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2011 Best of the Capitol

New categories, new winners and record response crowns 2011 awards

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With this year’s legislative session finishing in the oft-hoped-for, but rarely achieved 100 day-goal, we at the Arizona Capitol Times figured potential 2011 Best of the Capitol honorees would have plenty of time to stage their campaigns for votes.

Although we didn’t see any candidate-endorsing parades or Best of the Capitol campaign mailers, one group made its presence felt in this year’s awards.

You, Arizona Capitol Times readers, showed up in droves.

With more than 2,000 ballots cast, visitors to AzCapitolTimes.com set a new Best of the Capitol voter-response record. And this year, respondents crowned winners in three new categories, while knocking a few stalwarts from their perches.

The first winner of Best Female Lobbyist — wife of a former Best of the Capitol winner — completed the circuit for our first married honorees, an Arizona sports icon was voted as the most desirable “Person to Have Attend Your Get-Together” and a stylish senator was recognized for her impeccable choice in purses in our new Best Handbag category. Spoiler: It wasn’t Kyrsten Sinema.

That isn’t to say, however, that Best of the Captiol powerhouses were not well represented. Sinema continues to reign supreme over the Best Dressed (female) and Best Shoes (female) categories, Marcus Dell’Artino’s hair tonic is still wowing Capitol observers and Durant’s is still, well, Durant’s.

Voters did, however, choose a new Best Capitol Police Officer in 2011 after “Handsome” Mike Ransom owned the category for three consecutive years. Also, in a hushed surprise, Chuck Coughlin was knocked off as the most feared political opponent/Best Political Operative this year by a Best of the Capitol newcomer.

So here they are, the 2011 Best of the Capitol awards…

— Josh Coddington, Special Sections Editor

Click here to see a slideshow from the awards ceremony

Hairstyle (female)

Eileen Klein

Eileen Klein (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Eileen Klein (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Watch the “9th Floor Hair Rendezvous” video here

When Eileen Klein was selected as Jan Brewer’s chief of staff in 2009, the governor praised her as possessing “a wealth of financial, economic and executive level managerial experience.”

That’s all true; but what about her hair?

While Klein has certainly been pivotal in the Governor’s Office, absent from Brewer’s ringing praise was one of Klein’s most immediately striking assets — her impeccably styled golden locks.

Lauded across the Capitol for her enviable style and ceaseless energy, Klein takes the top award this year as an expertly coiffed crusader for the agenda of one of the nation’s most high-profile governors.

Klein is, in fact, so busy that she inquires how long it might take to discuss her laudable locks. “What is your turnaround time on this?” Klein asks. “Within one can of hairspray?”

Before being selected as chief of staff, Klein served as the deputy chief of staff for finance, and director of the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

Prior to joining Brewer’s administration, Klein was chief operating officer for Arizona Physicians IPA by UnitedHealthcare, a $1 billion corporation serving Arizonans enrolled in AHCCCS and ADHS programs.

She has also been an executive committee member of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 2008, Klein was named the organization’s “Volunteer of the Year.”

Now, to those accolades can be added a mention for bringing a little glamour within the halls of government — something Klein does with aplomb and with effortless ease.

Rising Star

Kirk Adams

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Voted Best Twitterer (2011)
Voted Best Republican Representative — 50th Legislature (2011)

To be called a rising star can be either side of a coin, an anointing toward success and fame or the mark of Cain.

As for the former, an obscure former Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton was given that appellation in 1988, and four years later he became president. As for the latter, ask those who came in second on “American Idol.” (Actually, you could ask some of those who came in first.)

Kirk Adams exhibits the primary quality of a rising star: Youth, vigor and accomplishments and major decisions in quick succession that appear to be plotted on a vertical scale, pointing upward.

The 38-year-old former Arizona House speaker (by the way, that description had heretofore never been used to describe a politician in this state) was in and out of the state Capitol after less than three terms, resigning in late April as the echo of his own gavel ending the 50th Legislature’s first session still was bouncing off the walls of the House chamber.

It was a decision that left Adams with “mixed feelings,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times on May 4.

The Mesa resident seeks to top a field of Republicans who seek to succeed Jeff Flake in the U.S. House of Representatives. Flake represents Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, which contains much of the East Valley. Flake announced he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Jon Kyl.

Adams joins an increasingly crowded field of former state legislators from Mesa for the GOP nomination: Chuck Gray, who retired from the state Senate in 2010, and Matt Salmon, who left the Legislature in the early 1990s to win a seat in Congress from the East Valley in 1994, retiring in 2000.

Officer at the Capitol

Bill Youngkrantz

Bill Youngkrantz (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Bill Youngkrantz (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Bill Youngkrantz, winner of Best Officer at the Capitol, maintains a solid level of security from his third floor post on the east side of the House of Representatives.

He has been with the House security force for 11½ years, including a few years as supervisor of security. “I stepped down because I felt it was time,” he says.

Before he became a security officer, Youngkrantz had compiled a varied résumé. An Arizona resident since 1946, he joined the Navy in 1958, serving four years. He worked as an electronic technician for Motorola for 14 years, and then sold bank security equipment — not bank securities — for U.S. Currency Protection Inc., based in Fountain Hills.

“My territory was the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico,” Youngkrantz says. “I could have been in any one of those spots. I traveled a lot. After 26 years of that, I left and came to the House of Representatives.”

Asked what led him to a security job at the House, Youngkrantz says, “I heard there was a job open and I was tired of traveling, and that’s how I became interested in this.”

Members of the general public check in with Youngkrantz before they are allowed to meet with a representative. His primary responsibility is maintaining security for members of the House and their staff while they’re in the building.

“Once they’re outside, they’re the responsibility of the Capitol Police,” he says.

Democratic Elected Official

Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords (Submitted photo)

Gabrielle Giffords (Submitted photo)

She’s likely the best-known member of the U.S. House of Representatives, something both John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are probably happy to concede to her.

And she’s currently the odds-on favorite for her party’s U.S. Senate nomination in 2012; no other Democrat has dared even publicly consider opposing her.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is recovering in a Houston hospital from brain injuries suffered in a Jan. 8 shooting spree that left six dead and 12 others wounded. Meanwhile, her Tucson office staff works to do business as usual fielding constituent requests — along with more good wishes and inquiries about Giffords’ well-being that most members of Congress usually get.

“We have always had an active constituent service caseload. It has been since the very beginning; the congresswoman has placed a high priority on it,” says C.J. Karamargin, Giffords’ communications director.

Nothing has slowed down, even though Giffords herself is not there, Karamargin says. The office hosted a Social Security information forum in Tucson June 2.

And the requests for assistance go on.

“When we help a Tucson woman get out of Cairo when that city’s erupting in flames or help some man deal with a several hundred thousand dollar fraud against him, then we are doing what we are supposed to do,” Karamargin says. “We are doing the job that the congresswoman has asked us to do. It’s particularly rewarding to do it while she is devoting all her strength to recover.”

