Top 10 stories of 2010: Quayle, immigration and the GOP wave

Alexander Maclean//December 30, 2010

Top 10 stories of 2010: Quayle, immigration and the GOP wave

Alexander Maclean//December 30, 2010

SB 1070; Rise of Russell Pearce

After spending much of the 2010 regular legislative session focusing on the budget and an ailing economy, legislative Republicans redirected the conversation completely with SB1070, while creating a new GOP leader in the process.

A firestorm of praise and protest followed Gov. Jan Brewer’s signing of the law on April 23, which made national headlines for months.

The provision that sparked the fiercest opposition allowed local law enforcement to detain and verify the citizenship of anyone that they came into contact with and had “reasonable suspicion” was in the country illegally. Civil-rights groups claimed that this provision could lead to Hispanic citizens and legal immigrants being unjustly targeted by police.

Activists, local governments and even the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles called for boycotts of the state. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva publicly supported the boycotts, which nearly cost him his seat in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District — a district he had long dominated.

Political leaders and supporters defended the law, saying it was created in response to the federal government’s inaction concerning border security. The bold move by the state was met with a lawsuit from U.S. Department of Justice, seeking to halt implementation of the law on grounds that it usurped federal authority.

The day before the law was scheduled to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked many of SB1070’s most controversial provisions, including the ability for police to verify citizenship.

Prior to SB1070, Brewer’s main focus had been on the economy. Political observers didn’t give Brewer much of a chance at winning election to a full term. After signing SB1070 and subsequently becoming a national figure in the illegal immigration debate, Brewer continuously polled ahead of Democrat Terry Goddard and went on to defeat him in the gubernatorial election by 12 percentage points. Those who had been involved with crafting the bill, including Sen. Russell Pearce, saw their political stock rise.

“Clearly, just like I’ve heard on the news all week long, especially tonight, the governor wouldn’t have won her race without 1070,” he said on Election Night.

Assured Budget Cuts, Attempted Budget Fills

A budget shortfall of $2.2 billion led Gov. Jan Brewer and lawmakers to make a series of spending cuts during the year. Nothing was safe from the chopping block, including health care and education. The cuts spawned fierce opposition from the federal government, state agencies and activists.

Brewer spearheaded legislation early in the year that would have eliminated a state Medicaid program for children in low-income families known as KidsCare, but the new federal health care law forced the Legislature to reinstate the program. Lawmakers instead imposed an enrollment freeze on the program that has since denied coverage to thousands of children.

Brewer’s most controversial health care cut came late in the year when several types of organ transplant surgeries were dropped from the list of procedures covered by Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid program. Her office defended the decision by characterizing most transplants as optional or palliative.

However, Brewer changed her tone considerably in a Dec. 17 letter to incoming U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, when she called the transplants “potentially life-saving.”

In July, the state saved more than $200 million by cutting funding for all-day kindergarten. Brewer also proposed the dismantling of the early-childhood development program First Things First to clear the way to transfer the program’s $345 million budget to the general fund. The ballot initiative to move the money, Proposition 302, was resoundingly defeated.

More budget cuts are imminent since the fiscal 2010 state budget was “balanced” with the assumption that Prop. 302 would pass.

GOP’s November to Remember

Nationally, Republicans rode a wave of momentum created by joblessness, the poor economy and angst over policies pushed by the controlling Democrats. In Arizona, that wave combined with sentiments about SB1070 formed a tsunami, handing absolute control of the state to Republicans. But not every member of the party was celebrating.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans became the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives after gaining 63 seats. Two of Arizona’s U.S. House seats held by Democrats flipped to Republicans. Republican Paul Gosar defeated incumbent Democrat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. Republican David Schweikert was successful in his rematch of the 2008 election against incumbent Democrat Rep. Harry Mitchell in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.

Arizona Republicans outdid the national trend by clinching veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature. The GOP will begin the 50th Legislature on Jan. 10 with 40 out of 60 House seats and 21 of 30 Senate seats.

Republicans in the state also captured all of the statewide offices for the first time since 1994.

While many Republicans celebrated their gains on Election Night, not every member of the party was tipping back the bubbly.

Jeff Flake, a Republican who easily won re-election in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, held a small gathering in one of the downtown Hyatt Hotel’s meeting rooms on Election Night.

“I don’t think we ought to celebrate for too long,” said Flake, known for occasionally stoking the ire of his GOP colleagues. “If we don’t do what we need to do, it will be a short stint in the majority.”

Legislators Rush to Resign (And Miscalculate Their Chances)

Arizona’s electoral history shows that legislators who resign to run for Congress do not necessarily have an advantage over other candidates. That trend was reinforced again this year when four legislators who resigned their legislative seats ended up out of elected office entirely.

