2010 Best of the Capitol awards recipients

Best Dressed (male)

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

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

Michael Preston Green

Voted Best Hairdo (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Hairdo (2008) (3rd place)
Voted Best Dressed (2006) (tied for 1st with Mitch Menlove)
Voted Best Hairdo (2006) (tied for 1st with Marcus Dell’Artino)

Click here to watch a video of Michael Preston Green talk about his award

A trend away from neckties is not lost on Michael Preston Green, a lobbyist/lawyer known for his sartorial splendor.

Three times, Green, of the law firm Fennemore Craig, has been honored for best male hairdo, and in 2006 he tied for first as best dressed male. The category of best dressed is very competitive, he says, noting that he last won in 2006. “I dress the same way all the time,” he says, “so it must be because other people dress better or not so well in a particular year.”

Green’s attire at the Capitol is pretty much predictable. He wears suits Monday through Thursday, and a sport coat and slacks on Friday when things at the Legislature slow down. “I call it dressing professionally,” he says. “I’m in a profession. We’re in an honorable profession of trying to impact public policy. So, suit and tie is the way to go. I always wear a tie, but I lax up a bit on Friday.”

Green objects to a trend toward open collars, with even top officials going tieless. “An open shirt, to me, it’s appalling.” Referring to President Obama, Green says, “When the leader of a free nation looks like he’s on holiday, then I don’t think people look at him and feel about him the same way. He’s our leader!”

Green dresses the way he does, shopping almost exclusively at Brooks Brothers, out of “respect for the institution, the Legislature and the executive branch, the people I work with.”

When the legislative session extends into June and triple-digit temperatures are the norm, Green pulls out his light-weight suits. He emphasizes that there are a lot of well-dressed people at the Capitol, despite an informality developing in recent years. “At the Legislature, there seems to be a renewed interest in looking and acting appropriately,” he says. “I am very pleased with the vast majority of lobbyists and how they have been dressing.”

Aside from buying from Brooks Brothers, Green has tailors in Panama City, where he has a vacation home, who make outstanding clothing for him from the best fabrics. Green tried custom-made shirts, but the experiment didn’t work. Half of his shirts are button down and half are not, he says.

One thing troubles him — not winning the best shoes award. “Shoes are kind of important,” he says. “I couldn’t figure out how I could get best dressed and not best shoes.”

Best Dressed (female) & Shoes (female)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Kyrsten Sinema

Voted Best Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Quote — Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Twitterer (2010)
Voted Best Dressed (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Hairdo (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Dressed (2008)
Voted Best Dressed (2006)

Click here to watch a video of Kyrsten Sinema talk about her awards

By doing her part for the economy, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the assistant House minority leader, captured two key awards.

“It’s all just part of my effort to overcome Arizona’s recession,” she says, with tongue in cheek. “I feel it’s my duty as an Arizonan and frankly as an American to invest as much money as possible into our economy. I do that mostly by frequenting retail shops, mostly in District 8 (Scottsdale Fashion Square) and District 11 (Biltmore Fashion Park). Those state reps can feel free to thank me at any time for helping their economy.”

Sinema figures that she personally is responsible supporting at least two or three full-time positions, perhaps even more, in Scottsdale.

Having won best dressed in 2006 and 2008, and finishing second last year, plus second last year for best hairdo, Sinema says, “I feel better when I dress well. I don’t know if that has any relationship to efficacy in politics.”

Asked how she would describe her style, she responds quickly: “Smart. I have no idea what that means, but I like the way it sounds.”

Then she adds “colorful and unique.” “That’s it,” Sinema says, “smart, colorful and unique.”

In the shoe category, she usually wears 3-4-inch heels. “The simple reason is, I’m short,” she says. Hesitating a bit, she confesses to being nearly 5-feet 4-inches.

Sinema also shops in her Phoenix District 15, where she finds “unusual, off-beat, quirky” stores.

But when she needs “a shoe fix,” she heads to the Scottsdale or the Biltmore malls. “You can tell when I’ve had a bad day at the Legislature, because I come in the next day with a new purse or a new pair of shoes.”

A lawyer, Sinema describes her legislative salary as “shoe money — that’s really all you can buy with it.”

Emphasizing the importance of shoes, Sinema says, “With budget cuts I’m sure we’ve cut down on how often we clean the building. It would be disgusting to walk around without shoes. So, if you have to wear shoes, at least wear very good ones.”

Sinema, who also won several other Best of the Capitol awards this year, is running for the Senate. If she gets elected to the Upper Chamber, that won’t change her style of dress.

“That place is a nut house,” she says. “I may find myself doing more shopping. Shopping is a stress-relieving activity for me.”


Wendy Baldo (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Wendy Baldo (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Wendy Baldo

Wendy Baldo, who has worked in the Arizona Senate in one capacity or another since 1993, including the past 18 months as chief of staff, says she loves her job.

“I love my job at the Senate and I love the people I work with,” says Baldo, who got her start in working for Arizona state government in 1988 under the Rose Mofford administration. “Even if it’s just a pebble, you contribute to society.”

Her career in state government has focused largely on helping people. In 1993, she was selected to lead the nonpartisan constituent services office housed in the Senate Research Committee. As one of two employees, she assisted legislators with finding answers to questions posed to them by their constituents. “We helped people get through the maze of government,” she says.

After the constituent services office was dissolved, Baldo worked on the Senate research staff, eventually getting promoted to policy adviser for a host of regulatory issues. She then spent two years as director of operations for the Senate, before becoming chief of staff under Senate President Bob Burns.

