Despite Democrats’ best efforts, Sen. Sylvia Allen isn’t going anywhere.
The Snowflake Republican surged to a commanding lead overnight against Democrat Wade Carlisle, continuing her biennial tradition of holding the Legislative District 6 seat for the Republican Party.
Allen has now won three consecutive terms in the northern Arizona district, and did so again in routine fashion.
After early ballot results gave Allen a narrow lead of a few hundred votes on election, day-of voting reports from Gila and Navajo counties helped her surge to a commanding lead. Allen also narrowly won the majority of the vote in Yavapai County, while Carlisle, the vice mayor of Holbrook, handily won in Coconino County. A nearly identical scenario played out on election night two years ago, when Allen beat Democrat Nikki Bagley.
Carlisle, a railroad worker, was backed by a healthy dose of independent expenditures hoping to boost his campaign and harm Allen, a conservative Republican who’s routinely targeted as a beatable candidate.
Allen has proven immune to those efforts, thanks in part to her own penchant for fundraising – she raised nearly $70,000 for the campaign – and a healthy dose of spending by the Senate Victory PAC to help ensure the chamber stays in control of Republicans, as it has been for more than a decade.
For Democrats, the loss is a blow to their chances of picking up any seats in the Arizona Senate, where they’ve spent the better part of the last six years on the short end of a 17-13 split.
—LD6 Senate by the numbers
100 percent of precincts reporting in Coconino, Gila, Navajo and Yavapai counties
The state’s largest utility is staying out of the Republican primary race for two open Arizona Corporation Commission seats, risking a shakeup that could have serious ramifications for the company.
Whether the literal powerhouse that is Arizona Public Service has had a change of heart about its history of election spending or recent events have given the company pause, only company insiders can know. A representative of the company declined to comment for this story.
But by not spending in the primary, APS leaves itself vulnerable to unfriendly newcomers and a commission willing to take another crack at retail electric deregulation.
That would open up the energy retail and generation markets to competition for utilities like APS that are currently allowed to operate as regulated monopolies.
Eight candidates are vying for the open seats this year, five of whom are running as Republicans.
Incumbents Tom Forese, commission chairman, and Justin Olson were running in the Republican primary as a slate but recently parted ways. Though Forese pushed back on rumors of the rift earlier this week, their split became clear when Olson criticized him during a Republican primary debate August 14.
Commission observers have speculated that Forese’s lackluster campaign could cost him the election.
That could be enough to pave the way for Rodney Glassman, who has staked out a clear anti-APS position on the campaign trail. Also in the running are Jim O’Connor and Eric Sloan, both of whom support reviewing last year’s APS rate hike.
Olson has also been known to take positions that conflict with the company’s interests, expressing willingness to dig into election spending in 2014 and opening the door to the deregulation conversation. Both are topics Commissioner Bob Burns is fond of as an ardent APS foe.
Three Democrats are also facing off in the primary. Former Commissioners Bill Mundell and Sandra Kennedy have teamed up against Kiana Maria Spears, who has been criticized for her campaign treasurer’s three-decade history with APS. Mundell previously served on the commission as a Republican but has said he switched parties because of APS’s influence over his GOP colleagues.
Ultimately, seven of these eight candidates are likely votes in favor of at least entertaining deregulation.
Competition would radically alter the environment in which APS currently operates.
As a legal monopoly regulated by the Corporation Commission, APS has guaranteed customers, guaranteed growth and guaranteed profits. The latter translated to spending power in the 2016 election cycle, during which APS was not shy about backing its allies and spending against its foes. However, the company has categorically refused to say if it was the source of millions in dark money spent in 2014.
But such activities have brought APS and its benefactors under scrutiny.
Former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker said it was a bad move for APS to start spending in the Corporation Commission elections to begin with. Parker ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the commission in 2014. He said he has no doubt APS was the source of nearly $900,000 in dark money that was spent against him in the Republican primary that year – ironic because he said he likely would have sided with the company more often than not.
He said APS’s spending has tainted the commission and those perceived to be beholden to the company, offering Forese as an example. Now, Parker suspects the so-called “Ghost Lobby” trial in particular has made APS reticent and waiting to see what more could unravel.
“Operation Ghost Lobby” was the name given to the federal bribery case brought against former Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, his wife Sherry Pierce, lobbyist Jim Norton and utility owner George Johnson. The case went to trial but ended in a hung jury, and has since been dismissed.
Parker said that case just scratched the surface, and there’s more not yet known that could expose APS.
“Ghost Lobby” stemmed from “Operation High Grid,” a larger investigation into spending in the 2014 elections, widely believed to include APS’s involvement.
“Hopefully, they’ve seen that being involved in the Corp Comm races can drag them into things that they probably should not be involved in,” Parker said.
Then there’s the far more optimistic possibility he entertained: “No pun intended here, but hopefully they’ve seen the light that it’s best to let the voters make up their own minds.”
But attorney Court Rich, of Rose Law Group, scoffed at the notion that APS has “seen the light” and decided that it’s inappropriate to spend in elections.
“Someone was seriously making that statement?” Rich said. “The idea that APS has decided to get out of politics – there’s no evidence to support that.”
Rich is the director of Rose Law Group’s Renewable Energy Department. His solar energy clients have fought APS for years. While APS hasn’t gotten involved in the Corporation Commission races just yet, it has spent millions on a campaign to keep the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative off the ballot.
If approved, the initiative would mandate that 50 percent of electricity generated in Arizona come from renewable sources by 2030. APS and its allies argue that such a high mandate, which far exceeds current Corporation Commission mandates, would increase power costs.
And Rich anticipates APS will “continue to spend like crazy in the general election.” For now, the company seems comfortable with the race and is simply waiting to see who comes out on top after the primary. Perhaps then a negative campaign against its least favorite candidates would be the most prudent use of the company’s money, Rich said, or maybe APS doesn’t anticipate a major shakeup at the commission in any event.
No candidate will ever say he or she is beholden to APS, Rich said, but even an unwilling Republican would likely be better for the company than a Democrat on the commission.
“Certainly it’s fashionable for candidates on either side to not speak highly of APS right now,” he said. “But maybe they have a better feeling about some of the primary candidates and they don’t think they have to worry.”
With deregulation back on the table, though, APS may have to rethink its strategy entirely.
Commissioner Bob Burns, who will leave office in 2020 because of term limits, insists it’s re-regulation.
“That was a $5 million-plus word fought over in 2013,” he said, referring to the last time the commission considered the issue.
At first, all five commissioners at the time were on board, Burns recalled, but APS turned it into a “public political campaign.”
“And then all hell broke loose, and money started flying,” he said. “I guess you could say it was never in the control of the commission.”
The effort died soon after.
Then-Commissioner Gary Pierce flipped and moved to end discussion of the issue after the commission was advised that deregulation would likely require a voter-approved amendment to the Arizona Constitution. Then-Commissioner Brenda Burns was the only dissenting vote as her colleagues voted 4-1 to end the debate.
Bob Burns said APS sees the prospect of competition as a significant threat to its income.
He’s heard the phrase “utility death spiral” thrown around in years past, but he doesn’t hear that anymore and disagrees with the premise anyway.
Burns sees technology on the rise and capable of altering the status quo. Even if that means APS won’t be in the energy generation business in the future, he said distribution needs will still give the company space to function.
And that space may well be APS’s future: a distribution monopoly but perhaps not much more.
Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard is likely going to be a senator, and perhaps the next Senate president.
The Chandler Republican spent the last two years guiding the House of Representatives through a tumultuous period that saw lawmakers make history by expelling one of their colleagues. Termed out of the House, Mesnard is now leading the race in Legislative District 17 to represent it in the Senate.
With early ballots reported, Mesnard is handily defeating Chandler Democratic Steve Weichert, who also ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2016.
If Mesnard’s lead holds, he’s got another race to run on Nov. 7: He’s vying to become the next Arizona Senate president, and would succeed the current senator from LD17, Republican Steve Yarbrough, in that role.
Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, is also running for the top leadership role in the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema was once a member of the liberal Green Party and a self-described “Prada socialist,” but now she’s one of the congressional Democrats most likely to vote with President Donald Trump and a champion of moderate compromise. Though she had token opposition from the left in the August 28 Arizona primary for the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate, Democrats are largely united behind her.
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally represents a moderate Arizona district and was a Trump critic in 2016, but she has since warmly embraced him and won her party’s Senate nomination. She defeated two challengers from her right in the Republican primary, but may emerge with less than half of GOP primary voters supporting her after being slammed as a flip-flopper by opponents.
The Senate race in Arizona is shaping up to be a tale of two pivots – Sinema’s transformation over the years against McSally’s more abrupt swing on Trump, the most divisive issue in politics today. The different ways the two congresswomen’s maneuverings have been received by their parties illustrate how Republicans and Democrats police their own politicians, especially in Arizona, where the GOP has won every statewide election since 2006.
“The Democrats who are unhappy with who she is are willing to put up with that just to win a Senate seat,” said Constantine Querard, a GOP strategist renowned for helping conservative Arizona Republicans win primaries. “Republicans are used to winning, so now we want a good one.”
McSally and Sinema will face off for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who’s stepping down after his criticisms of Trump made his re-election impossible. And their race begins in the shadow of the death of John McCain, the state’s senior senator whose refusal to follow GOP orthodoxy helped fuel the Republican base’s demands for purity.
Not only have potential voters responded differently to their shifts, Sinema and McSally describe them differently as well.
Sinema, who once served in the Arizona Legislature, acknowledges her shift, casting it as part of a decade-long learning process. “What I learned early on, my very first term in the Statehouse is when I was willing to listen to other people, to their ideas and work together, you can get a lot of stuff done,” she said at an appearance at a food bank in Phoenix last week.
McSally bristles at any suggestion that she’s changed, noting she only entered politics six years ago – before that she was an Air Force colonel who had served as the first female combat pilot. “It’s a false narrative,” McSally said of the idea that she has tacked rightward. During a campaign trip to the border last week, McSally noted that she met with Trump in March of 2017, before the Senate seat opened up. “I have been working very closely with him since he’s been in office.”
Trump on August 29 endorsed McSally, calling her “an extraordinary woman” in a tweet and saying she “is Strong on Crime, the Border and our under siege 2nd Amendment.”
Nonetheless, McSally was relentlessly characterized by the other Republicans in the primary – former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former state Sen Kelli Ward – as disloyal to Trump. They noted that McSally said Trump’s behavior was “not how leaders carry themselves” and called Trump “disgusting” after a tape of him bragging about groping women surfaced in October of 2016.
“She’s the biggest flip-flopper in history,” Arpaio said of McSally in a recent interview.
Eric Beach, a Ward adviser, said in an interview last week that even if McSally wins she’ll still be wounded – especially given conservatives’ anger at Flake and McCain for bucking Trump.
“The problem she has is can she turn out that Republican base that feels like they were duped before,” Beach said of McSally. “I don’t think she’s going to have a problem reaching the middle. She’s going to have a problem turning out her base.”
But McSally has a secret weapon – Trump himself. He held off on making an endorsement in the primary, though he enthusiastically congratulated McSally on Twitter after her win. McSally has spoken to the president about a post-primary campaign appearance in Arizona.
“He can uniquely motivate the base to get that enthusiasm up,” McSally said, noting that Democrats are already energized.
Trump, of course, comes with his own baggage. Though he won Arizona by 5 percentage points and isn’t unpopular here, he’s at best a wild card, Republican pollster Mike Noble said.
“You have to hug Trump because, if not, you lose your base and you’re screwed, but in the general you have to pivot and convince your moderates and independents who don’t like Trump,” Noble said.
So far, Sinema has had the advantage in the race. She’s been able to spend millions of dollars on ads introducing herself to voters with no pushback and faced no real competitive primary.
But the dynamic changed last week when McSally released her first attack ad against Sinema. It contrasted the likely Democratic nominee in a pink tutu at a September 11 anti-war protest with McSally’s combat service. McSally picked up that theme in her August 28 victory speech, spending much of it slamming Sinema as someone “to the left of Hollywood Democrats.”
“Everything in this Senate race is going to be different on August 29,” predicted Stan Barnes, a veteran GOP lobbyist, noting his party’s strong track record in statewide races. “Republicans have a tremendous head start on Democrats in every general election.”
All signs nationally point to Democratic enthusiasm in November, and Arizona is no different in that respect. And both presumptive nominees are top-tier campaigners and prodigious fundraisers.
A California union has given up on its plan to ask Arizona voters to impose new service and cost restrictions on companies that perform dialysis.
Sean Wherley, spokesman for Service Employees International Union, told Capitol Media Services on Monday his organizations has decided to focus its efforts elsewhere.
Wherley said the SEIU already has filed petitions to get a similar measure on the ballot in California. And he said paperwork is being turned in later this week in a bid to get Ohio voters to adopt a nearly identical plan.
Arizonans will still have plenty of issues to decide in November despite the union’s decision.
The Arizona Association of Realtors is expected to submit petitions Tuesday to impose a constitutional ban on expanding the state sales tax to include services. That would take the possibility of revamping or reconfiguring what is now subject to the state’s 5.6 percent levy off the table even if there is a shift in the economy and what people buy from one based on goods, which are taxable, to one based on services, which would not be taxable under the plan.
Other initiative drives likely to file signatures by Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline include:
– Putting an income tax surcharge on the top 1 percent of wage earners to pay for education funding;
– Requiring utilities to produce half their power from renewable sources by 2030, not including nuclear;
– Imposing a constitutional requirement for public disclosure of the people and organizations trying to influence elections;
– Legalizing possession of marijuana.
All those are in addition to two measures put on the ballot by lawmakers. One asks voters to undermine some of the powers of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and the other seeks changes in constitutional provisions about public employee pension benefits.
And voters also will get to decide whether to ratify or reject a measure approved last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature which expands eligibility for who can qualify for taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.
The SEIU proposal sought annual inspections to check for compliance with laws and rules and how companies are dealing with potentially hazardous waste.
But the real key was to be a cap on the amount dialysis centers could charge patients at no more than 15 percent above their costs. Any profits that exceeded that amount would have to be refunded.
Wherley conceded the measure was aimed specifically at two firms: Fresenius Kidney Care and DaVita Kidney care. He said the two control more than 80 percent of the licensed dialysis centers in the state. Potentially more significant, Wherley acknowledged that both operate here without SEIU employees.
This isn’t the first time SEIU had started petition drives in its fights with employers.
Two years ago it crafted an initiative drive to cap the pay of hospital executives at no more than what the president of the United States is paid, or $450,000 a year. But after gathering what it said was more than 281,000 signatures — far more than needed — the union decided to scrap the effort in the face of challenges to the validity of many of those signatures.
But Wherley sidestepped questions Monday about whether the SEIU was simply using the Arizona initiative process for political purposes in the union’s ongoing battles with hospitals and health care employers.
“There’s only so many states that have ballot initiatives,” he said.
“So we look at them, where does SEIU have a presence, where can health care workers be benefited, where can patients be benefited,” Wherley said. “That’s kind of the calculus that decides where we introduce an initiative and where we submit signatures to qualify.”
In the end, Wherley said, the union decided to not even try to collect signatures on the Arizona proposal.
The union isn’t the only organization to file the paperwork for to put a measure on this year’s ballot but fold its operation before the deadline.
Earlier this year the Humane Society of the United States pulled the plug on its initiative which would have made it illegal to pursue, shoot, snare, net or capture any “wild cat.” That specifically would have applied to bobcats and mountain lions.
Organizers said the effort to gather the minimum 150,642 valid signatures by Thursday’s deadline were hampered by new Arizona law requiring “strict compliance” with all election statutes. They said that made signature gathering more difficult and made it more expensive to hire circulators.
Other apparent non-starters included a measure to have Arizona join with other states to have the president elected by popular vote instead of by the Electoral College, and another aimed at restricting agricultural chemicals that can harm pollinators.
David Garcia says he’s the same candidate he’s always been, but political observers have seen him take a big left turn and embrace a more progressive message than ever before.
And that approach may cost him.
As a candidate for superintendent of public instruction in 2014, he won the support of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and some Republican voters found something to like in him that year.
Now, he cannot expect to draw those voters back to him. But that’s not stopping his progressive agenda.
He still has a primary election to get through before he’ll his shot at Gov. Doug Ducey. But Ducey cannot rest easy until November. He’s facing a primary challenge that could leave him more vulnerable come the general election.
The race for superintendent of public instruction has historically struggled to garner voters’ attention and donors’ dollars.
And this election cycle is proving no different even with the energy that erupted from Red for Ed earlier this year.
But in allowing that old attitude to take hold, the GOP is failing to capitalize on the moment, and that could cost Republicans the office responsible for implementing education policy and distributing billions in school funding.
The final countdown to primary election night has begun. It’s been a challenging election cycle, complete with a swath of political newcomers, familiar faces with new baggage and a fervent call for change in more than one office.
Soon we’ll know who the voters favor to get the job done.
But it’s not over until it’s over. The candidates who emerge victorious next week still have tough battles ahead leading up to the general in November. In this final episode of our summer series, our team spotlights the hottest races and predicts which candidates will come out on top.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Upon review, reporter Paulina Pineda determined a statement she made regarding the relationship between Kathy Petsas and Rep. Maria Syms was not entirely accurate. She had said both candidates have been adamant that they do not support each other; however, Petsas has said that while she does not condone Syms’ effort to undermine Sen. Kate Brophy McGee’s candidacy, she will support an all-Republican ticket in LD28 and has signed the GOP’s “Unity Pledge,” promising to support Syms if the incumbent wins in the general election.
It’s campaign season again – surprise – and that means there’s a slew of candidates hitting the pavement for campaign contributions.
But not everyone has been entirely honest about how they came to be on the campaign trail this year, and an alarmingly high number of signatures gathered by some candidates don’t even seem to be legit.
Meanwhile, some of the higher ticket offices hold no surprises for politicos as at least one incumbent appears to be cruising toward victory – at least as far as his finances are concerned.
Three men running for the state legislature are seeking much more than your votes – they want retribution.
Tim Jeffries and Charles Loftus are already suing the state to clear their names after being removed from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. And Don Shooter is contemplating a suit of his own after departing the Arizona House of Representatives in disgrace, expelled by the vast majority of his colleagues.
These candidates insist their cases against the state will have no impact on their capacity to serve as elected officials, and they’re confident their histories with the current powers that be won’t be enough to deter voters.
Arizona is no stranger to legislative candidates with baggage, but this election cycle stands out for the number of candidates, namely Republicans, who are seeking office despite their tarnished reputations.
Candidates like Don Shooter who was expelled from the state House just this year and Representative David Stringer who made comments widely condemned as racist want a second chance.
And in a year when promises of a blue wave were already being made, Democrats are practically salivating at the chance to flip the seats these toxic candidates seek.
Ken Bennett compared his campaign against Gov. Doug Ducey to Donald Trump taking on the GOP establishment during the 2016 presidential race.
Bennett, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, likened himself to Trump and lashed out at Ducey on education, taxes and the governor’s record in a televised question-and-answer session August 1 on Arizona PBS.
In the half hour interview with “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons, the former secretary of state and Arizona Senate president dismissed the idea that he was ever an establishment Republican.
Bennett, who used to be seen as a folksy and well-liked character within the Republican Party, has taken a hard-right turn as he takes on Ducey in the August 28 primary.
He copied a tactic out of Trump’s playbook as Arizona GOP leaders have urged Bennett to exit the race.
“President Trump beat the Republican establishment and I’m offering myself as a similar option,” he said.
Specifically, Bennett was talking about a new car registration fee that will cost all Arizona motorists approximately $18 per year. Some legislative Republicans also cried foul when it passed the Legislature, labeling it a tax. Ducey has disputed claims that the new, annual fee is a tax.
Bennett — who came in fourth in the six-way gubernatorial primary that Ducey won in 2014 — cited the new fee as one of the accounting “tricks and gimmicks” Ducey used to pay for lofty teacher pay hikes spread out over the next few years.
In the televised interview, Bennett said Ducey “caved” to the “Red for Ed” movement by offering teachers pay bumps after saying the state could not afford such hefty raises for months prior.
“On April 12, he was saying one thing and on April 14, all of a sudden he says something totally different,” Bennett said. “My question was: ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”
Bennett also doubled down on false statements that Ducey told Sen. John McCain to oppose the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which caused the ailing senator to cast a decisive vote against the bill.
He also expressed no remorse for tweeting that Ducey should not appoint Cindy McCain to her husband’s U.S. Senate seat should he vacate the position, which rankled Republicans across the state. Bennett’s tweet was based off unverified reports.
“I think the people of Arizona want transparency from our governor as to who’s on his list,” he said.
Bennett appeared on Arizona PBS as part of a Clean Elections Commission forum. What was initially billed as a debate turned into a question-and-answer session between Bennett and Simons, the host, when Ducey declined to participate.
Candidates seeking public financing for their campaigns are required to participate in the televised Clean Elections forums. With less than a month until the primary election, Bennett still has not turned in enough certified $5 contributions to qualify for $839,704 in public financing he could use in his primary race.
Bennett’s campaign must provide a status report on his contributions to Clean Elections by August 6.
Early voting poll results show Sen. Sean Bowie defending his Senate seat against his old rival, Republican Frank Schmuck.
A Chandler Democrat, Bowie last beat Schmuck in 2016, when the two ran head-to-head for the open Senate seat in Legislative District 18. Now Bowie, the incumbent, is leading Schmuck again on election night.
Bowie spent the last two years in office carving a place in the Senate as a moderate Democrat, knowing that in a competitive swing district like LD18, which spans parts of Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, a bipartisan streak is a necessity. A voting analysis, conducted by the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, found that Bowie voted alike with Republican senators more than any other Democratic lawmaker in 2017.
The vote that perhaps best demonstrated Bowie’s willingness to buck party trends was his yes vote on Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget plan to give Arizona teachers a 20 percent raise over three years. Bowie was one of a handful of Democrats who cast votes in favor of the proposal, avoiding a potential attack from Schmuck on the campaign trail.
While Bowie touted his votes for public school funding, he attacked Schmuck, a Tempe Air Force veteran, for a position Schmuck took in 2016: A proposal to phase out the state’s income tax.
Bowie labeled Schmuck’s prior support of the plan as untenable given the need for even more funding for K-12 schools.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised multiple times since the original publication because of the changing vote tally.
It took nearly two weeks, but it’s finally safe to declare victory for Sen. Kate Brophy McGee.
The Phoenix Republican was left waiting thanks to a slow vote-counting process by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, which released its final batch of tabulated ballots late Monday afternoon. That final count left Brophy McGee’s lead at 267 votes over former Arizona Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh in Legislative District 28.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both candidates since Election Day. What started as an 808 vote lead for Brophy McGee that night nearly doubled to 1,458 votes the morning after. By November 9, that lead would be down to 616 votes.
From then on, Brophy McGee’s lead steadily shrunk as Maricopa County elections officials counted late-early ballots, mail-in ballots that were turned in the day of the midterm election, as well as provisional ballots.
Some days, Brophy McGee earned more votes than Marsh. But more often than not, the updates favored her Democratic challenger, who relied not only a surge of support for Democrats while President Trump occupies the White House, but also strong backing of the #RedforEd movement and public education supporters leary of Republican representation at the Capitol.
Brophy McGee gained some breathing room over the weekend, when a 280-vote advantage grew to 347 votes on Saturday evening. It was enough to help ensure she’d win with enough votes to avoid a recount, which would’ve been triggered by a lead of 50 votes or less.
LD28 candidates, particularly its state senators, routinely face tough elections in an area of Phoenix where Republicans hold a voter registration advantage, but independents often sway races and have a history of electing at least one Democrat to serve at the Capitol.
In Marsh, a high school English teacher riding a groundswell of support from fellow educators amid the #RedforEd movement, Brophy McGee faced arguably her toughest challenge yet.
Brophy McGee has gotten this far by walking a fine line on the campaign trail as a moderate Republican, and overcoming a rash of GOP infighting in the district.
Having finished her first term in the Senate, Brophy McGee isn’t always popular in GOP circles for her political positions, which skew toward bipartisan results. Even her own brother has contributed to her political rivals in the Republican Party, with Brophy McGee explaining her brother and sister-in-law favor more conservative candidates.
Her candidacy was at one point threatened by a fellow Republican, Rep. Maria Syms, whose husband sought to run against Brophy McGee as an independent. Throwing a third candidate, one aligned with a Republican like Syms, could have pulled votes away from Brophy McGee and swung the race in Marsh’s favor.
Following a lawsuit and the discovery that hundreds of the would-be candidate’s signatures were invalid, Brophy McGee was back to the campaign trail, where she told voters she has done all she can to boost funding for education.
Brophy McGee has boasted of her push to extend a sales tax for education, her support of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 20-percent pay raise over three years. She’s even threatened to sue a political committee that accused her of slashing education funding while in office.
Marsh, who has spent 26 years in the classroom, most recently at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, has criticized Republicans like Brophy McGee for not doing enough for teachers. And her pitch, like many other Democrats, focused in part on taking control of the Senate from Republicans, who she accused of leaving schools in a constant state of underfunding.
By surviving Marsh’s challenge, Brophy McGee is now the last remaining Republican legislator in the district. Syms and GOP newcomer Kathy Pappas Petsas were swept in the House race by Democrats Aaron Lieberman and Rep. Kelli Butler.
The Cajero dynasty in the Arizona Legislature has ended after more than 40 years.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Pima County, Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, who was running for one of two vacant House seats in South Tucson’s Legislative District 3, has been defeated.
First-time candidate Andres Cano led in the three-way race and political newcomer Alma Hernandez took the second spot in the Democratic primary. Unofficial results show Cajero Bedford fell short of the second spot by just 332 votes.
Cajero Bedford, who has served in the Legislature for 16 years, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, where she served for eight years. She has served in the state Senate since 2011 and is termed out this year.
Minus a six-year absence between 1996 and 2003, this marks the first time in more than four decades that a Cajero is not in the Legislature. Her parents, Bernardo “Nayo” Cajero and Carmen Cajero, served in the House for 28 years.
Cano has served as Pima County Board of Supervisor Richard Elias’s community liaison since 2012, and he served as Elias’s campaign manager in 2012 and 2016.
Hernandez, the sister of Rep. Daniel Hernandez, who represents neighboring Legislative District 2, works in the public health field. She led Arizonans United for Healthcare, working to defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Cano and Hernandez will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Beryl Baker, the Green Party candidate, who ran unopposed in the primary.
A Maricopa Court judge ruled Friday that Mark Syms, the independent candidate running for the Senate in Legislative District 28, does not have enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.
In a seven-page minute entry, Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury ruled that Syms, husband of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, is 757 signatures short of the 1,250 signatures he needs to qualify for the November general election.
In a complaint filed June 13, attorneys representing plaintiff Robert McGee, the husband of Syms’ political rival, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, challenged 1,930 signatures, 914 of which the attorneys alleged were forged. They had similar handwriting, consecutively numbered addresses and the high rate of collection, attorneys alleged.
In court on Friday, attorney Kory Langhofer, who represents McGee, said that one of the circulators who gathered signatures for Syms gathered more than 300 signatures in one day, a rate that far exceeds the number of signatures gathered by other circulators. He alleged that there were dozens of duplicate signatures on the man’s sheets, some allegedly signed by the same person on consecutive days, and he said the signatures varied from sheet to sheet.
