Journalists’ Year in Review 2014

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Local journalists Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times, Elvia Diaz of La Voz newspaper and Monica Alonzo, who worked for the Phoenix New Times and Arizona Republic, look back at the stories that made headlines in 2014.

José Cárdenas: Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to a special edition of "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas: It's our annual journalists' year-end show. We'll look back at the issues and stories that made headlines and look ahead at predictions for 2015. The journalists' year in review show is coming up next on "Horizonte."

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. This is the annual year in review show. Our journalists are Jim Small, editor for the "Arizona Capitol Times," Monica Alonzo, formerly with the "Phoenix New Times," and Elvia Diaz, editor for "La Voz" newspaper. Welcome back. You guys were all here last year, we're going to give a hard time at the end of the show about your predictions from last year. And we'll see what you're predicting for this next year. Let's start with one of the more controversial pieces of legislation that was the highlight of the first half of last year, which was SB 1062. That was a pretty big thing.

Jim Small: Highlight or low light depending on who you talk to. I think the business community viewed it as low light. This was a bill that really was aimed at protecting the religious freedom of people to operate their businesses the way they saw fit, and the critics on the other hand said this is essentially codifying discriminatory acts. Someone could run a business and they could deny, say, a hotel room to a person because they're gay, and so the bill got through the legislature without a whole lot of attention, but once it got through the legislature and landed on Governor Brewer's desk, there started to be a big outcry. A lot of the business community got involved. I think you get this tipping point where more and more companies started coming out and saying, we don't like this policy, we do business in Arizona, we may -- Maybe we won't do business in Arizona in the future. And you got the chamber came out opposed to it, and the apples of the world came out opposed, and the NFL came out and said, you know, this isn't the kind of values we stand for as the NFL, and maybe if you guys want to have Super Bowls in the future you should really think this kind of policy -- Rethink this policy, and actually Governor Brewer vetoed it there. Were protests on the capitol lawn, a lot of people really -- I think seemed shocked at this policy, especially with the way attitudes have been shifting on gay marriage and on gay rights both nationally and locally. And it really stood in stark contrast at the municipal level, where have you cities not just passing gay rights ordinance and protecting workers and citizens who are gay, but even going so far as to try to find ways to even have some form of recognized civil union or civil partnership and arrangement in a way that's not even allowed at the state level.

Elvia Diaz: What was a high -- The high point of that legislation here in Arizona is the fact that it didn't happen and the fact businesses reacted fairly quickly to this. Arizona obviously learned from SB 10701070, the immigration law, people protested in huge numbers internet are and obviously the governor didn't listen to any of them. In this case she did, but the business community did not do anything with SB 1070 before until it was too late, until it actually had happened. And then Arizona lost so many millions of dollars because of the boycott, economic boycott. So I believe she was thinking about the money that Arizona was going to lose, and also the international stand. And she decided to learn a lesson.

José Cárdenas: And Monica, we were the center of attention both nationally and globally because of this piece of legislation.

Monica Alonzo: Absolutely. Arizona wasn't the only one considering -- That has considered such legislation. And it just sort of broke a line between people that believed in freedom, and religious freedom, but really in the community especially within the businesses it just had this antigay feel to it, and that's really what -- I would say another highlight of it is that it really energized the LGBT community, it got people that normally wouldn't be involved out protesting, and whether at the end of the day that's why brewer vetoed it or not, it gave a voice to people that had been fighting on the statewide level for rights. And we can see that, how that transpired with the approval of the gay marriage.

José Cárdenas: Isn't that perhaps one of the ironies, that we begin the first half of the year with SB 1062, and possible passage, a lot of concern about it, it gets defeated, and then near the end of the year we have gay marriage is now legal in Arizona, and if anything, the same people were supporting SB 1062 are saying, see, we told you, we need this. And the threat is to reintroduce it in the next legislature.

Jim Small: Oh, yeah. I'm sure it will get reintroduced in the next legislature. And we'll see how legislative leadership --

José Cárdenas: will it pass this time around?

Jim Small: Probably the same chance. A great chance, because it passed --

José Cárdenas: now people are citing examples of what they think, this is the problem we're trying to deal with and you now need it more than did you before.

Jim Small: Yeah. I think certainly the dynamics are different. Now instead of it being a theoretical issue of how do businesses handle -- They often cite the examples, the photographer, the baker, whether they have to provide services for gay couples. Right now under -- In Arizona, you're under no obligation to do that without this law.

José Cárdenas: Closer to home, you do have people in the registrar's office, wherever they issue marriage licenses saying I don't want to be involved in that. So isn't it now a more concrete issue than it was back in April?