Baldo says she is honored by the recognition. “I’m surprised and honored. I like coming to work every day. It’s always nice to have someone else recognize your work.”

Administrative Assistant/Secretary

Mary Peralta (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Mary Peralta (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Mary Peralta

Voted Best Administrative Assistant/Secretary (2009)

Mary Peralta places the responsibility for her two-year run as best administrative assistant squarely on inspiration from her boss, House Minority Leader David Lujan.

“He is hands down the best boss that I have ever worked for because he knows how to identify people’s strengths and talents,” says Peralta. “From day one he encouraged me to take on challenging projects, which was so exciting for me. Who wouldn’t want to give their all to someone like that?”

Peralta, an Arizona native who worked as an executive chef in New York City for more than 20 years before returning to Phoenix in 2003, says she thought that would be the best job she would ever have.

“I don’t get picked up in a Lincoln Town Car every morning the way I did before,” says Peralta. “But I will take setting up David Lujan’s weekly strategy lunch meetings on my crowded desk, and tackling unbelievable scheduling requests over my big kitchen on 57th and Fifth any day.”

Best Hairdo (male) & Shoes (male)

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

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

Marcus Dell’Artino

Best Hairdo (2009)
Best Hairdo (2008)
Best Lobbyist (2008) (2nd place)
Best Hairdo (2006) (tied for 1st with Michael Preston Green)

Click here to watch a video of Marcus Dell’Artino talk about his awards

Upon learning he won best hairdo for the fourth straight time, Marcus

Dell’Artino whipped his mane around and reacted just as you might expect a champion of that caliber would — with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

“I’m going to make as much light of this as I possibly can,” he says. “For my hair, I use a mix of Romanian chicken livers and Egyptian passion fruit mixed with Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

Dell’Artino, a partner with FirstStrategic Communications and Public Affairs, chiefly works as a lobbyist at the Arizona Legislature.

He also served as Arizona political director for Sen. John McCain’s 2000 bid for president and as Southwest region deputy director for McCain’s 2008 run at the Oval Office.

But all of that serious work doesn’t mean he’s without a sense of humor.

“In the morning, I spend a good six-and-a-half hours on my hair,” Dell’Artino says. “I’m kidding. In reality, about three minutes.”

Dell’Artino, though, hasn’t always owned the category outright. In the first Best of the Capitol awards, he tied for best hairdo with Fennemore Craig’s Michael Preston Green. Seeing a possible equal may have led to some changes for Dell’Artino.

“I switched my hair up,” he says. “I finally had to let go of the mullet and then I went with a Thompson Twins, Flock of Seagulls kind of hair for a while,” says Dell’Artino. “And then I finally settled on this one. As long as Bradley Cooper keeps acting, I’ll keep this hair for a while.”

Dell’Artino also finished second for best lobbyist in 2008. Did his hair have anything to do with that win?

“I’d like to think I have better attributes that qualify me for best lobbyist,” he laughs.

The stylish Dell’Artino also won this year for best shoes. He says he prefers Cole Haan shoes and owns only one pair, but it makes a statement.

“For the ladies,” he says, “it’s a size 17.”

As to whether he has any messages for potential challengers to his best hairdo throne, Dell’Artino remained tight-lipped. He wouldn’t want to upset the wrong man.

“I’m a little afraid Michael Preston Green will put a hit out on me,” he jokes. “I’ll have to join the witness protection program.”

Hairdo (female)

Former Gov. Rose Mofford (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Former Gov. Rose Mofford (photo by Josh Coddington/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rose Mofford

Best Hairdo (2008)

Former Gov. Rose Mofford, known for a highly recognizable beehive hairdo — she says it’s actually a French twist or a French roll — recently donated six-to-eight inches of her snowy strands to a worthy cause.

Mofford, who also won best hairdo for a female in 2008, says people can call it whatever they want. “It’s me,” she says of her hairstyle. “I get more recognition because of my hair now than when I was in office.”

For more than 30 years, Mofford has been going to the same hair dresser at Dee’s International Hair-Port on North Central Avenue. “It’s been Dee all along. She’s delightful,” the former governor says. “She does a good job.”

Mofford, who turned 88 on June 10, says she doesn’t remember why she opted for the beehive/French twist hairdo. It probably goes way back to her days when she was a softball player. “I let it grow long when I was in athletics,” she says. “I did the best I could to keep it out of the way. I feel very comfortable with it. It’s easy to take care of.”

A couple of weeks ago she went to Dee’s and had about six inches cut off, and donated the clippings to assist in the cleanup of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Hair clippings and pantyhose are being collected to help trap the oil. When stuffed into pantyhose, hair from humans and canines can be used as a mat or a protective barrier.

“I really don’t have time to worry about a hairstyle,” says Mofford, who keeps busy helping her favorite charities, such as a recent golf luncheon supporting the Phoenix College football program. “I don’t play golf, but I support the program,” she says.

Mofford says she saw Gov. Jan Brewer on TV after Brewer’s recent meeting with President Obama and agreed that the governor’s hairstyle was somewhat similar to her French twist. “She changes her style,” Mofford says of Brewer. “She’s not copying me.”

A drawing by The Arizona Republic political cartoonist Steve Benson showing a hole through her upswept beehive when she was governor brings back memories. It was a takeoff on Mofford’s predecessor, Evan Mecham, who felt that spies were aiming laser beams into his office.

“I like Benson very much,” Mofford says. “I like to tease him. I asked him where he got the idea for that hairdo, and I told him my hairdresser wants to copy it.”