Hairstyle (male)

Marcus Dell’Artino

Marcus Dell'Artino (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Marcus Dell'Artino (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Hairdo (2006-2010)
Voted Best Shoes (2010)
Voted Best Lobbyist (2008) (2nd place)

Watch the “9th Floor Hair Rendezvous” video here

Now a five-time recipient of the Best of the Capitol award for his hairstyle, Marcus Dell’Artino hears — coming up behind him — the sound of rustling hair.

“The competition is getting tougher — and more threatening,” says Dell’Artino, a parter at Phoenix-based FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs.

“It’s becoming a fierce battle to hold on,” he says. “(Rep.) Ed Ableser is gaining on me.”

Dell’Artino, who has spent 1 ½ years at FirstStrategic after nine years at Public Policy Partners, scoffed at Best Political Operative Danny Seiden’s suggestion to the Capitol Times that he can be found each night at 9 p.m. in curlers.

“My secret is a head-soothing gel made up of acacia berries and Bud Light,” Dell’Artino says with a chuckle, cautioning readers not to attempt copying his formula.

“It’s too dangerous to mix at home,” he says.

Living with five awards will be similar to what it’s been like with four, he says, best evidenced when he enters a room.

“It’s certainly a topic of conversation among my clients,” he says. “They say, ‘Oooh, it’s the hair guy.’”

Dell’Artino says his girlfriend remains unfazed by his sartorial fame.

“She doesn’t care what I do so long as the house is clean and food is on the table,” he says. “And I’m wondering what she’s going to say when she reads that.”

Great hair can be both an asset and a liability to the task of representing clients to lawmakers and other state officials, Dell’Artino says.

“It cuts both ways,” he says. “I do appreciate that there are nice people out there who voted for me.”

Turning serious if only for a moment, he says what ultimately matters to his clients, which include several Fortune 500 companies, is the hard work he puts in on their behalf.

After all, he did win for lobbying — once. It was second place in 2008. And shoes? Again, only once, last year.

Sounds like Dell’Artino will be hearing that he’s “the hair guy” for some time to come.

As for his age, Dell’Artino played coy, suggesting that’s something only his hairdresser may know for sure.

“I’m 39,” he says, “and I’m sticking to it.”

Dressed (female) & Shoes (female)

Kyrsten Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Voted Best Democratic Senator — 50th Legislature (2011)
Voted Best Dressed (2006-2010)
Voted Best Shoes (2010)
Voted Best Democratic Representative, Best Quote (2010)
Voted Best Twitterer (2010)

Watch the “Capitol Fashion Emergency Hotline” video here

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is no stranger to the “Best Of” list, having previously won a slew

of honors as a highly influential legislator and as one of the most stylish women at the Capitol.

This year, her presence on the awards list is again felt across the board, as the best Democratic senator in the 50th Legislature, and as an elegantly attired lawmaker boasting a remarkable shoe collection.

Sinema says she is simply honored to be able to advocate for the members of her district — while looking great, of course.

“Serving my constituents each and every day as their senator by fighting for public schools, holding government accountable and making sure big corporations and the rich pay their fair share

is one of the greatest honors I have as an elected official,” Sinema says. “Doing it in great style and fabulous shoes is just a bonus!”

Fortunately, Sinema is not only a seasoned lawmaker but also an accomplished shopper and a supporter of the many unique boutiques and clothing stores of her central Phoenix legislative district.

“But I don’t think my clothes and shoes make me a better legislator,” Sinema says. “My style — sort of a ‘colorful contemporary meets retro classic’ — is actually the last thing on my mind during the days when I’m working to pass good bills, defeat bad bills and secure a strong future for Arizona.”

Sinema maintains a rigorous schedule working as a lawyer when the Legislature is not in session, and as an adjunct professor in ASU’s School of Social Work, where she is also a doctoral candidate.

In 2010, Sinema was named one of Time magazine’s “40 Under 40” movers and shakers in American politics.

Republican Representative — 50th Legislature

Kirk Adams

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Voted Best Twitterer (2011)
Voted Rising Star (2011)

This isn’t Kirk Adams’ first award for being an outstanding legislator. In 2007, the Mesa Republican’s first in office, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry named him “Representative of the Year.”

Not wasting time, at age 36 he defeated Jim Weiers in 2008 to become the state’s youngest-ever House speaker. Today Adams, 38, a partner in a property and casualty insurance firm, a husband and father of six, is seeking to succeed Jeff Flake in the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona’s 6th Congressional District.

When asked what accomplishments of the 50th Legislature may have led to his being selected for this Best of the Capitol award, he said he was most proud of the following:

• Structured balanced budget: “It was three years of difficult work. It brings stability to state finances.”

• A jobs bill that failed the previous year. “The largest permanent state tax reduction in state history.”

• Public pension reform. “I wasn’t sure we could get it through the process.”

• Completing, as promised, a 100-day session: “It was the first time in a decade, only the fifth time in 20 years, even though it’s contemplated every year by statute.”

Adams is also known for his efforts to achieve greater transparency in public affairs and to reform health care, the initiative process and Child Protective Services.

Staffer

Wendy Baldo

Wendy Baldo (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Wendy Baldo (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Staffer (2010)

Wendy Baldo has enjoyed a long and storied career in Arizona government, stretching back to the days when Rose Mofford occupied the Governor’s Office.

Nowadays, she remains just as busy working for another, slightly more controversial Arizona politician, Senate President Russell Pearce. But while Baldo’s commitment to public policy has not changed over the years, her influence at the center of government has grown exponentially.

“I love working in public policy. I like being able to see a difference made,” Baldo says. It’s that commitment to service that has characterized her governmental career, since the early 1990s, when she led the constituent services office, part of the Senate Research Committee.

And while Pearce certainly elicits the enmity of many critics, Baldo says she could not imagine collaborating with a better boss.

“I love working for Russell Pearce,” she says. In fact, the controversies flowing to his office make working there an adventurous experience, Baldo adds.

“That’s the good thing about public policy,” says the unflappable Baldo. “It’s like going to school. You meet new people and experience new challenges. You just have to work through it.”

Handbag

Michele Reagan

Sen. Michele Reagan (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. Michele Reagan (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Republican Representative (2009) (2nd place)

Watch the “Capitol Fashion Emergency Hotline” video here

Sen. Michele Reagan, the inaugural winner for Best Handbag, a new category for 2011 Best of the Capitol, is a little reluctant to discuss the honor, as her husband might read it and discover the true extent of her collection.

“I don’t want to tell you how many I have,” she laughs.

When pressed, however, she passionately dives into a colorful description of her handbags, some of which she calls “crazy” and others “conservative.” Some bags in her collection feature cartoon images and Armani labels, while others are fashioned out of tin or laced in sequins.

Despite the effervescent nature of her collection, however, Reagan describes her own fashion style as more serious, as befits her position as a longtime legislator.

Reagan was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and served six years as chairman of the House Commerce Committee. In 2010, she was elected to the Arizona Senate.