“This is fraud. This is fake,” he said.
Langhofer said the questionable signatures collected by the petition gatherer, coupled with testimony from Anthony Garcia, a known petition gatherer who testified that he never circulated petition sheets for Syms and that his signature was forged on the petitions Syms turned in, and the number of signatures the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office invalidated because the signatures on the petitions didn’t match those on voter registration records was enough evidence to kick Syms off the ballot.
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who testified on behalf of the plaintiff, told the court that of the 1,930 signatures his office reviewed, 1,675 were found to be invalid for various reasons. Of those, 1,176 signatures were invalidated by the Recorder’s Office because the signatures on the petition sheets did not match those on voter registration records.
However, Syms’ attorney Jeremy Phillips questioned the veracity of the recorder’s report, saying that employees in the office don’t have the ability to verify whether a signature belongs to someone. Phillips also questioned why Fontes’ office only did one check of Syms’ signatures, while they conducted second and third checks in other campaigns that have been challenged.
Phillips said the plaintiff’s argument relied heavily on the county’s report, which isn’t reliable.
“They’re trying to ride the County Recorder’s report to glory,” he said.
Fontes testified that employees in his office receive frequent training on how to examine signatures, similar to training that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies receive. He said they look at impressions, slants, swoops and other handwriting styles to determine if a signature is forged.
“This isn’t rocket science, counselor. I’m sure you could even do it,” Fontes said.
He said that there is nothing unusual about how his office conducted its review of Syms’ signatures. He said his office did not conduct a second check on Syms’ signatures because of the short time frame, large percentage of signatures that were challenged and because Syms was so far below the threshold of valid signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot.
In his testimony, Syms testified that he hired a man named Larry Herrera to collect signatures for him. Herrera, a Democrat who ran for the Senate in Legislative District 20, is also facing fraud allegations from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in connection with his failed campaign.
Syms said he was not aware of the forgery allegations against Herrera at the time he hired him, and only became aware of them after he turned in his own signatures. He said he has since asked for a refund but has not received a response from Herrera.
Garcia, the petition gatherer who testified his signature was forged on several of the sheets Syms turned in, told the court he met Herrera earlier this year at a gas station on 35th and Glendale avenues. He said he was wearing a shirt with the name of the firm he works for and Herrera approached him and asked if he would like to collect signatures for him.
He said he collected about 40 signatures for Herrera, including some for Sandra Dowling, a Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District, but didn’t collect any for Syms. He said Herrera tried to recruit him to collect signatures for Syms, telling him that Syms was paying “a lot of money,” but Garcia wasn’t interested. Syms allegedly paid circulators $10 per signature, which would come out to $21,580 for all of the signatures he filed.
In his ruling, Coury wrote that the plaintiff did not present any evidence proving that Syms was actively involved in any fraud scheme or that he was aware of the bad signatures before he turned them in.
“To the contrary, the court would be inclined to find that defendant’s team of signature gatherers, and not defendant, were the ones engaged in the fraudulent practices,” the judge wrote.
Still, Coury wrote that while Syms’ attorneys rehabilitated 10 signatures, meaning they proved the signatures were valid, they did not provide any evidence that proved any of the other 1,665 signatures the county nullified were actually valid.
He also said the defense failed to prove that further review of Syms’ signatures by the county “would have made a material difference – one sufficient to validate anywhere close to 757 signatures.”
Former Rep. John Fillmore said when he first ran for the state Legislature 10 years ago, he was going to personally fund his campaign. A conversation with a sitting lawmaker changed his mind.
Fillmore said he asked the representative how she planned to vote on a bill and she said she wasn’t sure yet.
“‘I haven’t talked to the lobbyist yet,’” Fillmore said she told him. Her response was an eye opener.
Fillmore, a one-term lawmaker from Apache Junction who served from 2011-12, said the conversation prompted him to instead run as a Clean Elections candidate to show voters that lobbyists and political action committees couldn’t buy his vote.
But after four consecutive elections running as a publicly-funded candidate, Fillmore opted to self-fund his campaign this year. He said despite still being a firm believer in the Clean Elections process, he hopes that he can find success by spending money out of his own pocket as he runs for the open House seat in Legislative District 16.
“I had always run ‘Clean’ and sometimes it was to my detriment because my opponents had twice the money I had. This year, there is an open seat, and I figured it’s the last time I’m going to run, so I put in my own money because I believe in what I’m doing,” he said.
Fillmore loaned his campaign $34,322 shortly after launching his campaign in August 2017 and hasn’t raised any money since. It’s roughly $10,000 more than what he would have received from the Clean Elections Commission, and he said he has been able to better promote himself this year with the extra cash.
Fillmore is one of nearly two dozen Legislative candidates who have poured substantial amounts of their own money into their campaigns.
While self-funders haven’t been very successful at the state and federal level in Arizona, the strategy has paid off for candidates aiming for lower-level offices, such as the Legislature or a city council.
Several past and current members of the Legislature have invested heavily in their own races.
As a first-time candidate in 2012, Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, loaned his campaign $252,167 and contributed an additiobnal $5,345. During his bid for re-election in 2014, Worsley loaned his campaign $452,000, nearly 70 percent of the $657,031 he brought in that election cycle.
Former Senate President Steve Pierce, of Prescott, also propelled himself to the state Legislature by leaning on his big checkbook. He loaned his campaign $220,000 in 2008.
But while some may argue that self-funded candidates are trying to buy their way into the Legislature, or scare off the competition, history has proven that money isn’t everything.
Two-time candidate Frank Schmuck, who is seeking election to the Senate in Legislative District 18, contributed $134,338 to his 2016 campaign, the bulk of his war chest. Though he managed to make it out of the primary, he lost to Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, by 3,027 votes in the general election.
This year, he has loaned his campaign $55,000 and contributed an additional $51,171 in his attempt to unseat Bowie.
Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said he generally advises clients against fully self-funding their campaign.
Coughlin said while self-funding a campaign is a sign of confidence, it can come off as tawdry to voters. And though no one likes to ask people for money, he said fundraising forces candidates to speak with constituents and industry groups.
“It’s nice to have your own money, but then it also needs to be augmented with candidates asking others to invest in them,” Coughlin said. “As a candidate you have to ask people for their vote and if you get them to write you a check you’re probably going to get their vote. Routine fundraising has never proven to me as being a bad thing for a candidate.”
That’s a strategy Marilyn Wiles, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Legislative District 10, said she hopes pays off.
Wiles loaned her campaign $21,300 and contributed an additional $1,322. She said she has also received several contributions from voters and is actively fundraising leading up to the general election. Wiles doesn’t have a primary opponent.
She said her decision to invest her own money into her campaign shows voters that she is committed to them – she said she sees it as an investment in the voters in southern Arizona.
“I put up a substantial amount of cash because I believe the taxpayers here in LD10 deserve more than what they’re getting and I am committed to getting them what they deserve,” she said. “I am getting donations and would appreciate more but I took money from my own personal funds because I am so committed to them.”
Chad Heinrich was a farm boy who dreamed of being a bureaucrat.
Born and raised on a cattle ranch in South Dakota, Heinrich said he envisioned himself as a city manager or some such fixture in local government. But that dream collided with his future when he landed a job working at the state Capitol in Pierre. There, he got his first taste of lobbying.
“At that point, lobbying, state policy, those types of things just kind of get in your blood,” he said.
Now, Heinrich owns his own public affairs firm, Heinrich LLC, and is using his talents to advocate for Arizona’s small business community as the new state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
Did you never dream of just staying on the farm?
Probably wasn’t a dream back then, but could be a wish right now. There are many days where you can long to be out on the ranch fixing fence or dealing with the cattle or doing some chores out on the farm versus being in the city.
I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned about Phoenix in my nine years here: Phoenix is a small town just in a big city. Relationships matter in this big city just as much as they matter in a small town. … It doesn’t matter where you’re from. You can move here, and when you get into your industry or whatever your work is, you’ll find that your community becomes like a small town. In that way, you can have all the benefits of a metropolitan area and all the conveniences but really build a network and a career that’s all your own.
You’ve written about a variety of education-related topics. Is there anything from your time in school that has informed your views on education now?
There were a few times in my high school years where I was struggling in class. It was Algebra I in my freshman year … and because we had a small class, we were able to get a lot of attention. Any question we had, we could ask. And I was a little shy at that point, and I wasn’t asking a lot of questions. The teacher made a deal with me about halfway through the semester. He said, “If you just come ask me one question a day, I promise you’re going to do a lot better.” And he was right. I followed through on that deal, and it helped a lot. That may be one aspect that a small school setting like mine, where the entire high school was 100 [students]… there’s a personal relationship there.
You’re not a fan of the Invest in Education Act.
The income tax increase is a full-out assault on small business. What many folks who may be a W-2 employee don’t realize is that a majority of businesses in Arizona are small. These owners, they’re the ones that are opening up the shop in the morning, they’re the ones that are closing it in the evening, and they’re taking care of payroll and other back-office operations outside of business hours. They’re running these businesses as sole proprietorships. And they may be organized as an LLC or an S-corp, which means that all of the profits and expenses flow through their personal tax returns. So, on the margin, when you’re looking at nearly doubling the income tax that they pay on the profits from their business, you’re going to impact the employees that they have, you’re going to impact their business plans and their ability to expand their business.
Invest in Ed stemmed from the Red for Ed movement. Do you think Red for Ed could be dangerous for small businesses, too?
The Red for Ed movement as it was at the Capitol was looking to increase teacher salaries, which the governor and the Legislature followed through with with the 20 by 2020 plan. The income tax increase is a completely different formula, so I think those are two different debates. I think we all understood that from a basic pay perspective, teachers deserved and needed a raise in Arizona. … Through the 20 by 2020 plan, the governor and the Legislature showed that we can invest more in our schools without raising taxes. I think it’s very difficult to make the leap and say now we need to tax business owners, small businesses to a greater extent to provide, honestly, an unstable source of revenue and an unreliable source of revenue. We’re in an economic expansion right now, but how long is that going to last?
You include this quote in your Twitter bio: “Politics will always be the art of the possible, but no one promised it would also be artistic.” Can politics be artistic?
It always is artistic. It probably doesn’t look like that to folks who are viewing it from the outside or, frankly, folks who are viewing it from the inside sometimes. But it absolutely is artistic. It is the art of the possible. Not everyone views the same art as beautiful. But within the public policy area, I think having a meaningful debate about issues and being passionate about beliefs and what is right, that all puts together the tapestry that is the art.
What does this election cycle mean for Arizona?
I think voters have a choice: Do we want to continue the trend of growth in Arizona? We’ve been on a very stable trajectory of growth out of a very deep recession. Now, we still trail the nation on our unemployment rate. I think it’s about a point higher than the national average, which is concerning, so obviously, there’s still room to grow. And I think the concern that should be on voters’ minds is that we’re on the right track, but we also have a risk of going off-track and really harming the fuel of our economic engine right now.
When the Arizona Capitol Times last spoke with music venue extraordinaire Charlie Levy, he was delighting Phoenix politicos with cleverly-named cocktails featuring some of your favorite local politicians. Now the owner of watering holes like Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar and The Van Buren has gone viral, thanks to a nonpartisan voter guide to Arizona ballot initiatives. A PDF posted via Facebook has earned thousands of interactions, as people try to learn what impact their vote can have on propositions dealing with renewable energy, education and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did this idea for a voter guide come together?
I think it’s just one of those things where everyone, especially right now, are very into politics and government, and when you get the ballots a lot of times the propositions are written in ways that aren’t easy to understand… And we thought that if we got a group of us together and did some research we could put together a pretty simple, nonpartisan, just here are the facts, just lay it out — so people like us could make a more informed decision… We tried to put something together that people that go to Crescent and Valley Bar and Van Buren and Gracie’s (Tax Bar), that live downtown or all over Phoenix, that aren’t super politicos, but are interested in politics, could get the information and make an informed decision.
Who helped you work on this?
One of the assistant managers that works for us helped out, along with a couple people that are regulars. One works for a school, and another one works for city government. They didn’t want to say who they were, even though I told them if you read the sheet, it’s pretty straightforward, black and white — this person says this, a lot of quotes… But they were great because they’re both pretty knowledgeable in politics and they know a lot of the players, and it was a big asset to have them sitting around the table, and figuring this out.
How long did it take? I’m imagining a day spent at the bar working on this.
It didn’t take that long. I think we kind of knew what we were going to do, and we all had some information all ready to go, and it took maybe four hours to go back and forth. It was one afternoon, and then some emails back and forth to clean it up.
Did alcohol help?
No comment. No comment to the Capitol Times!
Why’d you decide to be nonpartisan about it, and not pick sides?
I think it’s more powerful that way… It’s truly hard because so much of the news right now, especially from television and the internet, is so one-sided that it’s, you almost feel like you don’t even know the truth, because you’re watching one program to the other — unlike great print papers like the Capitol Times.
Flattery will get you everywhere.
Well it’s true. You know what I mean? I think it’s more powerful to be like, “This is this position. This is this position.” And you make your own decision of what you want to support. And I think even once you get that information, it almost, some of those are really tough. That’s one of the reasons we did it to begin with. I wanted to really look into it personally. I didn’t understand some of the propositions myself, and the ones that I did have some understanding, I didn’t know and I still don’t know where I’m gonna fall on these.
Which were the most confusing ballot measures?
(Propositions) 306 (Clean Elections rule making) 305 (Empowerment Scholarship Account program). Have you read some of those things? It’s pretty confusing. But I think if you read the proposition, the tip sheet, I think we did a pretty good job of clearing it up a little bit.
How are you sharing this? It’s all over Facebook, but can people get this tip sheet at your bars or anywhere else?
God, we should. We’re gonna do that tomorrow. That’s a great idea. We’re gonna make those printouts and we’ll have them at the bar, at the Crescent bar, Valley Bar. I had no idea what kind of response we were gonna get. I thought, we put the link up on Facebook, maybe four people like it and that’s the end of it. I was like, what the hell, let’s put it up. I was blown away. The last time I looked, we had over 125,000 people view it. Of that, nearly 30,000 people clicked to the PDF link, so 30,000 people have read it. And the biggest one that is astonishing, is over 1,000 people have shared it on their Facebook account. Those are huge numbers.
Is politics a frequent topic at your bars?
Absolutely. I think more and more. I think now more than ever people, it’s at the forefront of people’s minds more than it’s ever been, and I hear people talk about it. And a lot of times it’s in a really constructive, intelligent way, where people really do want to learn and know more than just what the cable news, TV gives people credit for. I just think it’s hard to get information – except from a good source like the Capitol Times.
What do you say to cynics who might dismiss this because, you know, it’s from a bar?
That’s OK. This isn’t some serious academic paper. This is just a bunch of people, like your friends would sit down and do some research and put it out there. It’s not like this is the end all be all. I think the story is how many people — and what kind of feedback we got — are into it… What it said to me is, there’s such a need. And we got so many comments back, like, “Will you do this for the lower ballot candidates? Will you do this for the judges?” … To me it’s like, if someone out there has a guide to the mine inspectors or the water board people, that’s my one call: If someone has that information to send it to me and I’ll disseminate it to. There’s so much lower ballot stuff, and you’re like, “Who are you?” And a lot of the papers — hint, hint — only do the top tier races. To me, that’s the biggest thing that I got out of it, that people had this thirst for knowledge and want to know about the water board people and the justices of the peace and the judges.
Will you do this again the next election?
Yes. For sure. I’m gonna get a bigger crew. And we’ve always had Election Day parties. Crescent has always been sort of a watering hole for a lot of people that work for the government… The other day, I was at lunch and I think three City Council members were having lunch. And just because the proximity it is to City Hall, all the government agencies, the state Capitol, it’s so close that we get a big lunchtime crowd. I think it just kind of makes sense.
The single-shot strategy did not pay off for Republicans in the Legislative District 10 House race this year.
Early ballot results put Republican Rep. Todd Clodfelter in third right away, and he stayed there behind Democratic newcomer Domingo DeGrazia, a juvenile court trial attorney, and Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel who got the most votes.
Clodfelter’s loss was not entirely shocking. The single-shot strategy paid off for him in 2016 when he was first elected, but the number of registered Republicans in the district has since shrunk. Democrats outnumber them by nearly 6,900 voters.
The district now returns to the status quo before 2016. Clodfelter lost election bids in 2014 and 2012 when the district was represented by two Democrats in the House.
DeGrazia was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Jennifer Jermaine ousted Rep. Jill Norgaard in Legislative District 18, and Aaron Lieberman outdid Rep. Maria Syms in Legislative District 28. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.
And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.
Arizona Democrats have spent the better part of two decades hoping to recapture the glory of 2001, when the Senate was evenly split along party lines.
Their best-laid plans have routinely fallen short.
This year is different, some Democrats say. And while they say that every year, their hope boils down to a handful of races that could decide which party controls the Senate, and perhaps increase Democrats’ share of representation in the House.
Legislative District 6
Two years ago, Democrats thought they found a candidate who could oust longtime Republican lawmaker Sylvia Allen, but the senator from Snowflake would not budge. Despite being outraised and outspent by former Jerome Mayor Nikki Bagley, Allen easily held onto her seat in Legislative District 6.
Now, Democrats are looking to Wade Carlisle for an upset in a district that stretches across northern and eastern Arizona. The railway conductor and small business owner from Holbrook will have to rely on strong Democratic turnout and support from independent voters to overcome the district’s strong GOP voter registration advantage. And unlike Bagley’s strong campaign haul two years ago, Carlisle lags far behind Allen in fundraising this election cycle.
As for the House, Democrats are running two candidates for the district’s two House seats for the first time in four years. There’s Felicia French, a third generation Arizonan and retired U.S. Army colonel, and Holbrook Mayor Bobby Tyler.
French, a registered nurse, has outraised the competition and boasts the support of various medical organizations and the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz. They’ll face incumbent Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, and political newcomer Walter Blackman, of Snowflake, who beat Thorpe’s running mate, Republican Stuart McDaniel, in the primary election.
Legislative District 10
Democrats are looking to unseat incumbent Rep. Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, and retake a House seat in Legislative District 10. If they can do that, and hold onto the district’s two other seats, it would be a return to normal for the Pima County district – Democrats controlled all three seats from 2012 to 2016.
Clodfelter upset the Democratic Party’s hold in 2016, when the GOP used the single-shot strategy to propel him to office. The strategy calls for core supporters to cast only one vote in the race for the House and persuade others to split their votes between the candidate and an opponent. That maximizes the candidate’s own numbers and dilutes the opponents’ numbers.
That helped Clodfelter garner the most votes in 2016 in the three-way race for the two House seats, coming out ahead of Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, by 142 votes, and then-Rep. Stefanie Mach by more than 850 votes.
But the number of registered Republicans in the district is shrinking, which could spell trouble for Clodfelter.
Registered Democrats outnumber the number of registered Republicans in the district by nearly 6,900 voters. And while Democrats have seen an increase in voter registration since the 2016 primary election, the number of registered Republicans has shrunk by 550.
Clodfelter is once again the only Republican running for the House in LD10, so he’ll have to place first or second in a three-way race against Engel, who’s running for re-election, and Domingo DeGrazia, the other Democratic candidate. DeGrazia, a juvenile court trial attorney, is the youngest son of Tucson artist Ted DeGrazia.
Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, is expected to hold onto his Senate seat in a race against Republican Marilyn Wiles.
Legislative District 18
A rematch of the 2016 election pits incumbent Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, against an old nemesis, Republican Frank Schmuck, in what could be an expensive campaign. Schmuck sunk nearly $135,000 of his own money into his last campaign, and was on the receiving end of more than $80,000 in support from independent expenditures.
Nonetheless, Legislative District 18 flipped firmly in favor of Democrats two years ago, when Bowie defeated Schmuck, and Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, took one of the district’s two House seats. Democrats will need to at least replicate that victory if they want a chance at picking up seats in the Senate.
The Democrats’ best case scenario would be a sweep of all three seats by ousting incumbent Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Phoenix. To accomplish that, they’re relying on Jennifer Jermaine, a volunteer with the Save Our Schools Arizona campaign in 2017 and a frequent face at the Capitol during the #RedForEd protests.
Greg Patterson, the former chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, rounds out the field as the second GOP candidate in the House.
Legislative District 20
With Hiral Tipirneni’s strong showing in the April special election to fill former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks’ seat in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, Democrats hope that a solidly red district like Legislative District 20 can be vulnerable to a Democratic challenge.
Tipirneni beat Republican Debbie Lesko by 6 percentage points in the portion of LD20 that is in CD8 and is the most conservative part of the legislative district. Democrats say Tipirneni’s strong showing has given them the hope that candidates Hazel Chandler and Christopher Gilfillan could pose a threat to incumbent Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, and three-time Republican candidate Shawnna Bolick.
Legislative District 28
The district that stretches from central Phoenix to Paradise Valley is always one to watch, as Democrats have at least managed to string together years of split representation in the House.
That’s in part due to their single-shot strategy, which Democrats are abandoning in favor of running two candidates for the House: Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, and entrepreneur Aaron Lieberman. They’ll face incumbent Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, and Kathy Petsas, an active member of Legislative District 28’s Republican Party.
Democrats also are hoping to pick up a seat in the Senate, though they have had less luck in a race that doesn’t allow for the same single-shot strategy that has helped them gain a seat in the House.
Incumbent Sen. Kate Brophy McGee won a “heck of a fight” in 2016 over former lawmaker Eric Meyer, and she’s in the thick of it again in a race against teacher Christine Marsh. The former Arizona Teacher of the Year declared her candidacy more than a year ago, and could receive a boost from the #RedForEd movement that overtook the Capitol just months ago.
For decades, Arizona courts have relied on county recorders to review signatures legislative candidates submit to qualify for the ballot. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who is heading the office in an election year for the first time, isn’t satisfied with that decades-old system, and he hasn’t been shy about saying so.
Fontes testified in a June trial that the recorder’s role in the process is a “courtesy” to the courts, one that’s “been in place too long and I’ll probably stop it.”
“This is a custom or a tradition, or I don’t know what it’s called because there’s no statute that defines it, that goes back over 30 years,” Fontes told the Arizona Capitol Times following the trial. “There are folks who believe for some reason that, first of all, it is the right thing to do, and second of all, the legal thing to do. And just because we’ve been doing it for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s either.”
Fontes’ statement at trial caught the attention of elections attorneys and officials at the Secretary of State’s Office, like Elections Director Eric Spencer. He warned that the system by which candidates are vetted before their name can appear on the ballot would be thrown in disarray were it not for the help of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and recorders in counties throughout the state.
The Arizona Supreme Court also took notice, and now the justices have essentially asked the state Legislature to set the record straight on what responsibilities recorders have when a candidate’s qualification for the ballot is challenged.
Fontes says he’d rather do things his own way, outside the scope of the Legislature. He proposes working through the courts, with input from candidates, elections attorneys and other county recorders, to find ways to streamline the process for reviewing signatures in challenges like the one in which he was called to testify.
There’s a general sense among county recorders, Fontes claims, that starting a discussion about ways to improve the process is a good idea. A newly-elected Democrat as of 2016, Fontes said his first experience in the system has convinced him that there are flaws that need fixing.
“I don’t like that it’s completely unpredictable. I don’t like that we have to unexpectedly tap into resources that aren’t readily available to us. I don’t like the fact that some of the complaints (from defendants) are legitimate complaints,” Fontes said.
To get their names on the ballot, would-be candidates for the Arizona House or Senate must collect a certain number of signatures from registered voters in the district they hope to represent. Those signatures are submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office, which does nothing to verify whether the signatures, known as nominating petitions, are valid. They accept the candidates at their word.
But just about anyone can accuse a candidate of failing to qualify for the ballot by scrutinizing those petitions and suing in court. There were 30 such challenges at the legislative, statewide and federal level in 2018, roughly double the average of past election cycles, according to Spencer.
A vast majority of those lawsuits wind up in Maricopa County Superior Court, where judges rely on a review of the scrutinized petitions by the County Recorder’s Office to decide whether a candidate’s name should be on the ballot.
That’s what happened in the case of independent candidate Mark Syms, the husband of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley. Mark Syms utilized paid signature gatherers to collect 2,156 signatures in just 10 days, an extraordinary feat that immediately drew scrutiny from another candidate in the race, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee. Brophy McGee’s husband filed a challenge alleging that hundreds of those signatures were invalid, a legal maneuver that triggers extra work for Fontes and his election team.
The Syms case was just one of many like it that had Fontes and his staff working overtime to review thousands of signatures, on top of the work they’re already putting in preparing for the primary election on August 28. There’s nothing in state law that explicitly required Fontes to do this, he has argued.
“Let’s be honest. If I had decided to, I could’ve said no to all of this. I could’ve said no to this in February,” Fontes said. “I could’ve said, we’re not participating, and you’re going to have to get a court order to make that happen.”
Jeremy Phillips, Syms’ attorney, painted the process by which the recorders verify signatures as vague and undefined – he made a point to note that only one review of Syms’ signatures was conducted, while in other instances two or three rounds of reviews take place – and questioned the reliability of Fontes’ work.
Fontes testified at trial there was nothing unusual about how his office reviewed Syms’ signatures, and that a second or third check wasn’t needed in this case because Syms’ was nowhere close to having the necessary signatures to qualify. But Fontes later said he understood the frustration with a process that has been shaped more by time, tradition, and common practice than by the law.
“There’s one thing with these guys, there’s a small theme sort of, one of the many themes in here that they hit on, that I share the concern,” he said. “And that is, it appears as though there’s no real roadmap.”
Predictability in the form of a clearly defined process would benefit defendants like Syms, and all others involved in the legal process, Fontes said.
“The question ends up becoming, do I want to maintain the status quo of essentially a glorified paralegal who’s working for a candidate verifying signatures, or do we want to somehow more formalize this role and make it something that’s planned and thought through and more well established?” he said.
Election attorney Joe Kanefield said even though there isn’t an explicit mandate in state law requiring recorders to review the veracity of nominating petitions, it’s a process that the Legislature and the courts have alluded to and acknowledged for years.
“They’ve done everything but say, ‘The recorders have to do this,’” Kanefield said.
There are laws on the books that don’t make sense without the implicit understanding that the recorders help judges make decisions in election challenges, like a law that allows a county recorder to recover legal fees and costs if it turns out an election challenge was filed without substantial justification. And by law, the county recorder in the district in which a candidate is running must be named as a defendant in court filings. “If you don’t name the recorder, you’re going to get dismissed,” Kanefield said.
That makes sense given the wealth of information the recorders have at their disposal, he said. No one has more access to voter signatures, voter files and other records that can be used to verify a nominating petition than the recorders.
“I talked to (Fontes) personally about it. I get it,” Kanefield told the Capitol Times. “I understand that the burden that was placed upon him, and the frustration that he no doubt felt by having to undertake, to verify all these signatures in a short period of time when he had multiple other election related tasks that he was working on… But the reality is that it’s critical.”
Without the recorders, election challenges would be at the mercy of a plaintiff to bear the burden of reviewing each signature and proving that petitions are fraudulent.
It would also be a burden on the defendants to find proof that the signatures they gathered are valid.
“It would be almost impossible for a plaintiff to kick a candidate off the ballot because they would never be able to gather the evidence they would need to prove there weren’t enough valid signatures that were needed,” Spencer said.
While there could be room for change, Kanefield cautioned against Fontes’ assertion in court that he might simply stop verifying signatures when challenges are filed.