Government PR Person

Paul Senseman (Submitted Photo)

Paul Senseman (Submitted Photo)

Paul Senseman

With S1070 turning the national spotlight on Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer has become a nationally recognized figure as she defends the country’s toughest illegal immigration law. And as she spreads her message across the nation, it is Paul Senseman who helps craft it.

A former legislative aide and lobbyist, Senseman joined the administration as Brewer’s communications director shortly after she took office in January 2009. Since then, Senseman has been the public voice of the administration for a governor who holds few press conferences and often keeps herself out of the media’s eye.

Senseman’s job has been daunting at times, as he promotes and defends some of his boss’s more contentious policies, such as the law that re-kindled the national debate over illegal immigration and a proposed sales tax hike that earned Brewer the enmity of many Republican colleagues. But despite his public role, Senseman spends much of his time behind the scenes, helping Brewer push through her hard-fought agenda.

Senseman passed along the credit for the honor to his colleagues.

“I am honored to work with so many hard-working and earnest individuals in the Brewer administration who are much more deserving of this recognition,” he says. “I believe this to be a very thoughtful reflection of their tremendous efforts to serve.”

Political Fundraiser

John McCain

Voted Best Republican Elected Official (2010)
Voted Best Political Fundraiser (2009) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Political Website (2008)
Voted Best Person to have Lunch With (2008) (3rd Place)

As Sen. John McCain wages the biggest fight of his political life, he has a cool

$7.5 million in the bank to help smooth the way to a fifth, and probably last, term in office.

Coming off of his loss in the 2008 presidential race, McCain faces the toughest re-election battle of his career as former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth attacks from the right and taps into the frustration of conservatives. But the wave of conservative populist sentiment that Hayworth hopes to ride into the Senate may not be enough to match the respect and admiration that have helped McCain eclipse his insurgent rival in fundraising.

Though sticking close with his rivals in some polls, Hayworth may need more than

$1 million in fundraising he’s reported so far to counter McCain’s massive war chest.

Republican Elected Official

John McCain

Voted Best Political Fundraiser (2010)
Voted Best Political Fundraiser (2009) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Political Website (2008)
Voted Best Person to have Lunch With (2008) (3rd Place)

Not since Sen. Barry Goldwater has an elected official been as closely identified with Arizona as Sen. John McCain.

McCain was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, and won the retiring Goldwater’s Senate seat four years later. Since then, McCain has become a titan of American politics, earning his maverick’s credentials in his upstart challenge to George W. Bush in 2000 and his establishment credentials as the GOP’s standard bearer in the 2008 presidential race.

The former Navy pilot and POW has left his mark on Arizona and on the country, helping to author some of the most prominent legislation of the past 15 years. His willingness to buck the Republican Party and reach across the aisle has rankled some on the right, but polls still show him in the lead as he seeks his fifth term in the Senate.

Democratic Elected Official

Terry Goddard

Voted Best Elected Official (2009)

From his rise to prominence as the mayor of Phoenix in the 1980s to his race for the Governor’s Office this year, Attorney General Terry Goddard has been one of Arizona’s most well-known and respected politicians for nearly 30 years.

The son of a former governor, Goddard has made a name for himself at the Attorney General’s Office as a foe of fraudsters, scammers, meth dealers, drug cartels and payday lenders. After narrowly losing the governor’s race in 1990 and falling short in the Democratic primary in 1994, Goddard is hoping his record can earn him a long-coveted spot on the Ninth Floor.

In a state where Republicans typically dominate the Capitol, Goddard has been synonymous with the Arizona Democratic Party for the duration of his distinguished career. A win in November would cement his legacy as one of the most memorable political figures in the state’s history.

Political Operative

Chuck Coughlin (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Chuck Coughlin (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Chuck Coughlin

Person You’d Least want as a Political Opponent (2008)
Person You’d Least want as a Political Opponent (2006)

Click here to watch a video of Chuck Coughlin talk about his award

With a reputation for taking no political prisoners, John Charles Coughlin, better known as Chuck, doesn’t have to think back very far to come up with his most hard-fought victory. It’s the transformation of Gov. Jan Brewer into a viable candidate for a full term.

Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, seems to relish the recognition he continues to get as a hard-nosed political consultant. Twice, in 2006 and 2008, he was named the person you’d least want as a political opponent in the Arizona Capitol Times Best of the Capitol survey. This year that category is called: Best Political Operative. Coughlin’s reaction to the change? “It’s better than being the least guy you’d want as an opponent,” he says. “I think the newspaper is getting more politically correct.”

Exhibiting some political correctness himself, Coughlin explains why he wins the award: “Having the courage to fight the fight and being smart enough to surround myself with good people and work with good candidates who believe the same things you do. I try to find people of like mind and like spirit.”

Candidates he has worked for include Sen. John McCain, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, former Gov. Fife Symington and Brewer — all Republicans.

“Those are the kind of people I like,” Coughlin says. “They all have one thing in common — the courage of their convictions.”

Working with Brewer ranks right up there for Coughlin in terms of “how bad it was and how good it is.”

“The governor inherited this mess — the largest fiscal crisis the state had ever been confronted with — and some 15 months later, look what she’s been able to accomplish,” Coughlin says. He mentions the signing of S1070, the illegal immigration law, and voter approval of a temporary sales tax hike.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Coughlin says. “We kept encouraging people that we’re on the right track and we’re going to get this done. It’s been a most difficult experience. I couldn’t be prouder of the work everybody has done and to be a part of it.”

What bugs Coughlin the most lately, he says, are calls from within Arizona to boycott the state. “People put an issue ahead of their own state,” he says. “They may not agree with 1070. I know a lot of people who don’t, but nobody disagrees that we have lost control of our border.”