“Typically, I dress very conservatively,” she says, noting that, as a lawmaker, she feels better prepared for the demands of the day when attired “in a nice suit and a great pair of shoes.”

In fact, she says that while her handbag collection be noteworthy, she is also proud of her shoe collection, and is eager to snag the “Best Shoes” award when Best of the Capitol swings around next year.

“I’m going for it again,” says Reagan. “Tell (Sen.) Kyrsten Sinema it’s on. The campaigning starts now.”

Republican Elected Official

Ken Bennett

Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen Bennett figures he won this award as the Best Republican Elected Official because of his culinary and crooning talents.

“I either fed ’em or sang to ’em,” says the secretary of state. Another factor could be his accessibility. “I let ’em meet with me whenever they ask,” Bennett says.

He touts his breakfast fruit crêpes that he served while in the Senate, as secretary of state and at a few fundraisers. When he left the Senate because of term limits, he used some leftover campaign money to pay for a dinner party for staff members, lobbyists and others at Rustler’s Roost.

Having been compared to a younger ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, guitar-playing Bennett is always ready with a tune that he has written for special occasions. About the McCartney comparison, Bennett says, “If they would compare me based on musical talents instead of looks similarities, that would really be a compliment.”

Asked if he will write a special song for his acceptance speech at the “Best Of” event, Bennett laughs. “I had not thought about that. That’s a possibility.”

Bennett says he might rework his version of “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and begins singing, “To all the lobbyists I’ve loved before, who came in and out my door…”

To clear up any lingering doubt, Bennett was asked if Gov. Jan Brewer is actually term-limited, even though she inherited the office. Without hesitation, he replies: “Yes, yes, no doubt — right along with me.”

Lobbyist (male)

Don Isaacson

Don Isaacson (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Don Isaacson (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Lobbyist (2010)

It’s a repeat for Don Isaacson, who was voted Best Male Lobbyist, but this year he shares lobbying honors with the winner of the Best Female Lobbyist, Kathy Senseman.

Isaacson, whose firm of Isaacson & Moore, P.C. has clients ranging from the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association to the University of Phoenix, jokes about the new female lobbying category. “I’m waiting for the male nude lobbyist,” he says. “I’ve won everything else.”

Isaacson, whose presence at the Capitol dates back to 1975 when he was a legislative staff member, says he was expecting a call from Ginger Lamb, publisher of the Arizona Capitol Times, telling him there was a mistake — that he only got two votes, not 20. He didn’t get that call, so he surmised that he benefitted from a sympathy vote. “People figured, ‘Isaccson is never going to win for best hair or shoes, so we’ve got to give him something,’” he says.

Isaacson says Marty Shultz, a long-time lobbyist who reigns as a mover and a shaker, joins him in questioning the Best Male Lobbyist results. “Marty thinks he should win everything,” Isaacson says.

Asked how the recent 100-day session affected lobbying, Isaacson says: “It’s like taking a big gulp of air, going to the bottom of the pool, and not coming up for 100 days,” he says. “It was pedal to the metal. No let up.”

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Political Operative

Danny Seiden

Danny Seiden (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Danny Seiden (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Danny Seiden pondered why he, among all the lobbyists making their way in and out of the Arizona State Capitol, would be named Best Political Operative for, oh, three or four seconds.

“Besides my obvious charm and charisma?” he asks, laughing.

Seiden, 31, who took on public policy and legislative affairs earlier this year for new Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, cited two possible reasons: He believes in approaching his work with honesty and integrity, which he says some lobbyists don’t do. And, he says working for Montgomery makes that job easy.

“He’s a rare politician in that the more you find out about him, the more you like him, not the other way around,” Seiden says.

Effectiveness at lobbying, he says, is achieved by keeping in mind that instead of focusing on the fact that legislators work for him and other members of the general public, he reminds lawmakers that he is a resource for them as they do their jobs.

“That’s refreshing for some legislators to hear,” he says.

Seiden went to work for Montgomery after two years as an attorney with the Phoenix firm of Gallagher & Kennedy, before that he was a law clerk while a law student at Arizona State University.

Seiden says attorneys can be better at lobbying than non-attorneys because lawyers are trained in learning both sides of every argument, and are able to argue either side. That means being prepared through reading every document and preparing written reports that have “no right or left,” he says.

“You offer your side, but recognize the other side’s out there,” Seiden says.

In seven months working for Montgomery, Seiden says he managed to get six of seven bills the office favored through. He says he’s particularly proud of a ban signed into law this year on synthetic marijuana known as Spice.

For next session, he says he’s in negotiations about some lawmakers’ desire to change Arizona’s criminal sentencing guidelines. Montgomery believes the current rules are sufficient, Seiden says.

Anyone seeking a career in lobbying should above all maintain his or her integrity and reputation as best as can be done, he says. This improves relationships with legislators and staff.

“This is called government relations,” Seiden says. “And you can’t do the government without the relations.”

Democratic Senator — 50th Legislature

Kyrsten Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

It did not take Kyrsten Sinema long to make her mark at the Arizona Senate. Of course, the senator has been among the most notable at the Capitol since first being elected to the House of Representatives in 2004.

Since then, Sinema’s state and national profile have grown exponentially — she was recently acknowledged by Time magazine as one of the most intriguing lawmakers in the country.

All this has gone to make her one of Arizona’s most well-known and admired — some might also say controversial — public figures.

Sinema’s passions and accomplishments are legion. She holds a law degree and is a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University. She is a published author and a coveted and captivating speaker and commentator. Yet her greatest accomplishments center around serving her constituents, she says.

Working for the citizens of Arizona while taking on the wealthy and powerful “is one of the greatest honors I have as an elected official,” she says.

Sinema has been a strident advocate for Arizona public schools, and this session she championed measures to aid military families and those lacking decent health care. She also worked to toughen laws addressing human smuggling, and successfully supported transplant patients fighting for coverage for life-saving procedures.

Sinema is not afraid to take on the governor or her legislative colleagues across the aisle, all the while exuding a captivating sense of style that continues to win her followers and admirers — on Twitter, in Arizona and on the national political stage.

Democratic Representative — 50th Legislature

Chad Campbell

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (File photo)

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (File photo)

Voted Best Democratic Representative (2009)

Chad Campbell characterizes this year’s legislative session as “rough” on his minority colleagues. Yet he is quick to acknowledge the good work he says Arizona Democrats have done in raising awareness of a number of important issues.

“Our success this year was to make the public aware of what’s going on, and to hold the majority party accountable,” the House minority leader says. “I can’t recall a minority caucus that received as much media attention, which gave us a forum to espouse our views and our ideas.”

As a Phoenix native and longtime Arizona resident, Campbell knows the intimate details of the neighborhoods of District 14 in Phoenix, where he has served since first being elected to the Legislature in 2006.

Campbell, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, was honored last year as a “Legislative Champion” by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

He says he is flattered to be named Best Democratic Representative, but Campbell quickly adds that his most satisfying reward comes from serving the citizens in his district, and across the state.