Jim Small: Yeah. I think there are some issues that probably do need to be addressed. They'll certainly try to address it, the issue is how far do they take it and do they extend those to all businesses and treat businesses the same as people. Which was one of the big things that law did and the way it was written, was to essentially transfer to businesses the same religious liberty rights that individuals have. And governor-elect Ducey has says he's not amenable to this kind of bill going forward, or even a bill in the same vein. So we'll see what they come out with, what kind of attitude the new governor takes toward it, and ultimately whether the legislature tries to pass a watered-down version, or -- On the flip side, I think you're going to have the argument of people trying to pass a nondiscrimination act in Arizona. Certainly won't get to the legislature. But are they going to be willing to take it to the people, are they going to try to get it on the ballot in 2016 and actually codify in-state law, civil rights for people based on their sexual orientation?

Elvia Diaz: We journalists are going to be paying close attention. We did not last time, that's why. We didn't write about it until it was almost too late, until we got almost to the governor's office.

José Cárdenas: One of the things you did write a lot about, it's to be expected in an election year that elections suck all the oxygen out of the atmosphere, so months and months and months of first the Republican primaries which were most of the action was, and then the general elections, we're going to talk about that, but speaking of primaries, one of particular interest, especially to the smoke community was CD-7, where Ed pastor said I'm not running for reelection, handpicked Mary rose Wilcox supervisor as his successor and you have what some people view as this upstart Ruben Gallego. I'm going for that spot. And I think initially people thought he has no chance.

Monica Alonzo: Right. I think people were surprised to see, I think any time you see somebody that is considered the upstart going against the political titan, especially someone handpicked by the Congressman, so I think initially, depending on who you spoke with, there was a feeling he didn't have a shot at the seat, and all the usuals were political community leaders were backing Mary rose Wilcox. But the thing, Gallego is a very good at running campaigns, he helped his wife get on the city council the previous election, and he just had an amazing ground game, and I think that the way people looked at the two candidates is, the establishment versus energy. And you -- The new ideas. And I think at the end of the day when you saw some of the community leaders that you would expect to see in Mary rose Wilcox's camp, shifting their support, or being publicly supporting Gallego, I think that's when maybe like in the last month or so people started to see that maybe he did have this wrapped up.

Elvia Diaz: Even from the beginning I believed some of those same community leaders were thrilled to have Gallego, even if at the beginning they were saying he doesn't have a chance. Because people were tired of the same folks, you know, running for those offices. And it was Mary rose Wilcox's race to lose. She has been preparing for this seat forever, she has -- She believed she had the support, but in private, the same people who were supporting her initially publicly were not. They were actually backing Gallego. So I think from the beginning she was losing this campaign.

José Cárdenas: You've now been editor for a little over a year, how much of your paper's time and attention was focused on this race and what did you see?

Elvia Diaz:We paid a tremendous attention to this race and to other races that dealt with Latino and Latino participation. Very few people actually vote. So that was a huge advantage that Gallego had. I don't believe Gallego identified that much with Latinos, though had is a Latino in culturally he does, but I would say less than Mary rose. So we saw very little participation from Latino voters in that race. So we mostly heard from Latino leaders from the same people that you normally do. When we went out on the street and talked to people, even closer to election day, they still did not know who they were. And to me that was incredibly troubling, because we wrote about it tremendously in Spanish and English, you know, with our publications, so there was very little participation in that race.

José Cárdenas: Speaking of Latino vote and I want to get to some of the other elections now, turnout was terrible for every race.

Elvia Diaz:Horrific.

José Cárdenas: Generally -- And you expect low turnout off-year election. But Jim, do you think it affected any races, the low Latino vote turnout?

Jim Small: You know, certainly in the general election I think the low turnout in general affected -- It hurt democrats more than it hurt Republicans. I think the voters who were energized to turn out tended to be -- Were predominantly Republican or conservative minded voters, people who were upset at the status quo in D.C. This was an election that more than most we've seen in the past was really national politician localized. And so you had a lot of anger at the Obama administration, at Congress, that kind of trickled down. Those were the people who were motivated to vote and they voted doubt ticket. I think if you were going to point to a single person who probably got hurt the most it would be David Garcia and the superintendent for public construction race. That was the closest race by far, a down ballot race, he was running against a Republican who was opposed by the Arizona state chamber of commerce, by other business groups, by former Republican holders of that job, former Republican schools chief who said we don't like this lady, we don't think she's qualified, David Garcia has an impeccable resume and this is the guy who should be leading Arizona schools forward. If another hundred thousand Voters turn out to vote, it's possible that those voters are people who would have been more likely to vote for democrat or certainly vote for a centrist in that race as opposed to the person who the Tea Party favored.

