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Prop. 100: Brewer’s knockout punch?

Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to a room of supporters after early returns from the polls showed Proposition 100 prevailing by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. (Photo by Josh Coddington)

Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to a room of supporters after early returns from the polls showed Proposition 100 prevailing by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. (Photo by Josh Coddington)

A year ago, Jan Brewer’s proposed sales tax hike seemed like a goner and her political career didn’t seem far behind, but after voters cast their ballots for Proposition 100, the landslide victory may be enough to carry her to a full term as governor.

Voters approved Prop. 100 by a 64-36 margin, handing Brewer what many observers view as a knockout punch against her challengers in the Republican primary and the general election.

The victory party by the Yes on 100 committee wasn’t a celebration for the governor per se, but the sea of red ‘Brewer for governor’ shirts in the crowd was an unmistakable reminder that Brewer and Prop. 100 are essentially one and the same.

Brewer’s campaign had been picking up speed after signing S1070, Arizona’s strict new illegal immigration law, and pushing Arizona into a lawsuit against the new federal health care law. But the overwhelming win in the May 18 special election effectively ended the campaign, said political consultant Jason Rose.

“What it does is allow a fat lady to start warming up her chords on the Ninth Floor,” Rose said. “What happened tonight gives her an electability argument that no one else can offer. It didn’t pass 51-49. It passed in rarified air for a tax-increase election.”

Since Brewer took on Washington, D.C. by challenging the health care law and rallied the Republican base, her polling numbers have shot up. A Rasmussen Reports poll in early May showed her with a 10-point lead over her nearest Republican challenger.

Brewer’s challengers for the Republican nomination – state Treasurer Dean Martin, businessman Buz Mills and former Board of Regents president and Arizona GOP Chairman John Munger – have made Brewer’s efforts to temporarily raise the sales tax rate the centerpiece of their campaigns. Lobbyist Stan Barnes, a former Republican lawmaker, said Prop. 100 crippled their campaigns.

“There is a giant wind in the sails of Gov. Brewer in the Republican primary because, should opponents in the primary attack her for supporting the idea, she has the ultimate answer, which is the people of Arizona are with me,” Barnes said. “And when you can claim with authority that the people of Arizona are with you, that’s the trump card.”

Barnes also said the victory is a bad omen for Attorney General Terry Goddard, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Goddard opposed S1070, which has the support of most Arizonans, and held off on taking sides in the Prop. 100 debate until the week before the vote.

“I would hate to be Terry Goddard’s advisor right now,” Barnes said.

Rose was a bit more flippant in his assessment of Goddard’s chances against Brewer, tweeting that Prop. 100 relegated Goddard to a strategy based on Rosary beads.

Professor Fred Solop, who heads up the political science department at Northern Arizona University, said the Prop. 100 win helps Brewer co-opt Goddard on education issues, normally a strength of Democratic candidates. Goddard was silent on Prop. 100 for most of the debate, he said, letting Brewer pick up all the momentum from the issue.

“It does take some of the wind out of his sails,” Solop said. “It’s a vote of confidence in Jan Brewer and her leadership on this issue.”

At the Yes on 100 election night event at Madison #1 Middle School, a visibly emotional Brewer said Arizona voters had made the right choice in approving Prop. 100. Afterward, she described the vote as a sign that Arizonans knew that she was right when she said the tax hike was necessary.

“I think that it means that the people … throughout the state have listened, heard me tell the truth and voted accordingly,” Brewer said.

Chuck Coughlin, who runs the lobbying and consulting group HighGround and is one of Brewer’s closest advisors, said Brewer put her political career on the line when she proposed a temporary sales tax increase, and it paid off. Despite the fact that many, if not most, of the other candidates at the Yes on 100 event were Democrats, Coughlin said the lopsided margin of victory for the tax hike was a sign that Republicans stood with Brewer as well.

“This is the definition of leadership,” Coughlin said. “I’m confident we won Republicans tonight. We had a majority of Republicans supporting this initiative.”

Not everyone believed Prop. 100 was the make-or-break moment that Coughlin and others described it as. Many Republicans who opposed Prop. 100 said a loss would’ve hurt far more than the win will help, and said that despite her strong credentials on conservative issues like illegal immigration, GOP primary voters aren’t going to forget that Brewer advocated for a tax increase.

“I think this will be a double-edged sword. It won’t help her at all in the primary. Those voters won’t look as favorably on a tax increase as all the voters who voted on Prop. 100,” said Sen. Thayer Verschoor, who formed a campaign committee to oppose Prop. 100. “It could come back to haunt her – I’m not saying this to be mean, but a Republican supporting a tax increase makes life difficult in a primary.”

Pollster Michael O’Neil, of the firm O’Neil Associates, said the full impact of the special election won’t be clear until he sees how her opponents portray it. And even then, her best bet is for her three opponents to split up the primary vote to the point where she can pull through.

“I think it gives her a little boost. Look at what happened to Obama,” he said, referring to the boost President Barack Obama got from the passage of the federal health care bill in March.