“Not doing this is not the right answer,” Kanefield said. “What you need is more resources that should be provided to you by the state or the county to do your job.”
Fontes said he recognized this, and that’s why he didn’t simply put a stop to the process this election year. “What kind of position would the entire set of folks who have these expectations in my office be in? That would’ve been unfair,” he said.
The state’s Supreme Court justices seem to feel the same way. In their opinion barring Syms from the ballot, Vice Chief Justice Robert Brutinel took time to point out the “significant role” county recorders play in petition challenges, and how concerned the justices were by Fontes’ assertion that he’d “probably stop” verifying signatures in the future.
The justices were “troubled by the opaqueness of the process evidenced by Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes’ testimony in the case… The candidates, petition challengers, and the courts, as well as our democratic system as a whole, would benefit from a far clearer process with defined statutory roles for the county recorders.”
Brophy McGee, a Phoenix Republican, said she’s willing to take up the justices’ call for legislation to clarify the recorder’s roll in candidate challenges.
“I think it’s important that we make sure that it is outlined in statute, that somebody needs to verify from an independent party, and historically that’s been the county recorders,” she said.
Brophy McGee also wants to make candidates more responsible for the signatures they submit, an idea that could lessen the burden on recorders like Fontes who verify signatures.
If a candidate with fraudulent signatures “is not challenged, it opens the door to anybody else following that line,” Brophy McGee said. “And anything I can do going forward to keep that from happening, I will do.”
It’s also incumbent on candidates to vet their own signatures before submitting them, Brophy McGee said. That was the case with Rep. Mark Cardenas, who briefly ran for state treasurer but didn’t file nominating petitions because the people he hired to collect signatures provided fraudulent signatures the day before the filing deadline.
Both Brophy McGee and Spencer pointed to Cardenas, a Phoenix Democrat, as an example of a candidate taking responsibility for their signatures and not unnecessarily burdening the elections system.
“It is not enough to call yourself a victim of fraud,” Spencer said. “Candidates aren’t victims here.”
Brophy McGee said signatures for candidates should be held to the same standards as signatures for initiatives and referenda. Unlike with candidates, the Secretary of State’s Office takes an active role in reviewing the validity of signatures submitted when people propose or challenge laws via the ballot, as do county recorders.
That’s all spelled out in the law, whereas the law is vague for candidates.
“The idea being that we need to hold ourselves at least as accountable for the product we submit in support of our candidacies as any initiative,” Brophy McGee said. “We tend to rule ourselves out as politicians from the rules we hold others to, and that’s something that’s bothered me very much.”
He was the first Democrat to jump into the governor’s race and consistently led in the polls.
In a rousing victory speech at a Phoenix bar and restaurant, Garcia said the primary election results show Arizonans are turning away from the agenda of Ducey and President Donald Trump in favor of a new vision for the state.
“Arizona made a choice,” he said. “They said we are ready for vision over division. We want hope over fear. We want trust over dishonesty and as of today, the Trump/Arpaio/Ducey playbook. … That playbook is coming to an end.”
Even with strong Democratic tailwinds, Garcia now faces a tough battle to unseat the incumbent governor.
Garcia’s path to victory already appears arduous. Ducey, with his massive war chest and financial support from the Republican Governors Association, will blanket the airwaves with advertisements touting the governor’s re-election bid. The RGA has already put down $9.2 million in ad time to prevent a Democrat from winning the governorship.
But in front of a packed audience Tuesday, Garcia dismissed the attack ads as deceptive and dishonest.
“It is not going to work this time because all the money in the world, all the slick ads, all the dishonest ads are not going to help us forget that our schools are still in crisis,” he said.
The RGA fired back at Garcia on Tuesday, characterizing him as part of the “radical far-left” wing of the Democratic Party.
Garcia ran as an unabashed progressive by calling for free college tuition and a total overhaul of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency amid comparisons to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Citing Garcia’s calls to revamp ICE and his support for a ballot initiative that would boost renewable energy requirements in the state, RGA spokesman Jon Thompson called Garcia’s political agenda too expensive for the state.
“David Garcia’s radical agenda would be a dangerous disaster for Arizona,” he said.
But if elected, Garcia would be Arizona’s second Hispanic governor, following Raul Castro who served more than four decades ago.
All three candidates support the Invest in Education Act and vowed to undo Ducey’s Border Strike Force, if elected.
With teachers fired up by the “Red for Ed” movement, the democratic gubernatorial candidates tried desperately to capture as much of the education vote as possible in the lead up to the primary. Education funding was often a hot topic of debate at most of the debates and forums in which the candidates participated.
Garcia jumped into the governor’s race last year after Ducey signed legislation to create universal vouchers. Garcia was so incensed by the action that he characterized as a major blow to public education in Arizona that he set his sights on ousting Ducey. Garcia sees raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents as the key to funneling more money into K-12 education.
After his win Tuesday, Garcia hearkened back to Ducey’s voucher expansion. That was the end of the public education as Arizonans knew it, he said.
“If you take away one thing from this night, I want you to remember this,” Garcia said. “We will never have a governor more committed to public education than me.”
Democrats are increasingly fired up this election cycle. With President Donald Trump in the White House and Arizona teachers demanding their voices be heard, Democrats are hoping they can turn that liberal outrage into enough votes to oust Ducey from the governor’s office.
But in a deeply conservative state like Arizona, Democrats don’t have a great track record of winning statewide office. Janet Napolitano, the state’s last Democratic governor, was elected in 2002.
In light of Sen. John McCain’s death, Garcia vowed to limit his campaigning on Wednesday and Thursday as the late senator is honored at the Capitol and at a memorial service.
But Garcia’s recent calls to overhaul the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may have been a step too far, and the resistance he has received could be a sign that unapologetic progressivism won’t play well in Arizona this election cycle.
In the midst of a three-way Democratic primary for governor, Garcia has emerged as one of the more left-leaning candidates. He is running to the left of Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, and Garcia’s liberalism is topped only by Kelly Fryer, a Democrat in the periphery of the race.
Garcia is pushing to completely undo the embattled immigration and customs agency in favor of a new immigration system. While Garcia has been careful not to use the words “abolish” and “ICE” in the same sentence when discussing his policy stance, his ultimate goal is a “top-to-bottom” overhaul of ICE in favor of something that looks completely different.
In a sense, it’s #AbolishICE lite.
“It is ultimately about getting to an immigration system that matches our values, and to me, that is a system that obviously has security but it allows the entrance, the legal entrance, of folks into the United States,” Garcia said.
Arizona’s governor has no power to tear down, replace or alter the federal agency.
Garcia’s campaign argues that the difference between his views and the national abolish ICE movement is that Garcia is calling for some type of immigration-focused agency to replace ICE.
The #AbolishICE movement grew from a Twitter hashtag to a vocal national campaign with the help of a small, but mighty group of national progressive Democrats. The movement gained traction when Democratic heavyweights, such as, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand jumped on board.
Supporters of the #AbolishICE movement are not all on the same page. Some want to do away the federal agency entirely with no replacement. But others like Gillibrand want to tear it down, reimagine immigrations enforcement and build something new to take the place of ICE. Garcia, who has distanced himself from that hashtag, has views in the same vein.
Garcia’s stance also sounds similar to that of his primary opponent Kelly Fryer, who called for ICE to be dismantled in favor of a new immigration solution. Fryer has embraced the abolish ICE movement.
Farley does not support abolishing ICE, though he has called for reforming the federal agency.
Regardless of Garcia’s word choice on ICE, he may as well have drawn a target on his back as soon as the words left his mouth.
Lobbyist Stan Barnes said in the long run, Garcia will regret taking a stance on ICE.
“That is among the greatest gubernatorial candidate blunders I have seen in my 30 years,” he said. “Gov. [Doug] Ducey is going to make him own those words.”
Ducey and outside groups have already come out swinging against Garcia and Fryer for their comments on ICE.
The day after Garcia called for dramatic changes at the immigrations agency, Ducey published an opinion piece in USA Today calling the #AbolishICE movement “wrong and reckless.” Ducey did not mention Garcia in the op-ed, nor did he call him out when he criticized calls to abolish ICE on a local radio show this week.
Ducey is keeping the hot-button issue in the public eye by holding a telephone town hall meeting on border security and his anti-abolish ICE stance, and sending a letter to Arizona’s congressional delegation regarding abolish ICE legislation .
The Republican Governors Association started running ads the week of July 16 against Garcia and Fryer, pegging them as “radicals” for wanting to upend ICE. The ad targeting Garcia does not mince words, and lambastes him for calling to abolish ICE.
Garcia said in a video posted on social media the ads are a distraction from Ducey’s failure to invest in K-12 education.
“Ducey can distract all he wants, but the truth is kids are in cages and our schools are falling apart. … Ducey, I’m coming for you,” he said.
This week, national political observers said the RGA’s ad buys for Ducey — the most recent ads and those coinciding with the “Red for Ed” strike — could signal the governor may face a tougher re-election battle than originally thought.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved the Arizona governor’s race from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican” with pundits speculating Ducey could face a dogfight this fall.
Arizonans overwhelmingly oppose abolishing ICE, according to the poll that shows only 17 percent of the 550 likely voters surveyed support collapsing the federal agency. According to the poll, 64 percent of people oppose abolishing ICE and 19 percent were undecided.
The call to abolish ICE is wildly unpopular among Republicans, but it’s not exactly popular with Arizona Democrats either. More Democrats — 39 percent — oppose abolishing ICE than the 35 percent of Democratic respondents that support calls to cut the federal agency.
As a border state, Arizona has always leaned right on immigration, said Data Orbital President George Khalaf.
“If this is an issue that he [Garcia] is going to choose to run on, I think it’s going to be a mistake,” Khalaf said.
Calling Garcia an “extreme” candidate, Ducey’s campaign spokesman Patrick Ptak said Garcia is trying to nuance his unpopular position now that he has seen voters’ strong opposition to abolishing ICE.
“First it was free college and health care without a plan to pay for it,” Ptak said in a text message. “Now it’s abolishing ICE. This is just another example that David Garcia is the most extreme candidate for governor Arizona has ever seen. His consistent pandering to the radical Left would put the safety and security of every Arizonan at risk, not to mention bankrupt our state.”
Garcia’s nuanced take on ICE shows the fine line he is toeing as a progressive candidate running for statewide office in a center-right state that has shown little love for far-left liberals.
Typically, only moderate Democrats win higher office in Arizona, Khalaf said, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and former Gov. Janet Napolitano. Sinema, who is now seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake, has carved out a centrist niche for herself, and is running as a moderate, just like Napolitano did in 2002.
Now, Sinema is a bellwether of Democratic success to the point that Khalaf views her as a litmus test for Arizona Democrats.
“If she’s not calling for it, I think there’s a reason why other Democrats aren’t calling for it,” Khalaf said. Sinema has spoken out against calls to abolish ICE.
Nationally, the Democratic Party is still reeling from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in a New York congressional district over establishment Democrat Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent. Ocasio-Cortez ran boldly to the left of her opponent and won, popularizing calls to abolish ICE in the process.
But Arizona doesn’t share the same political landscape as more liberal states like New York and California, Khalaf said.
In 2014, Fred DuVal lost the governor’s race to Ducey. The nail in the coffin for DuVal was when he said he opposed Arizona’s parental-consent law for a minor receiving an abortion, Khalaf said. Duval’s response was caught on tape, and he started tanking in the polls as the video gained traction, Khalaf said.
“It’s Arizona,” Khalaf said. “You can’t go too far to the left on sensitive issues like abortion and immigration.”
Running a left-leaning campaign could be a winning strategy for Garcia in the primary, but it may not give him adequate time to pivot to attract a wider base of support before the general election, Khalaf said.
Speaking more generally, Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Felecia Rotellini said Arizona voters are growing more open to embracing progressive values. The people moving into retirement communities in places like Sun City were teenagers in the 1960s so they understand the need for access to affordable health insurance, bettering public education and protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, she said.
The Republican agenda in Arizona is out of touch, she said, citing the special election in congressional district eight. Debbie Lesko won the seat in April by only five points — in a district President Donald Trump won by 21 points in 2016 — which gave Democrats newfound hope this election cycle.
“That is a story about change, and a shifting that’s happening amongst voters who have become awake to the fact that the Republican agenda and policies for the last two decades have failed us,” she said.
Immigration is sure to be a hot topic in Arizona this election cycle, and Democrats are hoping the hot-button issue could be a motivating factor to get Latino voters to the polls.
But it’s not clear if taking a position on ICE resonates with Latinos, who have long shied away from Arizona politics.
For non-Latinos, immigration issues are often just viewed as political rhetoric, said Joseph Garcia, director of Arizona State University’s Latino Public Policy Center, and who is of no relation to David Garcia. But Latinos view legislation dealing with deportations or separating immigrant families at the border as a personal affront, he said.
Immigration issues could absolutely be the key to driving up Latino voter participation this fall, Garcia said.
“When politics becomes personal, in that it affects you personally, individually and directly, that often serves as a motivating factor to go out and vote,” he said.
As for calls to replace or abolish ICE, Garcia couldn’t say if that is an issue motivating Latino voters. There’s obviously anger and frustration associated with the agency, but calling for an agency overhaul may not be as successful a strategy as speaking out against family separations at the border — a policy that was pretty much universally criticized, he said.
Civic engagement group One Arizona, which was formed after the fight over controversial SB 1070, is working to register new Latino voters ahead of the upcoming elections.
The group has registered about 50,000 new voters so far this year, said Montserrat Arredondo, One Arizona’s executive director.
Immigration issues come up when talking to voters, but even months after the “Red for Ed” teachers strike, education is the top issue for most Latino voters One Arizona has talked to, Arredondo said.
“The candidates that are talking about education and the candidates that are talking about keeping families together are speaking to what we’re hearing from the community,” she said.
Queen Creek resident Lynsey Robinson has hit many roadblocks on her way to becoming a Democratic candidate for the House in Legislative District 12.
Robinson, 41, came to the United States from Haiti in 1985 on a visitor visa with her grandfather. However, the pair, who were visiting Robinson’s aunt in New York for the summer, overstayed their three-month visas after her grandfather became sick.
When the grandfather died, Robinson, who was 8 at the time, said her parents and her aunt debated sending her back to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, but instead her aunt took her in.
The decision opened up doors for Robinson that she said she may have never had back home. But without permanent legal status in the United States for nearly two decades, Robinson said she became stuck in a pattern of starting something but never finishing, not because of her abilities but because of her immigration status.
That all changed when she became a legal permanent resident in 2004 and a U.S. citizen in 2010.
Even though her background may not resemble that of the constituents in LD12, Robinson attributes her success to perseverance and a good education, and she said that’s something that will strike a chord with voters in the historically conservative district.
Robinson is one of the 114 Democratic candidates vying for a seat in the Arizona Legislature.
This year, the Democratic Party is by design fielding a candidate in nearly every federal, statewide and legislative race, with the exception of one, a strategy that has paid off in other states.
It’s the first time since at least 1998 that so many Democrats have jumped into the race, and it’s a 41-percent increase from 2016 when 81 Democrats qualified for the ballot. The second highest number of Democrats who have run for the Legislature in the past 20 years was in 2002 when 101 filed for office, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office historical election results database.
Charles Fisher, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said the group’s goal is to saturate the ballot in hopes of getting as many Democrats elected as possible.
Fisher calls it the “reverse coattail effect.” Rather than having a big-name candidate at the top of the ticket drawing in voters, which can have a down-ballot impact, he said he hopes that by having a candidate in almost every legislative race, even in overwhelmingly red districts, it will drive up voter turnout on an off-year election and possibly lead to success at the statewide level and in the U.S. Senate race.
The strategy worked in Virginia where the large pool of Democratic candidates in 2017 led to the election of a Democratic attorney general and governor, he said.
Fisher said the party is also banking on strong showings in federal and state legislative races nationwide, and candidates are inspired by what they saw this year with the “Red for Ed” movement.
But the candidates don’t see themselves as being just sacrificial lambs in the party’s grand scheme.
They are providing a voice to those who may not have had anyone to support in prior elections and to those who are tired of what they’ve seen happening at the Legislature, Robinson said.
While Robinson and Democratic LD12 Senate candidate Elizabeth Brown acknowledge that they’re the underdogs in their respective elections, they seem unfazed by the fact that there are almost 40,250 more active registered Republicans in the district than there are Democrats.
Brown, a two-time candidate who ran for the Senate in 2016, said she thinks she has a better chance of being elected this year than she did two years ago, and she added that the teacher strike and the “Red for Ed” movement boosted her confidence.
Brown said she has spoken with constituents on both sides of the aisle and independents who are less interested in partisan politics and are looking for candidates who will be effective and get work done.
That’s something first-time candidate Michelle Harris, of Buckeye, has also heard for years. She’s running as a Democrat for the Senate in Legislative District 13, which spans parts of Yuma and Maricopa County.
Harris said she first became interested in running for office after she and her neighbors’ wastewater rates skyrocketed. She said she reached out to her state legislators and asked them to send a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission asking that the commissioners meet with residents and reconsider the rate increase, but she never heard back from them.
“I just kind of got the stiff arm from them and that really spurred me to look into the Legislature and was really one of the reasons I decided to run,” she said. “I just thought we deserved better representation, someone who will be out in the community helping people in the district.”
Harris said while meeting with constituents she has learned that many care less about whether there’s a “D” behind her name and are just excited that she’s taking the time to meet with them.
Chandler resident Jennifer Pawlik, who is running as a Democrat for the House in Legislative District 17, said when she ran for the House in 2016 people told her she wasn’t a viable candidate. But that sentiment has changed among constituents she has spoken with this time around, she said.
And Pawlik said that while candidates in very red districts may not win, their candidacy is helping move those districts a bit to the left.
But several long-time Capitol insiders disagree on whether the surge in Democratic candidates and the party’s momentum can translate to real success in 2018.
Democratic lobbyist Barry Dill said while having good quality candidates is more important than having a large number of candidates, in a state like Arizona that has historically had a large drop off in the number of Democrats who vote in off-year elections, fielding a candidate in almost every race can lead to wins if it draws people who normally don’t vote.
“If that trend can be either reversed or mitigated to some degree, then Democrats have a great opportunity of having some success and gaining seats in the Legislature,” he said.
Republican lobbyist and former lawmaker Stan Barnes said in the 30 sessions since he was first elected in 1988, Democratic confidence has never been as high as it is today, even in the 1990s when Democrats were in the majority in the state Senate or in the early 2000s when Janet Napolitano was governor.
Barnes said the key to Democrats’ success is that they believe they can win.
“Democrats believe this is their year and that confidence translates into better candidates coming forward and more candidates coming forward translates into more resources coming into the campaigns of better Democratic candidates. And so it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy because it starts with genuine confidence by Democrats that they have something significant to gain and that it’s possible,” he said.
He said Republicans are on the defense, a bit demoralized, and there is a so-called “Jeff Flake constituency” of moderate Republicans that are unhappy with what they’re seeing at the federal level.
If you combine that with the number of Democratic candidates running this year and the possibility of national funding flowing into the state because of the U.S. Senate race, Barnes said Democrats could very well win additional seats in both chambers of the Legislature, and either tie the Senate at 15-15 or regain a majority.
And that’s a thought that keeps Republicans awake at night, he said.
Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin is less convinced that Democrats will see greater success this year. He said one of Democrats’ key issues is education funding, but it was the governor and Republican lawmakers who delivered on the issue this session.
“We’re seeing in data that we’re collecting now that people are giving credit to the governor for delivering on the education package and Democrats walked away from that at the end, which I thought was a mistake because it was the pressure of the teachers that delivered it and that’s a sign of partisan disfunction,” he said. “The credit was theirs to take and they chose to walk away.”
That will make it harder for Democratic candidates in more conservative districts to make their case to voters, he said.
Longtime Capitol lobbyist Barry Aarons said Democrats have to make sure they don’t spread themselves too thin, focusing on a handful of seats they can actually seize instead of on all 90.
Fisher, of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said while past efforts to gain seats in the Legislature have failed because Democrats tried to bite off too much, this year the caucus is much more organized. The Senate, he said, is the top priority.
Aarons said the momentum could also backfire, waking up a dormant Republican majority that has for decades coasted through the election without a primary or general foe.
He said he has spoken with incumbents in what have typically been considered safe districts and they aren’t taking anything for granted this year, ramping up campaign efforts to ensure they are re-elected.
“Democrats have to be careful that they don’t wake up the beast and wake up after the election and find that they’ve lost some seats,” he said.
Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who is seeking election to the House, said he’s running a strong campaign this year in response to what he sees as a Democratic base that is fired up and energized.
“There’s a saying in politics that you always run scared no matter what and that is especially true this year,” he said, adding that while he doesn’t think his seat is vulnerable, there are others that are.
The winner of Arizona’s Democratic gubernatorial primary — whoever it is — will likely be strapped for cash upon entering the general election.
With a rare, Democratic contest in the governor’s race, the candidates are depleting their resources vying for the nomination as Gov. Doug Ducey waits in the wings with his veritable war chest.
Previous Democratic candidates for governor emerged from the primary with more than $1 million on hand. It’s unlikely Sen. Steve Farley, David Garcia or Kelly Fryer will exit the primary with that much spending power.
Garcia and Farley’s campaigns refused to disclose their current cash on hand, saying that information will be publicly available as of a campaign finance reporting deadline August 20.
Fred DuVal in 2014 and Terry Goddard in 2010 each emerged from their primaries with more than $1 million on hand. Goddard was a Clean Elections candidate, meaning he earned extra funding in the general election, but neither had opposition in the primary — allowing them to focus their time and money on their Republican challengers.
As of the end of June — the last campaign finance reporting deadline — Farley, Garcia and Fryer combined had less cash on hand than DuVal or Goddard when they came out of the primary.
Farley reported having $490,574 on hand. Garcia had $246,359 and Fryer had $40,884. And that was before Farley and Garcia started buying pricey TV advertising leading up to the August 28 primary.
Both went on air at the end of July and plan to stay on TV until the primary. Both campaigns started off with hefty ad buys coinciding with when early ballots dropped. The campaigns’ ad spending has dwindled in the middle of August, but representatives for both campaigns said the spending will ramp back up closer to Election Day.
Republican pollster Mike Noble said Arizona’s late primaries put those in competitive primaries at a disadvantage. Republicans in Arizona face this problem all the time, he said citing the contentious, three-way Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate seat.
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio are spending their time and resources on each other while U.S. Rep Kyrsten Sinema coasts to the primary. Sinema, who faces a primary challenger, is expected to win easily.
In the governor’s race, the shoe is on the other foot, Noble said.
Ducey’s primary opponent is former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, but the challenge is relatively uncompetitive as Bennett has not yet qualified for Clean Elections funding. Ducey had $3.5 million on hand as of the end of June.
Arizona hasn’t had a contested Democratic gubernatorial primary since 2002 when Janet Napolitano easily defeated her three opponents. The last close Democratic primary in the state was in 1994, when Terry Goddard lost by less than 2 percentage points in a three-way matchup.
Noble also cited $7.2 million in recent ad reservations made by the Republican Governors Association. Noble predicts the RGA will use that airtime to go after the Democratic nominee right after the primary, when the candidate is working to build up his coffers.
On top of the RGA’s ad reservations, Ducey and the Arizona Republican Party have reserved a hefty chunk of general election airtime to push the governor’s re-election bid.
“Ducey is in a good position, and he’ll probably end the race before it starts,” Noble said.
Democrats disagree. Local and national Democrats argue the incumbent governor and his supporters are spending heavily in an attempt to offset Ducey’s precarious re-election position.
Groups like the Democratic Governors Association and the Arizona Democratic Party say they will support the party’s gubernatorial nominee, but would not specify how much, if any, they plan to spend in the general election.
“Arizonans are seeing how Doug Ducey and his Republican policies are leading to an exodus of teachers and undermining public education across the state,” said Democratic spokesman Les Braswell. “The Arizona Democratic Party is committed to making sure all of our nominees — from the top to the bottom of the ticket — have the resources and support needed to win in November.”
But the picture could become clearer shortly after the primary. The DGA plunked down a $1.8 million ad buy in Wisconsin on August 15 — the day after Democrats selected their gubernatorial nominee.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Arizona admit freely and frequently they know they won’t come close to Ducey’s spending power. But they say they’re still confident they can win.
Despite forcing candidates to spend money earlier, competitive primaries can actually be good for candidates, Garcia’s campaign manager Ian Danley said. Garcia’s campaign already has a practiced field team and it already started get-out-the-vote efforts, both of which will come in handy again soon because of the short turnaround to the general election, he said.
Because of the short time between the primary and when early ballots go out for the general, the campaign ads that go up in August will still resonate later, Danley said.
“We’ve got to raise a bunch of money really, really quickly once we’re the nominee, but all this organizing doesn’t go away,” he said. “The stuff we’re spending on right now will have an impact in October.”
Danley also predicts the progressive donor base will coalesce around the nominee and that national donors will spend heavily in the Arizona after the primary.
Like Stacey Abrams, who could be the first black governor of Georgia, and Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, Garcia is building a national narrative that will hopefully translate into national money coming into the race, Danley said.
But the excitement around Arizona stems beyond any one candidate and has more to do with the idea that Democrats think Arizona is becoming more winnable as demographics change, Danley said.
“Arizona’s on the national radar,” he said. “We’re like the new, cool thing.”
Meanwhile, Farley’s campaign points to its superior fundraising leading up to the primary as a sign that they can bring in big bucks as the Democratic nominee.
Farley has consistently outraised his Democratic opponents. Farley spokeswoman Kelsi Browning said the campaign will expand on that momentum ahead of the general election.
“If anyone in the Democratic primary has proven they can take on Doug Ducey and the deep-pocketed Koch Brothers, it’s Steve Farley,” Browning said in an email.
Here’s a look at the Democratic wins and losses this election cycle.
Flipping the state Senate
Democrats aimed to take control of the state Senate — a feat that would have required them to flip three seats in the chamber.
For all the talk that 2018 would finally be the year Democrats could move the needle in the Senate, the chamber will remain under GOP control, likely with a 17-13 split.
But Democrats made gains in the House, where the split between the parties was far more lopsided. And their four-seat pickup is just enough to put the squeeze on GOP members of the chamber.
The House went from a 35-25 split that could end up 31-29 depending on the outcome of one race that was too close to call as of late November 8. That’s significant because the House requires 31 votes to pass legislation, meaning Republican leadership will have to whip the caucus into shape in order to ensure all its members vote in lockstep.
Red for Ed
Possibly the biggest political movement in Arizona this year – Red for Ed – didn’t have much luck in making gains at the ballot box.
Teachers can count defeating Proposition 305, a measure that would have dramatically expanded school vouchers, as their biggest success this election cycle.
But some of their other election priorities didn’t pan out.
Red for Ed supporters’ attempt to oust Ducey and elect Democrat David Garcia, who they viewed as their education champion, failed. Ducey easily defeated Garcia.
And after the Arizona Supreme Court struck down the Invest in Ed ballot initiative that would have raised taxes on the rich to boost K-12 education spending, Red for Ed supporters targeted the two Supreme Court judges up for retention this year who voted against the initiative.
But voters overwhelmingly decided to retain Justices Clint Bolick and John Pelander, with each of them earning more than 70 percent of the vote.