“I enjoy working with the voters and my constituents,” he says. “That’s why I do it. I’m just trying to represent the people who voted me into office.”

Administrative Assistant/Secretary

Mary

Mary Peralta (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Mary Peralta (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Administrative Assistant/Secretary (2010)
Voted Best Administrative Assistant/Secretary (2009)

While acknowledging that she is flattered to have been named Best Administrative Assistant and Secretary for three years running, Mary Peralta is quick to turn attention towards her boss, legislative powerhouse Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

But while Sinema is lauded for her many accomplishments, it is clear that Peralta is a driving and supportive force behind the busy lawmaker.

She is no stranger to high pressure situations, having previously worked for more than two decades as an executive chef in New York City. But now, she thrives on the dynamism of the Arizona Capitol, and on playing a part in the important legislative process.

“This work is very fulfilling, very rewarding,” Peralta says. “And that’s the most important thing — loving what you do and who you do it for.”

Peralta’s daily routine is a whirlwind of disparate activity, centering around Sinema’s many appearances and duties.

“Putting together her schedule is like balancing a chemical equation,” Peralta says. “It takes a lot of detail and tenacity to get it just right.”

Person to Have Attend Your Get-Together

Jerry Colangelo

Jerry Colangelo (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Jerry Colangelo (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Why in the world would anyone want to have Jerry Colangelo attend their get-together?

The sports and business entrepreneur pauses and facetiously offers a bit of self-deprecating humor: “Because they have a short list of friends?”

Actually, Colangelo, winner of this new “Best of the Capitol” category, says it’s a compliment to be considered someone whom others want to have at their events. “I guess that’s a result of being around a long time and being involved in a lot of things,” says the former managing general partner of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks. “The experience covers a large spectrum. There’s more to it than basketball.”

Colangelo isn’t much of a jokester, but he has an abundance of stories to tell. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of experiences, and being involved in a lot of situations with celebrities and presidents and kings, in traveling the world. I guess, the older you get, the more stories you have.”

Not one to try to seal a deal on the golf course, Colangelo, seen by many as a go-to guy in dealing with community issues, says, “My whole life is relational. The one thing that I was blessed with was an ability to communicate with people.”

So where is Colangelo’s favorite get-together place? He mentions the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in the “Little Italy” section of Chicago. “It has my name on the building on Taylor Street,” he says. “The old Italian settlement is one of my favorite spots.”

He also relishes visiting the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., where Colangelo serves as chairman of the Board of Governors and is chairman of USA Basketball.

“And one of my very, very favorite spots,” he says, “with my wife and family is Carmel-by-the-Sea.”

Shoes (male)

Bob Stump

Bob Stump (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Bob Stump (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Dressed (2008) (3rd place)
Voted Best Representative (2008) (2nd place)

Watch the “Saks Fifth Avenue Run-in” video here

Commissioner Bob Stump’s feet were in the nation’s Capitol when he was contacted about winning the “Shoes (male)” category for Best of the Capitol.

“The secret to winning,” the corporation commissioner wrote in an email, “is to buy quality, not quantity, always think Italian, and to keep one’s wingtips close to the grassroots.”

Stump should know a lot about choosing the right footwear, because he covered a lot of ground when he served in the Legislature, both while campaigning for office and working for his District 9 constituents. He served in the Arizona House from 2002 to 2008, when he was elected to his seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Like Michael Preston Green, a past winner, Stump believes that a well-dressed professional is one properly shod. He was actually having dinner with Green when he learned he had won this year’s award.

“The good news made an otherwise unremarkable evening remarkable,” Stump wrote. “Michael was green with envy — he wants to win it all, but understandably came up short.”

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Person to Have on Your Golf Foursome

Russell Smoldon

Russell Smoldon (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Russell Smoldon (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Russell Smoldon, manager of state and local government relations for Salt River Project, credits his vast storehouse of jokes and stories for why he is an ideal fourth for golf.

“The people I play with aren’t that good,” Smoldon says, “so we have to amuse ourselves.”

Asked for a sample joke, Smoldon comes up with one that involves a rake in a sand-trap, but decides it might not be appropriate for mixed company.

Asked what his handicap is, he replies, “You mean, other than my swing? I’m a 10, which isn’t too bad. But my golf swing has changed pretty dramatically. I lost 72 pounds in the past four months. I’m missing 13 inches off my stomach, so my golf swing is different from what it used to be. I’m down to 160 pounds from 232. I feel great. I don’t have to swing all around the Equator.”

He tries to play at least once a week at courses throughout the Valley, but as often as he plays, Smoldon never made a hole-in-one. “I got close a couple of times — hit the pin on drives ranging from 125 yards to 180 yards.”

Reflecting on his game, Smoldon says, “I’ve played with some crappy golfers who got holes in one. That’s not right.”

Even so, Smoldon hits the links often, and not just for enjoyment. “I can’t take legislators out there unless they pay their own way,” he says, “but I’ve got a lot of business associates that I golf with. We get a lot of work done on the golf course.”

What’s the worst thing that ever happened to him on a golf course? “I got hit on the back of my head and ended up in the hospital,” Smoldon says. “I didn’t see a friend of mine hit his second ball and he didn’t see me driving my cart in front of him. The ball went right through the back of the cart and knocked me out. I had a full concussion and was on wacky street for about a week.”

Smoldon recalls memorable foursomes on which he has played that included Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer, listed online among the LPGA’s sexiest women golfers. His favorite local PGA golfing partner is Ted Purdy, a Phoenix native.

If Smoldon could be part of any golf foursome, who would he choose? “Oh, man,” he says, pondering. “I would like to play with Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson), Charles Barkley and me.”

Isn’t there a danger that former Barkley, a former Phoenix Sun, might do better than Smoldon? “I doubt it,” he says confidently. “Have you ever seen his swing?”

Government PR Person

Paul Boyer

Paul Boyer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Paul Boyer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Although his official title is “communications specialist,” Paul Boyer says he does a little of everything for the House majority.

As the media liaison for the Republican caucus, he fields calls from reporters and puts them in touch with the right legislator on an issue. In turn, he will often pitch stories to the media, and he assists with getting the message from Republican members out through social media, as well.

While considering winning this year’s award for doing his job well, Boyer maintains he doesn’t mind the label “PR” person.

“If I didn’t agree 99 percent of the time with what the members are doing, I wouldn’t be doing it,” he says. “I do believe in what I’m doing.”

His aim in his work at the Capitol, he says, which he shares with the legislators he represents, is ultimately to be the hardest working person in government.

He got to do just that in 2009.

Following the First Regular Session of the 49th Legislature, Boyer began experiencing severe headaches. He found himself in the hospital and diagnosed with AVM, a serious brain disorder. Prompt surgery and good fortune has led to his recovery.