Asked about his political batting average, Coughlin says, “Pretty good, but I always remember the losses before I remember the wins. I’m Irish.”

Republican Senator — 49th Legislature

Carolyn Allen

Voted Best Republican Senator (2009)
Voted Best Senator (2008)

Sen. Carolyn Allen is one of the feistiest lawmakers in recent years. She doesn’t mince words.

She also doesn’t always toe the party line.

A former House majority leader, Allen is retiring from the Legislature after her term ends, saying she’d “rather stand in front of a moving train than come back to the Legislature.”

Allen has been instrumental in passing some of the biggest pieces of legislation this decade, including an important air-quality bill. She has also worked on medical tort reform.

Allen also championed the arts, staunchly defending state spending on arts programs. Allen, who is term-limited this year, first joined the House in 1995 and the Senate in 2003.

Democratic Senator — 49th Legislature

Rebecca Rios

Voted Best Democratic Senator (2009)
Voted Best Dressed (female) (2008) (2nd Place)

Politics runs in the veins of Sen. Rebecca Rios, daughter of the veteran legislator and now Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios.

Indeed, she is her father’s daughter — obviously and figuratively. She became a social worker like her dad, and she also followed him into politics.

As a child, Rebecca spent her weekends campaigning, attending union meetings and handing out flyers. She was first elected to the House in 1994 when she was 27 and she joined the Senate in 2005.

Rios is currently the assistant minority leader in the Senate. She is expected to run for minority leader next year.

Person to Have on Your Golf Foursome

Rep. Cloves Campbell, Jr. (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Cloves Campbell, Jr. (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Cloves Campbell, Jr.

Best Person to have on Your Golf Foursome (2009) (3rd Place)
Best Person to have on Your Golf Foursome (2008) (3rd place)

Click here to watch a video of Cloves Campbell, Jr. talk about his award

Rep. Cloves Campbell, Jr. is a smooth operator on the golf course, which is probably what earned him recognition as the best person to have on your golf foursome this year.

Campbell, who’s been a co-publisher of the Arizona Informant newspaper since 1993, finished in third place in 2008 and 2009, but was able to pull ahead in votes this year and secure the top spot.

“That’s probably because people decided they’d step up to a better class of golfer,” Campbell says.

Campbell says he’s been playing golf for about 20 years and that he enjoys the exercise it gives him, since multiple knee surgeries prevent him from playing other sports.

“It’s my only release, I can’t play basketball anymore since about six or seven knee surgeries,” Campbell says. “So it’s nice to get out and play, come out with the fellas, get a little exercise — more exercise with the mouth than with the body.”

Campbell does pretty good on the green too, though on the day the Arizona Capitol Times saw him golf, he hit a lot of bogies.

“Normally I’m pretty consistent, with a few pars, maybe one or two doubles,” Campbell said.

Campbell prefers playing with TaylorMade golf clubs, and he plays golf about once or twice a week. He hits the driving range about once a week, and said he likes to keep his golfing close to home.

“My favorite course, probably because it’s right by my house, is Legacy Golf Club,” he says.

Campbell said he currently holds a handicap of about 10, no small order when he’s also busy in the state Legislature representing his Phoenix constituents.

Speaking of the Legislature, does Campbell golf with other elected officials?

“I try to play with other guys but not many play,” Campbell says. “I played with Tom Boone a couple times. I also played with Doug Clark when he was in the Legislature a couple times.”

Rising Star

Andrei Cherny

Andrei Cherny has been called a “superstar” by CNN, “progressive reformer” by Washington Monthly and “all-around political heavyweight” by Phoenix Magazine.

Right now, in Arizona, the United States Navy reserve officer is probably best known as Democratic candidate for Arizona state treasurer. If he is elected to the office, it won’t be his first stint in a statewide office. Cherny served as an assistant Arizona attorney general from 2006 to 2009, claiming a 100 percent conviction rate as a criminal prosecutor.

At age 21, he became one of the youngest senior White House officials in history when he went to work for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, whom he still counts as friends. In fact, Gore authored a support message on Cherny’s campaign website, and former President Clinton made a visit to Phoenix in April to campaign for his former staffer.

Cherny lives in Phoenix with his wife Stephanie and son Ben.

Officer at the Capitol

Mike Ransom

Voted Best Capitol Police Officer (2009)
Voted Best Capitol Police Officer (2008)

When it comes to keeping the peace on the Capitol complex, one name keeps coming up: Mike Ransom. This is the third year in a row he’s won the award, and the officer noted for his looks and ability to enforce the law, says the reason for the three-peat is simple.

“I’m handsome Ransom,” he says with a big laugh. “I guess I’m just friendly.”

Ransom, whose laugh is matched by his physical size, began his police career as an Arizona Department of Public Safety agent in Winslow, Ariz., 24 years ago. He has since worked in Phoenix and Holbrook, but enjoyed the year he spent working at the Capitol in the 1990s so much, he decided to come back.

During the past year, Ransom says the protests to S1070 have been the most notable events, but that they wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without the help of the Capitol Police.

“I’ve got a great security and support team at the House, and especially I wouldn’t have won this award without (Capitol Police officer) John Hegarty,” Ransom says as he and Hegarty both chuckle from behind the front desk at the House.

Republican Representative — 49th Legislature

Bill Konopnicki

Voted Best Republican Representative (2009) (3rd Place)

With an open door and a thoughtful approach to complex issues, Bill Konopnicki has been seen for much of his eight years in the House as a problem-solver by those angling to keep their ox from getting gored.