José Cárdenas: Though he got the most votes for any democrat. And he was running against somebody who didn't campaign against him. So --

Elvia Diaz: she didn't campaign at all.

José Cárdenas: Is there any sense that maybe it was his name, and that there was an anti-Hispanic vote perhaps that caused him to lose the race that everybody thought was his?

Monica Alonzo: I think, like Jim pointed out, he just got caught up in the Republicans who -- There's high disapproval rating for Obama, and -- What Diane Douglas ran on was to get rid of common core, and she compared it to Obamacare, and that was the -- Was a single issue, and that was all she had on her website. And --

José Cárdenas: that was all she had. She wasn't buying ads on TV or radio, she wasn't running negative ads against him, she was kind of the --

Monica Alonzo: I think that was a good strategy, because I don't think she had anything other than anti-common core. And the people, while she didn't participate in any public debates except the clean election one, she was going to Tea Party rallies and she was going on conservative radio, and I think it goes back to what Jim said, that's the base that turns out. The Republican, the more conservative people, and combined the feelings toward Obama at the time, and the fact that it was a down ticket race, didn't have a lot of name recognition, I don't think either of them did, I think that hurt him, but he just got caught up and despite his impeccable resume he just got caught up.

Elvia Diaz:It is also true, and it's a fact, that no Latino has been elected to statewide office in 40 years. Democrat or Republican. We had a superintendent of public instruction, a Republican, but appointed. So it is very telling to see no Latino has been able to get elected to a statewide office. So, yes, I believe his name had a lot to do with it. And yes, he was caught up in this Republican tsunami, but the last name did not help him. The fact he's a Latino just didn't help. So it tells me that Arizona is not ready to elect a Latino or a latina to a statewide office.

José Cárdenas: Was there -- There was a call for a boycott by Latinos in response to dissatisfaction with the president's failure to come forward with immigration reform as he had promised before the election. Any evidence that had any impact?

Elvia Diaz:We do not have any evidence, but several leaders were calling for a boycott. Not to go out and vote. Which I believe some did precisely that. Stayed home to punish Obama specifically because they were angry as you were saying earlier, about the lack of an immigration reform, so they decided not to vote, I believe several of them did, or hundreds of them, we don't have any evidence that's why they chose not to vote, but we know for a fact the Latinos did not vote in greater numbers as they should have. And everybody just incredibly disappointed, and I'm trying to find out what will happen next year. Which of course they are hurting themselves, because then no one is paying attention to them. Absolutely no one. So they wanted to punish Obama, fine, they D. but now who's going to pay them attention to them now? Not democrats, not Republicans, because they already wrote them off. They're not counting on any Latino vote to win. And the only Latino who have been in public office lost. So Latinos lost themselves.

José Cárdenas: So Jim, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves and talk about predictions, but here's one I have to mention that was yours, which was that the really bold prediction that Fred Duval would have a tough time in his election. Pretty safe, actually, but were you surprised at the margin of victory? How big the loss was?

Jim Small: I certainly didn't strain myself on that prediction last year, but I was surprised by the margin. And I think most observers would have said six months before the election, even the day following the primary election, that the race would have been closer. It ended up being a route for Doug Ducey and he won going away, and it took about 10 minutes of results coming in on election night to realize this race was over --

José Cárdenas: part of it was the amount of money coming into the state, not only for the governor's race, but the attorney general's race. Secretary of state people with his name recognition thought Goddard would win. Why was so much money coming into Arizona of all places for these statewide races?

Jim Small: I think part of it certainly has to do with the fact that one of the people who was the pioneers of this dark money spending, this anonymous campaign spending who really helped the conservative Koch brothers network formulated his plan and launched it nationally is from Arizona. And he's -- Not necessarily working with that group anymore, but he knows how-to-do it and he's the guy, Sean Noble has -- He was a supporter of Doug Ducey's in the primary and general, a number of groups that were tied to him or run directly by him. Had money, just popped in out of nowhere and spent a half million dollars on TV ads, and kind of jumped out. It was pretty clear that behind the scenes there was a lot of work that went into that outside spending campaign. It was very well coordinated, very well orchestrated and I think at the end of the day very effective. Because it allowed Doug Ducey, especially in the general election to essentially put his campaign on autopilot and not do a whole lot dot minimal, not have to spend a lot of money, and the outside groups really carried the load for him and relentlessly attacked Fred Duvall. All of the ads we saw about him being a lobbyist and the bad choice for Arizona, the -- Being basically a shill for the Obama administration, all of that, and it was something that Fred Duval, he didn't have enough money to combat it and none of the outside groups, the national Democratic groups came to his aid and they basically let him twist in the wind. And the result was what we saw, where he got pasted on election night.