“I’m gratified,” he continues, reflecting for a moment on the recognition. “Frankly, I’m also pretty honored to be following in the footsteps of Paul Senseman (Gov. Jan Brewer’s former spokesman and the 2010 Best PR Person winner). He’s the best,” Boyer says.

Republican Senator — 50th Legislature

Adam Driggs

Adam Driggs (File Photo)

Adam Driggs (File Photo)

Voted Best Person to Have Lunch With (2011)

For Sen. Adam Driggs, being chosen by Arizona Capitol Times readers as Best Republican Senator is as good of an indication as any that he’s doing a good job for the residents of his district.

An Arizona native, Driggs, 46, seemed at least a little pleased in winning the award.

“It’s good to see that some people appreciate me down there,” Driggs says.

When asked if he took the award seriously, his response is characteristically matter-of-fact.

“I would hope so,” he says.

The first-term senator, who previously served in the House representing the Northeast Valley District 11, says the most important thing in his life, after his family, is working hard on behalf of his constituents.

He also took some heat from some in his district for voting with some of his colleagues in the Senate against a series of anti-illegal immigration bills in March. But he points to passage of probate reform and one or two other bills he sponsored this session as proof that he’s focused on making the right decisions.

“Hopefully, everyone can agree I give it my time and attention, every time I cast a vote,” he says.

Dressed (male)

Michael Preston Green

Michael Preston Green (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Michael Preston Green (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Dressed (2010, 2006)
Voted Best Hairdo (2006) (tied for 1st with Marcus Dell’Artino)

Watch the “Saks Fifth Avenue Run-in” video here

Perennial powerhouse Michael Preston Green is not surprised that he has won, once again, the Best Dressed (male) award for 2011. For him, taking time to dress well is part of who he is and how he prepares to be successful.

He’s earned the recognition, year after year, he says, not by following fashion trends or styles, but by keeping his dress as traditional as it was when he was an undergraduate at Yale nearly 50 years ago.

“I dress not by the styles in some magazine telling me what is now in vogue,” Green says. “I try to choose clothes that are professional and accentuate the positives in terms of myself and what I do for a living.”

Green, formerly of Fennemore Craig, is an attorney and partner at the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck in Phoenix.

His wardrobe, he says, has evolved with his tastes, but he still favors a Brooks Brothers suit, not least because the label offers several fabric weights, an important consideration in the Arizona climate.

“Once in a while, I throw in an Armani, for variety,” he jokes.

Green also spends part of the year in Panama, where he serves as an adviser to members of the government. He says people are decidedly more formal dressers in that country as compared to Americans.

“I’m disturbed by the trend here in informality,” he says. “You don’t see it there or in other parts of the world.”

Green says a professional appearance shows respect for the institution of the Legislature and for public service, where he has spent the bulk of his career.

“Working at the Capitol and with the governor is important,” he says. “You need to look the part.”

Although he has criticized President Barack Obama and other prominent American officials for informality, including a preference among men for going tie-less, Green says he’s noticed a trend around the Arizona Capitol away from the informal look.

“It pleases me no end when I look around nowadays and see so many well-dressed lobbyists and politicians, because they realize that it is important,” he says.

He also realizes, however, what so many well-dressed individuals means for his reign over the Best Dressed category.

“It frightens me that I have so many worthy opponents out there,” he says. “I know they are gunning for me, but I say, ‘Bring it on.’”

Person to Have Lunch With

Adam Driggs

Sen. Adam Driggs (File photo)

Sen. Adam Driggs (File photo)

Voted Best Republican Senator — 50th Legislature (2011)

District 11 Sen. Adam Driggs, a Phoenix Republican, laughs when told he has been chosen best lunch companion. His response is brief and tongue-in-cheek.

“The truth is, I don’t do a lot of lunches,” he responds, with a chuckle.

Driggs is quick to add that when he does go to lunch, it’s usually with legislative colleagues, rather than with lobbyists. After considering his recognition for a moment, he says jokingly: “If I’m this popular, maybe I’ll have to hit up lobbyists more often.”

He admits to having a secret lunch spot where he takes a few close colleagues. But he refused to divulge the location to Capitol Times readers, because then it wouldn’t be a secret.

Driggs surmises that maybe he was chosen only because he didn’t have much competition.

“I might have won this one by default,” he laughs. “I guess it means I’m a down-to-earth guy.”

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Lobbyist (female)

Kathy Senseman

Kathy Senseman (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Kathy Senseman (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Lobbying at the Arizona Capitol is no longer a good ol’ boys club, which is why Kathy Senseman was chosen as Best Female Lobbyist — a new category in the

2011 Best of the Capitol contest.

Senseman joined Policy Development Group in 2009, after several high-profile political and public roles in California and Arizona, including 10 years lobbying for Southwest Gas.

“There is a good ol’ boys network in any industry that you’re in,” Senseman says. “It’s how you carry yourself, and if you can navigate that. I played basketball in college and I’m used to being in the gym — kind of a gym rat. The whole good ol’ boys network never intimidated me. I knew it was there and I didn’t feel any negative impacts of that.”

Senseman suggests there is camaraderie among women at the Capitol. “We created our own network,” she says. “It’s not like we hate men, but there are a lot of great, intelligent, successful women at the Capitol. We all kind of gather around each other and are supportive. We jokingly call it the Chick Caucus.”

Do male legislators take her seriously? “I think they do,” Senseman says. “I hope they know I’m a pretty determined person — a competitive spirit. I hate to lose. Over the years, people have come to expect that I’m not going to easily back down. I know my subject area and I’m going to fight for what is right.”

Lobbying men or women legislators is similar, she says, but “pre-conversations — what you do to warm up conversations, are different.”

“It really doesn’t matter who I’m talking to,” Senseman says. “I’m sure there’s a way to find some commonality. I can talk sports and soccer mom stuff as good as anyone. It comes down to this: Do you know your bill, do you know your subject matter? That’s what’s going to matter at the end of the day.”

Senseman and her husband, Paul, have two daughters — Gracie, 8, and Katie, 5. That’s not all they have in common. Paul re-joined Policy Development Group earlier this year after serving two years as Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman.

Do they lobby as a team? “We’re at the same firm and we’re kind of figuring that out,” she says. “A lot of people think that working together is kind of weird or difficult. We’ll see how it goes. So far it’s been a really good experience — until he starts asking me what’s for dinner.”

She plays tennis and Paul doesn’t. “The biggest recipe for our success,” she says, “is that we don’t compete with each other.”

Dinner

Durant’s

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Voted Best Bar (2011)
Voted Best Place to Impress a Client (2011)
Voted Best Bar (2010)
Voted Best Dinner (2010)
Voted Best Appetizers (2009)
Voted Best Happy Hour (2009)
Voted Best Place to be Overheard (2009)
Voted Best Place to Impress a Client (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Lunchtime Diversion (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Dinner (2008)
Voted Best Appetizers (2008)
Voted Best Happy Hour (2008)
Voted Best Place to be Overheard (2008)

Voted Best Place to Impress a Client (2008) (2nd place)

Typically after enjoying a cocktail, patrons enter the main dining room at Durant’s, which is replete with high-backed booths and low lighting, for a classic, fine dining experience.

