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2015 Best of the Capitol

2015 BOTC Cover 620• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Arizona-fied modern art enchants attendees at the 2015 Best of the Capitol awards

At least a few of the attendees of Arizona Capitol Times 2015 Best of the Capitol awards ceremony at the Phoenix Art Museum got to enjoy the event with Gov. Doug Ducey. Actually, they shared a table with four versions of him, despite the governor simultaneously being out of town attending a Western Governors’ Association conference on drought issues.

Ok, so it wasn’t the governor actually in person, but it was an Andy Warhol-esque treatment of a picture of the governor, repeated four times in vibrant, neon shades of every color. The piece of art was one of several pieces adorning the tables at the event of various elected officials, in honoring this year’s theme, “The Art of Politics.”

The political art centerpieces must have been a hit, as a quick survey of the room post-event revealed nearly every single one of them to have vanished. The majority of the colorful candy standing in for actual paint on the palettes decorating the tables remained.

The 2015 edition of Best of the Capitol saw several first-time winners, a record number of awards presented and six new categories.

Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman took home the inaugural award for Best Campaign Sign and political consultant Constantin Querard took home the new Best Campaign Consultant award. Treasurer Jeff DeWit also added his name to the list, with his win for the inaugural Best Campaign TV Ad or Web Video for his “Go and Vote” YouTube video, which is set to the tune of “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.”

Event emcee Russell Smoldon of B3 Strategies once again provided his facetious take on the latest issues and controversies swirling around the Capitol crowd. Guests were also treated to House majority caucus PR pro Stephanie Grisham’s worst nightmare and a hilariously foul-mouthed Gretchen Jacobs via another classic set of Best of the Capitol videos.

At the end of the night, more than 300 people – including former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who has won multiple BOTC awards herself – filled the Cummings Great Hall at the Phoenix Art Museum to celebrate a fun side of politics in the Great State of Arizona.

Cheers to all of the 2015 Best of the Capitol winners and honorees.

– Josh Coddington, Special Sections Editor
– Profiles were written by Josh Coddington and Samantha Shotzbarger.

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The Videos
“The Sixths Support Group”

“Stephanie Grisham’s PR Nightmare”

“Highlights from 5 years of Best of the Capitol”

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The Photos

Created with flickr slideshow.


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The Winners

Rep. Karen Fann

Rep. Karen Fann

Best Elected Official – Republican – Rep. Karen Fann

Winner Rep. Karen Fann says she will be accepting the award on behalf of numerous respected leaders, who are dedicated to crafting good policy and keeping the state safe and fiscally sound. However, in the same breath, she said she would accept the award “on behalf of numerous people,” which includes the legislative staff members.

“Everyone deserves to win,” Fann says. “The key to good elected officials is having great staff members who put in long hours for us researching, drafting bills and helping us all maneuver through the process.”

She cites role models such as Ronald Reagan for his political wisdom and Gandhi for his spiritual wisdom, but says the best lesson came from her parents, who advised her from an early age to “do the right thing.”

Honoree Attorney General Mark Brnovich says it’s an honor to be nominated, but he’s only six months into his first term and still has lots of work to do.

“I would never want to accept the Nobel Prize in the first days of my administration,” he says. “But I sincerely appreciate being considered for this.”

What guides his decision making is to not automatically adopt the latest trends, but to allow the “true will of the voters” to lead his office while maintaining the “resolve to stand-up for the things that make Arizona great.”

He cites his role model as the late Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia, because “once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right,” citing a verse from the song Scarlet Begonias on the 1974 album “From the Mars Hotel.” The AG appears to be open to learn from anywhere insight may be found.

Sen. Carlyle Begay, Rep. Eric Meyer

Sen. Carlyle Begay, Rep. Eric Meyer

Best Elected Official – Democrat (tie) – Sen. Carlyle Begay, Rep. Eric Meyer

In a Best of the Capitol first, Sen. Carlyle Begay and Minority Leader Rep. Eric Meyer tied – both receiving the exact same number of votes – for Best Elected Official – Democrat.

Meyer, who is serving his first session as the Democratic leader, says that if he wins this category, it might help him get re-elected if he ever runs “for another office in my district.” And he is right to seek every advantage he can, as he shares representation duties in Legislative District 28 with Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee and Republican Sen. Adam Driggs.

The king of the single-shot campaign says the keys to being an effective Democratic elected official are “dedication, patience, commitment and a sense of humor.”

Like many of the other members of the Legislature being recognized this year, Meyer also credits the “great Democratic staffers” that support him.

Honoree Sen. Catherine Miranda says she is a successful elected official because she “can represent all constituents not just those that agree with my beliefs.”

She cites her role model as her late husband – former lawmaker Ben Miranda – who served four terms in the Legislature, and was viewed as a longtime advocate for the Latino community.

“Through him I have learned the true meaning of being a public servant,” she says.

Honoree Rep. Bruce Wheeler, who serves as assistant minority leader, says he should be chosen because he is rational and as effective as a member of the minority party can be. He adds that his easy approachability and trustworthiness are also characteristics that make him shine.

Like many Democrats at the Arizona Legislature, he believes he is most effective when he is “exposing our opponents’ hypocrisies” and “making solid arguments in favor of our policies and ultimately winning as many votes as politically possible.”

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth

Best Debater – Republican Lawmaker – Rep. Eddie Farnsworth

For the second year in a row, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth has captured the title of Best Debater – Republican Lawmaker. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone around the Capitol that the Mesa legislator is a keen to make his views known – and back them up. He was also nominated for this award in 2013, when he lost it narrowly to another one of this year’s honorees, Rep. J.D. Mesnard.

Mesnard says he is “honored and flattered” to again be nominated for this award. He says his strengths as a debater include advocating for not only his own bills, but also those that are important to other Republicans.

He gave a tentative “no” when asked if he has ever lost a debate, but added “it’s debatable.” He thinks his wife might disagree with that statement.

Mesnard says his most interesting debates outside of the Legislature are those he crafts for college students in political science courses he has taught over the years. He has them research a current topic and then reveals to them the side for which they will advocate immediately before the debate is to begin.

“I find this stretches them, forcing them to explore points of view they may never have considered before,” Mesnard says. “It ultimately gives them a better understanding of different sides of important issues facing society today.”

Honoree Sen. Kelli Ward has a simple formula for successful debating. “Stay focused, stay calm, and rely upon the truth you are relaying,” says the senator from Lake Havasu City. She finds that studying the issues and communicating in an “easy-to-understand” fashion is the best way to go.

Rep. Eric Meyer

Rep. Eric Meyer

Best Debater – Democratic Lawmaker – Rep. Eric Meyer

Democratic leader Rep. Eric Meyer, after never having won a Best of the Capitol award previously, won two this year. He stresses an oft-forgotten part of communication as important to his debate strategy: knowing when to be quiet.

“I am a compelling, passionate orator who knows when to shut up,” he says. And in practicing what he preaches, he responded in fewer than 40 words total to the four questions he was given to answer for this category.

His most memorable debate outside the Legislature was with a great debater – himself. “I once tried to convince myself it was a good idea to run for office,” he says. Time has shown that the side of Meyer that prevailed in that argument was correct.

Honoree Sen. Steve Farley, who serves as assistant minority leader, says he should win this category for two main reasons: “Because I’m still relatively sane after nine years of legislative service,” he says. “And I speak good Republican.”

He must be right about speaking the language of the majority to some degree, especially because he says that after all the votes are officially tallied on a bill, “senators who vote against my position sometimes tell me if they weren’t constrained by outside forces, they would have voted with me. I count that as a win.”