Red for Ed supporters have likely made a difference in the close race for superintendent of public instruction, where Democrat Kathy Hoffman has gotten closer to winning than Democrats in any other statewide race.
When it comes to the Legislature, some Red for Ed candidates flipped seats, but many either lost or appear poised to lose.
Former teacher of the year Christine Marsh, a Democrat who became the face of the teacher-turned-candidate movement in Arizona, appears likely to lose to Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee. Numerous other first-time candidates spurred by the Red for Ed movement also lost their legislative bids.
Chandler Democrat Jennifer Jermaine, likely flipped a Legislative District 18 House seat, based on election results. She and Jennifer Pawlik, a Democrat who leads by 500 votes in Legislative District 17, both signed the Invest in Ed candidate pledge.
The progressive billionaire poured more than $24 million into Arizona elections this year, with most of it directed to promoting Proposition 127, which would have required utilities to generate half their power from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected the ballot initiative funded by Steyer’s group NextGen.
The California billionaire also poured millions into furthering Democratic statewide campaigns for governor, attorney general and the Arizona Corporation Commission.
For the most part, Steyer’s spending elicited no tangible results. And in some cases, Steyer’s involvement in Arizona elections further angered Arizona Republicans who constantly stump on keeping California politics out of Arizona.
That anger was probably best demonstrated by Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who in his victory speech on election night, issued a request for the California billionaire.
But NextGen Arizona’s goal, outside of boosting engagement among voters ages 18 to 35, was to flip Republican-held statewide seats, catapult Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to victory in the U.S. Senate race and spur Democratic victories in three congressional districts.
The Senate race and some other statewide races are too close to call, but it appears that Steyer’s hope of inciting a blue sweep across Arizona may have been overly optimistic.
Granted, Democrats won in the three congressional districts (CD1, CD2 and CD9) NextGen was targeting due the large amount of college-aged voters in the districts that correspond to Arizona’s major colleges and universities. But Democrats were heavily favored to win those three races regardless.
2018 was the first year NextGen conducted its youth voter initiative in Arizona after seeing a mixed bag of results in other states. But those fired-up young voters seemed unable to seriously penetrate Arizona’s red firewall.
Sen. David Farnsworth’s challenger in the Republican primary tells voters he’s running for office because Farnsworth told him to.
Republican Michael Hernandez, better known as “Big Mike,” says a disagreement over the future of San Tan Valley came to a head two years ago. The two candidates have slightly different versions of the events that took place, but nonetheless agree on the gist of the situation: Hernandez supports the incorporation of San Tan Valley, and Farnsworth, a Mesa Republican, wasn’t willing to sponsor legislation to aid that goal.
That’s when, Hernandez says, “He told me to run.”
It all started in 2016, when Farnsworth agreed to hold a series of town hall meetings in the East Valley to discuss the pros and cons of incorporation.
Some San Tan Valley residents, Hernandez among them, have spent years pushing to become a new city. The most recent efforts stalled earlier this year, when a residential area under the control of a developer blocked Pinal County officials from moving forward with an incorporation petition.
Neither Farnsworth nor Hernandez seems pleased with how the meetings went.
Farnsworth said he felt like the meetings were balanced at first, with ample time for those for and against incorporation but eventually were overtaken by those in favor.
Hernandez, a real estate agent, said Farnsworth seemed to be against incorporation, and shielded the meetings from testimony by officials from another Arizona city that could’ve spoken of the benefits of incorporation.
At the final town hall meeting, Hernandez asked Farnsworth point blank to sponsor legislation at the Capitol to help San Tan Valley residents incorporate. By Hernandez’s telling, the audience at the town hall overwhelmingly supported that effort.
”And he said no,” Hernandez said of Farnsworth.
“(Farnsworth) said, ‘Well, I’m not passionate about it. You need to find another legislator that’s passionate about it.’ And I said, ‘You’re our representative. You’re elected to represent us,’” Hernandez said. “(Farnsworth) said, ‘If you don’t like it, you should run for Senate. And my wife stood up and shouted, ‘We will.’”
Farnsworth doesn’t remember word for word what was said at the town hall meeting, but acknowledged the exchange might’ve gone something like that.
“[Hernandez] has said to me publicly and privately that he ran for the Senate because I encouraged him to,” Farnsworth said, later adding, “I don’t remember saying that, but I don’t question that I probably did.”
Perhaps Farnsworth’s personal feelings about city government had an impact on the audience at those town halls, he said, “and apparently (Hernandez) was not happy about that.” Farnsworth lives on a county island, which he said he enjoys “because I’m free of that extra layer of government intervention into our lives.”
And that’s part of the reason why he’s uncertain that incorporation is a good idea for the residents of San Tan Valley.
“Generally, a municipality will take away more freedoms,” Farnsworth said.
Hernandez said those beliefs, hinted at during the town hall meetings in 2016, were later confirmed by consultants he has interacted with. Those subsequent conversations led Hernandez to believe that Farnsworth is “adamantly anti-city.”
Hernandez felt that Farnsworth ran the meetings in a way that was designed to sway opinion against incorporation, particularly by bringing in officials from Johnson Utilities, including owner George Johnson, to speak about the downsides of incorporation.
Hernandez said he sought to offer a counter-argument by inviting the city manager of Buckeye, which incorporated in 1929, to show the positive aspects of incorporation.
But Farnsworth, via his assistant, sent an email to Hernandez declaring the city manager wouldn’t be allowed time to speak at the meeting, Hernandez said.
“The town hall progression led me to understand that he really didn’t care,” Hernandez said.
Farnsworth said that accusations that he’s “anti-city” are misinformed.
“The only thing that would probably disappoint me is if I were painted as anti-incorporation, because I expressed many times that incorporation could be a positive thing, as I said, if it were done correctly,” he said.
Those who wish to incorporate need a long-term strategy, and Farnsworth said one was lacking for San Tan Valley.
Farnsworth acknowledged that his blunt talk about cities as another layer of government, and his own professed appreciation for living on a county island, could give that impression, but that’s not the case.
“If I had been anti-incorporation, I never would have held those meetings to begin with,” he said.
But Farnsworth decided against sponsoring legislation that, while might have been a crowd-pleaser, wasn’t what the senator said he thought was right.
“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make that tough choice at the end of the day. … I suppose (Hernandez) felt like I needed to be obedient to the constituents and do what they wanted me to do,” Farnsworth said. “And apparently I made some comment and encouraged him to run for the Senate.”
It was enough for Hernandez to seek office for the first time.
Gov. Doug Ducey wants to know why the U.S. Senate is taking so long to vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
It’s just before 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 as he queries his staffers while they ride in a hulking SUV with dark tinted windows toward downtown Coolidge, population: 12,528. The governor is riding shotgun and scrolling through his phone on the brief drive from the Coolidge Municipal Airport to the heart of downtown, where he will walk in the annual Coolidge Days parade.
Ducey supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite allegations of sexual assault leveled at the judge.
Support for Kavanaugh could be an issue that tanks a Republican’s re-election bid in this weird and wild post-President Trump political environment. Supporting Kavanaugh can be viewed as more than just support for a Supreme Court nominee, but also affirmation of a controversial president.
And with Democrats across the country fighting back against the president and his agenda, any connection to Trump could be hard for Republicans to overcome this election cycle.
But not for Arizona’s governor.
Love him or hate him, Arizona is likely to see four more years of Ducey.
Democrat David Garcia appeared to ride a wave of galvanized Democrats after the Red for Ed movement this spring, but Ducey now holds a double-digit lead in the polls.
Ducey and his supporters have blanketed the airwaves for months with positive ads touting the governor and negative ads attacking his opponent. In comparison, Garcia’s campaign hasn’t had the money to fight back.
Early voting just started, but the race may already be over.
First stop: Pinal County
Ducey wears a happy-go-lucky smile as he works the parade route in Coolidge.
He’s in a button-down shirt tucked into pressed Wrangler jeans and flanked by Republican Reps. T.J. Shope, David Cook and state Sen. Frank Pratt, who are also seeking re-election.
He shakes hands with nearly everyone along the parade route, mainly adults but also some kids — old boardroom habits die hard. At times he gives kids high-fives, punctuating an especially satisfying smack with “boom!”
Parade goers continually praise him for bringing manufacturing start-up Nikola Motor Co. and its nearly 2,000 projected jobs to Coolidge.
The company that makes semi-trucks initially planned to locate in Buckeye, but pivoted because Coolidge had a shovel-ready site that would allow Nikola to start filling orders sooner.
It’s not clear what, if any, specific role Ducey may have played in helping Nikola switch sites, but economic development has been a central theme of the governor’s re-election campaign.
A former businessman, Ducey brought his corporate experience with him to the state’s executive office and has since prioritized job creation and reducing red tape and government interference in business.
And Arizona’s economy does look drastically different than it did four years ago — when the state was still feeling the lingering effects of the recession. Unemployment is down. Job growth is up, and more people are moving to Arizona every day.
Ducey has promised to take economic development to the next level with a second term.
“Now that we’ve got this momentum, this shine on our reputation, this polish on our state, that gives us the opportunity to make the case for the state of Arizona,” Ducey said in an interview.
Ducey’s recipe for economic excellence includes reforming the state’s tax code and creating a friendlier regulatory environment for businesses. He also thinks it’s just as important to fight “bad ideas” like the Invest in Education Act, which would have boosted taxes on Arizona’s wealthiest residents, and Proposition 127, which would mandate the state meet certain clean energy goals.
But creating a friendlier regulatory environment is not without issues. Uber and Theranos are oft-cited examples of where a lax regulatory environment can be problematic.
Garcia said Ducey built an economy for those at the top through tax breaks for corporations, and that greater K-12 education investment is crucial to driving economic development.
Ducey’s campaign has also emphasized border security throughout his re-election bid, partly as a way to tout creation of the Border Strike Force, but also as a way to tear down his opponent’s opposition to Trump’s border wall and his support for revamping the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
After the parade, the governor is delighted to find two off-duty Border Strike Force agents waiting for their breakfasts to arrive at a local diner in Coolidge.
The men tell the governor a K-9 unit caught someone trafficking 30 pounds of meth that very morning. Ducey’s face brightens and he thanks the men for their service.
But for Ducey, there’s no time for breakfast. Save for the freshmint Tic Tacs he pops throughout the seven-hour campaign barnstorm; he doesn’t eat because he doesn’t want anything slowing him down.
Next stop: Yavapai County
The charter jet — Ducey doesn’t use the state plane for campaign events — touches down at the Prescott Airport where nearby airstrips are crowded with people who came for an airshow.
The governor will be back in Prescott on Election Day eve — a tradition that pays homage to Barry Goldwater and John McCain, who launched their presidential bids from the courthouse steps.
Ducey makes the rounds, chatting with pilots and passersby alike.
In Washington, D.C., the Senate just confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48.
“I don’t remember a Supreme Court battle like this,” Ducey said. “Hopefully, the temperature comes down a bit in D.C.”
The political heat in the nation’s capital is spreading. The national political climate is reverberating across the country ahead of the congressional midterms.
Ducey’s opponents have tried to tie him to the president whenever possible. It’s a strategy Democrats across the country are employing en masse against their Republican opponents.
At a recent get-out-the-vote rally for Garcia, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego characterized Ducey as Trump’s henchman in Arizona.
“We need to fight Doug now. We need to fight Trump later because they are one in the same,” he said.
Ducey has tried to separate himself from the president. But at the same time, Ducey has praised Trump for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and his Supreme Court picks. He has also made multiple visits to the White House this year.
The governor views it as his job to work with the president — whoever it may be — wherever he can.
“I think this idea of protesting or being a part of the resistance rather than being the governor or the leader and doing what’s necessary for the citizens of Arizona is a real differentiator in this campaign,” Ducey said.
Ducey cited greeting President Barack Obama on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just days after the governor was inaugurated in 2015. He acknowledged that he and Obama didn’t see eye-to-eye on policy, but said that didn’t stop him from occasionally working with the administration.
The governor said he should be held accountable for his actions, not the president’s.
“I think what the other side would like to do is nationalize the election,” he said. “If people are upset with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., I can’t be in control of that. I can be in charge of the state of Arizona.”
Ducey hit several stumbling blocks this year, most notable of which was when 75,000 teachers marched on the state Capitol demanding higher teacher pay. He granted them pay raises spread over three years, but teachers weren’t satisfied.
The Red for Ed movement flipped Arizona’s political landscape on its head. Teachers filed to run for office, got involved in political campaigns and pushed the Invest in Ed ballot initiative.
The escalating political tension was palpable. But it’s too soon to know what effect teachers will have on Arizona’s elections this year. And early indicators show teachers’ newfound political activism won’t be able to topple Ducey, their No. 1 enemy.
Next stop: Ground game
Ducey rallies about two dozen campaign volunteers in a Prescott Valley park, emphasizing that Republicans need to boost turnout to help their candidates across the board.
The governor is leading in the polls by double digits, but other Republicans — namely U.S. Senate candidate Martha McSally — are not as lucky.
“We’re in the homestretch of this campaign, and it’s going to be a dogfight,” Ducey says. “We’re going to need every part of the state to turn out. … And of course, it’s about our race, but it’s about more than that.”
A Real Clear Politics average of five Arizona gubernatorial race polls shows Ducey up by 11.8 points. Ducey beat Democrat Fred DuVal by 12 points in 2014.
Democratic strategist Barry Dill is prepared to throw in the towel on the governor’s race.
“The race is all but over,” he said.
The problem all along for Garcia’s campaign was money. His inability to raise any significant amount of money meant he was unable to define himself as the Republican Governors Association pounded him with negative ads for months, Dill said.
Even before the primary Ducey and his allies started going negative on Garcia. But Garcia’s campaign depleted much of its cash coffers in the primary, giving the governor and his supporters a 50-to-1 spending advantage over Garcia.
“What has happened is that the governor’s campaign has had a free reign on defining David Garcia to the electorate and I don’t think there’s enough time or enough money to fight back,” Dill said.
In an interview, Garcia brushed off the onslaught of ads and recent polling that shows him behind.
“Polls don’t vote, people do,” he said. “Ads don’t vote, people do.”
Winning is possible, it’s just a matter of turnout and getting people to the polls, he said. Garcia cited his campaign’s more than 40,000 small-dollar donors to Ducey’s few thousand high-dollar donors as a sign that Arizonans support his campaign.
Garcia’s path to victory focuses on boosting turnout among new voters. His campaign has courted Hispanic voters — a traditionally hard to motivate group of voters — and young, progressive Democrats.
But as Garcia has embraced the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, he is alienating some independent and moderate voters — a voting bloc other statewide Democrats are working hard to capture.
Primary election data from the Secretary of State’s Office indicates new voters may not be turning out in high enough numbers for a Garcia victory. Arizona saw record-breaking primary turnout in August, but that was not because of new voters, but rather voters who typically vote in general elections, but had not voted in the previous two primary elections.
Ducey is ready to knock on doors and talk to voters face-to-face. He gets an overwhelmingly warm reception as he knocks doors at about a dozen Republican homes a few blocks away from the Prescott Valley park.
At one home, an older woman answers and shrieks when she sees the governor standing outside. Ducey tries to launch into his pitch, but Jenelle Balonon cuts him off.
“I know who you are, I’m voting for you,” she says, joking that that the governor almost gave her a heart attack. She extends her arm out to Ducey to show that she’s literally shaking.
As Ducey heads to the next door, his entourage picks up a cohort of curious children. The elementary school-aged boys were playing basketball at a house when they saw Ducey and his supporters, who are noticeable in the quiet neighborhood.
One boy pulls out at an iPhone and snaps a picture of Ducey upon learning he is the governor.
“I’m going to send this to so many people,” he says. The boy convinces the governor to FaceTime with his father, Scott Mitchell, a pastor at the Church Next Door in Paradise Valley.
His wife, Carolyn Mitchell, keeps a watchful eye on their young boys from the driveway. She thanks Ducey for granting teachers pay raises.
“We voted for you the first time so we’ll vote for you again,” she says.
Last stop: Home
The jet lands back at Phoenix Sky Harbor at about 4:30 p.m. After a quick photo with the pilots, Ducey hops into a waiting vehicle.
Across the country, Kavanaugh was just sworn in as the newest addition to the Supreme Court in a private ceremony at the country’s high court.
Protests rage on outside the Supreme Court. But in Phoenix, it’s just another Saturday as Ducey’s car drives away.
President Donald Trump has put Gov. Doug Ducey in a bind.
With reports swirling that Trump will headline an upcoming rally in Phoenix, his likely visit has put Ducey – who is fighting for his political life vying for a second term – in an awkward position as the governor toes the line in embracing the Republican Party’s most bombastic figure.
Ducey has not said if he will appear on stage with Trump at a rally that will be focused on uniting the GOP following a contentious Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake. Details for the rally have not been solidified.
The governor, a calculating and typically scripted politician, could be the parallel opposite of Trump, who tends to shoot from the hip.
Ducey said this week he looks forward to welcoming Trump to Arizona, but would not say if he will participate in a campaign rally with the president.
“I’ve been with the president plenty of times. I’ve had dinner with the president at the White House so we’re going to see what the details are and we’re going to work with him to make it a productive trip,” he said.
The governor’s staff has been in contact with the White House on coordinating Trump’s visit.
Ducey will appear with Trump because he knows he doesn’t have a choice, said Zachary Smith, a regents professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University.
“He can’t afford to ‘dis’ Trump,” he said.
More specifically, Ducey can’t risk losing support from die-hard Trump supporters in November, which could happen if he snubs the president when he comes to Arizona, Smith said.
But Ducey also has to appeal to a broader swath of voters this fall. He needs to pick up a chunk of independent voters in order to lock down a second term, Smith said.
Ducey will be walking on a tightrope, Smith said. He will have to show respect for the president, but he could hurt his standing with moderate voters if he’s overly effusive, he said.
“I’m not sure how he’ll do it, but watch, Ducey will find some way to be there, but not be there,” Smith said. “He’s not going to be cheerleading or anything like that.”
Ducey has visited the White House in recent months. In August, he attended an event honoring U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He and several other Republican governors discussed border security with the president when they dined with him in May at the White House.
Trump endorsed Ducey just before the primary election, inciting liberal outrage across Arizona. While Ducey said he was grateful for the president’s endorsement, his campaign did not broadcast Trump’s tweet because it happened during a campaign hiatus immediately following Sen. John McCain’s death.
In the midst of a contentious re-election bid, Ducey has kept Trump at arm’s length.
Republicans across the country are struggling with how to handle the Trump factor in a year where Democrats are determined to send a message to the commander-in-chief and members of his political party.
But GOP pollster George Khalaf, president of Data Orbital, said Trump’s visit is unlikely to affect Ducey’s re-election campaign.
A Data Orbital poll from September 10 found Trump underwater with his favorable rating at 49 percent and unfavorable at 42 percent. But Trump’s favorability rating in Arizona has remained relatively consistent over time, according to previous polls from Data Orbital.
The same poll found Ducey with an 8-point lead over Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia, with a mere 7.9 percent of those surveyed undecided.
The Trump factor is largely played out this close to the general election, Khalaf said.
Voters were already associating Ducey with Trump or they weren’t, he said.
“Whether Trump comes or doesn’t, whether the governor shows up on stage or doesn’t, Trump endorsed Governor Ducey and so I think if it’s going to sway someone’s mind, that would be enough,” Khalaf said.
Some voters could also already be lumping Ducey in with Trump simply because they’re both Republicans and anti-Trump voters are already so turned off by the Republican Party right now, he said.
But digging deeper into the Data Orbital poll shows that some Democrats do see the difference between Ducey and Trump because the governor is picking up some support from Democrats who view Trump as unfavorable.
Ducey and Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who is facing Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, in the U.S. Senate race, have treated Trump differently this election cycle. McSally eagerly vied for Trump’s endorsement and often sought to connect herself to the president throughout the primary.
Federal candidates have more interaction with the president than politicians at the state level, Khalaf said. McSally recognizes that if she’s going to get the negative effects of running at the same time that Trump is in the White House, she may as well get the positive effects like having the president do a rally for her, he said.
“She may as well go all in,” he said.
Arizona Democrats are incensed at most everything Trump says and does. As Democrats lobby hard to take the Governor’s Office, they have tried to tie Ducey to the president whenever possible.
A spokeswoman for Garcia’s campaign said it doesn’t matter if Ducey appears with Trump when the president comes to Arizona, because they obviously share a common agenda.
Garcia spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said Ducey and Trump agree on tax cuts for the wealthy, attacks on working people, clean energy, civil rights and women’s reproductive rights.
“He’s clearly lockstep with Trump,” she said.
Smith, the NAU professor, said the Trump rally will likely be a wash in the end. Anti-Trump sentiment among Democrats and some independents is already strong and a local Trump appearance isn’t going to inflame that anger, he said.
“At the end of the day, the people who hate Trump will still hate him and the people who love Trump are still going to love him,” he said.
Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey continues to accumulate campaign funds in his bid for another four years in office.
New finance report show Ducey’s contributions total $4.16 million. That includes another nearly $791,000 he raised in the most recent three months.
The governor has plenty left to spend, listing total expenses of less than $912,000.
That isn’t all that Ducey has raised.
Aside from the Ducey For Governor Committee, the same staffers also are operating the Ducey Victory Fund.
Any donations to that fund of up to $5,100 from individuals — the maximum one person can give to a candidate — are transferred to the governor’s reelection campaign. Amounts larger than that are given to the Arizona Republican Party which can use those funds to help Ducey and other party members with their races.
So far those transfers to the party have exceeded $1.5 million.
All that has left Ken Bennett, the other Republican in the race, in the dust.
Bennett’s contribution list totaled $44,320, including $30,500 out of his own pocket, as he hopes to eventually get enough $5 donations to qualify for public funding. That would give him $839,704 to spend between now and the Aug. 28 primary.
Among the three Democrats hoping to take on whoever survives the GOP primary, state Sen. Steve Farley has collected the most at more than $1.1 million against $628,193 in expenses.
David Garcia said his has raised $846,104 to date, though his expenses are approaching $600,000.
Kelly Fryer is far back at $161,383 in contributions and expenses of $120,498.
What’s reported is unlikely to be all that is spent convincing Arizonans how to vote.
Four years ago the governor was the beneficiary of close to $8 million spent on his behalf by outside groups on commercials extolling him or attacking Democrat Fred DuVal.
To date, no outside groups have filed formal spending reports. But there is spending going on, at least indirectly, that could help Ducey.
Earlier this year, as Ducey was insisting the state could afford only a 1 percent increase in teacher pay, a business coalition spent about $1 million on TV commercials to say that education funding in Arizona is not as bad as critics complained. The money for the Arizona Education Project came from Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association and others.
Spokesman Matthew Benson said the spending did not fit the definition of what is required by law to be reported as a campaign expense or require full disclosure of donors.
Then when Ducey promised teachers a 19 percent pay hike by 2020, the Republican Governors Association put up its own TV commercial, complete with video from Ducey’s press conference announcing the pay plan. It praised Ducey for “strengthening our public schools without raising taxes.”
RGA spokesman Jon Thompson declined to say how much his organization is spending other than calling the media buy “significant.”
That spending, too, is likely to remain off the radar, as it did not explicitly call for Arizonans to vote for Ducey.
But the RGA already has indicated it is preparing to spend directly to influence races here and elsewhere. In a press release Tuesday, RGA Executive Director Paul Bennecke boasted of having $87.5 million in the bank.
“The RGA’s record-breaking cash on hand gives us the ability to make a significant impact in 2018’s gubernatorial elections,” he said in a prepared statement.
And Bennecke said he doubts the Democratic Governors Association will be able to do the same for their candidates, saying it reported just $18 million cash on hand.
Slightly further down the ticket, Republican Steve Gaynor reports he has more than $1 million in his bid to oust incumbent Michele Reagan as secretary of state, though virtually all of that is his own cash.
Reagan has been buffeted by a series of problems with how some elections have been conducted, notably the failure of her office to get pamphlets explaining the issues in a 2016 special election into voters hands before they got their early ballots.
By contrast, Reagan, seeking another four-year term, listed donations of $649,684. That includes $85,000 she loaned her own campaign, though she repaid $15,000 of that earlier this year.
Democrat Katie Hobbs is running unopposed for the Democrat nomination for the office.
In the five-way GOP primary for superintendent of public instruction, incumbent Diane Douglas has raised less than anyone else at just $17,896. And she already has spent nearly $14,000 of that.
At the other extreme, challenger Jonathan Gelbart reports donations of $98,839, though that also includes $25,000 of his own money.
Frank Riggs was slightly farther behind at $85,098. But more than half was in loans to his campaign.
Bob Branch listed $24,679 in donations, with Tracy Livingston at $18,668.
On the Democrat side, both David Schapira and Kathy Hoffman qualified for $108,779 in public funds.
There is no primary for the attorney general’s race. So far Republican incumbent Mark Brnovich has raised $705,662 versus $472,579 for Democrat January Contreras.
In a two-way GOP primary for treasurer, Kimberly Yee has raised $632,056 compared with $7,830 for Jo Ann Sabbagh who hopes to qualify for $108,779 in public funding.
Democrat Mark Manoil also is pursing $5 donations for public funding.
Gov. Doug Ducey is running for a second term amidst a political environment unlike any that Arizona has seen before.
As part of his re-election bid, Ducey sat down with the Arizona Capitol Times to discuss numerous issues, including education, Arizona’s economy, his re-election bid and the challenges he faces along the way to a second term. Here are the highlights.
But Ducey also points to a longstanding rift between state government and K-12 educators, and asks that he only be judged for his actions during his first term.
“I can’t be accountable for what’s happened the last 30 years,” he said.
One of Ducey’s accomplishments, which was touted shortly after its passage in TV commercials by the Republican Governors Association, was his proposal to grant teachers 20-percent pay raises spread out over three years. His initial budget proposal included a 1-percent pay bump for teachers this year.
Since Ducey signed the raises into law, he said lots of teachers have been grateful for the pay hikes that start this school year. His main focus now is making sure those dollars get to the classrooms, he said. He also said that with another term he wants to put more money into K-12 education, over and above inflation, but he would not specify how much.
But “Red for Ed” supporters opposed Ducey’s teacher pay proposal and representatives for the movement say teachers have an inherent distrust of Ducey and his administration because he has made empty promises before.
Ducey argues that distrust stems from before his time in office.
“I think there’s been a long history of conflict between state government and K-12 education,” he said. “I’ve worked very hard over the last three-plus years to not play divide and conquer, to not pick one section of our education system over another, but to say that these are all of our kids here.”
But K-12 education advocates have also criticized Ducey for his support of charter schools and an expansion of Arizona’s school-voucher program that he signed into law last year.
Ducey signed legislation to make all public school students eligible for state money to attend private and parochial schools.
Some parents and teachers say the expansion of school vouchers to any public school students, as opposed to just those who are disabled or attend failing schools, will starve public schools, causing public school students to receive a subpar education.
But Ducey attributes teachers’ opposition to charters and ESAs to misinformation from the Arizona Education Association — the teachers’ union that Ducey declined to meet with during the “Red for Ed” strike.
“That’s because people in the union are misinforming those teachers,” he said. “Our policies have put public districts and public charters on equal value in terms of the opportunities for improvement.”
Citing a growing economy and President Trump’s push to appoint conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ducey praised the president’s leadership.
Ducey pointed to growth in Arizona and across the country, which many conservatives attribute to Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a sign that Trump is working to build an economy of the future.