A McDonald’s franchisee and owner of several radio stations in rural Arizona, Konopnicki’s public service began long before he came to the Legislature.

A former college administrator, Konopnicki led the charge to expand higher education in eastern Arizona. Along the way, he served for 12 years on the Safford Unified School District Governing Board and was president of Mount Graham Medical Center. The effect those jobs have had on his legislative career is clear, as he has relentlessly worked to protect education and health care, especially in rural parts of the state.

Democratic Representative — 49th Legislature

Kyrsten Sinema

Voted Best Hairdo (female) (2010)
Voted Best Shoes (female) (2010)
Voted Best Quote – Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Twitterer (2010)
Voted Best Dressed (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Hairdo (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Dressed (2008)
Voted Best Dressed (2006)

If you’ve watched television news in the past two years, you’ve surely seen Kyrsten Sinema’s face one or two (dozen) times. The assistant Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Sinema served as the point person for the minority caucus as Democrats spoke out against the budget plans being offered up by their Republican counterparts.

An attorney and constitutional stickler, Sinema has served in the House for six years, the last two of which she helped lead her caucus. She’s known at the Capitol for her tireless defense of progressive issues, her shrewd political cunning and, of course, her fashion sense.

This may be the last time she’s eligible to win this award, though, as Sinema is seeking a seat in the Senate this fall.

Best Lobbyist

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

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

Don Isaacson

Click here to watch a video of Don Isaacson talk about his award

Humility is a characteristic not often in abundance at the state Capitol, so it is refreshing to hear Don Isaacson say he’s not any better than many of his lobbyist colleagues.

Isaacson, of the law firm Isaacson & Moore, says, “There are some really good people (lobbyists) at the Capitol, very hardworking, ethical good folks. I don’t consider myself one bit better than them — regardless of whether we prevail from time to time against each other over the relative merit of our positions.”

Being a good lobbyist means working evenings and weekends on behalf of your clients during the legislative session, Isaacson says. “It also takes a continual re-evaluation of your client’s position. If a position is challenged and tested, you need to find a winnable outcome for the client. Winnable outcomes evolve during the course of legislative sessions.”

Without mentioning names, Isaacson says he has caught three lobbyists in lies. “I challenged what they were saying,” he says. “Sometimes you don’t realize it was a lie until later. What you do is you have to get along with everybody. You just take it into consideration every time you deal with those people in the future, but it’s never the same after that.”

Asked about a mentor, the first name that comes to Isaacson’s mind is the late lobbyist Charlie Stevens for his high standards and professionalism. But his relationship with Burton Barr, the legendary House majority leader who died in 1997, clearly made an impression on Isaacson.

As majority counsel during part of Barr’s 20-year reign, Isaacson was in on every major conversation and meeting. At that time, the majority leader ran the House and the speaker was more of an administrator. Isaacson mentions three keys to Barr’s success, and says, “They rubbed off on me. I saw the ingredients for success.”

The first key was that Barr never left his office before he saw everyone who wanted to see him, often remaining there until after 7 p.m., Isaacson says. “Until your work for the day is done, you don’t go home,” the lobbyist says. “I practice that today, working until 9 or 10 at night.”

The second key: “Try to develop a compromise whereby everyone benefits,” Isaacson says. “Everybody comes out with something less than outright wins — everyone gets half a loaf. And third, show respect for everyone. Never dress down someone in front of someone else.”

Best Person to have Lunch With

Ed Pastor

Voted Best Person to have Lunch With (2009)

U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor’s noontime demeanor and restaurant selection has once again found him at the top of the list of people our readers want to have lunch with.

His dominance of this category could be because, by all accounts, he is an easygoing lunch companion. “At lunchtime, I like to talk about whatever my guests want to talk about,” says Pastor, who represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District.

Since his district encompasses the heart of the Valley of the Sun, he also can afford to be choosy for his lunch time choices. He says his favorite meal for lunch: “Depends on the day and what city I’m in.”

He wasn’t expecting the award, but welcomes it nonetheless. “What a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t expecting this and I accept the designation with honor,” says Pastor.

PR Person/Company

R&R Partners

Everybody knows that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. In 2003, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority decided it would use the phrase “What happens here stays here” in promoting the city. The company that hatched that marketing plan was public relations firm R&R Partners.

R&R Partners, which has offices in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Reno, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., is driven by a singular mission: to win for their clients. The firm’s website explains it’s philosophy: “We love to win as much as we hate to lose. Winning is fun, it’s euphoric. Especially winning using unconventional thinking or in a new and unexpected way.”

The firm’s Phoenix clients must be happy, as it is making its debut appearance in Best of the Capitol this year.

“We get out of bed every morning energized by the challenge of helping our clients solve their problems,” says Matt Silverman, managing director of the firm’s Phoenix office. “And to be recognized for doing a good job at it, is a thrill. We are honored to among such a great group of professionals.”



2611 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 264-5967

Voted Best Bar (2010)
Voted Best Dinner (2009)
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)

Many patrons of Durant’s, first-time or long-time, feel like the classic steakhouse is a time machine, instantly transporting visitors back several decades — where a gentleman couldn’t get a seat without a jacket and tie and the restaurant’s back door might actually be used for reasons other than conveniently getting to your car.

One reviewer explains her experience after being bellied up at the bar: “I fully expect to make this stop a regular on the happy-hour circuit. Sure, it’s jam-packed with business tycoons and gold-diggers who practically bump you out of your stool as they lean over to see if your husband’s wearing a wedding ring…but just sit back and enjoy the show that is Durant’s.”

