall of Arpaio, recall efforts against him that might bubble up.

Jose Cardenas: Any thoughts on the governorship, is Jan Brewer going to stick to her guns and insist she's got two more years left?

Monica Alonzo: You know, I'm not sure about that. But I have heard the same names, Scott Smith, and Felicia as a potential candidates. I think Greg Stanton's name has been floated --

Jose Cardenas: and Doug Ducey.

Jim Small: Yes, Doug Ducey, kind of the open secret at the capitol is the Doug Ducey is going to be running for governor, everyone knows it was -- Took the center stage in that anti-prop 204 campaign. I don't think Governor Brewer will go for a third term for a lot of reasons, political and constitutional. I don't think that's going to go anywhere. But on the Democratic side, I think you're going to see people who emerge are going to be Fred Duval and house minority leader Chad Campbell. Those will be your main -- The two main democrats I think in the race.

Jose Cardenas: So we'll see what develops over the next few months, and we'll have you back at the end of next year to see how well do you with your predictions. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Jose Cardenas: Remember, if you missed any previous episodes of "Horizonte" you can watch them on our website, Also on the site you'll find transcript and upcoming show information. That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good night.

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