He also cited the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as proof the president is doing a good job.
But Ducey does not agree with Trump on everything. A supporter of free trade, he has spoken out against new tariffs imposed by Trump’s administration.
He also expressed some opposition to Trump’s zero tolerance, saying “no one wants to see families separated,” but he didn’t go as far as some governors who reacted by withdrawing National Guard forces from the border.
Ducey also wouldn’t say that he wants Trump’s endorsement this fall. When asked if he’ll seek the president’s endorsement in his re-election bid, Ducey sidestepped the question. Personality-wise, Ducey couldn’t be more different than the bombastic president.
It’s hard to know whether Trump’s endorsement would hurt or help Ducey. Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake have eagerly vied for Trump’s endorsement in an attempt to prove their conservative bona fides. But in an election year where anti-Trump sentiment is growing, a presidential endorsement could hurt more than it helps.
Ducey brushed off the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle, and seemed unfazed by his primary challenger, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
As talk grows of a “blue wave” hitting Arizona this election cycle, Ducey does not plan to sit back and rest on his laurels during the campaign.
“I think in any business, you want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and that’s why we have that challenger’s mentality,” he said.
Elections are competitive and Ducey said he’s not taking his incumbent status for granted. Similar to his bid for state treasurer eight years ago and his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey plans to campaign across the state and tout his record.
But Ducey dismissed polls showing his favorability rating dropping. He also dismissed the perception that he’s vulnerable this election cycle because of anti-Trump sentiment and the continued opposition he faces from “Red for Ed” supporters.
“I think the media loves a horse race, so they would love to see a horse race,” he said.
As for his primary challenger, Ducey doesn’t see Bennett’s candidacy as a failing of his governorship.
“It’s a free country. The water’s warm. People are going to jump in and make their case,” he said. “The voters will decide on August 28.”
Ducey has refused to debate Bennett leading up to the primary, claiming his challenger’s comments about Sen. John McCain disqualified Bennett from public office. Ducey did not address the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the interview.
After entering office in a post-recession era wherein the state was still strapped for cash, Ducey takes credit for helping grow Arizona’s economy and lower the state’s unemployment.
He brought his business background to governing. Ducey, who slashed state regulations and cut taxes every year that he’s been in office, thinks the best move for government is to stay out of the way as Arizona sees unprecedented revenue and population growth.
The governor attributes the growth to Arizona’s tax and regulatory environment and the state’s infrastructure, education system and reliable water supply, among other things.
“We have a momentum that’s really building on itself,” he said. “It’s time to pour the gas on.”
Holding true to a campaign pledge from his first gubernatorial bid, Ducey still aims to reduce the state’s income tax to as close to zero as possible.
Ducey’s plan to lower the state’s income tax includes working with legislative leaders to revamp Arizona’s tax code around tax conformity and a recent Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for states to collect sales taxes from online purchases.
In essence, Ducey envisions a 21st-century tax code.
“It’s not one issue that you can look at in a vacuum, he said. “I mean, the idea of reforming or improving a tax code is ideally so that you’re bringing in more revenue because you have a state that’s growing.”
Gov. Doug Ducey and Democratic challenger David Garcia will go head-to-head in back-to-back televised debates on Sept. 24 in Phoenix and Sept. 25 in Tucson.
The Phoenix debate, put on by the Clean Elections Commission, will be broadcast on Arizona PBS. The Tucson debate, put on in conjunction with Arizona Public Media and the Arizona Daily Star, will be broadcast in the Phoenix area by KJZZ.
“The Governor looks forward to sharing his record on the economy, historic investments in education, and work to make Arizona a safer, better place to live, work and raise a family,” Ducey’s campaign manager J.P. Twist said in a written statement.
Ducey participated in three general election debates with Fred DuVal in 2014. He rejected rival foe Ken Bennett’s requests for debates during the Republican primary this election cycle.
Just before the governor’s campaign announced Ducey would participate in two debates, Garcia’s campaign called for three televised debates, which would have included a debate in Yuma. The debates would have corresponded to Arizona’s three media markets.
“The voters have a right to hear from their candidates and so I challenge Doug Ducey to debate me at least three (3) times on television before the general election. Name the time, name the place and we will be there,” Garcia said in a statement.
Previous sitting governors have participated in two or fewer general election debates. Former Gov. Jan Brewer debated Democrat Terry Goddard just once. Former Gov. Janet Napolitano participated in two general election debates during both of her campaigns.
Time: 5 p.m. Sept. 24
Place: Arizona PBS studio
Moderator: Ted Simons of Arizona PBS
Time: 7 p.m. Sept. 25
Place: Arizona Public Media studio, but broadcast in Phoenix by KJZZ
Moderators: Lorraine Rivera of AZPM, Steve Goldstein of KJZZ, Christopher Conover of AZPM and Joe Ferguson of the Arizona Daily Star
As politics grow more partisan across the country, a new type of voter — one who isn’t afraid to cross party lines — has emerged this election cycle.
Approximately 12 percent of people who support Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s U.S. Senate bid plan to vote for Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, according to recent polling from Data Orbital.
On the flip side, Sinema is picking up roughly the same amount of Ducey supporters.
The polling bodes well for the incumbent governor and three-term congresswoman, who is locked in a tight race with U.S. Rep. Martha McSally to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.
It’s not unusual for statewide candidates to get some crossover support. Some Democrats will vote Republican and vice versa every election cycle. But with the U.S. Senate and governor’s races predicted to be close, crossover support could mean the difference between winning and losing.
A major factor in the significant number of crossover voters is the candidates themselves, said GOP pollster George Khalaf.
Some Democrats may be flocking away from Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia because of his stance on issues such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, taxing the rich to fund K-12 education and his plan to offer free college, said Khalaf, president of Data Orbital.
Garcia, unlike previous Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Arizona, is running as an unabashed progressive, who is often pigeonholed in the Bernie Sanders-wing of the party.
“While both parties are going to fringes, there are still components of both parties that don’t want to elect someone that is on their fringe,” Khalaf said. “They would be more likely to elect sort of a pro-business Republican governor than elect someone who they feel like may not align with them on a couple of issues.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans are turning to Sinema because she has spent years shaping herself into an independent, moderate Democrat who isn’t afraid to work across the aisle, Khalaf said.
Longtime political analyst Chris Herstam dismissed the crossover voters as nothing unusual. There’s always crossover voters and more so in the governor’s race than Senate races because the federal races are typically tied to the president and are far more partisan, he said.
Herstam, a former Republican turned Democrat and Garcia supporter, predicted voters will stick closer to their respective parties come Election Day.
“People tend to come home to their political parties as a campaign wears on, and I think you’ll see the crossover vote for both Garcia and Ducey from their own party to the other candidate will be very similar,” he said.
While Garcia and McSally have picked up some support from their opposing parties, it isn’t near as much as their respective opponents. Garcia picked up about 5 percent of McSally voters and vice versa, according to Data Orbital polling.
In the governor’s race, prominent Arizona Republicans like former Superintendents of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime Molera, who endorsed Garcia in his 2014 bid for schools superintendent, have turned their backs on him this election cycle.
But in a September 24 governor’s debate, Garcia said he wasn’t surprised by Molera and Keegan’s endorsements of Ducey because they are both Republicans.
Other polling shows a similar pattern of crossover voters. A Fox News poll conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic polling outfits shows Ducey picking up 18 percent of Sinema supporters, with Garcia picking up only 5 percent of McSally supporters.
Khalaf said the polls may not necessarily indicate that Democrats dislike Garcia. Some Democrats just like Ducey’s message more, he said.
The polling could indicate there’s a contingent of Democrats who vote based on economic issues. They are not going to be partisan Democrats just for the sake of being partisan Democrats, Khalaf said.
Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe, who has endorsed Ducey, is one of those Democrats.
Uribe praised Ducey’s focus on bringing jobs to Arizona and working to strengthen the economy along the Arizona-Mexico border. Ducey’s 2017 visit to Douglas to tour the Raul Hector Castro Port of Entry also left quite the impression on Uribe.
“The majority of people in Douglas, Arizona, are asking for more jobs in our region and we struggle with that significantly,” he said. “I’ve been trying to make sure that Douglas is at the table, that Douglas is a part of the conversation and the governor has made himself available to me.”
Uribe also praised Garcia as a passionate candidate with a strong education vision for Arizona. But he stressed that there’s a list of other issues that are equally important, including jobs, trade, infrastructure and Arizona’s relationship with Mexico.
Ducey is the only Republican Uribe has ever endorsed.
Similarly, Jerry Sanchez, the Democratic mayor of San Luis, announced his support for the governor nearly two weeks ago.
What’s more, Ducey’s campaign recently hired Democrat Mario Diaz, a strategist and lobbyist who previously served as former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s campaign manager.
Diaz said Ducey is the right person for governor because of the stability he will bring to the state while boosting Arizona’s economy. He also criticized Garcia for characterizing the state and the Legislature as corrupt, rhetoric that would make it difficult for Garcia to be an effective governor, he said.
“This type of language is divisive and not needed in our state,” Diaz said. Diaz has contributed to numerous other Democrats this election cycle, including a slew of legislative candidates and Katie Hobbs, who is running for secretary of state.
In a gubernatorial debate, Garcia dismissed Diaz’s endorsement of Ducey.
“Of course he’s going to back you,” Garcia said to Ducey. “If you pay somebody then I wouldn’t expect him not to endorse you.”
Ducey’s campaign is paying Diaz $5,000 per month to consult on law enforcement issues and Latino outreach.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer said the Secretary of State’s Office is preparing to ask the attorney general to investigate fraud allegations that have plagued the 2018 election cycle.
There have been accusations of fraudulent signatures on the nominating petitions of at least four candidates this year.
Spencer said his staff conducted a cursory review of the signatures gathered by all 310 candidates for state, legislative and federal office this year. He said the staff is mainly focused on the nominating petitions submitted by gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett, Sandra Dowling, who is running for the 8th Congressional District, Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, who was running for the vacant Senate seat in Legislative District 30, and Mark Syms, an independent candidate running for the Senate in Legislative District 28.
Their nominating petitions were challenged in court for alleged signature fraud and forgery and each had hired a former Democratic candidate, Larry Herrera, to collect signatures for them.
Spencer said one thing they did find is that when they mapped out the addresses of the purported circulators who collected signatures for the candidates, they all lived fairly close to Herrera.
Herrera, a Democrat who ran for the Senate in Legislative District 20 earlier this year, is also facing fraud allegations from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in connection with his campaign.
Spencer said once the Secretary of State’s Office finishes processing and reviewing signatures filed by campaigns pushing four ballot initiatives, he will also check with staff to see if any of the circulators who collected signatures for candidate campaigns also collected signatures for any of the initiatives.
“I don’t know whether there is any overlap at this point, but we want to marry the results of what we learned from the initiative process with the candidate process and put together a comprehensive referral,” he said.
So far, Spencer said, the office has gathered enough evidence that it feels comfortable proceeding with a criminal referral.
The ultimate decision on whether or not to proceed will be left up to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, who he said has not yet been briefed.
However, Spencer said this is an issue that Reagan and staff have made a priority.
“I think the secretary and I agree that it’s probably time to send a message out there that this isn’t going to be tolerated any longer,” he said.
Spencer had previously told the Arizona Capitol Times that the Secretary of State’s Office would allow the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to determine whether to refer the four cases to law enforcement or an outside agency that can analyze the allegedly forged signatures. If the county refused to pursue the matter, Spencer said, the Secretary of State’s Office would.
Sophia Solis, a spokeswoman for the Recorder’s Office, declined to comment on any ongoing or possible investigations. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said it would review any case referred to the office by the county recorder. However, a follow-up email asking whether any cases had already been referred went unanswered.
Spencer said he is not sure where the county stands on the issue. He said both agencies have been busy analyzing the nearly 1.5 million signatures filed by the four initiatives and just because the county has not yet referred the case for a criminal investigation does not mean it won’t.
But he said the Secretary of State’s Office wasn’t willing to wait on the matter.
“I just decided that there was enough evidence in our possession where we could independently refer this evidence to the attorney general without needing to wait for the county,” he said.
Elections officials said they will likely refer several campaigns that have been implicated for fraud and forgery to law enforcement for further investigation.
At least four candidates whose nominating petitions were challenged in Maricopa County Superior Court have faced allegations of widespread signature fraud.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer said the Secretary of State’s Office will allow the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office to determine whether to refer the four cases to law enforcement or an outside agency that can analyze the allegedly forged signatures.
County Recorder Adrian Fontes said he has not yet decided if the cases will be referred for prosecution. He said he met with the county attorney on June 27 to determine what the office will do.
Gubernatorial candidate Ken Bennett; Sandra Dowling, who is running for the 8th Congressional District; Rep. Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, who was running for the vacant Senate seat in Legislative District 30; and Mark Syms, an independent candidate running for the Senate in Legislative District 28, have all been accused of filing fraudulent signatures.
The County Recorder’s Office invalidated thousands of the signatures the candidates turned in, including 1,460 collected by Syms, Dowling and Martinez that didn’t match those on voter registration records.
The candidates hired a man named Larry Herrera to collect signatures for them. Herrera, a Democrat who ran for the Senate in Legislative District 20 earlier this year, is also facing fraud allegations from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in connection with his campaign.
If the county refuses to pursue the matter, Spencer said, the Secretary of State’s Office will.
“I think we would give Maricopa County breathing space for a couple of weeks to determine if they want to do something. If they pass, I’m fairly certain Secretary (Michele) Reagan would want to take the next step and work on referring it to the attorney general,” he said.
Spencer said staff has been asked to do a cursory review of all candidate petitions to see if some of the same circulators who were implicated in these cases collected signatures for other campaigns.
However, he said a review of the nominating petitions will depend on what kind of resources the office is able to dedicate to this, since the office is also working on other election-related matters.
Still, that won’t deter the office from pursuing further action, he said.
“The bottom line is we’re not going to let this fade away or let it go. It’s probably too late to do anything for the 2018 cycle in terms of a deterrent effect, but in terms of the 2020 cycle, we need the circulator community to know there will be consequences for fraudulent activity,” he said.
Agency spokesman Matt Roberts said it’s premature to say if the Secretary of State’s Office will push for legislative changes to petition gathering laws next year. He said no one from the Legislature has approached the office about changes to the law.
“There has been what seems to be an uptick in issues in petition circulation and we will certainly take a look at the election cycle as a whole and determine what types of legislation might be necessary moving into the next election cycle and more importantly the next legislative cycle,” he said.
Spencer said in addition to a possible criminal investigation, another way to prevent such signature fraud from happening in future elections is to encourage candidates to vet signatures before submitting them to the Secretary of State’s Office.
He said much of the blame has been placed on the signature-gathering firms and the circulators themselves, but candidates hold some responsibility to double check their work.
“They don’t bear a criminal responsibility, but they do hold some responsibility, on a sliding scale, to ensure everything looks right,” Spencer said.
Spencer said first-time candidates or candidates using a new or unknown firm have an obligation to check their nominating petitions before turning them in. That obligation is less for experienced candidates who are working with a firm that has a proven track record, he said.
In Syms’ case, Spencer said there were numerous red flags, including widely reported fraud allegations against Herrera, the large number of signatures collected in such a short time frame, and the “astronomical” number of signatures collected in a single day by some of the circulators.
Taking all that into account, he said there was a high burden on Syms’ campaign to review the petitions.
“It is not enough to call yourself a victim of fraud,” he said. “Candidates aren’t victims here.”
Spencer pointed out that there are several candidates who withdrew from their respective races prior to a challenge being filed or once a challenge was filed because they reviewed their petitions and found that they didn’t have enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot.
Radio host Seth Leibsohn dropped out of the Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District after submitting his signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office but before a legal challenge was filed. Leibsohn ended his campaign after he reviewed his petition sheets and found that he didn’t have enough valid signatures to qualify.
Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, who was running for state treasurer, didn’t file nominating petitions because the people he hired to collect signatures provided fraudulent signatures the day before the filing deadline.
“That was a responsible and ethical thing for them to do. Those are two good examples of candidates taking responsibility for what goes on in their campaigns,” Spencer said.
Both Democrats in the Legislative District 18 House race maintained last night’s early lead and have won.
Republican Rep. Jill Norgaard will not return to the Legislature, finishing behind Rep. Mitzi Epstein, who got the most votes, and Jennifer Jermaine. Republican Greg Patterson, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents who served in the House from 1991-94 finished last.
The money race already signaled a tough if not impossible road ahead for Patterson. He raised a mere $31,000, less than half of what Jermaine reported raising.
Still, Save Our Schools Arizona volunteer Jermaine’s path to the House was never guaranteed.
The district flipped in favor of Democrats in 2016, when Sen. Sean Bowie claimed his seat and Epstein took one of the two House seats. But Republicans put up a fight to maintain what they already had and possibly unseat the incumbent senator. Neither battle was successful for the GOP as Bowie kept his Senate seat.
Jermaine was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Domingo DeGrazia topped Rep. Todd Clodfelter in Legislative District 10, and Aaron Lieberman outdid Rep. Maria Syms in Legislative District 28. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.
And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer said he has always been fascinated by politics and law.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Spencer graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to receive his law degree from Duke University and a master’s in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School.
The intersection between those three disciplines – politics, public policy and law – has defined his career, Spencer said.
You joined the U.S. Army after receiving your master’s degree. What led to that decision?
I was in my second day at school, getting my graduate degree, and I saw the planes crashing into the World Trade Center live on TV. While I was studying that morning, and within a couple weeks of the attack, I tried to get an internship at Hanscom Air Force Base, which is north of Boston. I just wanted to sort of serve in some way and I couldn’t because of security reasons they couldn’t let me on.
How’d you get in eventually?
I went to go see a Marine Corps recruiter to try to join the Marines and I was about 60 pounds overweight. I was in graduate school and in law school at the same time and the recruiter just looked at me like I wasn’t serious… By the end of the year I got a recruiting flier from a recruiter in Durham, North Carolina, that probably goes out to every forthcoming graduate of Duke and I just called him up and I said I was interested and I spent that summer working out. I lost 60 pounds. I read military books. I prepared myself physically and mentally that entire summer and I interviewed to join as an officer and I was accepted. So in September of ‘03, right after having taken the bar exam, I was a regular trainee recruit at Fort Benning, Georgia.
How long were you in combat?
For an entire year from December ‘05 to December 2006. And this was right before the surge was implemented a few months later in 2007. So in many ways, the high number of casualties that we took led to that surge being necessary. The first couple of months I was in Sadr City and the last 10 months was in southeast Baghdad. I think we saw some of the worst fighting.
Did that experience shape the way you approach your job now?
There are a lot of similarities between the Army and elections. It’s one massive logistical challenge to get everybody to move toward a common goal and everybody plays a role in getting to that goal. Attention to detail is critical. And it requires leaders to be both in the trenches, literally in terms of the Army and metaphorically in terms of elections. There’s no job that’s beneath you in the Army and it’s the same in elections.
When you say in the trenches, how much work are we talking about right now?
I leave here between midnight and 2 a.m. and I’m usually in by 5:30 a.m. At the latest 7 a.m. Seven days a week.
How does this election cycle compare to 2016?
In my first election cycle, to do four statewide elections in one year, one of them being a presidential election, was a massive task. And then this year I thought, I have that experience under my belt and this will just be a midterm election. Easy. But then we had Congressman (Trent) Franks’ resignation. So we had two special congressional elections to run in March and May of this year at a time when we all assumed would be election prep time. So like in ‘16, in ‘18 we will have four elections again. … It feels like we’ve been at a sprint since the first day. So 2018 isn’t any crazier than what we’ve seen since I got here. I feel like I’ve gotten a decade’s worth of election experience in only three and a half years.
What did you take away from the criticism the Secretary of State’s Office received during the 2016 elections?
What I didn’t fully appreciate in ‘16 being new was that it’s not so much about making mistakes. It’s about how you respond publicly and acknowledging those mistakes. I accept full responsibility for not raising a louder voice in early ‘16 about the fact that, you know, 11 percent of the publicity pamphlets were going to be late. And at that time, I was still dealing with the blowback from the presidential preference election lines, but I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of screaming it from the mountaintops that something went wrong and we’re working hard to fix it, because in my mind I thought just working hard to fix it was sufficient. But it’s not… And since then, the minute we see something that even potentially goes wrong, we put it up on our website immediately and just keep people informed.
What do you like most about the job?
It’s, believe it or not, meeting first-time candidates. The best experience was Debbie Nez Manuel, who is running against Senator Juan Mendez in Legislative District 26. She brought her entire extended family into that room that I showed you a couple minutes ago with the petitions. Our computer aggregates and tabulates the results of our different reviewers who are looking at petition sheets and when I saw the final number that it was above the required minimum, I turned around and told her congratulations. She just immediately burst out into tears. And her entire family was cheering and they were crying. … It still gives me goosebumps to think about it, and there were dozens of other candidates like that where they walked out of here with that certificate and got on the elevator just exhilarated. So that’s the neatest thing about the job that we’re still the gateway to people being able to run for public office and make a difference. Yeah I know it sounds cheesy, but that’s when you go home and feel like you’re making a difference.
Do you think you’ll stay in government or go back to private practice?
I have absolutely no idea. And I know this sounds weird, but I have not thought a day past the general election. I can be fired the next day. I could be asked to stay. It depends on what happens at the election as well.
What’s one thing most people in the Capitol community don’t know about you?
I’ve jumped out of five airplanes. I got my jump wings in the Army Airborne School. … And only one of those jumps was correct. You’re supposed to land toes, knees, side of your leg, and then roll over. And I only successfully did that once. The other four times it was toes and then head and I just looked like the stereotypical officer jumping out of the plane. I was really bad, but I qualified and that’s awesome.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz will rule today in a lawsuit challenging former Yuma Rep. Don Shooter’s residency — an issue that could keep him off the ballot this fall.
In court June 14, attorneys for Shooter and Brent Backus, his Republican challenger in Legislative District 13 who brought the lawsuit, sparred over whether Shooter resides in a Yuma condo that he rents despite not paying any electric bills there in recent months, having mail forwarded to a Maricopa County home and briefly changing his voter registration to Maricopa County.
There have long been questions about whether Shooter — who was expelled from the House in February after an investigation found he had sexually harassed several women — lives in the Yuma district he represented for years.
Backus’ attorney Timothy La Sota presented a case that Shooter did not live in the district when he filed his nominating petitions and Shooter does not meet a constitutional provision that requires lawmakers to reside in the county that they are running in for at least one year prior to the election.
But Shooter and his attorney Tim Nelson argued that the former lawmaker’s intent has always been to return to Yuma, even if he sometimes stays with his wife Susan Shooter at their Maricopa County home.
“Yuma’s been good to me,” Shooter said. “It’s my home. I’ve spent considerable time and effort and money to continue that relationship. … I’m spending a lot of money right now to be a part of Yuma. It would be real easy to walk away. It’s a little irritating.”
There’s no doubt that Shooter feels connected to the people of Yuma, but there’s too many coincidences that make it clear that Shooter does not live there, La Sota said.
On the witness stand, Shooter said since he was ousted from the Legislature on February 1, he has spent about two-thirds of his time at his home in Maricopa County. His wife has not visited Shooter’s Yuma residence during the same time period.
No one has paid electricity bills for the Yuma residence in months, according to Arizona Public Service statements. Shooter his wife turned the power off, and joked that was because he’s currently unemployed.
Nelson argued the case was a “desperate” move by Shooter’s political rival.
“There’s nothing desperate about this case,” La Sota said. “The facts are what they are, and you can’t get around them.”
If Mroz rules against Shooter, it is unlikely the disgraced former lawmaker will make it on the ballot this fall.
Toward the end of May, Leslie Pico walked 12 to 15 miles a day to get on the August primary ballot.
Pico, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Arizona secretary of state, spent most of April and May collecting at least 5,801 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
She collected 6,916 signatures, but they may not be enough.
Pico’s nominating petitions were challenged June 13. Like several other first-time political candidates, she is now tied up in a court battle for electoral integrity.
With a surge of new candidates seeking state and legislative offices this fall, many of them political newcomers who decided to jump into races close to the filing deadline, the Secretary of State’s Office has seen a jump in the number of candidate challenges this year.
The state’s chief elections office had 30 petition challenges in state and federal races this year. That’s up from 12 in 2016 and 22 in 2014. The number of candidate challenges this year exceeds the number of challenges in at least the past six election cycles, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Pico, 31, didn’t anticipate the petition challenge.
“I did know it was a possibility, but I guess this is where my idealism overpowered how pragmatic I should have been about the situation,” she said.
The consultant with expertise in programming and blockchain is challenging Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
Former House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, Hobbs’ former seatmate, challenged Pico’s petitions, some of which are missing required information, were signed by Republicans or signed by people who are not registered to vote in the state, a complaint filed in Maricopa County Superior Court alleges.
Campbell also challenged the petitions of Mark Robert Gordon — another relatively unknown Democrat in the secretary of state’s race. Gordon has since dropped out of the race and thrown his support behind Hobbs.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan is up for re-election this year. She is being challenged by wealthy businessman Steve Gaynor in the Republican primary.
Campbell and Hobbs declined to comment on the ballot challenge against Pico. But speaking more generally, Campbell said candidates should always verify and validate their signatures before they turn them into the Secretary of State’s Office.
“As I always say, if you’ve got valid signatures, then you’ve nothing to worry about,” he said. “If you don’t, then you probably shouldn’t be on the ballot.”
Pico agrees with state requirements that candidates must get a certain number of valid signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot, but she said that for a lot of candidates, challenges can turn into a money issue.
Pico hired a lawyer to take her case and defend her in court on June 22, a cost of $5,000. Some close family friends forked over the cash to help her cause, she said.
“The signature requirement was developed around the turn of the century … to prevent the parties from having political control of who is on the ballot,” she said. “But now it has become a tool for them to do exactly this.”
But Campbell said that it can be hard for candidates to gather enough valid signatures in a short time span. This election cycle has seen a lot more candidates get into the race at the last minute, he said.
“When you have more candidates jumping in late and what seems to be more people out there that are gathering signatures that probably either don’t know what they’re doing or doing it in an fraudulent manner, I think that’s a perfect recipe for having this number of challenges,” Campbell said.
Money has been an issue for other candidates as well. Legislative District 16 candidate Bonnie Hickman had her petitions challenged by Adam Stevens — a Republican who had previously run in the district. Instead of hiring a lawyer, Hickman defended herself in court.
Hickman, a Republican, was inspired to run by the “Red for Ed” movement. Her challenger was a member of the Purple for Parents Facebook group — created by people opposed to the “Red for Ed” teachers’ strike.
In court, Hickman wore a red skirt suit. But she seemed unsure of herself as she moved around the courtroom and questioned witnesses. She often looked to the judge for guidance.
Hickman collected her 679 signatures in about five days in May.
“Two months ago, I wasn’t even involved in politics,” she said. “Two months ago, I probably couldn’t even tell you what legislative district I lived in. This has definitely been a learning curve.”
After a hearing this week, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes ruled Hickman was seven valid signatures short of qualifying for the August primary ballot.
Kellie Engen, a Republican candidate for LD22 House, and Gabriel Escontrias, a Democratic candidate for LD30 Senate, both voluntarily withdrew from their races after having their petitions challenged. Both were political newcomers.