Durant’s transports people back in time because it’s real. It isn’t made to look like a place where political and business deals were made and customers were picked up at the bar. It was actually that, and unlike some of its patrons, it has withstood the test of time largely unchanged.


Delux Burger

3146 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 522-2288

Voted Best Hamburger (2008) (3rd Place)

Delux Burger, located at the intersection of Camelback and 32nd Street, stakes its reputation on its proprietary blend of beef, ground daily and hand-formed into patties used in all of the restaurant’s hamburgers.

The restaurant’s signature burger is topped with Maytag and Gruyere cheeses, organic arugula, caramelized onions and applewood-smoked bacon, and they recommend ordering it cooked medium. If that isn’t enough to tempt Valley burger aficionados, the fries, served in a mini shopping cart, include both Russett and sweet potato varieties.

Finally, if the menu isn’t enough to get you through the door, the accessibility will be. This year’s best burger winner is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m.

“We are always delighted to hear that we are amongst Arizona’s favorite burgers,” says Delux Burger Manager Shawn McGraw.


Burton Barr Central Library

1221 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 262-4636

Voted Best Library (2009)
Voted Best Library (2008)
Voted Best Library (2006)

The Burton Barr Central Library, which houses more than 760,000 items and sees more than 2,500 visitors per day, was added in 2008 to the list of Phoenix Points of Pride.

The 16-year-old program, coordinated by the Phoenix Pride Commission, recognizes landmarks or attractions that are unique to the city of Phoenix that evoke a sense of pride among area residents.

“The three winners play a key role in what a city on the rise can offer its community — education, resources and diversity. The three new sites are deserving landmarks to add to our Points of Pride program,” said Conchita Raices-Kollman, chair of the Phoenix Pride Commission Points of Pride Committee.

The other sites added at the same time as the library were ASU’s West Campus and the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, which make 33 total sites in the program.

Place to Impress a Client

The Capital Grille

2502 E. Camelback Road
(602) 952-8900

Voted Best Place to Impress a Client (2009)
Voted Best Dinner (2009) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Place to Impress a Client (2008)

The Capital Grille on Camelback is marking its third year in a row as Best Place to Impress a Client as voted by Arizona Capitol Times subscribers and website visitors.

The majority of recent reviews on the website Yelp.com were highly complimentary of the chain’s dry aged steaks, particularly the bone-in Kona-crusted dry aged sirloin with caramelized shallot butter, the crab cakes and eatery’s signature martini, which rumor has that it marinates inside a pineapple for at least a week before it finds its way into a customer’s glass.

The Capital Grille’s website claims to serve “unmatched steaks” in a “perfectly matched atmosphere,” which includes rich African mahogany paneling, warm lighting from art deco chandeliers and a wine room.

With its permanent residence in Best of the Capitol, it seems many deals must have been hammered out over one of the restaurant’s 5,000 bottles of wine.


Matt’s Big Breakfast

801 N. First St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 254-1074

Voted Best Breakfast (2009) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Breakfast (2008) (3rd Place)

After finishing third place in 2008 and second place in 2009 in Best of the Capitol, Matt’s Big Breakfast finally broke through with readers in 2010 to take home honors for best breakfast.

Among hundreds of glowing reviews on Yelp.com, the only thing the small eatery on the corner of First and McKinley streets in Phoenix was knocked for was the long waits. But long waits for good food are certainly preferable to no wait for bad food.

The real maple syrup, eggs from cage-free chickens and use of local produce keep patrons lining up for more and more. And one more thing — if breakfast isn’t your cup of tea — the famed breakfast joint also serves lunch.


Cibo Urban Pizzeria (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Cibo Urban Pizzeria (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Cibo Urban Wine Café & Pizzeria

603 N. Fifth Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(602) 441-2697

Voted Best Lunch (2008)
Voted Best Pizza (2008) (3rd Place)

ocated in a nearly 100-year-old restored downtown Phoenix bungalow, Cibo Urban Wine Café & Pizzeria wows patrons as much with its rustic mix of hardwood floors and exposed brick as it does with its mouthwatering pizzas and sandwiches.

Ingredients such as San Daniele Black Label Reserva prosciutto, imported from San Daniele, Italy, 36-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Italy’s Parma region and San Marzano tomatoes all find their way into Cibo dishes. The eatery has won multiple awards for best gourmet pizza and best downtown lunch.

It might be more than just the place’s extensive wine menu that’s good for the heart. In 2009, Cibo was also voted “best place to take a first date.”



2611 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 264-5967

Voted Best Dinner (2010)
Voted Best Dinner (2009)
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)

With 12 awards under its belt, Durant’s is not only a staple of Arizona Capitol Times readers, but a juggernaut in our Best of the Capitol competition.

The classic steakhouse’s domination of our survey shows that our readers are swayed by mesquite-broiled steaks and chops, fresh Dungeness crab cakes, a swanky atmosphere, a sizeable wine list and classy service.

Founder Jack Durant said: “Good friends, great steaks and the best booze are the necessities of life.”

Apparently Durant’s is a necessity to our readers.

Coordinated Campaign

Diane Zipley, March of Dimes, and Jeff Gray, R&R Partners (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Diane Zipley, March of Dimes, and Jeff Gray, R&R Partners (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

March of Dimes Newborn Screening

Click here to watch a video of Diane Zipley and Jeff Gray talk about their award

The Arizona chapter of the March of Dimes organization had some extra help when they rallied to protect the state’s program to screen newborns for congenital and metabolic disorders from budget cuts — NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.