Honoree Rep. Bruce Wheeler says he should win because he can “expose our opponents’ contradictions and extreme ideologies and the public harm caused by many of their arguments and bills.”

Like many of the winners and honorees in the debate category, Wheeler says he has “never” lost a debate. “Except for at home,” he cedes.

Sen. Don Shooter

Sen. Don Shooter

Best Committee Chair – Sen. Don Shooter

Sen. Don Shooter is repeating as Best Committee Chair, after lamenting last year prior to knowing he had won that he was the “Susan Lucci” of the Best of the Capitol awards. However, a quick review of Best of the Capitol files shows that in addition to winning in 2014, Shooter was nominated as Best Committee Chair in 2013 and actually won “Best Person to Have Lunch With” in 2012.

The longtime Senate Appropriations Committee chairman acknowledges the challenging job that he and other committee chairs must do. And his take, unsurprisingly, is to make people laugh. “I try to do a good job and be fair with everybody in a tough environment,” he says. “I also try to inject some humor into a humorless situation.”

When asked if committee chairs serve as gatekeepers, Shooter said they do. “And the gate swings both ways. But it only swings one way with me.” he says.

Shooter says his most memorable committee meeting occurred in 2011, his first year as Senate Appropriations chairman. “I think we had thousands of people protesting the budget that year,” he says.

To seal his victory in this category for a second straight year, the Yuma senator originally elected as a write-in candidate added: “Vote for Shooter!”

Sen. Carlyle Begay

Sen. Carlyle Begay

Best Dressed – Male – Sen. Carlyle Begay

Democratic Sen. Carlyle Begay stormed onto the Best of the Capitol stage last year with a win in the Political Rising Star category and a nomination in the Best Shoes – Male category. This year, he’s taking home top honors in the Best Dressed – Male category.

Honoree Russell Smoldon, of B3 Strategies, hangs his professional hat on creating an impression with people. That effort drives his personal style choices, all the way down to his feet – which he uses as conversation starters.

“In government relations, doing my job right is all about creating a memory with people,” the longtime Best of the Capitol event emcee says. “And the color of my socks and shoe laces always breaks the ice.”

He adds that a well-prepared Arizonan always has a versatile pair of sunglasses at the ready.

“A pair of sunglasses that will match anything is crucial part of a successful Arizona wardrobe,” he says. “I usually use my sunglasses for driving, but if you’ll be outside at all in Arizona is pays to be prepared.”

As the famous saying goes, that it pays to be prepared, Smoldon says that no detail of his outfits is too small to leave unconsidered. In fact, he thinks even the amount of effort he dedicates to preparation deserves recognition.

“There are lot of well-dressed men at the Capitol, but few take the time to match their shoes, shoelaces, socks and tie, with corresponding cufflinks, to create an overall look that people ask about regularly,” he says. “In effort alone, I think I outdo most of the others.”

Sen, Catherine Miranda

Sen, Catherine Miranda

Best Dressed – Female – Sen. Catherine Miranda

As far as her win in the Best Dressed category goes, Sen. Catherine Miranda says she figures it’s a pretty simple explanation: “I’m guessing people like the way I dress.”  Miranda reserves her power outfits for the gym, where she’s “focused on how to make my district and Arizona a better place.”

She says you won’t catch her in sunglasses because she needs “to always have my eyes wide open and look at issues from different angles.”

Honoree Secretary of State Michele Reagan says while there are many great choices in the category this year, her consistency of style gives her the edge over her competition. She doesn’t have a “go-to” outfit, because she “believes all of my outfits are fitting.”

Honoree Christen Monti of The Aarons Company says she feels like she can move mountains in a fitting pair of pants and a fun pair of heels, but  “towards the end of session, after indulging in the gluttony of legislative luncheons, a wrap dress becomes my best, most forgiving friend,” she says.

All of the nominees responded to the importance of sunglasses in a put-together outfit, with most saying sunglasses shouldn’t even be in the picture.

“Sunglasses are extremely important when driving in Arizona, but they do not factor in when I wear an outfit,” Reagan says.

Monti feared this would be the question that would divide the Best Dressed pack, but also came down on the no-shades side.

“Sunglasses, frankly, aren’t for me.  I think I look strange in them,” she adds.

Bob Stump

Bob Stump

Best Shoes – Male – Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump

Winner Bob Stump, of the Arizona Corporation Commission, says it’s about time he wins this category, after several years of being nominated but not hearing his name called. It’s a distinction, he jokingly says, that has followed him outside of Arizona.

“When I met my favorite soprano last year, in New York, she knew all about my ‘Best Shoes’ nomination,” he says. “Light a candle for the things that matter.”

Although the Corporation Commission handles some pretty serious business, Stump says that speaking as a “Hawaii-raised kama’aina” (meaning longtime resident of Hawaii) flip-flops are “always welcome in my commission office.” His feelings on a certain famous brand of German leather sandals, however, aren’t so kind.

“Birkenstocks, however, will be submitted to a waste-to-energy plant,” he says.

When asked whether a man’s belt and shoe colors should match, he used previous Best of the Capitol Best Dressed – Male winner Michael Preston Green as an example – of how not to do it.

“Well, they shouldn’t clash,” Stump says. “One shouldn’t ‘commit an MPG’ – named after Michael Preston Green – and mismatch nearly everything!” Looks like Green may be less retired than he thinks.

Honoree Russell Smoldon says he’s in a class all his own when it comes to shoes.

“When it comes to shoes, there aren’t many men at the Capitol that can compete with the range of shoes I own,” he says. “I’ve yet to see anyone else find a pair of shoes with lime green accents and pull them off quite as well.”

As far as matching shoes and belt, Smoldon says it is a decent rule of thumb for some, but his sartorial acumen has advanced far beyond such a guideline.

“Matching is a good beginner’s rule of fashion, but once you’ve gotten comfortable it’s less important that individual pieces match than that the outfit as a whole works,” he says.

Rep. Ceci Velasquez

Rep. Ceci Velasquez

Best Shoes – Female – Rep. Ceci Velasquez

Winner Rep. Ceci Velasquez, of west Phoenix and Glendale Legislative District 29, boasts her eclectic style in footwear as what gets her compliments, “even when running around at the Legislature from committee to floor,” she says. In heels or flats, her small feet give her an advantage by helping her secure “some rockin’ sales on shoes.”

Shoes give her confidence and can spice up any wardrobe, she says. Velasquez is grateful to be included in the category, acknowledging the other nominees by saying “we are all winners.”

Past and current winner Secretary of State Michele Reagan feels confident in this category, describing herself as “the LeBron James of shoes at the Capitol.” She adds, “this is my year.” Editor’s Note: Reagan answered these questions during the day on June 11, prior to Game 4 of this year’s NBA Finals featuring the LeBron James-lead Cleveland Cavaliers and the Steph Curry-lead Golden State Warriors. At that time, The Cavs held a 2 games to 1 lead in the series, and after dropping in 40 points in Game 3, James appeared poised to carry his team to victory.

While her shoes aren’t the source of her confidence, “they are professional and fit my personality,” she says.

Honoree Beth Lewallen, of Italicized Consulting, says winning would be, “the best way to further encourage my purchase of more shoes.”

Lewallen’s shoes are a confidence booster, as they are “the only accessory that makes me taller.”

The nominees were asked if flip-flops are acceptable in professional settings in sun-drenched Arizona. Most were opposed.

Velasquez admits it was a “tough question” but says even the heat in Arizona doesn’t justify wearing flip-flops in a professional setting.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t even ask that,” an incredulous Lewallen says.