Engen, a nurse, said she’s unlikely to ever seek elected office again.
“I guess in some ways I was too naive,” she said. “I just thought I’d file my petitions, run a campaign and win or lose and be done. I didn’t think I’d have to go through all these hoops and then in the end, not be on the ballot.”
Escontrias characterized this more as a learning experience.
He naively thought it was a good thing when Republicans signed his nominating petitions. He thought his message was resonating with voters of all kinds. But candidates can only collect signatures from members of their own party and independents — people who could vote for that same candidate in the primary.
“I think there’s a lot of changes I would make next time just to be able to go above and beyond in signatures to make sure that my campaign is a little more challenge-proof,” he said.
Reporter Paulina Pineda contributed to this report.
Former Rep. John Fillmore, a one-term lawmaker from Apache Junction who served from 2011-12, could be returning to the state Capitol.
Early voting poll results show that Fillmore and Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, have taken a lead in the five-way GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 16.
Three other Republicans, Lisa Godzich, Stephen Kridler, and Tara Phelps, are also vying for the Republican nomination, hoping to replace Rep. Doug Coleman, who is running for justice of the peace.
Godzich, a respiratory therapist, is the second vice-chair of the LD16 GOP committee. She serves on U.S. Congressman Andy Biggs’ Veterans Affairs Committee and is also a board member of the Mesa Republican Women.
Kridler is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a retired law enforcement office, who served 15 years with the Apache Junction Police Department.
Phelps, an Arizona native and mother of five, received a bachelor’s degree in business and supply chain management from Arizona State University. She is a small business owner.
The winners of the primary will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Sharon Stinard, who ran in the Democratic primary unopposed. Green Party candidate Richard Grayson is running as a write-in candidate, and in order to qualify for the general election, Grayson must receive at least as many votes as the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot in that district.
With five Republican contenders dividing the vote, the GOP primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction is too close to call.
Unofficial results show that Frank Riggs is less than one percentage point ahead of the current runner up, Bob Branch. Only 739 votes separate the two candidates.
Incumbent Diane Douglas is also trailing closely behind Branch. Only 2,197 votes separate her and the current top contender.
With each of the top three candidates currently receiving about 21 percent of the vote – Douglas is followed by Tracy Livingston with Jonathan Gelbart rounding out the pack – it appears Arizonans looking for a change were unable to rally behind an alternative to the incumbent.
Douglas never quite escaped criticism after clashing with Gov. Doug Ducey early in her first term over the firing of two State Board of Education employees, and she has continued to irk many in the state, even in her own party, over the years. Most recently, she offended public school teachers after criticizing the Red for Ed movement’s decision to strike and suggesting teachers’ certifications may be at risk because of it.
Still, political observers had speculated she would benefit from sheer name recognition in a crowded Republican field.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will face off against Kathy Hoffman in the Nov. 6 general election. Hoffman edged out David Schapira in the Democratic primary.
Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers
The Arizona Corporation Commission will remain entirely red if Tuesday night’s early ballot results hold true, but less than one percentage point currently separates first and third place.
The two Republicans in the race, incumbent Commissioner Justin Olson and newcomer Rodney Glassman,are leading over Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Kiana Sears, but just barely. According to early ballot returns, Olson has claimed 25.96 percent of the vote, while Glassman has 25.88 percent.
But Kennedy is not far behind with 24.98 percent as of Wednesday morning. Sears is at the back of the pack with 23.18 percent.
Even without Democratic wins, though, the results of tonight’s ACC election could have serious consequences for the state’s largest public utility, Arizona Public Service.
Glassman staked out a clear anti-APS position on the campaign trail, a strategy that led him to claim one of two GOP primary nominations over current Commissioner Tom Forese.
Olson has also been known to take positions that run contrary to the company’s interests. Among them, Olson has expressed willingness to dig into the utilities election spending in 2014 and re-opening the door to talk of retail electric deregulation. The latter would open up the energy retail and generation markets to competition, not an ideal outcome for utilities like APS that are currently allowed to operate as regulated monopolies.
That and APS’ election spending habits are topics Commissioner Bob Burns is fond of. Burns is both a Republican and an APS foe, and he’s vying to be the commission’s next chair.
Former lawmaker and Arizona Board of Regents chairman Greg Patterson is one step closer to a political comeback.
Unofficial results show that Patterson and incumbent Rep. Jill Norgaard secured the top two spots in the GOP primary for two House seats in Legislative District 18.
Patterson previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1991-94.
Most recently, he served as a regent, overseeing the state’s three public universities.
Patterson resigned from his post in 2017, after five years on the board, after a report chronicled a secretly-recorded meeting in which he mocked a state lawmaker.
During a February 2017 meeting between the board and Rep. Mark Finchem, Patterson berated and ridiculed Finchem over his legislative proposal to scale back the authority of the Board of Regents.
Frustrated by criticisms of the board, Patterson stormed out of the meeting attended by Finchem, Norgaard and then-Regents President Eileen Klein. But before he left, he mocked Finchem’s Western-style attire.
Details of that meeting only came to light because Patterson secretly recorded the meeting, a copy of which was obtained by the Arizona Republic through a public records request.
Norgaard and Patterson will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Rep. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine, who defeated LaDawn Stuben in the Democratic primary.
Republicans hold a small voter registration advantage in the district, which spans parts of Phoenix, including Ahwatukee, and parts of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa.
Kathy Hoffman shocked political observers across the state during the Aug. 28 primary as she pulled off a victory in the Democratic primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Hoffman came out ahead with a slim lead over challenger David Schapira in early ballot returns, and held it through the night. It is currently unclear who she will face in the Nov. 6 general election as the Republican primary is still too close to call.
In a text shared by Hoffman’s spokeswoman Emily Brent, Schapira congratulated Hoffman.
“Looks good for you so far,” he wrote, according to the message shared with the Arizona Capitol Times. “Congratulations! We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Speaking briefly to the Capitol Times from her watch party, Hoffman described her excitement at seeing a green checkmark beside her name, indicating a win called by a local TV station. She said she was elated and honored to continue to the general election.
As a speech therapist in Arizona public schools, Hoffman has appealed to the post-Red for Ed enthusiasm on the left. Her former campaign manager, Noah Karvelis, led that movement, and she stood behind the teachers, frequently rallying with them at the Capitol.
Schapira did too, a fact that speaks to what has been one of the most significant challenges in the Democratic primary race: distinguishing one candidate from the other.
Hoffman and Schapira held many of the same beliefs about Arizona’s public education system and efforts to increase school funding, including through the Invest in Education Act initiative seeking to raise taxes to pump up dollars for public education. Instead, they focused largely on the differences in their backgrounds – Hoffman with her greater experience in the classroom, and Schapira with his time in a variety of administrative and elected positions.
Hoffman’s frontlines message appears to have won the day, but she still faces a tough road ahead as a Democrat seeking statewide office.
A Republican has held the seat for more than 20 years. But with the momentum of the Red for Ed movement still fueling the conversation around education in Arizona, political observers foresee a competitive general election contest for the seat.
Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers
Incumbent Rep. Darin Mitchell fell short in his bid for a return to the Arizona House of Representatives.
Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry in the Aug. 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 13.
Mitchell, a realtor, was first elected to the House in 2013.
Dunn and Osborne will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Democrat Thomas Tzitzura, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
However, Tzitzura isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Republican in November. Republicans hold a healthy voter registration advantage in the district, which includes the northern part of Yuma County and the northwestern part of Maricopa County.
If voters elect Kathy Knecht to the state Senate, she’ll make history.
No independent candidate has ever been elected to the Arizona House of Representatives or state Senate. In fact, there’s only been one independent to serve in the Legislature since Arizona statehood in 1912, an elected Democrat who abandoned the party while in office.
That lawmaker may have been a registered independent, but in practice, Sylvia Laughter was a Republican. She voted with the GOP, and caucused with them, too.
Knecht has vowed not to pick sides. And some credit that stance as evidence she has a shot at upsetting incumbent Sen. Rick Gray, a Sun City Republican who was appointed in January to serve Legislative District 21.
That’s not the race she’d bargained for. Knecht was considered the perfect foil to Debbie Lesko, the former LD21 senator who resigned in January to run for Congress. Lesko served in the Legislature since 2009, and has never lost an election, except one–the race for the Peoria Unified School District governing board in 2006 against Knecht.
That the two were also neighbors–Lesko and Knecht live across the street from one another in Peoria–only made the prospect of their campaign more appealing.
Nonetheless, Knecht said Lesko’s withdrawal from the race, and the emergence of Gray as her new opponent, hasn’t changed her reasons for running. The last straw for her was the passage of SB 1431 in 2017, the expansion of Arizona’s school voucher program that earned the distinction of being referred to the ballot.
“I’ve been waiting for a champion, especially for a legislator from the northwest Valley, to truly champion public education, and it hasn’t come, and it hasn’t come,” she said. “I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer.”
On Oct. 1, Republican pollster George Khalaf gave Knecht a fighting chance. Khalaf’s polling firm, Data Orbital, rated the LD21 Senate race a toss-up.
In any other election cycle, running as an independent candidate is a handicap, Khalaf said. But this year, people are weary of partisan politics and Knecht’s campaign of people over politics could resonate:“People like the feeling of wanting to be an independent,” he said.
“This year being an independent gives you this automatic feeling that you’re going to be bipartisan, or work across the aisle, or whatever it is,” Khalaf said.
There’s also lingering concerns about Republican’s vice grip on LD21 following the special election in April that sent Lesko to Congress.
Though she won, it was only by 5 percentage points. In LD21, a portion of which falls in Lesko’s Congressional District 5, the lead was even smaller, only 2.5 percentage points against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni.
Knecht also has the advantage of winning multiple school board races, which means her name ID is better than the typical legislative candidate running as an independent in Arizona.
Still, there are reasons to temper expectations. Khalaf, who also works as a consultant for Gray, said that if he had to rate the race now, he’d say LD21 “leans Republican.”
That’s because while Knecht has labeled herself a Republican, her campaign can give a more progressive, liberal feel.
“While she hasn’t answered the question of who she’d caucus with, between her endorsements, between the positions she’s taking on the campaign trail both on her website and anecdotally as we’ve heard from people, she’s running as if she’s a Democrat,” Khalaf said. “And I think that just a straight Democrat in the district against Rick doesn’t do as well.
It’s true that Knecht doesn’t shy away from issues that are often championed by Democrats. On education, she vows to restore funding for K-12 public schools to pre-recession levels; to reject school privatization; she supports Medicaid expansion, and specifically opposed Republicans who filed a lawsuit to block it, according to her campaign website.
Even when she states her support for school choice, a typical Republican talking point, she couches that support with a word of caution–choice only works when the choice, and competition between schools, is “genuinely fair.”
The “pick a side” mentality is a hurdle Knecht acknowledges in her campaign. Opponents are going to try and label her as too liberal, or too conservative, she said, and that’s partly because they have never seen an independent get elected before.
“I think people are hungry for an alternative style of leadership that doesn’t answer to parties. It’s really focused on the issues that really impact everybody’s life,” Knecht said. “You know, public safety’s not a partisan issue. Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Health insurance shouldn’t be a partisan issue. So maybe I can be that person, that trailblazer, to finally do it a different way.”
That different way means electing lawmakers who don’t pick a side.
“People don’t necessarily understand what independent means,” Knecht said. “For me, it’s just that, I don’t want to answer to a party. I want to answer to the people I represent.”
That mentality would extend to how Knecht would serve if elected.
There’s no infrastructure at the Legislature to support an independent lawmaker, while there’s ample staff for Republicans and Democrats, so the natural question among politicians and voters is to wonder who Knecht would work with. As Khalaf said, who will she caucus with?
“The fact that nobody’s done it before makes it really impossible to answer that question,” Knecht said. “I guess we’re going to have to create our own way.”
That disadvantage is already apparent on the campaign trail, said Barry Dill, a Democratic consultant. Knecht doesn’t have a party infrastructure to help support her campaign in the way the Republican party supports Gray, he said.
That also affects voters. The Republican and Democratic parties can work to identify voters and encourage them to get out and support candidates at the polls. While roughly 35 percent of registered voters in LD21 are not affiliated with a party, there’s no infrastructure present to help motivate them to turn in ballots.
If Republicans in Maricopa County have their way, nobody from Yuma County will represent Legislative District 13 in the state House of Representatives.
Of the four candidates in the LD13 House GOP primary, Rep. Tim Dunn is the only one from Yuma County. The sprawling district includes parts of that rural area.
And though Dunn has raised the most money of the four candidates in the race, and he boasts the support of the business and farming communities, the Yuma Republican, who was appointed to fill expelled Yuma lawmaker Don Shooter’s House seat in LD13, faces a math problem.
In LD13, the total number of registered Republicans in Maricopa County outnumber the registered Republicans in Yuma County by almost 18,000. Yuma County’s GOP voters represent just one-third of LD13’s registered Republicans, and a third of all registered voters in the district.
Shooter, who is attempting a political comeback, also faces a tough primary contest against incumbent Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, in the Senate, primarily because of the scandal that resulted in his expulsion from the House this year.
If both Dunn and Shooter lose their races, the interests of one of Arizona’s biggest farming communities would have zero representation at the state Legislature.
Already, Dunn’s seatmate and primary opponent, Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Goodyear, is working to expose Dunn as a “campaign conservative,” just another RINO in the party, as he himself fights to get re-elected and jockeys for the speakership.
Political newcomer Trey Terry, who is running on a ticket with Mitchell, and Joanne Osborne, former vice mayor of Goodyear, are also seeking the GOP nomination in the House.
Capitol insiders say the four-way race is one to watch.
Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin said while it’s hard to knock out an incumbent in a primary, Dunn finds himself in a tough spot because he was appointed to the seat, not elected, and he took over the role halfway through the legislative session.
His late appointment meant that he was unable to sponsor any bills himself, and like most freshmen lawmakers, he spent most of the session learning the ropes.
Still, Coughlin said Dunn used his time at the Legislature wisely, taking an active role in water policy discussions, a top issue affecting the district.
Coughlin said Dunn is well respected by the agriculture community, and as a lifelong resident of Yuma, is well-liked by voters there.
He also has a “great name.”
“Tim Dunn — it’s not a hard name to remember. And it’s simple things like that that will probably aid him in the end,” he said.
Like Dunn, Coughlin said Osborne also has a memorable name. She’s part of one of Arizona’s “first families” — her family owns a jewelry store called Osborne Jewelers, and she has been a political figure in the West Valley for more than a decade.
Coughlin said though Mitchell has served in the Legislature for six years, there is a fairly aggressive opposition campaign being run against him because of his interest in the speakership. And it’s not unprecedented for a candidate who is running for leadership to lose their bid for re-election, he said.
Of the four candidates, Coughlin said Terry appears to be “on the outside looking in.” Though he is running with Mitchell, he has raised relatively little money compared to Dunn, has never held political office and doesn’t have an established voting record like the three other candidates.
Political consultant Chris Baker, who is representing Mitchell and Terry, said neither of his clients are worried about the competition.
He said despite the large war chest and support, Dunn will struggle to return to the Capitol. Osborne, he said, is too moderate for such a red district, an allegation Osborne refuted.
Baker said Dunn’s biggest mistake is that he has billed himself as the “Yuma candidate,” and has largely ignored constituents in Maricopa County.
“Dunn has run ads saying he is the ‘Yuma candidate’ or that he’s ‘fighting for Yuma.’” Baker said. “I don’t know if he doesn’t realize we can see it all, but he has taken a lot of steps to try to establish himself as the Yuma candidate and I’m not sure the voters in Maricopa County are necessarily going to be enthusiastic about electing the Yuma candidate.”
Dunn knows he faces an uphill battle, but he took issue with Baker’s assessment that his campaign efforts have been focused on Yuma.
He said in a four-way primary, candidates can’t expect to coast to an easy win, they need to earn the support of their constituents, so he has spent the summer campaigning throughout the district.
“We’ve worked hard to understand the district, not just the Yuma County portion, but all of the district,” Dunn said. “I’m not just someone from Yuma. I’m not an outsider. I have businesses that are in the Maricopa County portion of the district, and a lot of the issues we face in Yuma are the same issues voters face in Maricopa County. And my job is to make sure during this primary that I let people know that.”
Ken Bennett got four more hours to gather more donations to qualify for public funding for his gubernatorial campaign.
Ruling from the bench, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes said Monday it clearly came as a surprise to everyone — including the state elections director — that the web site which allow for online donations shut down automatically at 5 p.m. this past Tuesday. She said the expectation was that the GOP gubernatorial hopeful would have until midnight.
“I think it’s clear that everyone as surprised by what appears to be to be a programming oversight,” the judge said.
The result, said Bennett, is that supporters who he was counting on to get him the 4,000 $5 donations he needs found themselves locked out. And by the time state Elections Director Eric Spencer had the site brought back, Bennett told the judge, it was too late to start calling people and getting them out of bed.
That left Bennett about 50 short of the minimum which were due last week.
So Contes directed Secretary of State Michele Reagan to reopen the online portal at 5 p.m. on Monday for four hours — the amount of time the portal was closed last week. That gave time for Bennett to notify supporters that if they didn’t get to give last week they have one more chance to get online and make the donation.
At one point Spencer sought to blame Bennett for the problem.
He said that it was during Bennett’s tenure as secretary of state — he served from 2009 through 2014 — that the programming on the web site was changed to have it go dark at 5 p.m. the day of the deadline.
Bennett said he was unaware that was part of the programming but said he would have fixed it had anyone brought it to his attention. And he said it was up to Reagan, as his successor, to reprogram the site ahead of every election.
Contes brushed aside the finger-pointing.
“Those things happen,” she said. “I’m not finding anything malicious about it.”
That, however, still left Bennett short of signatures.
“It seems that a correction is appropriate to remedy the shorting of a period of time that may affect only this candidate,” Contes said.
None of this will affect the outcome of Tuesday’s election.
Even if Bennett can reach the 4,000 mark, the donations still need to be verified before he gets a check for $839,704. And that could take a week, meaning there is no way he will have the money in his bid to defeat incumbent Doug Ducey in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
But Bennett told the judge that, if nothing else, he could use some of that money to repay the $43,000 he loan his campaign.
And if Bennett actually defeats Ducey in the GOP primary, he would get another $1.2 million to run against whoever the Democrats choose in their primary, plus any Libertarian or Green party candidates who are running as write-ins if they get enough votes.
Contes acknowledged that Bennett, who represented himself in court, did not follow all the legal procedures for serving a copy of the complaint on both Reagan’s office and the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
But she said Bennett appeared to be following directions he was given by the bailiff of another judge.
And Contes said that the failures did not hamper the ability of the defendants to mount their claim.
Note: This story has been updated to include information on a conflicting opinion on strict-compliance.
A judge has slapped down efforts by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to block people from voting whether to hike income taxes on the rich to generate $690 million a year for education.
In an extensive ruling Thursday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Smith acknowledged that, strictly speaking, hiking the top income tax rate from 4.54 percent to 8 percent for those earning more than $250,000 a year actually increases the tax rate on those earnings by 76 percent. Similarly, taking the tax rate for earnings above $500,000 for individuals to 9 percent is a 98 percent increase over the current rate.
But Smith said that did not make it inherently misleading for organizers of the Invest in Ed initiative to describe the tax hikes as 3.46 percent and 4.46 percent, the absolute difference between the current rate and the proposed new ones.
It is true, Smith said, that technically speaking, the 100-word description of the key provisions of the measure, required by state law, should probably have said it was raising the tax rate by 3.46 and 4.46 “percentage points,” respectively.
“While that likely would be more precise, the existing summaries are not fatally misleading without that verbiage,” the judge wrote, meaning the use of the smaller numbers is not enough to block a vote.
Attorneys for the chamber had argued the use of 3.46 and 4.46 percent was misleading, causing some people to sign the petition to put the issue on the November ballot who would have balked at a measure described as hiking tax rates by 76 and 98 percent, even just for the rich.
Smith conceded that initiative organizers crafted the description “undoubtedly … to appeal to potential voters.” But he said that does not make it inaccurate or misleading.
Anyway, the judge pointed out that the full text of the initiative — including the current and proposed tax rates — were attached to the petitions, so those who might have been confused could check for themselves before signing
Smith also was no more impressed with arguments by Kory Langhofer, attorney for the chamber, that the measure could not be on the ballot because that 100-word description does not mention that the initiative also would eliminate automatic indexing of income tax brackets to account for inflation. That provision is designed to keep people from being bumped into higher tax categories solely because their pay hikes are no more than normal inflation.
Initiative backers deny the measure would affect indexing.
Smith said even if it does repeal indexing — a legal finding he chose not to decide — it doesn’t matter.
He said Arizona law requires only that the “principal provisions” of the initiative be listed in the description. And the judge said the effect of any change in indexing is minimal compared to the key provision of hiking income taxes on the state’s most wealthy.
Langhofer already has filed the paperwork for review by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Thursday’s ruling actually is a double setback for the Arizona Chamber.
In a potentially more significant finding, Smith also said state legislators acted illegally in enacting a requirement in 2017 that all efforts by voters to enact their own laws must be in “strict compliance” with each and every election statute.
That change allows initiatives to be kept off the ballot because of largely technical errors in the petitions. Prior to that, courts had allowed measures on the ballot if there was just “substantial compliance” with election laws.
It was the chamber that pushed the measure through the Republican-controlled Legislature on the heels of voters approving an initiative raising the state’s minimum wage from $8.05 an hour at the time to $10.50 now — and eventually to $12 by 2020.
The judge said he reads the Arizona Constitution to provide voters with wide latitude in being able to enact their own laws. And that, he said, means lawmakers cannot tinker with it.
“Legislation requiring strict compliance with every statutory provision regarding initiatives unconstitutionally infringes on separation of powers and fundamental rights under the Arizona Constitution,” Smith wrote.
Just hours later, however, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Kiley reached the opposite conclusion.
In that case, the committee seeking to put a renewable energy mandate on the ballot argued that allowing petitions to be judged — and rejected — based on strict compliance would “choke the life” from the power of people to put things on the ballot. Kiley disagreed, citing similar requirements elsewhere.
“The court sees no basis for the committee’s assertion that such a standard, applied by courts in other jurisdictions with similar constitutional provisions, would impose an intolerable burden on the right to initiative in Arizona,” he wrote.
Thursday’s conflicting rulings mean the Arizona Supreme Court will have to determine who is right — and soon as what the justices rule ultimately could determine what will be on the November ballot.
The idea behind the power of initiative, put into the Arizona Constitution in 1912, was to give voters a chance to approve their own laws when elected legislators will not.
That, in turn, has resulted in voter approval of a series of measures that the business community — and the lawmakers who support them — never wanted. These range from public financing of elections and legalizing medical marijuana to a ban on leg-hold traps on public lands and the creation of a state minimum wage higher than required by federal law.
It was that last action that led the Republican-controlled Legislature to vote to impose the “strict compliance” standard.
Smith’s ruling — and Langhofer’s appeal — will provide the first opportunity for the Arizona Supreme Court to decide if lawmakers have that power.
Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick has a website featuring his written opinions and articles, a rare step for a judge but one that becomes more explicable in an election year.
“This may be the world’s most-boring website,” the homepage of azjustice44.com proclaims. Bolick is the 44th justice of the state Supreme Court and is up for retention on the November ballot.
It’s a simple site set on a white backdrop that opens on a photo of Bolick looking cheery beside a lectern with a plaque from The Fund for American Studies, a group that promotes libertarian ideas.
It’s meant for “law-nerds” like Bolick, the explainer says beneath the photo, and “anyone keeping an eye on Arizona jurisprudence or wanting to learn more about it.”
It is unclear how long the site has been public. The domain has been registered since May 2017, but several attorneys who practice in front of the Supreme Court knew nothing about it, and on September 6 Judge Jennifer Perkins of the Arizona Court of Appeals tweeted about it.
Nowhere on the site does Bolick explicitly refer to any politically driven reason for it, but he has recently been the target of political arrows.
A majority of the state Supreme Court justices ruled August 29 that the Invest in Education Act initiative could not appear on the 2018 ballot.
It is not publicly known which side any of the justices took in the split decision to keep the proposal off the ballot. But that didn’t stop Arizona Educators United from hinting at a challenge to Bolick and Justice John Pelander, who are the only two Supreme Court justices up for retention this year.
A graphic, which can no longer be found on the Arizona Educators United website, showed all seven justices, with red X’s at the corners of Bolick and Pelander’s photos.
According to a report by Phoenix New Times, which captured the image before it vanished, this message accompanied the graphic: “Remember these names and vote accordingly…”
Attorney Kory Langhofer said Bolick’s website is certainly unusual, but so is the idea of litigants attacking justices personally.
Assuming the site came in response to the uproar against Bolick and the court, Langhofer said it’s a perfectly fair and proper retort.
“You can understand the impulse of someone who writes opinions that are measured and reasonable and based on the law wanting to push back on this leftist narrative that this guy’s in the bag for the right wing,” he said. “That false narrative can be rebutted by things he’s actually said in public.”
And the ways in which Bolick is allowed to refute inaccurate information about him is limited, Langhofer added. The governor can put up a fair fight by calling up the press and giving his own account of things. But judges are not permitted to do so.
All Bolick has done here is aggregate his opinions, which he is required to write of course, and articles, which he is allowed to publish.
“People are spreading false information about him,” Langhofer said. “He wants to show people who he truly is.”
A Republican-dominated legislative committee decided Wednesday that voters don’t need to be told that if they approve a business-backed tax-limiting measure the state could be foregoing more than $5.2 billion a year in revenues.
There is no dispute that the constitutional amendment being pushed by the Arizona Association of Realtors would bar lawmakers from expanding sales taxes to cover any services that are not now subject to the state’s 5.6 percent levy. Even legislative budget staffers concluded that if all services were taxed it could generate $5.2 billion a year in new revenues on top of the approximately $10 billion now raised in state sales and income taxes to provide public services, about half of that for education.
At a hearing Wednesday, Devin Del Palacio, a member of the Tolleson Union High School board, said taking future sales taxes off the table and foregoing those revenues should be included in the brochure to be mailed out to all 3.6 million registered voters which explains all ballot measures.
“I would like to know the amount of money that could have been used for teacher salaries, better schools or any other priority,” he told members of the Legislative Council. “I feel that this information could be critical to the decision-making process to allow voters to make an informed decision.”
But the Republicans who have 10 votes on the 14-member panel, instead sided with political consultant Wes Gullett, who represents the Realtors who gathered the signatures to put the issue to voters.
“That’s a speculative, hypothetical thing that might happen in the future and has nothing to do with this amendment,” he said.
The Republicans on the same committee also approved what Democrats say is a biased description of an initiative to hike income taxes on the state’s most wealthy to help fund education.
Most significant, the verbiage adopted by the GOP majority would tell voters that if they approve the #InvestInEd measure to boost taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year that they also will be increasing their own taxes, even if they earn far less.
That is based on a conclusion that the measure also would effectively repeal a 2015 law that indexes the state’s income tax brackets to inflation. That law is designed to protect taxpayers at all income levels from “bracket creep” where they wind up in higher tax brackets — and paying higher rates — simply because their income keeps pace with inflation.
Democrats said that reading of the initiative is legally flawed. They say nothing in the measure wipes out indexing.
More to the point, they argued that telling voters — they believe incorrectly — that taxes will go up on everyone is designed to deter people from approving the measure which is designed to raise $690 million a year for education.