Kelly founded the Hunter’s Hope Foundation with his wife after his son, Hunter, was diagnosed with a disorder in 1997, months after being cleared for perfect health. Hunter passed away in August 2005 at age 8, but outlived expectations for those with infantile Krabbe disease by six years.

Kelly’s experience with his son has lead him to help educate families on the importance of newborn screening.

“Frankly, when I asked him to come out, I didn’t know he was a football player,” says Diane Zipley, state director of programs and public affairs at March of Dimes Arizona chapter. “I knew he was a father who lost a son.”

March of Dimes is a national organization that advocates for better health in infants. They award research grants toward developing fixes for birth defects, educate women about the importance of certain vaccines for their babies, and advocate for health care programs for children and newborn screening.

Zipley says that Kelly’s presence in Arizona was instrumental in helping them save newborn screening from the massive budget cuts the state has undergone in the past few years.

“When I contacted him and told him we were in danger of losing funding, he was basically out on the next plane,” she says.

According to Zipley, before 2005 Arizona only screened for six to eight metabolic or congenital disorders. With support from March of Dimes, the state began screening for the 28 disorders that many other states screen for.

“As soon as the infant is born, we test for these disorders,” Zipley says. “Almost all can be successfully treated if they’re screened early enough. It’s a direct hit, because we literally saved 155 babies in 2009. The year before, we saved 123.”

When Kelly arrived in Arizona, March of Dimes held a reception for him with the state’s legislators. Also present were parents whose children benefitted from newborn screening, and those whose children had to live with a debilitating disorder because they weren’t screened early enough.

“One mother had a baby six months before the expansion (of disorders to be screened), and her child was not tested,” Zipley says. “Her boy is totally mentally and physically debilitated. When legislators were faced with that, what can they say to that?”

Capitol Lawn Event

SRP Day at the Legislature

What started as a one-issue event opposing deregulation of the electric industry 12 years ago has grown into an annual education and thank-you event put on by Salt River Project at the Legislature.

“Every year we try to showcase certain parts of the company, whether it is our energy efficiency programs, our water conservation programs,” says Russell Smoldon, manager of government relations for SRP. “We’ve got all kinds of programs, that unless people are looking for them, they usually can’t find.”

The event, which started in 1998, helps SRP achieve its goal of being a resource for the public, the Legislature, legislative staff, the Governor’s Office and the Corporation Commission. “This is a really good way to show people what’s available to them,” says Smoldon.

Of the recognition for the event, Smoldon says, “We’ve been practicing since 1998, so we are glad we finally broke through.”

Cocktail Party

Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Reception

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce partners with the Arizona Technology Council to put on the annual Legislative Kick-off and Governor’s Reception at the Phoenix Art Museum.

The event, held just prior to the beginning of the legislative session each year, is billed as an opportunity for members of the business community to meet and mingle with state legislators and the governor.

“This year’s Legislative Kick Off and Governor’s Reception was one of our best yet, and we thank the Arizona Technology Council for their partnership in making it such a success. We had a packed house even with the torrential rain,” says Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. “This annual event is a great way to bring the business community and lawmakers together to celebrate the start of the legislative session. We were honored to have Governor Jan Brewer with us this year and pleased she had a chance to spend time with many of the attendees.”


Kyrsten Sinema

Voted Best Dressed (2010)
Voted Best Shoes (2010)
Voted Best Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Quote – Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Dressed (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Hairdo (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Dressed (2008)
Voted Best Dressed (2006)

With nearly 2,000 followers and 1,200 tweets so far, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is one of the Arizona political scene’s most prolific twitterers.

Her tweets range from the politically introspective: “Jack Johnson’s new CD “To The Sea” makes me feel like everything’s going to be okay. Now if I could just get the entire Leg. to also listen,” to personal laments: “Why oh why do I have to catch a nasty cold on a holiday weekend? Why?”

The sometimes-feisty politician will call for action: “I’m at the Equality Arizona dinner. We are going to take back this state and return it to the people!” She will also just simply react, like a one-word reaction tweet to a story about artists being asked to lighten the faces of children depicted in a mural on a Prescott school: “Wow.”

Grassroots Effort

John Wright, Arizona Education Association (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

John Wright, Arizona Education Association (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Teachers’ Fight to Protect K-12 Education from Cuts
(Arizona Education Association)

Click here to watch a video of John Wright talk about his group’s award

Organizers figured getting residents to vote to increase taxes on themselves would be a tall order amid the country’s economic woes.

Myriad Proposition 100 supporters organized events and pounded the pavement to drum up support for the tax. Teachers, administrators, parents and public officials gathered to implore residents to pass the measure to increase the state sales tax by one cent per dollar during the next three years.

The Arizona Education Association was integral in the measure’s passage, organizing events and canvassing neighborhoods in support of public education.

John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, says he thought that word-of-mouth was more effective than the numerous events his group organized.

“The real work on getting the message out was the evening neighborhood canvassing, phone banks after dinner, weekend neighborhood walks, putting up yard signs and knocking on doors,” Wright says. “We even drew attention by having a ‘Honk for Prop 100’ evening.”

That’s not to say that the organized events were insignificant, though. Among numerous events, Wright says the association participated in a rally at Central High School in Phoenix as well as a “Joe the Teacher” event at the Capitol when Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher came to town to campaign against Prop. 100.

Wright says events like those developed into the grassroots movement that made the effort so effective.

“It became a neighbor-to-neighbor campaign,” he says. “We found people talking about it in the line at the grocery store because neighbors told them about it. Paid media (commercials) was reinforcing the idea, but it was the word of mouth.”