The mid-town restaurant just off Central and Virginia avenues has been in business now for more than 60 years. It’s the sort of restaurant where families go for a special occasion, complete with a maitre d’ and full wine cases. Red-upholstered booths help complete the exclusive experience.

Basics like soups and sandwiches are available for lunch every day, in addition to chicken livers, shrimp scampi and other fancier fare. The dinner menu offers standard steakhouse entrees such as broiled porterhouse steaks, filet, prime rib and a liver special. Patrons can mix meat entrees with seafood like Australian lobster tail and fresh oysters on the half shell.

Like all good restaurants, Durant’s focuses on doing a few classic entrees very well. Owner Carol McElroy also has some changes planned for the menu to try to entice a new generation of Arizonans to her restaurant

The genuine Durant’s experience isn’t complete unless one enters the premises through back door, which takes patrons straight through the kitchen to enjoy one of Arizona’s premier dining experiences.

Bar

Durant’s

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

For those seeking just the right atmosphere to unwind after a long day at the office, the lounge at Durant’s may well be the place. This watering hole is a perennial Best of the Capitol winner.

It’s no wonder that the landmark Phoenix eatery is a mainstay, for the well-connected crowd, and the not-so. If Durant’s is the sort of classic steakhouse restaurant your parents enjoyed, (and it is), then the bar adjoining the main room sets the mood.

The bar, which alone could seat a party of 20 for a drink, lunch or dinner, gives the visitor coming off Central Avenue a good first impression. Happy hour begins at 4 p.m., and patrons can order food from the appetizer or restaurant menus.

Bar staff says the Oysters Rockefeller — baked to a golden brown — and the Durant’s Debris — beef brochettes with garlic aioli — are the most popular appetizers, but the in-house favorites remain the crab-stuffed mushrooms and the slider dishes.

Durant’s has a solid reputation as a bar where a good, stiff drink can still be found. The liquor stock is impressive, and the bar booths are plush.

Place to Impress a Client

Durant’s

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

For a power lunch or just the right place for an important meeting, Durant’s takes this year’s award for Best Place to Impress a Client.

The restaurant annually dominates Arizona Capitol Times’ “Best of” and 2011 was no exception.

Featuring a good mix of old-fashioned charm and casualness, plus a bar with good food and great cocktails, Durant’s lounge should easily make a good impression.

There’s plenty of room at the bar, or patrons can settle into the upholstered booths for a more private conversation.

The black-and-white photos adorning the walls mark changes to the building and neighborhood over the years and polished restroom fixtures add to the club-like ambience of the place.

Ambient piano music softly blending into the background helps complete the experience and will likely make just the right impression.

Lunch

Oaxaca

(Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

(Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Voted Best Mexican Restaurant (2009)
Voted Best Mexican Restaurant (2008)
Voted Best Mexican Restaurant (2006)

While its menu boasts the Valley’s finest old world dishes, Oaxaca continues to build on its modern reputation as the place to enjoy a sumptuous lunch and an atmosphere steeped in tradition.

Located two blocks east of the Capitol, at the corner of 15th Avenue and Van Buren Street, Oaxaca — a perennial winner as the best Mexican restaurant — continues to impress with the charm and excitement of its surroundings, as well as with a menu steeped in fare for the adventurous, as well as the more traditional diner.

The restaurant combines an intricate attention to detail, with banners and blankets hanging from the ceiling and an assortment of crosses and crucifixes adorning the interior. The patio is comfortable and colorful, and ideal for a festive occasion or a relaxing midday meal.

The food at Oaxaca is lauded as authentic and spun from the fresh and the exotic, while the lunchtime crowd features a mix of out-of-town guests, lobbyists, state employees, legislators and locals.

It’s no wonder that this restaurant, a mainstay in the downtown region, continues to impress its growing legion of regular lunchtime diners, and the curious eager for an authentic Arizona experience.

Capitol Watchdog Group

Goldwater Institute

Goldwater Institute Staff (Submitted photo)

Goldwater Institute Staff (Submitted photo)

Voted Best Capitol Watchdog Group (2008-2010)

For the fourth straight year, the Goldwater Institute retains its watchdog title. Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the organization, suggests why: “Like the word watchdog, we are dogged in our pursuit of liberty. We don’t play favorites. Love us or hate us, people respect the fact we don’t play favorites and that we really are watching out for the best interest of Arizonans.”

Not used to handling “softball” questions like — What makes the Goldwater Institute so successful? — Olsen laughs. She wasn’t expecting that. “First thing, we were really grateful that our peers honored us. There are so many other organizations with bigger budgets than ours in different industries who monitor different things in Arizona that are doing a really great job. So we felt honored to receive the award. I feel, what makes us effective is, we know what we stand for and we stand for it — tenaciously.”

After considering the impact of the institute’s continuing success, Olsen says, “I hope that, in winning this award, the staff of the Goldwater Institute doesn’t think they get big raises next year.”

Then came a surprisingly tough question: Were there any disappointments this past year that the Goldwater Institute aims to correct? After several seconds of deep thought, Olsen finally mentions an unfavorable court ruling in a Mesa case on cultural impact fees. “The court upheld that a museum was essentially a type of an impact fee,” she says. “We felt it was an unconstitutional ruling. But, fortunately, the Legislature came in behind that and shored up the definition of impact fees and restored the constitutional definition of that. That would have been a big disappointment, I guess.”

The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty, its website states. It was founded in 1988 with Barry Goldwater’s blessing.

Olsen was asked if the Goldwater name helps the institute’s cause. “What it helps is for history and political buffs, the name Goldwater defines what we stand for at a glance,” she says. “The truth is that for the younger generation, knowledge of politics and history is spare. The work of the institute defines the name.”

Support for the Goldwater Institute comes from a broad base. In 2010, the institute received $3.3 million from approximately 3,000 donors in Arizona and from across the country. No single donor gives more than 5 percent of the entire budget, Olsen says.

From 2009 to 2010, contributions to the Goldwater Institute increased by 27 percent. “We’re definitely growing,” Olsen says.

Capitol Lawn Event

SRP Day at the Legislature

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Voted Best Capitol Lawn Event (2010)

Really? The Salt River Project is in great need of a “get to know you” event for state legislators and state agency officials and staff? After all, it’s been around since 1903, when it began as the Salt River Valley Water Users Association.

But the chief organizer of the annual SRP Day at the Legislature says that each year the electric and water utility has 10 to 12 different programs to showcase to a Legislature with freshman members — last year 50 percent of lawmakers were — who are uninitiated to it all.

And so eight months beforehand, government relations representative Nicole Hayworth starts work planning an event to which 500 are invited but nearly 700 attend.

That’s OK. It’s a compliment. Lunch, giveaways, trinkets, booths — including a photo booth — it’s a lawn filled with tents forming a little political carnival of sorts.