Reagan did identify one such professional place flip-flops would be acceptable: in a meeting at a beach. Otherwise, she says, “absolutely not!”

Michele Reagan

Michele Reagan

Best Handbag – Secretary of State Michele Reagan

Repeat Best Handbag winner Secretary of State Michele Reagan says her wardrobe-matching collection of purses sets her apart from the pack. She goes for quality over quantity.

“I do not own many, but enough to match every outfit,” she says.

When asked about the oldest item she had found in her purse, Reagan says she once found a dog treat in her bag. “I had not bought that type of dog treat in over 6 months.”

Honoree Dianne McCallister, of Public Policy Partners, says winning would make her feel like her bag purchases were a good investment.

With 15 handbags, McCallister wants to win “so I don’t end up having to do retail therapy and buy another bag to help me cope with the loss.”

It’s quality over quantity when it comes to bags for honoree Melissa DeLaney, of Axiom Public Affairs. She’s convinced politicos are drawn to her bright, shiny bag.

“It seems that carrying a neon laptop bag on a near-constant basis while traversing the state over the past year catches some attention,” she says.

Honoree Erin Mahrt, of B3 Strategies, says style and functionality are key when picking a handbag. “I need a bag that looks good but can also fit the 30 different items I might need throughout the day.”

The oldest item she ever unearthed in her purse was a euro. “I haven’t been to Europe since 2008 so it had been in there for about seven years,” she says.

Name brands aren’t of particular importance to Mahrt, either. “Do what works for you and the confidence in your style choice will do the rest.”

Danny Seiden

Danny Seiden

Best Hair – Male – Danny Seiden

After claiming the Best Hair title in 2013 from the 2012 winner, bald former House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, Danny Seiden has been a Best of the Capitol fixture. To say that all this glorious recognition has gone to his head, is, well, an understatement.

“I clearly should have won this award every year for the last few years,” he says.

Seiden, deputy chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey, exemplifies the tongue-in-cheek style of Best of the Capitol with this statement about his nomination in this category, his third in three years.

“Initially, people claimed that the infamous French Madame Pompadour was the inspiration for my hair. However, I believe my hair has evolved into something much more spectacular, amazing and original,” he says. “In fact, I have been told that my hair is actually the inspiration for Don Draper’s hair on ‘Mad Men,’ however, I’ve yet to receive any royalties.”

And the thought of wearing a hat? Blasphemy, he says, as he compares his hair to the most famous work of Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh. “You wouldn’t put a tarp on the Mona Lisa or Starry Night, so why would you cover this masterpiece? You wouldn’t,” he says.

As Seiden undoubtedly laughs his way through answering these questions, he may be justified in his abundance of confidence, as he was nominated for four Best of the Capitol awards this year.

Rep. Brenda Barton

Rep. Brenda Barton

Best Hair – Female – Rep. Brenda Barton

Winner Rep. Brenda Barton’s long-flowing red locks have been nominated several times in the Best Hair – Female category. And this year, the representative from Payson put it all together very nicely to take home the win.

Honoree Marilyn Purvis of Veridus says that subscribers of the Arizona Capitol Times – who are the only people allowed to vote for Best of the Capitol winners – should seize this opportunity to correct a great injustice.

“Voters have been given a chance to correct the obvious mistake they made last year in not choosing me,” she says. “Second chances don’t always come around and your readers should recognize the incredible opportunity that has been placed before them to right a historic wrong.”

Purvis, who sports a tightly cropped hairdo, says she has never had a bad hair day, and given Arizona’s relatively low humidity levels “bad hair days for people with basic hair seem to be the exception, not the rule.”

Honoree Ginna Carico, a House research analyst, says she, too, has not experienced a bad hair day in Arizona. Her simple advice for keeping one’s hair in tip-top shape? “Invest in some dry shampoo,” she says.

DOn Isaacson

Don Isaacson

Best Lobbyist – Male – Don Isaacson

Although winner Don Isaacson, of Isaacson & Walsh, has scored multiple wins in this category, he says he’s honored to be considered in a group that does “a tremendous job in representing their clients in an ethical and professional manner.”

Though, as in every profession, some lobbyists have drawn criticism, he says “the great majority of Arizona lobbyists are ethical, hard-working and do everything they can to follow the law.”

Honoree Jim Norton of Axiom Public Affairs, says he isn’t one to seek awards, but “anyone who knows me knows I would break my pick working votes if this were the ‘father of the year’ award.”

With more than 32 years of experience, honoree Steve Barclay, of Barclay Legal, says he’s lobbied for and against many memorable issues, most recently the Arizona Beer Bill known as SB1030.

Barclay says he’s honored to be nominated, but deserves the award because he’s had an “exceptionally good year.” Just ask fellow nominees Jeff Sandquist, Jim Norton and Russell Smoldon about the beer bill, he says.

Honoree Jeff Sandquist, of Veridus, says “I think I sufficiently meet the criteria of this category.”  He adds that readers should select him as the winner because he’s a man, a lobbyist and the best.

Sandquist jokingly says the biggest misconception about lobbyists is that they gossip and only enjoy meals at fellow Best of the Capitol nominee and frequent winner Durant’s, “which is so not true,” he said. “Sometimes we go to the Capital Grille.”

Jessica Pacheco

Jessica Pacheco

Best Lobbyist – Female – Jessica Pacheco

Although Best Lobbyist – Female is an individual award, winner Jessica Pacheco of APS says she should win because of her great team.

She adds that the biggest public misconception about lobbyists is that the profession “is only about having lunch.”

Honoree Janna Day, of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, says she’s honored to be chosen for the category, and is “happy to play a role in Arizona’s policy debates.”

The public doesn’t appreciate the part lobbyists play in the policy process, she says, but lobbyists “provide valuable information and there is a lobbyist representing virtually every angle of interests on any given issue.”

Honoree Wendy Briggs, of Veridus, has a message of warning for her fellow nominees.

“I win. That is what I do. If I don’t win, the other ladies better watch out,” she said.

Though Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards television show paints a dark picture of the profession, “we don’t lie, cheat and steal to pass or kill a bill,” Briggs says. Instead, “lobbyists are kind, tender souls who enjoy fluffy animals.”

Briggs says her lobbying efforts to codify ride-sharing services in statute was an action-packed 24 months of “blood, sweat, tears, and finally a resolution amongst all parties,” deserving of a screenplay adaption.

“I hope my role is played by Angelina Jolie,” she says.

Honoree Barbara Meaney of Triadvocates, wants to win “To prevent further comparisons to Susan Lucci,” she says. “I just hope it doesn’t take 19 nominations to get there.”

Meaney says it’s great to be recognized among her peers and to be “considered along with some of the very best lobbyists in Arizona.”

Chad Guzman

Chad Guzman

Best Lobbyist under 40 – Male – Chad Guzman

Chad Guzman of APS takes down his first nomination in Best of the Capitol.

Honoree Jeff Gray, of Axiom Public Affairs, says he’s leaning toward voting for fellow nominee, Todd Baughman.

“One should not argue with the endorsement of the Unicorn PAC,” he says.

Gray hopes to still be lobbying professionally beyond age 40 for a very pragmatic reason: “My mortgage won’t be paid off until I’m in my 50s.”

Todd Baughman, of Policy Development Group, Inc., says all of his fellow honorees deserve the award, but if he won, “it would be because I have learned the art of lobbying from the best – my co-workers,” he says. He adds, “It’s no surprise that Paul and Kathy Senseman are nominated for ‘Cap Times Best of’ Power Couple Award, and these are the people I’ve learned from.”