José Cárdenas: Anybody surprised by the outcomes in the congressional elections? Any of them? But maybe particularly Kirkpatrick beating Tobin, the ease with which Sinema won, any thoughts on those races?

Jim Small: I thought the margin by which Kirkpatrick beat Tobin was surprising as well. This is an off-cycle election year, democrats typically have a harder time turning out voters in those years, voters aren't as energized and infrequent voters don't show up during mid term elections. And for Kirkpatrick to win as handily as she did was surprising N a district that while democrats have an advantage --

José Cárdenas: It's a conservative district.

Jim Small: When Republicans are energized to show up at the polls for a guy who's as prominent as Andy Tobin was, at least within the world of Arizona politics, to go out there and have such a poor showing was surprising.

José Cárdenas: So let's talk about immigration. You guys have already mentioned a little bit SB 1070 was -- Put Arizona on the map, a number of events occurring this year with respect to immigration, including even this week, the governor losing again on the issue of driver's license for DACA students.

Monica Alonzo: It's going to be interesting to see if they continue to fight this. It just sort of -- It's typical of Arizona, and the thing you were talking about earlier, like starting off the year with an SB 1062 being shot down, it sort of signaled that maybe things might be changing in Arizona, at least the hint of change.

Elvia Diaz:Not when it comes to immigration, for sure.

Monica Alonzo: Right. You circle back around to this continued fight, and it just -- It just doesn't seem to make much sense. But we'll see what the -- What Ducey, whether he continues the fight, though he's been clear that he's not going to allow people that are not here with legal status to drive. So I think it's just a fight that it's going to continue into next year, and --

Elvia Diaz:and it's a fight the governor will probably continue if he could. Obviously it will be on the hands of the Supreme Court whether to reconsider the case or not. But it is philosophically speaking what she believes is the right thing to do, and also there are no huge groups helping this case. We are not seeing the chamber of commerce, we're not seeing the groups you mentioned on SB 1062, they are not helping the dreamers, the young immigrants with this issue. They're on their own. Therefore, Ducey and brewer right now, they have nothing to lose when it comes to keeping --

José Cárdenas: José Cárdenas: what about the president's executive order? It expands the number of people who are now in similar status to the DACA students, it expands the number of DACA eligible, does that help or hurt the push to allow people to get driver's licenses in Arizona?

Elvia Diaz:Well, I think it will help the immigrants, because the courts have already spoken about this. At least the ninth circuit court of appeals. We'll see if the Supreme Court will hear the case. But at the very least they would argue that immigrants who get temporary relief of deportation are here legally, because what the governor has been arguing is these people are not here legally. Because only Congress in her belief, can do that. Therefore an executive order does not apply. But the courts are already saying no, they should get driver's licenses, so if they do file a lawsuit for the new ones, the adults, the 5 million people and the ones we have here in Arizona, there's legal precedent.

José Cárdenas: So we do need to -- We have less than two minutes, both of you said last year, another bold prediction, things probably wouldn't change with sheriff Arpaio. You proved to be right. He suffered some reversals in court, though.

Monica Alonzo: she in an interesting position right now, being he could be charged with criminal contempt foror civil contempt. Again, going back to the racial profiling that's been happening out of his office. But I think -- I don't know, I see that continuing, every time that Arpaio has been in the position where it seems like, OK, this is going to be the things that brings him down or this is going to be the reason that voters stopped reelecting him, he just seems to squirm out of it.

Elvia Diaz:I'm tired about talking about Arpaio. There are so many issues that we cannot avoid not talking about him, and obviously we than not avoid not covering him, but --

José Cárdenas: we've only got a minute left, we'll have to talk about your predictions for next year. It can't be nothing is going to happen to Arpaio. What's your prediction?

Monica Alonzo: I predict dreamers are going to be driving legally with licenses. I think the court are going to continue to push in their favor, and Arizona is just going to have to --

José Cárdenas: bite the bullet.

Elvia Diaz:Diane Douglas is -- May face a recall. There's an effort right now, and it will go nowhere.

Jim Small: I think Doug Ducey will make a really strong push to expand the voucher program to all students in Arizona. During his first year in office.

José Cárdenas: We'll see in another 12 months whether any of your predictions come true. They sound a little bolder than last year. Remember, if you missed any previous episodes of "Horizonte," and also want to find out what's coming up on the show, go to www.azpbs.org and click on "Horizonte."

José Cárdenas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," thank you for watching. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

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Jim Small:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times; Elvia Diaz:Journalist, La Voz; Monica Alonzo:Journalist;

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