Republicans also insisted on putting language in the ballot brochure describing the increase in tax rates on high-income Arizonans as from 76 to 98 percent.
“That’s designed to scare people with big numbers,” complained Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, calling the verbiage “clearly biased.” He acknowledged the increase is mathematically accurate but said it would be more honest simply to say that the actual tax rate on incomes of more than $250,000 is going from 4.54 percent to 8 percent, and 9 percent on amounts over $500,000.
“I think we crossed the line into advocacy,” said Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale. “And I think that’s unfortunate.”
Democrats said Republicans showed the same bias in their refusal to tell voters what it could mean financially if they constitutionally bar sales taxes on services.
By law, the Legislative Council is required to provide “impartial” descriptions of all ballot measures. That is the wording that shows up in mail boxes of voters ahead of the Nov. 6 general election to help voters learn about the issues and make up their minds.
Clark said one thing voters need to know is how much money is involved.
He pointed to a report by legislative staffers that says if the state’s 5.6 percent sales tax applied to health care it would generate close to $2.1 billion. Another $1 billion would flow into state coffers if the levy applied to professional, scientific and technical services,
And the balance is made up in other categories like personal care – think haircuts, nail salons and lawn care – and personal finance, which includes investment advice.
“I think the public would need that context to be able to make a decision here,” Clark said.
Gullett had a different take.
“This just protects the Arizona taxpayer from having to pay a huge new tax on things that aren’t taxed today,” he told lawmakers. He said speculation on what might be taxed in the future without the constitutional amendment – and the amount of money such taxes might raise – is irrelevant and not a proper subject to put in the ballot pamphlet.
Clark countered that voters need to understand what they are giving up.
“The point is, we would not be able to address the changing nature of our economy, which is going more and more towards services,” he said. “That is not clear in this.”
And Clark said it would strip lawmakers of the ability to decide whether to tax certain services that weren’t on the radar two decades ago, like rideshare companies like Uber and homeshare companies like Airbnb.
But House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said it would be misleading to tell voters about a possible $5.2 billion in new revenues. He said the actual amount that could be raised would depend on what services lawmakers decide to tax – assuming that voters do not remove the constitutional right of legislators to make those decisions.
Separately, the same committee approved a description of a ballot measure to require half of all power generated in Arizona by 2030 come from renewable sources. That, too, provoked controversy as attorney Jim Barton objected to spelling out in the pamphlet what is not considered “renewable,” including nuclear, and that the initiative would not affect Salt River Project.
There was no debate, however, over the description of a proposed constitutional amendment which would require public disclosure of all sources of $2,500 or more to influence political campaigns.
U.S. Representative Debbie Lesko has easily won the Republican nomination to keep her Congressional seat after pulling far ahead of her sole challenger, Sandra Dowling.
With her place in the race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District secured, Lesko is now heading to a repeat of the special election held earlier this year. She’ll face off once again against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, who did not have a primary challenger in the Aug. 30 primary.
While Lesko won the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks in April, she did so by a smaller margin than expected in a district that has been reliably conservative for years.
Lesko defeated Tipirneni by just 5 percentage points, and a rematch in the Nov. 6 general election may end in equally tight margins.
A surprise loss in Legislative District 13 upended the speaker’s race in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Rep. Darin Mitchell will not be returning to the Legislature after losing in the August 28 GOP primary for the two House seats in LD13.
Rep. Tim Dunn and Joanne Osborne defeated the Goodyear Republican and his running mate Trey Terry and now move on to the November 6 general election.
Mitchell was one of two members in the running for speaker of the House and the loss leaves the chamber’s top position wide open for Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, if Bowers is re-elected.
But the loss has also opened the way for other House members to jump into the speaker’s race.
Bowers said Majority Whip Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, a member of the most-conservative Liberty Caucus, which rallied around Mitchell, have expressed interest in running for speaker. Finchem had previously announced he would seek the majority leader position after the 2018 elections.
In a text to the Arizona Capitol Times, Townsend said she was “exploring a run for speaker,” now that Mitchell was not advancing to the general election.
Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, another member of the Liberty Caucus, said Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, could also jump into the race.
But their candidacies are unlikely to pose a threat to Bowers, who announced his intention to run for the speakership late last year and has been campaigning for that leadership position ever since.
Bowers would not comment on whether it is too late for another candidate to jump into the race, but he said he feels confident about the support he has drummed up over the past couple of months.
“They’ll do what they think they need to do, but I feel very good about our position,” he said. “Now it’s time to double down and try to tie this up.”
Bowers said Mitchell has been a strong advocate for the Liberty Caucus and he will now work to gain the caucus’ support.
Mitchell’s loss in the primary was one of two surprises in the House, where incumbents were defeated by relative newcomers on the political scene.
While it is difficult to unseat an incumbent, there was a fairly aggressive opposition campaign being run against Mitchell this election cycle because of his interest in the speakership, said political consultant Chuck Coughlin.
Coughlin said it’s not unprecedented for a candidate who is running for leadership to lose their bid for re-election.
Political action committees and independent expenditure groups spent heavily in the race, pouring money into Dunn and Osborne’s campaign.
Responsible Leadership for AZ PAC, which is funded by the Arizona Association of Realtors, spent heavily against Mitchell, who is a Realtor himself. Mitchell’s consultant, Chris Baker, said the PAC’s spending was intended to influence the speaker’s race in Bowers’ favor.
The group launched ads shortly before the primary election describing Mitchell as one of several “very concerning candidates” in LD13, lumping him together with Terry and ousted lawmaker Don Shooter, who failed in his bid to return to the Legislature.
The ad also accused Mitchell of unpaid debts and a state income tax lien, and it drummed up an ethics complaint filed against him by House Democrats in 2016. It also hit Mitchell for supporting and sponsoring legislation that the Realtors opposed.
Neither Mitchell nor Baker immediately returned a request for comment.
Sen. Bernie Sanders reminded hundreds of students at Arizona State University this week that voter turnout during the 2014 congressional midterm election was abysmal — the worst at any point in modern history.
Apathetic young voters were a major reason why.
Optimistic Democrats hope President Trump will drive young people to vote in droves during this year’s midterm election. And for the first time in Arizona, they have help from NextGen Arizona — a youth voter registration group funded by progressive California billionaire Tom Steyer.
The number of newly registered voters this year shattered the number of newly registered voters in previous midterm election years. More young voters registered this year than any other age group.
Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers in Arizona, but they typically vote at much lower rates than their older, more conservative counterparts.
But could this year be different?
Arizona political pundits say massive youth voter turnout is highly unlikely. And early voting indicators hint at a similar story.
Turning out Hispanics and young voters — groups that tend to vote at lower rates than others —is comparable to Captain Ahab’s quest to catch the elusive white whale in “Moby Dick.” Progressive groups have worked to boost voting among such groups for years to little avail.
This election cycle, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia has focused on that exact Herculean task. Turnout. Turnout. Turnout. Garcia has stressed from the beginning that he sees his role in this election as a turnout driver for Democrats up and down the ballot.
That’s partly why Garcia brought Sanders, the progressive powerhouse and incendiary political force that energized young voters during the 2016 presidential campaign, to join him on the campaign trail in Arizona.
“Bernie Sanders is somebody who connects particularly with the youth of Arizona,” Garcia said. “We need to hear their voices, and I think he’s going to be very helpful to having them turn out and realize their voices matter and they can change the state.”
But it goes beyond Sanders’ brief visit to Arizona. Garcia has spent most of his campaign working to mobilize new voters, Latino voters and young voters, an effort he says is helped by a record number of Democrats running for office in Arizona this year.
Garcia’s campaign is reaching out to young voters more than the other statewide Democratic candidates this year – and those new voters Garcia is energizing could help boost other Democratic campaigns, said Jalakoi Solomon, NextGen Arizona’s youth state director.
“A lot of campaigns aren’t really doing the work that they should do to talk to young people,” she said. “David is doing a great job of making sure to engage young people because he knows that his path to the governorship goes through the youth vote.”
But Garcia’s efforts may be foolhardy, said Zachary Smith, a regents professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University.
“I think it’s great that people are trying to do this, but I think frankly, it’s time and money misspent,” he said. “He’s going after the voters that don’t vote.”
Smith expects higher than normal youth turnout this election because of millennials’ dissatisfaction with Trump. But he doesn’t expect the bump to be huge.
To the extent there is any sort of turnout boost, that could help Democrats in close statewide races, Smith said, citing the close U.S. Senate race between Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally.
A mix of apathy, frustration with the political process and the feeling that voting doesn’t impact their lives all factor into why many young people don’t vote.
NextGen, which is devoted to registering voters between the ages of 18 and 35, is filling a void left by many campaigns.
The progressive group, which was funded by an initial $3 million investment from Steyer, registered approximately 21,000 new voters before the November 6 election. Now, the progressive group is shifting its focus to getting those voters to the polls by reminding them via text messages and digital advertisements and offering students rides on Election Day.
NextGen registered more than 250,000 young voters in 11 battleground states this year. While NextGen has operated its youth vote program in other states in previous years, this is its first run in Arizona, focusing its efforts on college campuses like Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.
The group has seen successes elsewhere. Young voters turned out in record numbers during Virginia’s 2017 statewide elections, pushing Democratic candidates to historic victories after NextGen registered nearly 20,000 new voters.
“What is true is that young people haven’t shown up at the polls and the reason is a lot of young people saying that the system’s broken, the system’s not working,” Solomon said. “What is true is that the system does work. It only works, though, for people who are participating.”
In Arizona, NextGen is pushing for Democratic wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races and in congressional districts 1, 2 and 9.
Totals from the Secretary of State’s Office show there are now more than 3.7 million people registered to vote in Arizona. Of those, 18-34 year olds make up the largest voting bloc in the state with just under 1 million registered voters.
The tide is turning, said Dan O’Neal, the Arizona State Coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America. Young voters are starting to realize the electoral power they hold, he said.
“If the millenials all voted, they could control every election for the next 50 years,” he said.
GOP consultant Paul Bentz expects to see an uptick in younger voters this year, but he doesn’t expect it come close to the turnout among say, senior-aged voters that actively participate every election cycle.
Early ballot returns show that more people age 84 or older have already voted than those ages 18 to 30. Approximately, 48,000 Arizonans in the older age range have cast ballots compared to 46,000 voters ages 18 to 3.
Those early ballots also indicate Republicans have a nearly 12-point ballot advantage over Democrats, which is pretty typical of Arizona gubernatorial election years, said Bentz, a senior vice president at HighGround.
It’s also hard to get young voters fired up when the presidency isn’t at stake, he said.
While early ballot returns don’t indicate drastic changes in youth voter turnout, there’s still time.
Older voters tend to return their ballots as soon as early voting begins, but young voters take more time to vote, Bentz said. College students also tend to be more transient, making it less likely that they receive early ballots and more likely that they vote on Election Day.
Bentz also questioned how big the anti-Trump vote really is in Arizona.
“There’s a lot of talk of there being a big anti-Trump vote out there, but look at the difference between Trump’s visit to town versus Sanders’ visit,” Bentz said. “It’s pretty dramatically different.”
Nothing can capture the feeling Kathy Hoffman had when she knew she was victorious quite like a photo tweeted shortly before 10 on primary election night.
The photo by KJZZ reporter Mariana Dale shows Hoffman with a wide smile on her face, head slightly back, eyes closed and one hand mid-motion like she might be bringing it to clutch her chest.
David Schapira just texted his congratulations to Kathy Hoffman. Hoffman is a first-time political candidate and teacher. She is leading the democratic primary for Superintendent of Public Instruction with 52 percent of the vote so far. #ArizonaPrimariespic.twitter.com/B9XbO5ju8t
She had won the Democratic nomination for superintendent of public instruction. The final tally would put her ahead of her challenger, David Schapira, by nearly 22,000 votes.
Her Republican opponent in the November 6 general election is former California Congressman Frank Riggs, who won the GOP primary by a razor-thin margin and beat the incumbent, Diane Douglas.
Hoffman is a political novice as has been pointed out throughout her campaign. But her experience as a speech therapist gave her a boost during an election cycle that has seen widespread success for others like her, she said.
Her victory surprised political observers who had anticipated a slim margin but not one that would ultimately lean in her favor.
And she does not fault those people for their shock. She felt it, too.
“In the beginning, I definitely was not sure that I was qualified to run, and I had no confidence that I could win,” she said. “But fortunately, I had a lot of support… and I saw very quickly that my message was resonating.”
She said she matched Schapira’s name recognition with a focused ground game, going to festivals and traveling to far-flung locations across the state to connect with voters. And she emphasized her bilingualism, doing interviews in Spanish and focusing on issues important to the Latino community.
Hoffman and Schapira may have been equally passionate about their fight for public education, but she communicated the message in a more personal way, she said.
She was able to draw from her own experiences in public school classrooms and give the political stumping an intimate touch.
She also drew strength from this year’s Red for Ed movement, the roots of which are evident in that same photo from primary night.
To the right of the frame, her former campaign manager and Arizona Educators United organizer Noah Karvelis is seen cupping his hands over his mouth as he yells out in celebration.
Karvelis ultimately had to step away as Hoffman’s campaign manager because of the movement he began, but that didn’t stop her from appearing as a staunch supporter from day one.
She often appeared alongside red-clad protestors and appealed to calls for an educator to lead the state Department of Education at last.
Schapira also tried to play the role of an educator, harkening back to his short time teaching and the administrative roles he held. But he was better known for his time as a state legislator and Tempe City Council member. He was cast not only as the legislator versus the educator but also as a bully – Hoffman launched an ad in which two unidentified women alleged Schapira had been an aggressive administrator who was unable to control his temper.
Hoffman said she spoke to Schapira the evening after her victory. He had actually texted her congratulations at the moment that photo was taken.
The message seemed early and caught her off guard, she said.
She could only compare it to an experience from high school, when she qualified for the national swimming championship in one event. She said she was flown all the way across the country to swim just 50 yards.
That’s how her primary win felt, she said. You have this thing that is such a big deal, but really, it’s just a small moment in time.
She’ll have to prove herself again in November against Republican Frank Riggs if she wants to hold onto that feeling.
Two political newcomers ousted two-term lawmaker Rep. Ken Clark from the state Legislature.
First-time candidates Amish Shah and Jennifer Longdon received the most votes in the seven-way Democratic primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 24.
Unofficial results show that Clark fell short of the second spot in the Democratic primary by 703 votes.
Four other candidates, John Glenn, ran on a slate with Clark, Fred Dominguez, Marcus Ferrell, and Denise Link, were also in the running for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Lela Alston, who is running for the Senate.
Shah, a Chicago native, is a doctor specializing in emergency medicine and sports medicine. He founded the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival to promote healthy eating and the festival is now in its third year.
Longdon has worked on various campaigns promoting gun violence prevention efforts after she was paralyzed in a random shooting in 2004. She helped organize the state’s largest gun buy-back program, was past president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, and served on the City of Phoenix’s Commission on Disability Issues and the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council.
Longdon and Shah will face off in the Nov. 6 general election against Republican David Alger, Sr., who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Alger isn’t likely to pose a threat to either Democratic nominee given that Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one in the district, which includes parts of central Phoenix and south Scottsdale.
Legislative candidates on both sides of the aisle have amassed sizeable war chests for the 2018 elections thanks to hefty contributions from political action committees.
The groups have poured more than $1.85 million into legislative races this election cycle, hoping that their cash infusion during the campaign season will pay off in support later on down the road.
Of the 116 legislative candidates who are raising money through traditional funding, 70 Republicans, 45 Democrats and one independent benefitted from PAC spending.
Republicans raked in by far the largest amount of money from PACs, receiving more than $1.4 million in contributions from various groups.
While incumbents reported receiving the largest contributions from PACs, according to pre-primary campaign finance reports, which were due Aug. 20, political newcomers also fared well.
Raquel Teran, a Democrat running for the House in Legislative District 30, reported receiving $14,250 in contributions from various political groups. First-time candidate Andres Cano, a Democrat seeking the open House seat in Legislative District 3, has received close to $11,700.
The biggest spender was Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service, which contributed roughly $107,000 to a slew of candidates.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s PAC, Arizona Leadership Fund, contributed more than $67,000 to legislative Republicans running for re-election. Nearly every Republican incumbent seeking re-election got a check from Ducey’s PAC, but there were three snubs: Reps. Paul Mosley, of Lake Havasu City, David Stringer, of Prescott, and Maria Syms, of Paradise Valley.
Mosley recently courted controversy through his excessive use of legislative immunity in connection with speeding and allegations of discrimination against women, and Stringer made comments on video in June that some interpreted as racist. Syms, whose husband unsuccessfully sought to run for the Senate in Legislative District 28 as an independent, was viewed by many Republicans as undermining the GOP.
Other big spenders include the Realtors of Arizona PAC, which contributed more than $60,000 to legislative candidates this elections cycle, and the COX Political Action Committee, which spent more than $56,000 in legislative races.
Republican leadership in both the House and Senate reported receiving the most amount of money from PACs this election cycle.
House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, reported receiving close to $95,000 in PAC money–roughly 65 percent of his entire war chest – and raising an additional $48,640 from individual contributors.
But while Mesnard has actively sought contributions from individual contributors, not all of his colleagues are following the same strategy.
A handful of incumbents are heavily relying on PAC contributions and have done little fundraising to date. Many of those relying on PAC spending are in safe districts. Some don’t even have a primary or general election opponent and are guaranteed a return to the Legislature.
For example, Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock, reported raising $5,050 since launching her campaign, almost exclusively from political action committees.
According to her pre-primary finance report, Peshlakai has raked in $4,100 from PACs and only raised $750 from individual contributors. She does not have a primary opponent and will face Republican JL Mealer in the general election in what has historically been a Democratic stronghold.
Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, who is in an uncontested primary and general election, has raised $20,615, $18,350 of which came from PACs. Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, reported raising $10,800 since launching his campaign, the bulk of which, $8,350, came from political action committees.
On the Republican side, Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, only reported one individual contribution – $1,000 from Jeff Searles, president of Auto Glass Shop in Chandler. The remainder of his contributions, $10,775, came from political committees like the Realtors PAC, the Salt River Project Political Involvement Committee and Pinnacle West PAC.
When ousted lawmaker Don Shooter first acknowledged he might run for office again, the Yuma Republican described his potential campaign as wholly reliant on supporters in Yuma who insisted he make a comeback.
Shooter has since acknowledged running a poll to gauge interest in his potential campaign. And in late May, days before the deadline to file nominating petitions, he paid $2,176 for circulators to ensure he had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Rumors that Shooter might run for the state Senate, where he previously represented Legislative District 13, first began swirling in May, with reports of a robo-poll focused on the Senate GOP primary election. Shooter told the Arizona Capitol Times that he was not responsible for the poll — and why would he be, Shooter quipped, since he had no interest in running again.
“Hell no,” Shooter said when asked if he’d run for office. “I’m a man of leisure and happily enjoying my forced retirement.”
He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker.
On May 24, after his previous denial of any interest in running, Shooter shifted course and told the Capitol Times he was willing to serve again, but only because he’d been approached by a handful of loyalists who urged him to run and were willing to gather signatures to help him qualify for the ballot.
Days later, Elyse Foutz and Darlene Matlewsky, two Sun City West residents, were collecting signatures in the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. Shooter would pay them $950 each for their services, according to his second quarter campaign finance report, a rate of roughly $11 per signature.
The report also shows a payment of $276 to Diane Burns, owner of Petition Pros. Burns confirmed that she sent a signature gatherer to the West Valley on Shooter’s behalf. It’s unclear how many signatures Petition Pros gathered for Shooter.
Shooter declined to answer questions about the poll he claimed to have run in LD13, but shed some light on why he paid circulators. Shooter told the Capitol Times via text message July 18 that one of his supporters who couldn’t personally collect signatures offered to “give me money and pay to get them (signatures) collected.”
Between April 1 and June 30, only three contributions were made to Shooter’s campaign. One he made himself for $120, and one came from Crystal W. Howell for $2,000 on June 4. The third was an in kind contribution made by lobbyist Gretchen Jacobs for $2,500.
Shooter also spent an additional $9,500 from his campaign for Nelson’s services, according to his financial report.
Howell’s contribution would cover most of the $2,176 Shooter spent on signature gatherers, and is the only contribution that could possibly fit Shooter’s description of getting financial aid to pay for signatures.
Howell doesn’t appear to be one of Shooter’s supporters in Yuma, or anywhere in Arizona. Shooter’s latest finance report doesn’t list an address or occupation for Howell, and instead states that the information was “requested.” That means a candidate is claiming to have made a good faith effort to gather the information from the contributor before filing the finance report, according to Elections Director Eric Spencer.
The only available identifying information from the report shows that Howell is a Colorado resident. Shooter did not respond to a call or text asking if Howell is the contributor who he said had helped to pay for circulators.
Most of Shooter’s funds came in the form of loans made by himself and his wife, Susan, to the campaign. Shooter personally loaned himself $1,900 in the second quarter, while Susan kicked in $28,500 combined over two separate loans.
Julie Gunnigle said people advised her against talking about being a mom on the campaign trail when she first decided to run for the Legislature.
Gunnigle, a Democratic candidate for the House in Legislative District 15, said people advised her that voters will assume moms don’t have enough time to be a legislator, but they would also assume she’s a bad parent if she was dedicated to the job.
“‘Either way you spin it, you’ll lose,’” she said people told her.
Gunnigle didn’t listen to the advice.
Being a mom isn’t something Gunnigle or her running mates, Jennifer Samuels and Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko, have shied away from.
In fact, one of the reasons the three women decided to run for office was for their children. And they’re pushing back against the notion that mothers shouldn’t run for office, saying that being a mom actually makes them more qualified.
The 2018 elections have drawn a record number of legislative candidates, including a greater number of women and younger people. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 225 candidates qualified for the August 28 primary election for the House and Senate. That’s the second highest number of legislative candidates to run in the past 20 years, behind 2010 when 229 candidates filed to run for legislative office.
Of the 225 candidates who filed to run this year, 92 were women, or 40 percent. There were 177 candidates who filed to run for the primary in 2016, 64, or about 36 percent, were women. About one-third of the women who filed to run in 2018 – 31 – reported having children under the age of 18 in their household, according records from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Among the three of them, Gunnigle, Samuels and Dybvig-Pawelko have nine school-aged children under the age of 14.
And while 2018 has been dubbed the “Year of the Woman,” the three candidates said they are still asked questions like, “Who is going to take care of your children while you’re at work?” or they get comments like, “Wow, you must have your hands full.”
Gunnigle said her response is always the same: “You know the adage if you want something done, give it to a busy person? That’s totally true. Yes, I’m very busy, but I get stuff done. And I think moms have the unique ability to multitask and multitask under pressure and stress and that’s what we’d bring to the Legislature.”
The LD15 candidates said while many of the men who currently serve in the Legislature and those who are running for office have young children, there’s a double standard when it comes to women, with young children, running for office.
Gunnigle said while men have long used their children as a way to humanize their campaigns in an effort to appear more approachable, women with young children have often been met with skepticism.
It’s something she has experienced firsthand. Gunnigle said that because she and her running mates are moms, some people have questioned how serious their candidacies are.
“Sometimes people look at this race and feel like the three moms are political hobbyists – and we’re not. We’re serious and we’re dead serious,” she said about their intentions to run for office.
Women in Arizona have long held positions of power in state government, so the fact that female candidates are being asked these questions, especially in 2018, is somewhat surprising, said former Gov. Jan Brewer.
But Brewer said that is likely because historically, women who have served in the Legislature have been older with older teenagers or adult children.
Brewer said when she was first elected to the Legislature in 1982, Arizona had more women lawmakers than any other state in the country. She was 37 years old at the time, raising three children under the age of 17.
But the question she got most often wasn’t who was going to take care of her children while she was at the Capitol.
“The comment I always got then was that I was too young. ‘How old are you?’ people would ask me because they expected you to be ancient back then,” she said.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said she is just one of a handful of women currently serving in the Legislature who has young children.
She said she identifies more with her male colleagues, many of whom have minor children in the home, than other female colleagues who have adult children.
Ugenti-Rita, who has three children and was pregnant with her youngest when she first ran for office in 2010, said voters were very inquisitive about her scheduling techniques and management styles.
“There’s no shortage of questions about how you juggle it all,” she said. “Some people are a little bit more delicate than others – they try to ask with a bit more courtesy. And then others ask if your kids are home alone. No! Are you crazy? I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve gotten that level of questioning.”
She said while she was never told she shouldn’t bring up her children while on the campaign trail, and doesn’t shy away from the fact that she is a mom, she has made the choice to not campaign on being a mom. She said as a lawmaker, she doesn’t legislate on behalf of her kids, she wants to make decisions based on what is best for the district, even if sometimes the two conflict.
Ugenti-Rita said for many women, there is this assumption that running for office is something that you do when you’re older, once you’re done raising your children.
That’s something she doesn’t subscribe to.
“For a long time women haven’t really looked at politics as a viable option for them to get involved until later in life. Says who? No one should tell you what order you should put your priorities in,” she said.
Ugenti-Rita said being a female politician and having young children is no different than being a working mom in any other profession.
She said it’s something about politics that draws this level of scrutiny because it is one of the last male-dominated fields to integrate and accept women.
But women have shown that it’s not impossible to juggle motherhood and a political career. Just look at Brewer’s rise to the Governor’s Office.
“I was in office 33 years and raised three children,” Brewer said. “Working moms with children get it done.”
Samuels and Dybvig-Pawelko said they aren’t offended by the comments they have received.
“It’s the reality of the world we live in right now. Until we get more women into elected positions, we will be seen as something different,” Samuels said.
And Dybvig-Pawelko said not all of the feedback she has received has been negative.
She said as she and her family have knocked on doors in their community, many of the moms they have met are excited about having someone who looks just like them representing them at the Capitol.
“At the doors, when I talk to voters, it really resonates with them because a lot of people in our community are juggling multiple kids and they know what we’re dealing with,” she said.
Early voting poll results show Frank Pratt handily defending his seat in the Arizona Senate against a Democratic challenger.
Pratt, a Casa Grande Republican, has a commanding lead over Sharon Girard, an emergency room physicians assistant running for the Senate in Legislative District 8.
The eastern Arizona district, which stretches from Coolidge to Globe, has long been considered a swing district, and thus a potential pickup for Democrats. But it’s grown more conservative over the years, a trend reaffirmed by Pratt’s early lead.
Pratt was one of three Republicans to win seats in LD8 in 2016, earning a clean sweep of the district for the GOP.
Democrats had hoped Sharon Girard could reclaim the seat they last held two years ago, when Kearney Democrat Barb McGuire represented LD8.
But the district’s Republican leanings, and Pratt’s sizeable financial advantage, are proving too difficult for Girard to overcome. Pratt raised nearly $83,000 this election cycle, while Girard received the standard $42,000 as a participating candidate with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
Audrey Ruiz didn’t talk about politics with her family much, but having just left her parents’ Yuma home, she has knocked on thousands of doors spreading the word of NextGen in Arizona.
She said the issues that affected her community that “seemed fine” before didn’t seem fine anymore. She realized that she had to stop sitting on the bench and help her community address these issues.
NextGen, a youth vote program funded by billionaire Tom Steyer, seemed like the right fit for her when she was looking for something to get involved in and backers of the program came to recruit her.