Baughman says he hopes to be a part of the lobbying community’s development for years to come. “Arizona is poised to continue its growth and I think that will cause our profession to flourish.”

Honoree Ryan Harper of Triadvocates says his “great looks, bespoke suits, shiny shoes and great hair” should inspire readers to vote for him.

When asked if he will still be lobbying professionally at 40, Harper says he plans to retire at 39 to “start a coffee shop next to Greg Patterson’s house.”

Harper desperately does not want to be the “Susan Lucci of this category,” and brought up suspicion regarding fellow honoree Jeff Gray.

“Please check Jeff Gray’s birth certificate,” he said. “I hear he was born in Greenland and is actually 95!”

Dianne McCallister

Dianne McCallister

Best Lobbyist under 40 – Female – Dianne McCallister

Though the job might pit people against each other, winner Dianne McCallister of Public Policy Partners says she always strives to “treat others as I like to be treated.”

“I have been fortunate to be successful with a lot of my issues and am proud of the work that I have done for my clients,” she says.

Under the age of 40, but with already a decade of experience, honoree Cheyenne Walsh, of Isaacson & Walsh, says her collaborative work with policy makers “to make Arizona a great place for business and residents,” should help her bring the award home.

When asked if she would still be professionally lobbying by the time she’s 40, Walsh says, “Given the long odds of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, I would put my money on yes.”

After nearly a decade of representing the Arizona Supreme Court, honoree Amy Love says she still learns something new every session.

“I believe my passion for the issues coupled with the pride I have for representing our court system shines through in my work at the Capitol,” she says.

Honoree Camila Alarcon, of Gammage & Burnham, has two words to describe why she should win – craft beer.

“It was truly an honor to advocate for the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild so that Arizona’s microbreweries can continue to grow and compete,” she says.

H.T. Sanchez

H.T. Sanchez

Best Testifier in Committee – H.T. Sanchez, Tucson Unified School District superintendent

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, winner of the inaugural Best Testifier in Committee category, made his presence felt at the Capitol this year – a feat, as far as he can remember – that hasn’t been accomplished in quite a long time.

“From what I understand, this legislative session was the first, or the first in many years, where a superintendent of Tucson Unified School District has testified on behalf of the district,” he says. “I was moved to do so because so much was at stake for our students.”

To his credit, his trips from Tucson were fruitful. He testified against SB1371, which would have phased out desegregation funding for Arizona school districts. The bill never made it out of the Senate. He also testified against a House amendment to SB1120, which called for an automatic forensic audit of school districts that budget more than $15,000,000 for desegregation orders. That bill was held in the House Appropriations Committee.

For Sanchez, he was just protecting Arizona students. “My purpose in testifying was to advocate for the 49,000 students in Tucson Unified School District who deserve the state legislature’s support.”

Given his multiple Best of the Capitol “Best Lobbyist” wins honoree Don Isaacson certainly knows a thing – or 10 – about convincing a legislative committee to see things his way. He dispenses simple advice for success, which includes being as knowledgeable and straightforward on a subject as reasonably possible. Additionally he adds “‘talk’ to the committee – as opposed to lecturing or sermonizing.”

During the 2015 session, Isaacson testified on several issues, including those relating to auto dealers, engineers, body cameras, insurance audits and extension of property tax authority for Central Arizona Project. And those are just the ones on which he was successful.

Jeff Kros

Jeff Kros

Best Staffer – Jeff Kros, Senate majority policy adviser

Senate President Andy Biggs has a unique talent. Biggs has “the uncanny ability to link the purpose of nearly every bill to a line in a movie or the lyric of a song,” says winner Jeff Kros, Senate majority policy advisor, while explaining an Arizona Legislature behind-the-scenes tidbit.

“He challenges staff to identify that movie or song,” Kros says.

This year’s Best Staffer won’t be on the ballot anytime in the near future, he says.

“I respect what the members go through to serve the citizens of Arizona and I am content to work behind the scenes to help them.”

Kros has a cryptic threat/piece of advice for his lobbyist friends. “Senate majority staff knows everything,” he says, surely narrowing his focus. “Everything.”

Honoree Wendy Baldo, Senate majority chief of staff, says she’s fortunate to be in good company, and “wouldn’t advocate myself over others, except for Jeff Kros.”

“Just remember, Jeff Kros works for me,” she says.

Out of an abundance of concern for Arizona News Service, Baldo declined to offer any behind-the-scenes Arizona Senate stories, for fear of running The Yellow Sheet Report out of business.

When asked if she would consider running for a legislative seat, Baldo says, “Never.  I am a long-time staffer here and have loved every minute in that role.”

Readers should vote for honoree Brett Mecum, House majority strategy and policy adviser, because when the House gym is complete “I will have all the free passes,” he says.

Mecum learned a lot this session, including, “If you are a House staffer speaking with senators in the Senate lounge on legislative matters, you will be kicked out by the Senate chief of staff,” he says. “Now I know – and now you know.”

Rep. Noel Campbell

Rep. Noel Campbell

Political Rising Star – Male – Rep. Noel Campbell

Freshman Republican Rep. Noel Campbell of Prescott is this year’s Political Rising Star – Male. It’s a pretty impressive feat for a man that is in his 70s. But the former U.S. Customs officer’s campaign focusing on border security must have resonated with Best of the Capitol voters, as it did with the voters of Legislative District 1, who elected him in 2014.

Campbell was largely surprised by his nomination in this category, saying that he’s just doing his job down at the Capitol and he knows that “everybody works pretty hard down there.”

Best of the Capitol voters may have also responded to his approach to legislative work.. “You have to keep your word and don’t take things personally,” he says. “You try to work with everybody, across the aisle. I do. I’m an older person so it’s a little easier for me.”

Fortunately for Campbell, he says he understands the nature of the work he and fellow lawmakers undertake at the Capitol. “I know part of it is theatre and parts of it are absurd. But there are some serious issues we need to deal with and I’m happy to work on them.”

Another freshman Republican, Rep. Jeff Weninger of Chandler, says working with others is ultimately the key to success. “I believe in working collaboratively and getting things done,” he says. “That approach has served me well in business. When you aren’t worried about the credit, things tend to get done in a more expedient manner.”

Tucson Democratic Rep. Randy Friese was also an honoree in this category. He says the legislative life feels natural to him, and he isn’t deterred from speaking up in committee or on the floor by his freshman status. “I feel very comfortable expressing my point of view. I enjoy doing the reading and research needed to ask informed questions of a bill’s sponsor and be prepared to participate in debate,” he says.

Sen. Kelli Ward

Sen. Kelli Ward

Political Rising Star – Female – Sen. Kelli Ward

Winner Sen. Kelli Ward says she never thought she’d run for elected office but enjoys her position as an elected official, where she gets to learn about issues and talk to voters as she strives “to be the best voice of the people that I can be.”

Her approach to lawmaking involves being accessible, truthful and “uncompromising on your principles.” “People want to know where you stand and that they can count on you,” she says.

The senator from Lake Havasu City may be looking to take her “Political Rising Star” higher yet.  “I’m looking to the future and possible new opportunities to use my skills and abilities to represent the people of AZ,” she says.

Honoree Gretchen Martinez, who serves as director of legislative affairs for Gov. Doug Ducey, masterfully deflected recognition from herself to the Legislature. “As the governor’s lobbyist, I think that any legislator that voted for the governor’s budget is worthy of this award.”