The efforts of Prop. 100 supporters were handsomely rewarded, as the measure passed with nearly a 2-to-1 margin during a special election May 18.

Although victorious, Wright says the movement can’t become stagnant because Prop. 100 is only a temporary means to an end.

“It isn’t the solution, it’s a bridge to get through these three years,” Wright says. “Over two billion dollars were cut this year. This allowed us to keep teachers on the job, keep programs in place and it gives us time to find a real fix. Arizona has been in unprecedented economic times and difficulties we have not had to face before.”

Quote — Republican Representative

Rep. Russ Jones

“I’ve suggested that we add the fourth floor onto the building so that, when we jump, we don’t just break our legs.”

Rep. Russ Jones, a Republican from Yuma, expresses his dismay May 13, 2009, in the House Appropriations Committee at the choices lawmakers were faced with to solve a massive budget deficit.

Quote — Democratic Representative

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Voted Best Dressed (2010)
Voted Best Shoes (2010)
Voted Best Democratic Representative (2010)
Voted Best Twitterer (2010)
Voted Best Dressed (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Hairdo (2009) (2nd place)
Voted Best Dressed (2008)
Voted Best Dressed (2006)

“I’m not that kind of girl.”

Assistant House Minority Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix, responds to another lawmaker who addressed her on the House floor using the honorific “Mrs.” instead of “Ms.”

Quote — Republican Senator

Sen. Carolyn Allen

Voted Best Republican Senator (2010)
Voted Best Republican Senator (2009)
Voted Best Senator (2008)

“I have decided that I am going to try to adopt the attitude that this is going to be a two-year running sitcom, which could be a comedy … but I think that the public might not think it’s funny.”

Sen. Carolyn Allen, a Republican from Scottsdale, describes the state’s budget woes prior to a fall 2009 special session.

Quote — Democratic Senator

Sen. Debbie McCune Davis

“I think we demonstrated that we can have an entire legislative session without true leadership showing up. There were no attempts to approach problem-solving from a broad perspective.”

Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, a Democrat from Phoenix, reacts to how the 2009 session played out.

Capitol Watchdog Group

Darcy Olsen, Goldwater Institute (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Darcy Olsen, Goldwater Institute (photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Goldwater Institute

Best Capitol Watchdog Group (2009)
Best Capitol Watchdog Group (2008)

Click here to watch a video of Darcy Olsen talk about her award

The Goldwater Institute has retained its post as best Capitol watchdog group for the third year in a row.

Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, says the organization takes the watchdog role seriously.

“We are always honored by the readers who give us this award and we take the trust they put in us very seriously,” says Olsen. “It means a lot to us that people feel like we are that watchdog.”

The organization says it scored a victory on behalf of taxpayers in the CityNorth case (Turken v. Gordon) when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in January that government subsidies to encourage development violate the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution unless the developer offers tangible benefits of equal value in return.

Although the $97 million subsidy paid by the city of Phoenix for the CityNorth development was allowed to stand, the court ultimately determined the only tangible benefits for taxpayers from the project were about 200 parking spaces.

“That is so important because it restored the principle of equality under the law enshrined in the Arizona Constitution,” Olsen says. “It will have ramifications for the people of this state. Thirty-seven other states have a similar law. This is not just a victory for Arizona’s freedom but all Americans.”

On the personal choice front, the institute also pushed hard to develop Arizona’s Health Care Freedom Act. The resolution, HCR2014, which passed in June 2009, will allow Arizona voters to decide in November whether to amend the state Constitution to allow Arizonans to choose their own health care plan and avoid penalties for not having health insurance.

“That’s a pretty critical issue for personal freedoms,” says Olsen. “It gives citizens recourse against what the federal government is imposing on them.”

Moving forward, Olsen says her organization will stay perched firmly in the crow’s nest.

“We will continue to be at the ready to defend taxpayers and citizens against any attempts to violate their freedoms,” she says. “You can expect to see the Goldwater Institute working for greater fiscal responsibility and the continued protection and advancement of freedom within the state and the defense of state sovereignty against federal overreach.”

Awards Event

Governor’s Arts Awards

Now in its 29th year, the Governor’s Arts Awards event is presented annually to recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the Arizona arts community.

Arizona Citizens for the Arts, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Governor’s Office collectively recognize outstanding contributions by Arizona artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals.

“This award recognizes the Arizona arts industry and its effort to provide access to quality arts activities for our residents and at the same time acknowledges that public dollars are part of the financial equation that helps the Arizona Commission on the Arts grow,” says Robert Booker, executive director of Arizona Commission on the Arts. “Over many years, this event has celebrated the arts in Arizona with our governors and elected officials from both sides of the aisle. Their support ensures all Arizonans have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”

Gov. Jan Brewer provided the opening remarks at this year’s event, held April 19 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.

Best Political Website

Espresso Pundit

Voted Best Political Website (2009) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Political Website (2008) (2nd Place)
Voted Best Political Website (2006)

After successive years of finishing second in our survey, longtime Arizona political blogger Greg Patterson’s website Espresso Pundit has once again been chosen as our readers’ favorite political website.

“While I am once again devastated that I didn’t win the “best hair” award, I am thrilled to have regained the top spot in the best political website category,” says Patterson, a Republican who served in the Arizona House of Representatives in the early 1990s and chaired the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

Patterson, a self-styled “over-caffeinated political junkie,” thanked his fans.

“I would like to thank the Capitol Times as well as all the Espresso Pundit fans who have stuck with me over the years,” he says.


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