Anthem Republicans Rep. Sam Crump and Sen. Pam Gorman and Phoenix Republican Sen. Jim Waring all jumped at the chance to run in the primary for Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by longtime Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg. The state legislators apparently overestimated their popularity, as GOP voters nominated Arizona political neophyte Ben Quayle to challenge Democrat Jon Hulburd. In what was one of the more lively races of 2010, Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, handily beat Hulburd by 11 percentage points.

Tucson Republican Sen. Jonathon Paton also resigned from his seat in Legislative District 30 to run for Congress. He apparently underestimated the appeal of political newcomer Jesse Kelly, who beat Paton in the Republican primary for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District by 7 percentage points. Kelly later lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Thirty sitting Arizona legislators have run for Congress during the past 28 years. Ten of the 30 made it past the primary, and five actually won.

Tour-de-Legislature Ends for Quelland

Former Phoenix Rep. Doug Quelland, a Republican, really believes in Arizona’s Clean Elections system. He even appeared in a 2006 PBS video entitled “Votes for Sale,” to espouse the values of publicly funded campaigns.

After an investigation spurred by a post-election complaint filed in November 2008, the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission ordered Quelland, a small-business owner, to vacate his Legislative District 10 seat and pay a fine of $45,000 for spending violations during his 2008 House campaign. Quelland appealed the decision to Administrative Law Judge Thomas Shedden, who upheld the commission’s ruling late last year.

Undaunted by Shedden’s ruling, Quelland appealed to the Maricopa County Superior Court, where Judge Crane McClennen ratified Quelland’s ouster. Quelland’s attorney Tim Casey said at the time that his client might take the case to the Arizona Court of Appeals, but he ultimately decided against taking the appeal any further and Quelland finally relinquished his seat.

Because there are no laws preventing him from doing so, Quelland ran for the same House seat this year he was removed from, again using the Clean Elections system.

Quelland received no endorsements and no support from Republicans in his district or Maricopa County, who saw him as a damaged candidate in a district that has recently seen a Democratic surge.

Quelland ultimately came up short in the GOP primary against former House Speaker Jim Weiers and Kimberly Yee, who had been appointed to replace him.

Quayle Avoids Derail

The stock of Ben Quayle’s name alone seemed to assure that he would have an easy path to victory in the wide-open race for Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District seat, but controversies threatened to ice his political aspirations.

Quayle may have needed a modern-day miracle worker to salvage his image, and he perhaps found just what he needed in public relations specialist Gordon James.

Quayle’s troubles began when campaign mailers were sent out that may have given the wrong impression about him. The mailers featured a photograph of the young candidate interacting with two children and expressed how Quayle and his wife planned on raising their family in the district.

The thing is: Quayle doesn’t have any children, and a campaign spokesman said they were included in the mailer simply because they were “cute kids.”

Several of Quayle’s primary opponents went on the attack by claiming that the mailers were a veiled attempt at portraying Quayle as something he is not.

Days later, word leaked out that Quayle had been involved in the creation of the racy, sexually oriented website DirtyScottsdale.com, the precursor to the infamous TheDirty.com. Quayle denies the allegations, but the website’s founder fired back with excerpts from a column documenting a young man’s exploits with women in the Scottsdale nightlife scene that he claimed was authored by Quayle years earlier. The column, whose author used the pseudonym “Brock Landers,” a fictional porn star from the film “Boogie Nights,” chronicled his search for “the hottest chick in Scottsdale.”

Quayle’s Republican primary opponents quickly seized the opportunity to paint him as a dishonest, party boy who was hoping the strength of his dad’s name and political connections would be enough to get him a congressional seat.

As Quayle’s campaign appeared to be quickly sinking, he aligned himself with a Phoenix-based public relations firm run by James, who had previously done PR work for the presidential campaigns of both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

The campaign struck back.

On Aug. 11, one day after Quayle’s involvement with DirtyScottsdale.com had made national headlines, the candidate unleashed a number of advertisements on the Internet that featured him boldly proclaiming President Barack Obama as “the worst president in history” and that he would go to Washington and “knock the hell out of the place.”

The ads effectively shifted attention away from the controversies and toward Quayle’s positions and ideas as a would-be congressman. The bold ads helped Quayle overcome declining polling numbers to win the Republican nomination.

Ultimately, James’ wizardry and Quayle’s charisma and family name prevailed, as Quayle won by 11 percentage points, or about 25,000 votes over Democrat Jon Hulburd.

Goddard’s (Presumed) Political Death

The third time proved no charm for Terry Goddard as he lost his gubernatorial bid this year, possibly signaling the end of his 28-year political career in Arizona.

Goddard’s first bid for governor came in 1990 when he won the Democratic nomination after serving seven years as the mayor of Phoenix. He lost the general election to Republican Fife Symington after a runoff and lost the Democratic nomination for governor in 1994 to Eddie Basha.