Her sage advice to anyone who endeavors to be successful in the political arena is: “Hitch your wagon to a rising political force – i.e. Governor Ducey, Kirk Adams, Danny Seiden, Sara Mueller.”

Honoree Republican Rep. Regina Cobb of Kingman, who was a freshman last year, was honored to be nominated and humbled to be in the same company as the other honorees.

Even though it was her first year as a state lawmaker, she wasn’t content to just watch from the sidelines. “This was my first year as a legislator and I did not want it to be just a learning year.  I wanted to participate 100 percent,” she says. “I personally felt I accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.”

Sen. Andy Biggs

Sen. Andy Biggs

Best Power Broker – Sen. Andy Biggs

Of all of the category winners that may come as a surprise to readers, Senate President Andy Biggs winning the Best Power Broker category should not be one of them. As the assigner of all the bills in the chamber, ultimately, if Biggs doesn’t like it, it doesn’t go.

Biggs flexed his legislative muscle this year when he decided to adjourn his chamber’s work for the year after he became tired of waiting for the House to get close to concluding its work. So any bills that were being worked on in the House all died.

Honoree Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, says if he wins the award, he shouldn’t win it alone. He calls his past two-and-a-half years leading the state party remarkable.

“I have personally witnessed the AZ GOP rise from the ashes to become a positive, credible, well-funded and influential participant within Arizona politics,” he says.

Although he is up for a “Power Broker” award, he says the ultimate power lies with the people, ideally.

“If applied correctly, the citizens of Arizona hold the most power,” he says. “Throughout history we have witnessed movements ignited by the people to affect a marking influence on elections, change in government representation and legislation.”

He also believes in the saying “with great power comes great responsibility” and that the decisions made by elected officials have real effects.

“When we find ourselves trusted with great power it is essential to be awakened to our duty and recognize that our actions may have a direct impact on people’s lives,” he says.

Sean Noble

Sean Noble

Best Political Operative – Sean Noble

In true political operative fashion, Sean Noble of Axiom Public Affairs reminded those that nominated him for this Best of the Capitol award: “They only get paid if I win!” Well, fortunately for those unnamed nominators, it is time to open your pocketbooks, as Noble topped BOTC political operative heavyweights Chuck Coughlin of HighGround and Danny Seiden of the Governor’s Office.

Honoree Chuck Coughlin, who has won multiple Best of the Capitol awards for his real and perceived influence over Arizona politics, says all his years of being seen as an all-powerful kingmaker have to be worth something.

 He says he should win “because I am ineligible for the best hair category. Seriously, does anyone get blamed for more sh– than me? That’s gotta be worth something.”

Coughlin, who has been a presence in Arizona politics for many years, says in all seriousness, he is “the luckiest guy on the planet” regardless of whether he wins. “I have a super-hot and smart wife, a talented and immensely smart daughter, and an incredible team of professionals I get to come to work with every day,” he says. “Nobody’s got it better than me!”

For honoree Danny Seiden, who has won this award previously, winning is of course, the goal, but he also cares about how he gets there.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of quite a few winning campaign teams,” he says. “But I really do care about how I win, and in every conflict I’ve been a part of, I try and conduct myself in a way that doesn’t scorch the earth of the other side.”

His request to Best of the Capitol voters is to cast their vote for the “good guy.”

“If you watch movies like Back to the Future and root for Biff Tannen, then absolutely vote for any of the other names on this list,” Seiden says. “If, however, you pull for Marty McFly, then I am definitely your guy.”

Constantin Querard

Constantin Querard

Best Campaign Consultant – Constantin Querard

Winner Constantin Querard, of Grassroots Partners, says for him to consider his consultancy services successful for any given candidate, it depends on the client. Winning is important, but his definition of success is more nuanced. Some have an expectation of winning, and some have no shot. In either case, he strives to help them get the best service for their money.

“We often get involved with candidates because they’re great people running for noble reasons even though they have no realistic expectation of victory,” he says. “So from that standpoint, we just want to serve them honestly, give them great value and help them to make the best of the unique experience that is running for office,” Querard says. “For everyone else, we do all of that and we have to win.”

He describes his dream candidate as “someone with Ted Cruz’ ideology and Mike Bloomberg’s money.” And until that candidate comes along, “I’m already blessed to work with a lot of great candidates.”

Honoree Sean Noble, of Axiom Public Affairs, says he should win because his polls say he should win. “I focused-grouped and polled the good people of Arizona and they overwhelmingly say I’m the most trustworthy.”

His dream candidate is Donald Trump, mainly because he’s rich and it obviously wouldn’t be the consultant’s fault if The Donald loses an election. “He pays his bills and if he loses, it’s clearly the candidate’s fault,” Noble says.

Stephanie Grisham

Stephanie Grisham

Best PR Person – Stephanie Grisham,  House majority caucus

From working with former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney to dealing with “gym-gate” at the Arizona House, winner Stephanie Grisham says “readers should vote for me out of sympathy.”

Grisham says Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Shock, The Secret Service and Arizona Republic metro columnist Laurie Roberts could use her professional public relations services, adding, “In that order.”

Grisham would have liked to offer readers some more thoughts on her nomination, but she is “too busy fulfilling public records requests for (Arizona House reporter) Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times,” she said.

Honoree Barrett Marson, of Marson Media, says readers “really should have voted for David Leibowitz.”

Marson says he appreciates the nomination, and “it’s always nice to be in the same category as Daniel Scarpinato and Stephanie Grisham.”

When asked which person in the news is in dire need of his PR service, Marson says, “Calling Diane Douglas.”

Honoree Melissa DeLaney of Axiom Public Affairs says her broad coalition of support should make her the winner.

“It will definitely add jobs – Axiom is hiring,” she says.

DeLaney says Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and the city of Glendale could use her professional PR services. Although “they might whine more than my six-year-old daughter,” she says.

Robbie Sherwood

Robbie Sherwood

Best Twitterer – Robbie Sherwood (@RobbieSherwood)

Robbie Sherwood has been a fixture in the Best Twitterer category for several years, and he is taking home the award again this year. But, he says, considering his “real job” now with the Phoenix Mayor’s Office, his time ruling this category may be coming to a close.

“I have a real job now, one where I have to wear pants to work and my Twitter strategy is no longer ‘ready, fire, aim,” he says. “Nevertheless, I will still try to have fun and break news once in a while, but I’ll be surprised if I’m nominated for this again. If that’s the case, it’s been a real treat.”

His favorite recent tweet was actually not political in nature or about Arizona public policy. It was about Caitlyn Jenner’s newly unveiled identity. It is “We’ve come a long way when the most shocking thing #BruceJenner revealed was that he’s a Republican.”

When asked to explain his political philosophy using the Twitter-imposed limit of 140 characters, he responded with “#WWMUD What Would Mo Udall Do?”

Honoree Beth Lewallen, of Italicized Consulting, explained her political philosophy in Twitter-shorthand with a mere three words: “emphasize what matters.”

She adds that there are far too many tweets to pick just one as her favorite, but she says she enjoyed reading the end-of-session tweets using the #startyourownrumor hashtag and of course, anything from the @Thucydides account, which she says “are always favorites.”

Honoree Barrett Marson of Marson Media gave a shout-out to two-time Best Twitterer champion Sherwood while explaining why he should win this category.

“I believe in bringing the witty and sharp analysis in 140 characters,” Marson says. “I like to say what most others won’t and in a funnier way than anyone – but Robbie Sherwood – can.”