Before May 18 ended, Brewer’s opponents were already downplaying the notion that it was a victory for her. Camilla Strongin, Mills’ campaign consultant, said she wasn’t surprised to see Prop. 100 pass – the Yes on 100 committee and its allies raised more than $2.2 million, while their opponents raised just $1,200 – but said Brewer shored up her credentials as a tax-raising Republican.

And despite being a champion for education spending, the focal point of the Yes on 100 campaign, the Arizona Education Association and other groups that pumped money into the pro-Prop. 100 effort would likely be supporting Goddard in November, Verschoor said.

“The big cheerleaders for Yes on 100 were the AEA and the firefighters, and I’m not sure they’re big Republican primary voters,” he said.

Click here to read “Voters overwhelmingly approve Prop. 100”


  1. Jan Brewer is on her way to the nomination for president, not just secure in her standing as a courageous leader. I disagree with the statement by Thayer Verschoor that the Prop. 100 win will somehow be a double-edged sword. Verschoor is a classic luke-warm politician that lives by polls and not ideals. The same majority that applies in the Prop. 100 success will apply in the primaries. People are not against a tax hike when it is being administered by a smart and courageous leader like Jan Brewer, but they would be if it were proposed and administered by any of the wishy-washy untrustworthy others out there. Go JAN!

  2. Ultimately, this may hurt Governor Brewer as the two elections draw closer. In my circles, she appears to be more of a progressive than a fiscal conservative. Any actions taken that are supported by her base tend to be attributed to 11th hour, crafty, political moves to win elections. Tea Party activists and fiscal conservatives I know see her more as an over-spending progressive. With the push to pass proposition 100, Governor Brewer may have alienated too much of her ‘base.’ Candidates Dean Martin and John Munger have a real opportunity to gain ground with the passage of prop 100. Even if the governor makes it past the primary election, she will have to compete against a more consistent progressive.

  3. Dean Martin is the true Conservative in the race for Governor. He is for lower taxes and smaller government. Everyone needs to get in and throw their support behind Dean Martin.

  4. Frankly, I care nothing for the term conservative, if a person knows nothing about fiscal responsibility, it makes no difference.

    and now AZ is about to get the shaft from electing Hayworth.

    listening to him is like listening to a doll that you pull it’s strings and it spews out political cliches

    someone needs to ask him how his transformation from liberal spending in congress leads us to think now that he’s fiscally responsible.

    as if we should bother with a guy who leaves congress and THEN registers as a lobbyist?

    denial is a conscious choice

  5. The writer of the article forgot Brewer vetoed the bill to stop the huge property tax increase to businesses by the state tax rate which went into effect in 2009. It will hit once again this year, right before the primary.

    Throw in the sales tax, and she is dead. My property tax bill on an office duplex went from under $3000 a year to over $3500, a 17% increase.

    With the Tea Party folks and the Prop 13 folks stirring the pot, this will not be forgotten. Remember Burt Barr who raised the sales tax 1% in 1983, making it permanent in 1985, to “save” the state, He was trounced in the primary by Ev Mecham, a 4 time loser for governor. Funny how Brewer has forgotten this, she was in the legislature at the time. Something about those who fail to learn the lessons of history, etc., etc, seems like deja vu all over again.

    Republican voters are not that dumb to forget such tax folly, remember George Bush, who said “read my lips, I lied”, losing the election in spite of having the highest ratings for a President ever after going into Panama.

    Unless her challengers split the vote equally, she still has an uphill battle for nomination. My money is on her challengers as not being the types that fell of a turnip truck, they will remind her of these actions which will deepen the recession and prevent businesses from coming to Arizona, one of the highest property taxed states in the Union on commercial property.

    Throw in her raising the income tax by being the first governor since 1978 to not conform the income tax to the federal income tax, causing taxpayers more fees to file their income taxes, the Department of Revenue to be out auditing the unemployed to extract more money from them, since all of their unemployment is taxed, and even going after those charitable givers who gave to the Haitian victims, and took a deduction on their federal tax return, now owe part of that money back to Arizona because AZ does not allow the deduction on their 2009 return.

    So let me see: If you were unemployed in 2009, owned property, and felt the Haitians needed some help, and now pay sales taxes at an 18% higher rate, can’t wait to rush to the polls to vote Brewer. The silence you hear is the stampede to the polls to support her.

    Good luck with this track record.

  6. The political reality is that Gov. Brewer has consolidated her hold on the Republican primary elections. The Arizona vote gives empirical evidence that the Anti-100 represented the majoritarian theory of government which failed to explain the loopsided victory of the election. The empirical theory of the coalition of interest groups from Republican and Democratic party created a political consensus which created the 100 victory. The problem for Gov. Brewer is that this coalition no longer will exist for the general election. She will be forced to return to a majoritarian theory of government which does not match the empirical reality. The role of Mr. Terry Goddard is to use the coalition model with progressive republicans and the Arizona democratic party to create a model of political victory. Gov. Brewer has been like the sun at noon and will trace the sun into a majoritarian sunset.

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