Attendees learn about SRP’s programs on sustainability, social media, community outreach, telecommunications, safety — and, oh, yes, water and power — while meeting its president, board and council.

“We show that we’re not just a water and power company,” Hayworth says. “It’s not just to educate, but to thank the Legislature.”

While not able to say how much it all costs, Hayworth did characterize SRP Day at the Legislature as “a little more extravagant” than similar events hosted by others seeking legislative understanding and, yes, support.

“It’s my favorite time of the year,” she says.

PR Company

R&R Partners

Matt Silverman (Submitted Photo)

Matt Silverman (Submitted Photo)

Voted Best PR Person/Company (2010)

Forget the image of the cigar-chewing guy in the loud suit who speaks only in spin. Success in public relations these days is about values and balance, says Matt Silverman, managing director of R&R Partners’ Scottsdale office.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about transparency, accountability, being honest and really working hard with our clients to help them crystallize their thoughts and understand all the pros and cons,” he says. “Working with reporters, you have to get their trust and confidence by being ethical.”

A good PR person balances the client’s interest with the media’s, says Silverman, who spent 15 years in television news, his last position having been executive producer at Phoenix’s KNXV-TV (Channel 15).

It’s often not easy, as sometimes clients aren’t thrilled to be interviewed, or a reporter’s first line of inquiry might not be the best approach from even his or her standpoint.

“I feel it’s our job to help the reporters do their jobs. There are fewer reporters, less time, more stories, they don’t have time or knowledge they did in the old days,” he says. “So how do we help the reporter get the information to do a fair and balanced story? That’s the job we have representing our clients and make them look good. We have to work with reporters regularly, and they have to work with us honestly and fairly so they get the same in return.”

Grassroots Effort

Restore Our Border (R.O.B.) Security plan — Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association

Bas Aja, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Feeders' Association (left), and Patrick Bray, executive vice president for the Cattle Grower's Association. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Bas Aja, executive vice president of the Arizona Cattle Feeders

Watch the Best Grassroots Effort video here

Since the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association began a major border security effort during the 2010 legislative session, the Phoenix-based organization has logged thousands of travel miles, met with hundreds of officials, and even seen the benefit of an upswing in the organization’s membership.

Patrick Bray, executive vice president for the Cattle Growers’ Association, says it has been fulfilling work, and that being recognized as this year’s winner for Best Grassroots Effort is icing on the cake.

“It’s truly been a tremendous effort, indeed,” Bray says, reflecting on the work accomplished since the Restore Our Border (R.O.B.) plan was drafted before the 2010 legislative session.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish, with all the people on the ground, we’re very, very satisfied,” Bray says, his voice filling with enthusiasm. “It’s a true grassroots effort.”

Bray says he and other members of the association’s leadership are pleased, if not surprised, by the success of the advocacy work they’ve done since the work on border security plan began more than a year and a half prior to the 2010 session. He says the organizing for the effort has been done almost entirely by ranchers and concerned citizens who live on or near the border.

“The plan was started on the ground by people who are affected by the issue, day in and day out,” he says. “We’ve just gotten out there, and told the truth, and that’s what we’ve done

Another triumph resulting from the border security plan, Bray says, has been the incredible sense of empowerment that has been forged as a result of the organizing work.

“We’ve done barbecues, events with the Boy Scouts and other groups, entertained at retirement homes, in short, tried to draw in those members of the community that might not be as fully engaged on the issue,” he says.

The plan’s 18 points include stepped-up security presence on the border, greater “operational control” to prevent and address incursions, and the coordination and cooperation of law enforcement and the judicial system.

The entire campaign was accelerated, according to Bray, with the death of rancher Rob Krentz in March 2010.

“When Rob was murdered, that really galvanized the issue,” he says.

Twitterer

Kirk Adams

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Former House Speaker Kirk Adams (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Voted Best Republican Representative—50th Legislature (2011)
Voted Rising Star (2011)

Kirk Adams may gaze toward Washington a lot these days, but his eyes are also focused on a little blue bird.

Adams says his reputation as a master of Twitter is due to his missives’ relatively meaty nature, usually “little news hints and tips.”

“I’m not one who tweets the ‘I got up this morning’ kind,” the former state House speaker and current candidate for Congress says.

Adams is no Ashton Kutcher, but 1,371 people were following @KirkAdams as of May 30.

His most infamous tweet, Adams says, was a purposeful fabrication designed as payback for an unfounded rumor that he planned to close the 2011 legislative session on its 100th day because he was flying to Washington the next day for a campaign fundraiser.

“This was so ingrained in the conventional wisdom that I was constantly denying I was flying to Washington. So, I was lying in bed one night, the night before sine die, I decided, ‘I’m going to start my own rumor.’”

With the hashtag #startyourownrumor, he tweeted that he couldn’t wait for the session to end so he could be “on the beach in Barbados talking to the governor about vetoes.”

By 3 p.m. that day, it was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in Phoenix.

“I was trying to make a commentary on the Capitol rumor mill and how ridiculous it could be sometimes.”

Awards Event

Governor’s Arts Awards

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In today’s struggling economy when people have less money to spend on the finer things in life, it’s only fitting that the Governor’s Arts Awards, staged by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, wins as the Best Awards Event.

The Governor’s Arts Awards, the largest annual statewide gathering of arts and
culture supporters, marked the 30th anniversary of the event that recognizes contributions of artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals to the quality of life in Arizona.

Catherine “Rusty” Foley, interim executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts, says the event, held April 12 at the Herberger Theater, was attended by more than 250 supporters of the arts.

“Like most organizations that sponsor fund-raising events, our numbers are down significantly from our high, probably in 2008,” Foley says. “We still have a very strong core of corporate support and support from the arts and culture community. We’re really pleased with that support. The Governor’s Arts Awards is our primary fundraiser and it funds a large part of our education and advocacy activity.”

The event supports the organization’s efforts in promoting the importance of the arts as an economic contributor to education excellence and the quality of life, Foley says. “It’s also an opportunity for the arts community to showcase itself in front of community and business leaders and elected officials,” she says. “It’s another way that we deliver our message of the important contributions of the arts to our state.”

Coordinated Campaign

Brenda Burns and Gary Pierce for Arizona Corporation Commission

Gary Pierce and his cardboard cutout of Brenda Burns (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gary Pierce and his cardboard cutout of Brenda Burns (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Shortly after the 2010 primary election, Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce and then-commission hopeful Brenda Burns had two cardboard cutouts made — one in each of their likenesses.

“I took the one of her and she took the one of me, and we would take them to the campaign stops to set up when the other one couldn’t be there,” Pierce says. “I didn’t realize how much people were going to like them.”

The two decided to coordinate their campaigns; it was a natural alliance. Both are Republicans with similar political philosophies, both are former members of the Legislature and they both ran publicly funded campaigns.

Pierce says the Hollywood-esque stand-ins were so successful at maintaining the team spirit that after events where only one of the two was present, people recalled memories of both of them actually being present.