He adds that his favorite recent Twitter exchange occurred between himself and consultant Constantin Querard. Marson tweeted “@JonesForGov just offered to buy everyone in the House gallery Durant’s. #startyourownrumor.”  Querard responded “@barrettmarson @JonesForGov Do you mean a meal at Durant’s? Or Durant’s? I’m good with either! #startyourownrumor.”

2015BOTCmarsonBest PR Firm – Marson Media

Barrett Marson, owner of winning PR firm Marson Media, says his “years in the media and then handling the media needs of the House of Representatives and the Department of Corrections” has distinguish his eponymous firm from the rest of the competition.

“The experience has been invaluable, and few can provide such combined experiences,” Marson says.

Wendy Briggs, of honoree firm Veridus, says “media smarts, political savvy and good hair,” make the firm a clear choice for voters. “Well, two out of three anyway,” she adds.

Briggs says Veridus is distinguished from the rest of the PR firms because the firm is action-oriented. “By nature, PR people tend to be big talkers. We’re do-ers.”

Honoree R&R Partners is “an amalgamation of diversity,” says David Weissman of R&R Partners.

The firm includes “seasoned reporters, talented media pitchers, social media gurus, lawyers, political strategists, crisis managers and TV executive producers who are all in to solve communications challenges with smart and inclusive thinking,” he says.

Jason Rose of honoree Rose+Moser+Allyn, says that with almost 20 years of experience “you’ve seen just about everything.” This helps the PR firm distinguish itself from the competition, as it “allows us to peak around corners very well, anticipating what’s needed and ultimately achieve the objective,” he says.

“Cool hair, killer clients and relentless pursuit of result,” make Rose+Moser+Allyn the top choice, says Rose.

Michele Reagan

Michele Reagan

Best Candidate Campaign – Secretary of State Michele Reagan

Winning the 2014 race for secretary of state wasn’t easy for Michele Reagan.

“We worked tirelessly to win a heated primary and beat a seasoned statewide democratic candidate,” Reagan says.

Reagan credits the hard work of her team, volunteers and the grassroots support around the state as what made her campaign a success.

“The campaign was less about me and more about the hard working people who made it possible for me to win,” she says.

Michelle Davidson, campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s nominated campaign for Congress, says the campaign was so successful, “because the congresswoman listened to the concerns and priorities of her constituents,” Davidson says.

Honoree Attorney General Mark Brnovich seems surprised by the question of why his campaign should win.

“I thought the voters had the final say in an election, but I guess you have to win the Capitol Times awards too,” he says.

While on the campaign trail, Brnovich put more than 50,000 miles on his car “travelling around the state to meet people and hear about the things that were important to them,” he says. “That perspective still serves me every day.”

Brnovich says he wants readers to consider “while actors are often told to “break a leg” I took that advice to a new level as a political candidate.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has a victory speech prepared in case the success of her nominated campaign earns her the award.

Douglas says her campaign was successful because “the people of Arizona were tired of the federal government’s overreach into our education system, and they realized that I would do everything in my power to stop it,” she says.

 “That is something I have continued to hear as I travel across the state on my listening tour.”

2015BOTCyes480Best Independent Expenditure/Ballot Measure Campaign – Yes on Prop 480 (Maricopa hospital)

Proposition 480 was a tough sell from the beginning. The Maricopa County Hospital District, which does business as Maricopa Integrated Health System, needed voter approval to for $935 million in tax-funded financing to upgrade a network of neighborhood clinics and the mental health system, and tear down and rebuild a smaller version of the aging Maricopa County Medical Center.

Voters approved the measure with a 63 percent yes vote on Election Day last November. And convincing those voters that the measure was needed, and then to actually go out and vote yes on it was largely the work of HighGround Public Affairs.

“Proposition 480 was a billion-dollar property tax that overwhelmingly passed in a heavy Republican cycle with 63.4% of the vote,” says Bentz. “Don’t let the numbers fool you. It was definitely not a cake walk.”

Bentz says one of the major challenges his firm faced was educating the public on the proposal.

 “Awareness increased from 26.8% to 68.4% in less than a month. Tracking polls showed support increase from 50.4% to 59.4%.”

Another successful measure from 2014 was honoree Prop. 303, also known as “the Right to Try.”

Starlee Coleman of the Goldwater Institute, which ran the “yes” campaign, says the measure is a great example of how “a meaningful and common-sense policy idea coupled with a strong campaign can restore fundamental rights that can have a significant impact on real people.”

This effort was certainly worthy of recognition, as Prop. 303 passed with a nearly 80 percent yes vote – that’s more than 1 million Arizona voters. “That demonstrates how important Arizonans think it is to protect terminally ill patients’ right to try to save their own lives,” Coleman says.

2015BOTChickmanBest Campaign Sign – Clint Hickman

Clint Hickman’s sign for his initial run for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors says the fact that he could win this category would justify a decision he made back in 1988.

“(Winning this category) would validate my marketing degree from the University of Arizona circa 1988,” says the District 4 supervisor. “Also, I can guarantee that my sign is the only sign that makes you hungry for breakfast.”

If you haven’t already recognized the name and thought of a chicken wearing shades, yes, Hickman is a member of the well-known Arizona family known for raising chickens and eggs. And putting a giant egg on his campaign sign was a no-brainer – for Hickman’s campaign consultant Paul Bentz.

“I told him I wanted to separate my business life from my political life with this campaign,” Hickman says. “I remember his four words of wisdom: ‘Are you crazy, Clint?’ Or was it, ‘Don’t be an idiot!’?”

He says after debating with Channel 12’s Joe Dana whether the egg on his sign was actually an egg or just a white oval, then “defending myself from a criminal lawsuit because I had the audacity to use my own name” winning this category “almost makes it worth the drama. Almost.”

Another campaign sign that turned heads during the 2014 campaign season was from Fred DuVal’s gubernatorial campaign.

For a candidate who suffered from a lack of name ID and had no primary opponent, DuVal had to play catch-up introducing himself to voters. His campaign’s solution: Give voters a larger than lifesize Fred. In fact, give them several of him on Arizona’s street corners.

That came to fruition as a campaign sign that was a picture of just DuVal’s held and shoulders, with the slogan “Get Ahead with Fred” plastered across it. Although DuVal ultimately lost to Republican Doug Ducey, his campaign signs left an impression.

2015BOTCdewitBest Campaign TV Ad or Web Video – Jeff DeWit “Go and Vote”

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit belts out the lyrics “Go and vote. Go and Vote. I have new ideas to try. Go and vote. Go and vote. Check my website and you’ll see why” over the swelling orchestration of “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen” soundtrack, it becomes obvious why his video “Go and Vote” is the clear winner.

Featuring DeWit’s children and wife, dressed vaguely like the Statue of Liberty, the video is not the first in the DeWitt family collection.

“A little known fact is that we have many family videos like this that others have never seen, it has sort of been our way to scrapbook,” DeWitt, says.

DeWit says that the video was not originally filmed with the idea of releasing it.

“We enjoyed it privately for a few weeks before making the decision to show other people, and uploaded it to YouTube so we could show a few friends and get some feedback,” he says.

But the video took off and became a major part of his campaign.

“It turned out to be a really enjoyable and memorable part of the campaign for us and many people, and the amount of positive feedback to it was truly surprising to us,” he says.

If you were wondering about the identity of the athletic, shirtless man working out at the end of honoree Frank Riggs’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign video “The Clear Choice,” Riggs confirms it was him.

“That’s really me, not a body double, demonstrating my ‘fitness’ for high office,” he says.

Riggs says he likes to believe that female voters nominated him, quickly noting that his “wife is alright with that.”