When then-Secretary of State Jan Brewer ascended to the governorship following Janet Napolitano’s appointment as secretary of Homeland Security in 2008, Goddard who has been serving as attorney general, saw an opportunity for yet another shot at becoming governor.

Early in the race, Goddard seemed to have a fair shot at actually getting to the Ninth Floor this time around. But Brewer signed SB1070, thrusting her into the forefront of the national immigration debate and into the frontrunner spot in the 2010 gubernatorial race. And she never looked back.

Goddard was publicly against SB1070 even though he said he would “enforce the state’s laws.” He was also opposed to the state’s lawsuit over the federal health care law, which painted him as swimming against the tide of Arizona’s brewing battles against the federal government.

There has since been no official word from Goddard about his future in politics, and some politicos theorize that this year may have been his last stand.

Death of ‘Jobs Bill’ (H2250)

A disagreement between the Senate and the House over the timing of HB2250, a bill aimed at lowering business taxes and creating jobs, led to the eventual demise of the legislation pushed by House Speaker Kirk Adams.

House Republicans, who had passed HB2250 on Jan. 28, ran into a problem in the Senate when the bill stalled.

During a special budget session in February, House Republicans tried to force Senate President Bob Burns’ hand by amending one of the budget bills (SB1002) to link it with HB2250. The amendment made the enactment of that budget measure, conditional on passage of HB2250.

The Senate refused to bend, and responded by sending a sine die or adjournment committee to the House. Eventually, the Legislature ended that special session without tackling the amended budget bill (SB1002). Burns said at the time that HB2250 was less important than closing the $4 billion in deficit that remained in the fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 budgets. He let HB2250 die in the Senate.

The February special session budget standoff had House and Senate members accusing each other of holding up the process. “The Senate is being held hostage by the House to pass their jobs bill,” said Sen. Linda Gray, a Republican from Glendale.

House Majority Leader John McComish said it was the Senate that had failed to complete the mission.

“We passed the (rollover) bill as amended, as is our prerogative,” he said. “We have some members who are upset that (the Senate) hasn’t dealt with what we passed.”

Supporters of the House amendment said HB2250 was needed to fix the state’s economy and, ultimately, the root of the budget problems facing the state.

Battling the Feds

Simmering tensions over immigration issues have left Arizonans and state lawmakers at odds with the federal government for years.

This year, those tensions boiled over into a full-scale battle on multiple fronts.

State officials and lawmakers have long harbored ill will toward the federal government for what they see as a lack of an effective policy on dealing with immigration issues and a lack of securing the border well enough against illegal immigration, since border security is a federal responsibility.

Since inheriting the position, Gov. Jan Brewer has been outspoken in demanding that the federal government allocate more resources to border security in Arizona. While the federal government has been slow in its response, and some say stingy with its funding, the state has been forced to pick up the tab on the costs associated with illegal immigration.

Lawmakers decided that this year they would take matters into their own hands with SB1070, which in general grants more authority to local police for immigration enforcement. In doing so, they provoked the feds into a lawsuit against the state.

The state also sued the federal government over the new federal health care law’s mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health care plans. Also, Arizona voters in November passed a ballot initiative that allows for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, regardless of federal narcotics laws.

A New, Refreshing Party

The Tea Party movement, which started out as a string of protests across the country, became an influential player in politics this year.

Several Republican candidates throughout the nation ran on the somewhat anti-establishment Tea Party platform of limited government and reeling-in “out-of-control” spending and taxing by politicians.

Some Tea Party-backed Republican candidates even went toe-to-toe with their GOP establishment counterparts, but in Arizona, the Tea Party movement more likely helped energize an already present sect of the Arizona Republican Party.

The state’s numerous conservative Republicans share many Tea Party ideals. While Arizona Republicans have made a shift to the right during recent years, the Tea Party movement was largely embraced by the GOP as a whole, giving a boost to the conservatives in its ranks.

Congressional elections in a number of other states saw Tea Party-supported candidates oust established Republicans during the primaries. Both Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Marco Rubio in Florida ran with Tea Party support and defeated their Republican counterparts in their primaries. In contrast to Arizona, the Tea Party movement in those states largely worked outside of the GOP.

Don Shooter, former chairman of the Yuma Tea Party, used the group’s ideals to his advantage during his race for the Senate in Legislative District 24.

Shooter, who has a large graphic with the phrase “More Government = Less Freedom” on his website, came out with one of the more surprising victories of the election against well-known incumbent Democrat Amanda Aguirre after getting on the ballot through a write-in candidacy.

Going into the 2011 session, it remains to be seen if the Republicans can keep their massive caucuses in each chamber from fracturing, as is often the case when one group controls a large number of seats.