“I had a couple of women from one group — I think it was the Arizona Federation of Republican Women, — come up to me and start talking to me about one of the campaign stops like we were both there,” Pierce says.

Pierce and Burns’ coordinated strategy, including the cutouts that are now just mementos of the 2010 campaign serving as office decorations, proved successful. “We put our pictures on everything. All of our mailings were coordinated to fit together,” Pierce says. “We had great advice, great help, great designers, and a lot of good ideas.

“We beat our closest competitors by about 300,000 votes,” he says. n today’s struggling economy when people have less money to spend on the finer things in life, it’s only fitting that the Governor’s Arts Awards, staged by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, wins as the Best Awards Event.

The Governor’s Arts Awards, the largest annual statewide gathering of arts and culture supporters, marked the 30th anniversary of the event that recognizes contributions of artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals to the quality of life in Arizona.

Catherine “Rusty” Foley, interim executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts, says the event, held April 12 at the Herberger Theater, was attended by more than 250 supporters of the arts.

“Like most organizations that sponsor fund-raising events, our numbers are down significantly from our high, probably in 2008,” Foley says. “We still have a very strong core of corporate support and support from the arts and culture community. We’re really pleased with that support. The Governor’s Arts Awards is our primary fundraiser and it funds a large part of our education and advocacy activity.”

The event supports the organization’s efforts in promoting the importance of the arts as an economic contributor to education excellence and the quality of life, Foley says. “It’s also an opportunity for the arts community to showcase itself in front of community and business leaders and elected officials,” she says. “It’s another way that we deliver our message of the important contributions of the arts to our state.”

Quote — Republican Senator

Ron Gould

Sen. Ron Gould, the Ethics Committee chairman, said he's willing to explore a formal ethics complaint against his fellow Republican, Sen. Scott Bundgaard. The call for an ethics investigation comes in the wake of a Feb. 25 highway scuffle Bundgaard and his then girlfriend, Aubrey Ballard, afterwhich, Bundgaard was given legislative immunity from criminal charges. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Sen. Ron Gould (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

“You know what? If that was my daughter and we still operated under the old school rules, something would’ve already happened. …You used to have the dad and brother program that used to address these situations.” — Gould, of Lake Havasu City, responds in March to the physical altercation involving Sen. Scott Bundgaard and his then-girlfriend Aubry Ballard.

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Quote — Democratic Representative

Steve Farley

Steve Farley (File photo)

Steve Farley (File photo)

“They might buy us our plane ticket out of the state.” — Farley, of Tucson, discusses how the Republicans would react if the Democrats in the House ever decided to leave the state to avoid a vote, as the Democratic senators in Wisconsin did in February over an anti-union bill.


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Quote — Republican Representative

Justin Olson

Justin Olson (File photo)

Justin Olson (File photo)

“The Arizona state Legislature is going to be hooked on medical marijuana.” — Olson, of Mesa, voices his concerns in February over taxing medical marijuana.

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Quote — Democratic Senator

Steve Gallardo

Steve Gallardo (File photo)

Steve Gallardo (File photo)

“If somebody is sitting behind us with a gun, let’s be honest: The only thing that’s going to protect us is (Sen. Lori) Klein.” — Gallardo, of Phoenix, speaks during the March 2 debate of a bill that would allow guns to be carried in government buildings, referring to a colleague who carries a concealed pistol.


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Political Website

Espresso Pundit

Voted Best Political Website (2010)
Voted Best Political Website (2009)
Voted Best Political Website (2008) (2nd place)
Voted Best Political Website (2006)

Greg Patterson is enthusiastic, if not thrilled, to have his blog, Espresso Pundit, recognized again this year as the favorite amongst the Capitol community. He seems to be taking it all in stride as a repeat winner.

“It’s been a good experience,” he remarks about reactions to Espresso Pundit since he started it in 2004. “It feels great.”

Patterson, an attorney, CPA, and former legislator, says Espresso Pundit really started as the unexpected result of a Father’s Day gift.

“My family gave me an espresso machine,” he says. “I limited myself to three espressos a day, but I was getting crazier and crazier.

“The more caffeinated I became, the more I wanted to write it all down and put it out there,” he says.

He tries to post something every morning — after his coffee, of course. He talked to a reporter after he had just finished posting his thoughts on the recall efforts of Senate President Russell Pearce.

Overall, he says he was pleased with the 2011 session.

“You can’t go wrong with a session that does its business and balances the budget in 100 days,” he says.

The most rewarding thing about Espresso Pundit for Patterson is the sense of community he feels from readers and political junkies like himself who visit the site.

“They know about my life, and maybe we’ll become friends,” he says. “That’s the good part.”

Cocktail Party

Governor’s Reception and Legislative Kickoff — Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

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Voted Best Cocktail Party (2010)

The opening of the 50th Arizona Legislature at the beginning of 2011 was steeped in history. Likewise, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Reception is creating quite a legacy, as well.

The event, sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Chamber in conjunction with the Arizona Technology Council and held each year at the Phoenix Art Museum, marks the opening of the legislative session, and has become a signature get-together for Arizona’s political and corporate movers and shakers.

This year, the 11th annual Governor’s Reception brought nearly 600 Valley business leaders and politicians together amid the beauteous paintings and sculptures of the Phoenix Art Museum. Guests gathered for remarks by Gov. Jan Brewer, GPCC President and CEO Todd Sanders, and Don Smith, president and CEO of event sponsor SCF Arizona.

“The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce is proud to be recognized as a ‘Best of the Capitol’ event for our annual Governor’s Reception and Legislative Kickoff,” Sanders says. “We are pleased to be able to bring together the governor, members of the Legislature and our members in an informal setting to kick off the legislative session.”

Other guests and sponsors encompassed a who’s who of notable company representatives and business people, mixing together with corporate leaders and lawmakers — each with the singular goal of working to revive and improve the state’s economy.

Political Fundraiser

Gala Dinner with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — Goldwater Institute

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The Goldwater Institute’s Gala Dinner with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ranks as the top political fundraiser of the year.

Held at The Phoenician on Nov. 18, with a post-dinner VIP cigar reception, the event was a fundraising success, said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the institute. The audited financial statements show a net of $260,918, after expenses of $155,632 were subtracted.

But it wasn’t a fundraiser for Christie, mentioned as a possible Republican presidential hopeful in 2012. “No, no, no, no. It was a fundraiser for us,” Olsen says. “We did not pay the governor anything. Their ethics laws prevent him from even accepting anything. We credit him with people having selected it as the best political fundraiser of the year. We had a ball with him. People like him. He’s a straight shooter, he’s funny, he’s down to earth, he brought his wife with him. He’s the kind of guy you want to have over for a barbecue. The audience sensed that and enjoyed him and what he had to say.”

It was the Goldwater Institute’s one big fundraiser of the year. Most of the institute’s other events throughout the year are free. “That’s the one that gives people the opportunity to support us,” Olsen says.

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