2015BOTCcraftbrewersBest Grassroots Effort – Arizona Craft Brewers Guild in support of SB1030

It wasn’t hard to get the word out about the winning grassroots efforts of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild in support of SB1030.

“We put out the call and they all came to support us,” the guild says of the craft brewery owners, lobbyists, public relations specialists, guild members and community supporters who “came out in droves.”

 “The Arizona craft brewing community has become an important part of our society,” the guild says, noting that the craft-beer industry is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing.

“The successful passage of SB1030 allows the state to continue to reap the economic benefits brewed up by this major legislative win for decades to come.”

Honoree Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas says her action of connecting with voters, particularly in rural areas, is one of the reasons for her success.

“To me, that’s a grassroots effort at its best,” she says.

When asked why education should matter to Arizonans, Douglas says outside of protecting our country and freedoms, “there is nothing more important than the education of our children. They are the most precious resource we have, and they deserve the very best education Arizona can provide.”

The GOP’s overall efforts during the 2014 elections “were truly a combination of talent and committed volunteers,” George Khalaf, political director for the Arizona Republican Party, says. “The party had double the number of grassroots precinct committeemen of the Democratic party statewide.”

2015BOTCgallegoBest Power Couple – Kate and Ruben Gallego

Kate and Ruben Gallego were nominated for this award last year, but lost a close competition to Kathy and Paul Senseman. However, last year, Ruben was not yet a member of Congress. This year, however, Ruben made the jump from the Arizona House to the U.S. House and the Gallegos are taking home the Best Power Couple Award.

Kate says that their secrets to success aren’t actually secrets or even unique to them.

“It’s all about communication, believing in each other’s goals and having a passion for what you do. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we’re in near constant communication,” says the District 8 Phoenix City Councilwoman. “We’re each other’s biggest supporter and most honest critic.”

Since they are both elected officials, Kate says having someone who understands the demands a campaign places on a person is a strength of their relationship. “Serving in public office has a lot of ups and downs. Having someone to celebrate the successes with is always great,” she says. “But there is a lot of hard work, stress and personal sacrifice that goes into public service.”

Kate strives to use any power they have as a couple to do things for the communities they love and serve. “Being named a ‘power couple’ doesn’t mean much if we’re not using whatever influence we have to improve the state we love,” she says.

Danny Seiden and his wife Ann were nominated for this award for the second year in a row.

Danny says one of his powers was that he was “able to even marry someone as amazing as my wife.” And her power? “She tolerates me.”

He characterizes the secret to their success as a couple like this: “One of us is really sweet, hardworking and beloved by all, and the other is Danny.”

And if his case for winning isn’t strong enough yet, he figures their two “really adorable babies” have to count for something with Best of the Capitol voters.

2015BOTCvigBest After Hours Hangout – The Vig Fillmore

When the work day is over and legislators are looking for a cocktail or bite to eat, favorite after-hours hangout, The Vig Fillmore, offers “great food and well-constructed drinks that cater to the hardworking people of downtown Phoenix,” says Graeme Doyle, the restaurant’s general manager.

“From a college student taking a break from school, to a quick lunch by the governor,” Doyle says The Vig Fillmore’s welcoming atmosphere is what makes it unique.

When asked about the crowd-favorite of the Vig’s tasty selections, Doyle says the homemade fish tacos are the most popular item on the menu.

“The Vig Fillmore is very honored to be nominated for an award like this and is excited to be a part of the growth of downtown Phoenix,” Doyle says.

Durant’s continues its permanent presence in the Best of the Capitol as the only entity to win an award in every single year. Although Durant’s was relegated to an honoree in this category, General Manager Carol McElroy says Durant’s still makes a perfect after-hours hangout because “we’re cool, dark, and we never tell.”

The longevity of the old-school steakhouse is what makes it unique, McElroy says. “Durant’s has been serving steaks and great martinis for 65 years,” she says.

2015BOTCdurantsBest Place to Impress a Client – Durant’s

No Best of the Capitol would be complete without honoring stalwart Durant’s for something that recognizes either its great food, cool atmosphere, history of hosting powerful people or longevity.

In taking this year’s honor for Best Place to Impress a Client back to Central Ave., voters likely recognized that Durant’s maintains a substantial mix of all of the above traits.

Durant’s General Manager Carol McElroy says the key to the restaurant’s staying power is split between the efforts of the restaurant and the quality of the people that come through the places two entrances. “It’s consistency and Arizona’s greatest guests,” she says.

When asked to divulge a little-known, interesting fact about Durant’s, she offered up indulgent morsels of information about both the restaurant and its founder.

“All of our desserts are made on site,” she says. “And the recipe for our famous cheese cake was first made by Jack Durant’s fifth wife.”

Voters also took things in an unexpected direction this year and nominated the Arizona Governor’s Office as a potential place to impress a client. Although it seems like an odd choice, the truth is that a person who has the ability to take the elevator in the Executive Tower from the first floor to the ninth floor – bypassing the eighth floor entirely – is a very impressive person indeed. Good call, BOTC nominators.

Now, the next impressive place to take a client is the second floor balcony on the face of the historic Capitol building.

2015BOTCaviationBest Capitol Lawn Event – Arizona Aviation Day

Winner Arizona Aviation Day, put on by the Arizona Airports Association (AzAA), does well in convincing lawmakers through their Capitol lawn event and other events throughout the state that aviation issues link directly to economic drivers in their legislative district.

“AzAA understands the importance in keeping our state government and the communities within our respective areas involved, informed and knowledgeable,” says Gladys Wiggins, president of AzAA. “Our event is an example that surrounding states have used to model their own events after and that proves we deserve to be a winner!”

One of the challenges that all organizations face that stage Capitol lawn events during the legislative session is getting lawmakers to come out to their events. Wiggins says the AzAA informs lawmakers about the event in several ways, including sending people in person to remind lawmakers, sending emails and making phone calls.

“The organization works together to make it an event of awareness and a beneficial opportunity to discuss issues and gain more information with a great speaker for the event,” she says.

Ultimately, she says, the Arizona Aviation Association is a great organization that collaborates to advance the aviation industry and the economic activity it creates and attracts. “The collaborative partnerships, agency involvements, and open doors for discussion make us a dynamic group who work together to meet the needs of our communities and state.”

2015BOTCmarinecorpsBest Awards Event – Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Gala

The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation’s Arizona Awards Dinner, which is receiving its first Best of the Capitol win this year, is not the typical fundraising gala, according to Arizona Campaign Co-Chair Andy McMillian.

“We host the event with a true focus on honoring local leaders and Marines and recognizing our outstanding Arizona scholarship recipients,” McMillian says.

Staying true to the mission of the organization is the most important thing about hosting an awards event, he says.

“It’s important to have a good time,” McMillian says. “But always remember the reason you are there is to support a great cause – in our case it’s to honor Marines by educating their children.”

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce strives to keep its honoree event, the ATHENA Awards, on schedule during business hours, “to respect our attendees’ time.”

In addition to respecting attendees’ time, GPCC spokesman Mike Huckins says “honestly and sincerely conveying the honorees stories in the hopes of inspiring others to overcome barriers and achieve success,” is the thing to remember when hosting an event.

Equality Arizona says the organization makes sure its annual Awards Dinner ends at exactly 9:30 p.m. “so guests can make their way to the famed after party.” The organization says it aims to create a memorable buzz mainly because it “excites people to attend future events.”

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Heritage Award Dinner has been nominated in this category several times. The chamber honored former Gov. Jan Brewer in 2014 for her “32 years of elected public service” says Arizona Chamber events director Cylee Gutting.

Gutting adds that the chamber is honored to be nominated for the award and will “continue to strive for excellence and professionalism in presentation and execution at our events.”

2015BOTCrock productsBest Cocktail Party – Arizona Rock Products Association “The Rock”

After being narrowly edged out by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Kickoff last year for Best Cocktail Party, this year, the Arizona Rock Products Association’s “The Rock” event came out on top with voters.

AzRPA Executive Director Steve Trussel says his group’s mixer is the “best time this side of the Capitol!”

Mike Huckins of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce said the organization’s annual Legislative Kick-Off is a great way to allow people to mingle while recognizing the state’s leaders.

“It’s a fun event and a unique opportunity for legislators, business leaders, Valley professionals and community members to connect and network in a relaxed, yet lively, atmosphere while honoring the leadership of the Legislature,” Huckins says.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Complete list of 2015 Best of the Capitol honorees
1. Best Elected Official – Republican

Attorney General Mark Brnovich
Rep. Heather Carter
Gov. Doug Ducey
Rep. Karen Fann
Sen. Kelli Ward
2. Best Elected Official – Democratic
Sen. Carlyle Begay
Sen. Katie Hobbs
Rep. Eric Meyer
Sen. Catherine Miranda
Rep. Bruce Wheeler
3. Best Debater – Republican Lawmaker
Sen. Andy Biggs
Rep. Heather Carter
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth
Rep. J.D. Mesnard
Sen. Kelli Ward
4. Best Debater – Democratic Lawmaker
Sen. Steve Farley
Sen. Katie Hobbs
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis
Rep. Eric Meyer
Rep. Bruce Wheeler
5. Best Committee Chair
Rep. Heather Carter
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth
Rep. Justin Olson
Rep. Frank Pratt
Sen. Don Shooter
6. Best Dressed – Male
Sen. Carlyle Begay
Ryan O’Daniel
Michael Racy
Russell Smoldon
Michael Vargas
7. Best Dressed – Female
Jessie Hanna
Kelsey Lundy
Sen. Catherine Miranda
Christen Monti
Secretary of State Michele Reagan
8. Best Shoes – Male
Sen. Carlyle Begay
Stuart Luther
Steve Moortel
Russell Smoldon
Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump
9. Best Shoes – Female
Sen. Katie Hobbs
Beth Lewallen
Secretary of State Michele Reagan
Genevra Richardson
Rep. Ceci Velasquez
10. Best Handbag
Melissa DeLaney
Erin Mahrt
Diane McCallister
Secretary of State Michele Reagan
Susie Stevens
11. Best Hair – Male
Sen. Carlyle Begay
Marcus Dell’Artino
Dave Kopp
Danny Seiden
Michael Vargas
12. Best Hair – Female
Rep. Brenda Barton
Ginna Carico
Ceara Chirovsky
Jessie Hanna
Marilyn Purvis
13. Best Lobbyist – Male
Steve Barclay
Don Isaacson
Jim Norton
Jeff Sandquist
Russell Smoldon
14. Best Lobbyist – Female
Wendy Briggs
Janna Day
Kelsey Lundy
Barbara Meaney
Jessica Pacheco
15. Best Lobbyist under 40 – Male
Todd Baughman
Jeff Gray
Chad Guzman
Ryan Harper
Josh Kredit
16. Best Lobbyist under 40 – Female
Camila Alarcon
Amy Love
Diane McCallister
Marilyn Purvis
Cheyenne Walsh
17. Best Testifier in Committee
Barry Aarons
Rory Hays
Don Isaacson
Amy Love, Arizona Supreme Court
H.T. Sanchez, Tucson Unified School District superintendent
18. Best Staffer
Wendy Baldo, Senate majority chief of staff
Jeff Kros, Senate majority policy advisor
Brett Mecum, House majority strategy and policy advisor
Pele Peacock, House majority policy advisor
Tami Stowe, House majority chief of staff
19. Best Political Rising Star – Male
Rep. Noel Campbell
Rep. Randy Friese
George Khalaf, Arizona Republican Party political director
Danny Seiden, governor’s deputy chief of staff
Rep. Jeff Weninger
20. Best Political Rising Star – Female
Rep. Regina Cobb
Rep. Charlene Fernandez
Gretchen Martinez, governor’s director of legislative affairs
Sara Mueller, governor’s senior advisor
Sen. Kelli Ward
21. Best Power Broker
Kirk Adams
Sen. Andy Biggs
Robert Graham, AZ Republican Party chairman
Glenn Hamer
Sean Noble
22. Best Political Operative
Chuck Coughlin
Robert Graham, AZ Republican Party chairman
Chad Heywood, AZ Republican Party executive director
Sean Noble
Danny Seiden, governor’s deputy chief of staff
23. Best Campaign Consultant
Kirk Adams
Paul Bentz
Sean Noble
Constantin Querard
J.P. Twist
24. Best PR Person
Matthew Benson, Veridus
Melissa DeLaney, Ducey gubernatorial campaign
Stephanie Grisham, House majority caucus
Barrett Marson, Marson Media
Daniel Scarpinato, governor’s office
25. Best PR Firm
Marson Media
R&R Partners
26. Best Twitterer
Paul Bentz (@prbentz)
Beth Lewallen (@ItalicizedAZ)
Barrett Marson (@barrettmarson)
Robbie Sherwood (@RobbieSherwood)
Daniel Stefanski (@DStefanski)
27. Best Candidate Campaign
Attorney General Mark Brnovich
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas
Gov. Doug Ducey
Secretary of State Michele Reagan
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema
28. Best Independent Expenditure/Ballot Measure Campaign
DC London in support of Doug Ducey
Yes on Prop 122 (rejecting federal overreach)
Yes on Prop 303 (Right to Try)
Yes on Prop 480 (Maricopa hospital)
No on Prop 487 (Phoenix pension reform)
29. Best Campaign Sign
Gov. Doug Ducey
Get Ahead With Fred (supporting Fred DuVal)
Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman
No on Prop 480 (Maricopa hospital)
T.U.S.K./Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (opposing Doug Little)
30. Best Campaign TV Ad or Web Video
60 Plus Association, “Russian Roulette”
Jeff DeWit, “Go and Vote”
Frank Riggs, “The Clear Choice”
Scott Smith, “Really?!?”
Andrew Thomas, “Before It’s Too Late”
31. Best Grassroots Effort
Arizona Craft Brewers Guild in support of SB1030
Arizona Republican Party, 2014 elections
Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas
No on Prop 487 (Phoenix pension reform)
Yes on Prop 475 (Tempe, LGBT rights)
32. Best Power Couple
Clint and Shawnna Bolick
Kate and Ruben Gallego
Jim and Kelly Norton
Ann and Danny Seiden
Kathy and Paul Senseman
33. Best After Hours Hangout
Pizza People Pub
The Henry
The Vig Fillmore
34. Best Place to Impress a Client
Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails
Steak 44
The Capital Grille
The governor’s office
35. Best Capitol Lawn Event
Arizona Aviation Day
Arizona Game and Fish Legislative Day
Arizona Mining Association
Arizona Optometric Association Lunch on the Lawn
Arizona Pipe Trades Local 469 Lunch on the Lawn
36. Best Awards Event
Arizona Chamber of Commerce Heritage Awards
Equality Arizona
Governor’s Arts Award Ceremony
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Awards
Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation Gala
37. Best Cocktail Party
Arizona Rock Products Association “The Rock”
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Legislative Kickoff
GCSECA at Rustler’s Rooste
R&R open house
Veridus Purple Party

One comment

  1. Nice.

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