“I feel like my community, the different communities that I belong to, whether it be the immigrant community or people struggling under our health care system, being a female
. . . I feel like all of these communities are under attack under our current administration,” said Ruiz.
“I am the granddaughter of immigrants, the daughter of a mother who is struggling under our health care system. I’m a student and I’m afraid to be shot in a classroom.”
Ruiz, 19, is among a growing number of minorities, college students, environmental activists, children of first-generation Americans, gun regulation supporters and first-time voters who feel that their coalition of 76 million voters under the age of 35 have the voting power to reshape America.
Their personal experiences have left them disenchanted with America under the Trump administration, and they want to nurture their progressive beliefs for the future of America with their drive to register voters.
At the NextGen hub in central Phoenix they work with laptops on folding tables in a room smaller than a convenience store, and use U.S. Census data to target areas dense with young people.
“They care about DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and ensuring that there’s a path to citizenship for Dreamers,” said Jalakoi Solomon, director of Arizona’s NextGen branch. “They care about everyone having access to affordable health care; about the cost of college and the minimum wage; about gun safety and being safe in your home, and your church and your schools.”
Steyer has said he will pour $2 million into Arizona elections this year and he is investing $30 million in 10 states in an effort to push Democrats to victory in the midterms. NextGen volunteers have knocked on more than 30,000 doors and are directly responsible for registering more than 9,000 voters. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 89,000 people 18-40 have registered to vote since March 1, a near 10-point increase in that demographic.
In the coming weeks when college students go back to school, NextGen plans to sign up an additional 12,000 people to vote in the 2018 general election.
Despite earlier reluctance to talk about political issues, Ruiz remembers significant conversations with her family when controversial SB1070, which enabled local police to crack down on illegal immigration, became law. She was about 11 and she recalls the anger that flared up in her community over its passage.
Immigrants’ rights groups at the time said that parts of the law would lead to legalized racial profiling and create heavier policing of Hispanic and migrant communities.
“I remember the protest and rallies against the act,” Ruiz said. “It was the first time my entire family talked about politics, so while I didn’t completely understand what was going on, I knew what the words ‘racial profiling’ meant, which, looking back, is completely disgusting for a child to know.”
Ruiz said her experience with SB1070 and President Trump’s recently reversed zero-tolerance policy that separated children from their parents continue to live on in the heart of the canvassing work she and others are doing.
“If one of these policies were enacted years ago, I don’t know if my family would be here today,” Ruiz said.
Turning out young voters is critical to any progressive movement because they are typically more supportive of issues that affect people like Ruiz, an American from a Hispanic community, or Alex Ross, a gay NextGen worker who is the regional organizer for the West Valley.
Ross’ mother is a permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for 57 years. She traveled to the U.S. when she was 6 from Costa Rica and married an American man when she grew up.
Headlines announcing the deportation of women who had lived in the U.S. for decades has Ross fearful that his mother does not have guaranteed protection from deportation despite her legal immigration status.
Ross, 22, who attended Catholic school in New York, said his mother was the force behind him entering political organizing. She pointed out the inequality of the poor and homeless people on the street and the minorities who were disproportionately affected.
As a high school senior, he worked with Teen Council, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood, to teach young adults about safe and consensual sex, but he found himself leaning more toward policy when he went to college.
“No one is a single-issue voter,” Ross said. “We all live lives that are complicated, and touch in different areas and different ways, and so the way I see it, fighting for immigration justice is also fighting for reproductive justice. They all kinda’ tie together.”
Upset with the family separation policy and other actions against the rights of LGBTQ people, like himself, Ross sought an opportunity to step up and be a leader for the youth. He joined NextGen in 2018.
Guadalupe Espitia, 23, said the issues she hears most about while canvassing for NextGen in Glendale are immigration and education, and her job is to make voting as easy as possible for people and to teach them about the value of their vote.
Espitia, an Arizona State University student who grew up in Tolleson, said her plan is to return to her former high school to teach there, and she stabs the table with a finger to emphasize each word that she utters.
“There is still a lot of conversations that need to be had where we know that we can vote, and that voting is our right. However, to actually vote is another story,” she said.
Ruiz has knocked on 5,000 doors since March, starting in Yuma and continuing through the Phoenix summer.
In Yuma, the Trump ticket won by 1-percentage point in 2016, and with a typically decreased voting turnout during midterms, the 2018 election could flip Ruiz’s hometown to the Democrats – if they decide to show up. Democrats say they have almost everything going in their favor this election– a nationally unpopular president sitting at 40 percent in most polls and the first midterms of his presidency.
“We’ve been knocking on thousands and thousands of doors … and we’re mobilizing the youth,” Ruiz said. “We’re running the largest youth voting campaign in the history of America and we’re going to register as many young people as we can, because we know when young people come together and vote they tend to vote for progressives.”
This story has been updated to report that NextGen plans to register 12,000, not 5,000, people to vote, when colleges and universities begin classes in for the fall 2018 semester.
Penich-Thacker said the reason Prop. 305 failed was because of the state of public education funding. She said the pro-voucher crowd has to take a step back and deal with that issue before trying to return with another attempt at voucher expansion.
“This is actually not a voucher issue,” she said. “This is a public education issue.”
As long as funding remains where it is, she said there is no voucher conversation to be had.
Arizona’s voucher program, known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs, pays parents or guardians 90 percent of the money that would have gone to a student’s public school. The money can be spent on private school tuition, tutoring and home-school curriculum. The program began in 2011 for only special needs students and has grown to allow an array of students, such as ones from failing schools and children whose parents are in the military.
Save Our Schools Arizona has said the program takes money out of public schools without any accountability.
If the pro-voucher side wants to talk about making alterations to the existing program, she said they need to want to get bugs out of the current system first. She said many voters’ problem was not with vouchers but with a program now plagued with fraud and misuse. Recent headlines have spotlighted hundreds of thousands in ESA funds being used not on educational choice but on personal spending sprees.
And it’s not as if public education funding is not already a priority.
The issue was at the top of politicians’ minds even before thousands of teachers and support staff went on strike and marched on the Capitol.
Penich-Thacker said pro-voucher lawmakers have always told her they care about public schools and only wanted to offer vouchers as another option.
“We’re all grownups. We’re all familiar with the idea that you have to prioritize things,” she said. “So, if they are telling the truth and they do support the choice of public education, then that’s the priority conversation.”
But some on the side of ESAs have doubled down on their support for voucher expansion.
The American Federation for Children ultimately opted to stand against Prop. 305, fearing that the state’s Voter Protection Act would have locked the law in place, including an enrollment cap of 30,000 students.
But spokeswoman Kim Martinez said the ESA program will not be sidelined.
“It’s short-sighted to put funding concerns above children whose learning requirements have to be met today,” Martinez said in an email. “The recent campaign of misinformation, confusing Arizonans on ESAs, was a disservice.”
She pointed out the expansion may have failed but students will still have access to the program. She said 250,000 students will be eligible to apply next year under current eligibility categories.
Other voucher proponents stood by Prop. 305 and appear undeterred by its failure or promises that SOS Arizona isn’t going away now that they’ve won.
The day after the election, the Goldwater Institute declared its intentions to continue the fight, emphasizing that Prop. 305 would have expanded the availability of vouchers to all students.
“Arizona has been a national leader on the path to greater school choice for families,” Goldwater President and CEO Victor Riches said in a press release. “The Goldwater Institute will continue the fight to give students and their families a greater say in their education in Arizona and across the country.”
Arizona’s secretary of state contest could be the sleeper race of 2018.
The Republican primary contest has gained little attention, but has developed into one of the state’s more contentious races as millionaire businessman Steve Gaynor challenges Secretary of State Michele Reagan.
The race comes chock full of finger-pointing – Gaynor points to his opponent’s mistakes in her first term and Reagan points to her opponent’s self-funding and relative obscurity.
Gaynor, the owner of a printing plant, has poured $1 million into his bid to be the state’s chief elections officer and first in the line of succession for governor.
Reagan, a former state senator who was first elected secretary of state in 2014, has spent much of the lead-up to the August 28 primary defending missteps from her first term.
State Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, will face the winner.
Gaynor said he was recruited to run for secretary of state because Republicans were worried Reagan couldn’t beat a Democrat in the general election.
But he won’t say who recruited him.
Reagan said she doesn’t know where Gaynor got the idea that she couldn’t win in the general. She said her campaign has internal polling that shows her easily winning against a Democrat.
Before hitting the campaign trail, Gaynor was relatively unknown in state politics. He was more involved on the national level and has donated to numerous federal candidates — mostly Republicans, but also a few Democrats due to their support for Israel.
Gaynor has mostly self-funded his campaign, pouring $1 million of his own money into the race. Fundraising is often time consuming and Gaynor said he didn’t have the name recognition to bring in adequate contributions.
Reagan called it opportunistic and peculiar for Gaynor to spend $1 million of his own money to run for secretary of state.
“That is absolutely insane,” she said.
Gaynor said he expects donors to come out in force should he win the primary election.
Reagan pledged to support Gaynor if he wins the primary,
“I’m a Republican first,” she said.
Polling from Data Orbital last month showed Gaynor leading the race with a 44-22 percent lead over Reagan.
A previous July poll showed Reagan and Gaynor neck-and-neck.
Reagan said she isn’t surprised Gaynor is gaining traction in the polls, citing the hundreds of thousands of dollars his campaign has spent on negative TV ads.
Gaynor’s last campaign finance report, posted in mid-July, shows him paying $222,631 to a political consulting firm that specializes in TV advertising and media buying.
In the ads, Gaynor tries to tie Regan to a series of election-related mistakes. In campaign ads, Gaynor has also touted his support for President Donald Trump, his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association and his pro-life views — issues that don’t pertain to the Secretary of State’s Office, but could win over Republican voters.
Reagan has struggled to combat Gaynor’s negative attacks. She has adopted an aggressive targeted digital strategy instead of buying TV airtime. Gaynor’s ability to self-fund means he has more campaign cash than his opponent.
“His negative messaging may work,” she said. “And there’s nothing I can do about that.”
On the campaign trail, Gaynor is calling out Reagan for previous elections mistakes.
In 2016, Reagan failed to comply with state law when she failed to mail out 200,000 ballot pamphlets explaining election issues before voters received their early ballots.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich looked into the matter, calling it a “complete fiasco.”
Reagan has owned up to the mistake that occurred ahead of the first statewide race run by her office.
“Am I excusing that? Absolutely not,” she said. “We were held accountable. We have new people and new systems. And we’ve had four elections since then where things went off without a hitch.”
But Gaynor has alleged that Reagan’s office tried to cover up the mistake by not publicizing it as soon as they knew there was an error with the pamphlets.
People make mistakes, but she was not transparent about what went wrong and did not rush to fix the problem, Gaynor said.
“The good news is, from a Republican standpoint, I don’t have the baggage of four years of problems, and frankly, that was one of the primary reasons I got in the race,” Gaynor said.
One of Gaynor’s ads also ties Reagan to the long lines Maricopa County voters had to wait in during the 2016 Presidential Preference Election.
The snafu happened when Maricopa County drastically reduced the number of polling places, which had people waiting in line for hours to vote.
Reagan has tried to distance herself from the incident, saying it is up to county recorders to pick the number of polling places and their locations, and then the recorders get approval from their local board of supervisors.
“There isn’t a whole heck of a lot we could have done,” she said.
But Gaynor has said, as the state’s chief elections officer, Reagan is owed some of the blame.
One of the wonkiest issues of the secretary of state’s race is turning into one of the biggest topics on the campaign trail.
Gaynor criticized Reagan’s decision to settle a lawsuit, clearing a series of hurdles for those seeking to register to vote. He said the consent decree published by Reagan this summer is unconstitutional and allows undocumented immigrants to vote.
Reagan, who stands by the settlement, argues that Gaynor is twisting the consent decree and scaring people in order to drum up support.
At issue in the lawsuit was the required documentation to vote in Arizona, which differs under state and federal law.
State law requires voters to show proof of citizenship to register to vote, but federal law stipulates people must be allowed to register to vote, even if they can’t show proof of citizenship.
Previously, if someone without proof of citizenship filled out the state form to register to vote, their form would be set aside and they wouldn’t be allowed to vote in any elections. They would have to fill out the federal voting form to be able to vote in federal elections.
Now, those who submit either the state or federal form will be registered to vote in federal elections, even without proof of citizenship.
That means, under the consent decree, if you’re an undocumented immigrant and you register to vote with the state form, you can vote in federal elections, which didn’t used to be the case, Gaynor said.
In theory, if the consent decree is allowed to stand, Arizona will have more federal-only voters than before, he said.
“Her actions in this case are outrageous,” Gaynor said.
Reagan, who dismissed claims that the settlement was unconstitutional, said she wouldn’t go back and change a thing because the settlement does the right thing by treating voters equally.
She also called Gaynor’s attacks insulting to others who signed onto the consent decree.
“Is he saying that Mark Brnovich and Bill Montgomery signed something to let illegals vote? It’s absolutely ludicrous,” she said.
See the money
Gaynor has also taken aim at Reagan’s campaign finance-tracking website SeeTheMoney.com, the full launch of which has been delayed.
The website, which was one of Reagan’s campaign promises from 2014, is up and running in beta as a way to track campaign donations and spending in Arizona elections.
Reagan hoped to complete the website in 2016, but now calls that naivety on her part because of the number of statewide elections that year kept her and her staff preoccupied.
Now, Reagan doesn’t have a date for when the final product will launch. Instead, she characterizes the site as something that will continually be updated and said it could take years to integrate campaign finance data from all of Arizona’s counties, cities and towns.
Nonetheless, Reagan heralds the website as the ultimate transparency tool.
Gaynor has criticized Reagan’s SeeTheMoney project as a sign of incompetence and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“The See the Money website saga, in my opinion, is emblematic of the way the Secretary of State’s Office has been run since January of 2015,” Gaynor said. “Problems, more problems, more problems.”
He would not say whether he will finish the SeeTheMoney website should he be elected secretary of state. Gaynor said he would first evaluate the status of the product before moving forward.
Correction: This story has been corrected to say Steve Gaynor holds pro-life views. A previous version incorrectly stated he held pro-choice views.
The Arizona Association of Realtors is campaigning against one of its own members with negative ads attacking Republican Rep. Darin Mitchell.
The ads, launched by the Responsible Leadership for AZ PAC, blast Mitchell, a Realtor from Goodyear, as one of several “very concerning candidates” in Legislative District 13, where Mitchell is running for re-election to the House of Representatives.
That claim in the ads lumps Mitchell together with Republican Trey Terry, who’s running on a slate with Mitchell for the district’s two House seats, and with ousted lawmaker Don Shooter, who’s running for the state Senate. The ads, and the website, go on to accuse Mitchell of unpaid debts and a state income tax lien, and drum up an ethics complaint filed against him by House Democrats in 2016.
Beyond the low-hanging fruit of election attacks, the website created by Responsible Leadership for AZ – darinmitchelltooliberal.com – also hits Mitchell for supporting and sponsoring legislation that the Realtors opposed.
The Arizona Association of Realtors is the sole funder of Responsible Leadership for AZ, to the tune of $500,000 since December 2017.
The attacks have drawn the ire of another Realtor-slash-lawmaker, Rep. Mark Finchem. He, too, was snubbed by the Realtors’ endorsements.
And Mitchell’s campaign consultant claims the Realtors are trying to drum up reasons to attack Mitchell to influence an intra-party race for speaker of the House.
Nicole LaSlavic, vice president of government affairs at the Association of Realtors, said such claims are “purely speculation,” and don’t reflect the association’s decision to back a GOP challenger over Mitchell in LD13.
The Realtors instead endorsed Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, and GOP challenger Joanne Osborne.
“I know that neither (Mitchell nor Finchem) necessarily agree with it because they’re taking the position that they’re incumbents. But the reality is, there’s an impact on their votes,” LaSlavic said. “Just because they’re a member of our association doesn’t mean that we fall in line, necessarily, with backing them every time.”
Of chief concern for the Realtors is a bill Mitchell sponsored earlier this year. HB2507 would have barred homeowners from obtaining attorney fees if construction defects arise in a new home. The Realtors opposed the bill, which was never given a vote on the House floor.
LaSlavic said it’s only the latest example in a series of legislative efforts that Mitchell, though a Realtor, has supported despite the Association of Realtors opposition.
“I would say that for any member of the Legislature, if they’re going to sponsor legislation or vote for legislation that we do not agree with, the likelihood is that we’re not going to respond favorably to that,” she said. “Their membership doesn’t buy an automatic endorsement.”
Chris Baker, a campaign consultant for Mitchell, said the Association of Realtors is trying to find reasons to hide its true intentions. The Realtors were neither for nor against a similar bill Mitchell introduced back in 2015, Baker said.
“This is about the Realtors Association putting their thumb on the scale in the speaker’s race,” Baker said.
Mitchell is one of two Republicans vying to be the next speaker of the House. The other, Rep. Rusty Bowers of Mesa, was endorsed by the Realtors.
The Association of Realtors may have been neutral on Mitchell’s bill in 2015, but they were registered as opposed to it in 2018, when LaSlavic described it as the “most recent and probably the most concerning (bill) that we’ve had in the last few years.”
And while the Realtors may have backed Mitchell in the past, “people can change,” LaSlavic said.
As for Finchem, the Oro Valley Republican said he was livid that the Realtors Association would go negative on one of its own members, particularly when the money funding the attack ads comes from the Association of Realtors’ political action committee, known as RAPAC, which Realtors make contributions to.
FInchem demanded a refund from RAPAC and an apology for going after Mitchell with made up “innuendo and unproven accusations,” though the website attacking Mitchell provides documentation supporting those accusations.
The ad against Mitchell, Finchem wrote in a letter to the association, “would destroy the working relationship that Realtors have enjoyed with members of the House and Senate and would forever change the reputation of the Realtor community.”
Baker said the Association of Realtors had singled out Mitchell, and isn’t going after other candidates who have sponsored legislation the organization opposes. For example, Finchem may not have drawn Realtors’ endorsement in LD14, but unlike in Mitchell’s race, they endorsed no one, not even his GOP primary opponent.
Both Mitchell and Finchem have even cosponsored bills that the Association of Realtors supported, though Finchem voted in committee for HB2507.
“They’re going to try to make this about specific pieces of legislation,” Baker said. “The bottom line is if they were in the business of going after people off random pieces of legislation, they would be going after a lot of other Republican members. They are not.”
LaSlavic reiterated that being a Realtor does not ensure the association’s support.
“Darin Mitchell and Mark Finchem supported and voted for legislation that our trustees adamantly opposed, and because of that, based off their voting record, that’s why the position is not in their favor,” LaSlavic said.
Republican leaders are abandoning state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas in her re-election bid, favoring a former teacher they consider their best shot at keeping the office red.
But some in the Red for Ed camp that took over the Capitol this spring say Douglas is their pick for the GOP nomination – just not for the reasons she hopes voters will turn out for her.
Arizona Republican stalwarts like House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Senate President Steve Yarbrough snubbed Douglas and instead endorsed Tracy Livingston, a Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board member with more than a decade of public school teaching experience.
They’re hoping she’ll be an antidote to current perceptions of the office and its holder. With the August 28 primary election fast approaching, they’ll soon find out whether voters agree.
Livingston’s war chest may be lacking — according to her most recent campaign finance report, she has less than $3,000 cash on hand – but she has had no trouble attracting the endorsements of better-known conservatives.
In addition to Mesnard and Yarbough, her campaign website boasts the blessings of House Education Committee Chair Rep. Paul Boyer, Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Sylvia Allen and former Superintendents of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime Molera.
“I don’t even want the title. I want the ability to change,” she said, adding that she is the state’s “one chance for a teacher to lead, an actual, real, non-frustrated teacher.”
But the support behind Livingston hasn’t fazed Douglas.
“Endorsements are nothing but favor factories,” Douglas said. “The only endorsement I care about is the endorsement of the citizens of Arizona.”
In her eyes, endorsements are just promises from one politician to another. Specifically, she said both Graham Keegan and Molera are involved in the school choice movement, and their endorsements may signal that they see something “advantageous” in Livingston.
But that may be exactly the kind of language that drove Douglas’ predecessors and others away from her.
Molera did not support Douglas in 2014 either. Instead, he chose to stand behind the Democrat in the general election, his former associate superintendent, David Garcia.
“There was a concern that Diane would become the superintendent that she has become,” Molera said.
He said she hasn’t provided a strong conservative voice within the office, and outside of the Arizona Department of Education, he said she’s been divisive even with other Republicans.
Because Douglas has lived up to those expectations he said he believes the incumbent is vulnerable.
And that’s exactly what some voters on the left are counting on.
Red for Ed
While Republicans shy away from their own incumbent, educators are crowdsourcing political insight on platforms like Facebook and devising their own strategies for the race.
Two schools of thought frequently emerge among backers of Arizona Educators United, a coalition of teachers and education support professionals: that Douglas is the best Republican candidate in the primary because educators know what to expect from her if she wins the general election, or that she is the best Republican candidate because she is the most likely to lose to a Democrat.
Those who subscribe to the former say Douglas has the name recognition to pull off a win in November – a result not favored by many participating in candidate forums – but that she poses the least threat to their movement.
“Diane Douglas basically gives us the best opportunity to mitigate the damage that could be done by someone else,” said Ryan Reid, a fifth grade teacher in the Washington Elementary School District. “We kind of know who she is. … So I think from the Republican field, she’s the lesser of two evils.”
Reid is an independent voter who said he will vote for Douglas in the primary, but he intends to vote for the Democrat in November – he favors David Schapira in the Democratic primary. Reid said he could live with Douglas being re-elected, but he doesn’t trust Livingston. He believes her husband, Republican Rep. David Livingston, has not supported public schools, and he expects the same of Tracy Livingston despite her classroom experience.
Tiffany Huisman, a ninth grade teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District, is skeptical of Livingston, too, and the other Republican candidates: Frank Riggs, who served in Congress representing California in the 1990s; Jonathan Gelbart, the former director of development for BASIS Charter Schools; and Bob Branch, a teacher of teachers at two Christian universities.
Huisman said Republican voters have no easy choice, but she’s encouraging votes for Douglas, who she believes will be unable to hold her own against either Schapira or his primary challenger, Kathy Hoffman.
As for Huisman, she’ll be voting in the Democratic primary, though she’s not yet sure for whom.
“A lot of people like to vote with their heart,” she said. “At this point in my career and my life, I want to vote for the person who is going to beat the GOP candidate.”
But while voters like Huisman believe Douglas will make the seat easy pickings for a Democrat, the candidate herself said she is confident she can thwart their plan.
Douglas said she knows she’s the only Republican candidate who can defeat a Democrat in the general election because she already has. She pulled off a win against Garcia in 2014, albeit by a single percentage point.
And she intends to win again by appealing to more than just teachers.
“I wasn’t elected to be the president of the teachers’ union,” she said. “I was elected to be the superintendent of public instruction, to represent the citizens of Arizona as citizens of Arizona.”
The man who was elected to be the president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association, said he’s not surprised that some in the Red for Ed movement are being strategic about their votes.
Nor was he surprised that Douglas has not been cast in a flattering light among teachers.
Douglas did not support the six-day strike that began in late April and eventually forced the governor and the Legislature to pass a 20 percent teacher pay raise plan. Douglas later went on to suggest there could be consequences for the thousands of teachers who participated.
More importantly, though, he said she has failed to show she has a “master plan” for public education even after four years in office.
And without that vision for the state, he cannot say Douglas has done her job well.
“You want an advocate out there. You want someone who can work with the Legislature and the governor to paint a vision of a quality public education for all of Arizona,” Thomas said. “And we don’t have one.”
No matter who ultimately claims the Republican nomination, the down-ballot race will struggle to attract the attention and dollars afforded to other contests.
And that’s nothing new.
Consultant Chris Baker said the same trend has been consistent through past election cycles. The office is simply a difficult one to raise money for without an established donor base.
“And if you have an established donor base, you probably ain’t running for superintendent of public instruction,” he said.
You’re running for another office, one that ultimately holds more sway over education policy, like the governor.
As a donor, choosing whether to pump money into the governor’s race versus the superintendent’s race is a no-brainer. One gets you one vote on the Arizona State Board of Education because the superintendent sits on the board, and the other gets you the power to appoint the ten other voting members, Baker said.
“Superintendent of public instruction and mine inspector are in some ways anachronistic offices in the sense that they probably should be appointed,” he said. “But they’re locked into our Constitution, so we’re stuck with them.”
The superintendent’s office is not where the action is on education policy, Baker said. It’s intended to be more of a bully pulpit from which to advocate when necessary and implement the policies in place.
Billions of dollars
The Arizona Department of Education, over which the superintendent presides, is also responsible for distributing billions of dollars in local, state and federal funding.
In the grand scheme of the elections, Baker said the primary reason Republicans have an interest in holding the seat is to deny the Democrats a statewide post.
But that mentality may prove fatal to the Republican Party come November.
While Livingston has been the recipient of her fellow conservatives’ support thus far, she said the party has failed to capitalize on the energy behind education and control the narrative.
Livingston said she understands that higher offices are the main priority. But she fears victories like Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to increase teachers’ salaries and the extension of Proposition 301 may be lost in the perception that the party doesn’t care about public education.
“Now is the time for our party to absolutely lead in the discussion of education and moving our classrooms forward,” Livingston said, “and I would have to say that conversation is probably not the focus.”
With five Republican contenders dividing the vote, the GOP primary race for Superintendent of Public Instruction ended in a tight victory for Frank Riggs.
Final results as of September 5 show that Frank Riggs took a lead of less than one percentage point over the runner up, Bob Branch. Just 359 votes separated the two candidates.
Incumbent Diane Douglas trailed closely behind Branch. Only 3,498 votes separated her and Riggs. The race for the Democratic nomination wasn’t as competitive; Kathy Hoffman beat David Schapira by nearly 22,000 votes.
With both Riggs and Branch receiving just shy of 22 percent of the vote, it appears Arizonans looking for a change were unable to rally behind just one alternative to the incumbent, who herself won about 21 percent of the vote. Additionally, Tracy Livingston garnered another 20 percent, and Jonathan Gelbart rounded out the pack with just shy of 15 percent.
Douglas never quite escaped criticism after clashing with Gov. Doug Ducey early in her first term over the firing of two State Board of Education employees, and she has continued to irk many in the state, even in her own party, over the years. Most recently, she offended public school teachers after criticizing the Red for Ed movement’s decision to strike and suggesting teachers’ certifications may be at risk because of it.
Still, political observers had speculated she would benefit from sheer name recognition in a crowded Republican field.
Riggs will now face off against Hoffman in the Nov. 6 general election.
Superintendent of Public Instruction By The Numbers
Former Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy has easily claimed one of two Democratic nominations for two open Arizona Corporation Commission seats.
But while she surged ahead in the Aug. 28 primary, her fellow former commissioner, Bill Mundell, struggledto secure his comeback nomination.
Mundell was neck-and-neck with Kiana Maria Sears throughout the race, with less than 1 percentage point separating them. Unofficial results show that he failed to secure the second spot in the Democratic primary by just 6,011 votes.
Sears has been accused of being an Arizona Public Service plant in the Democratic primary. That accusation threatened to be particularly harmful to her campaign at a time of heightened public scrutiny around the commissioners’ relationship with the state’s largest public utility.
But Mundell has baggage of his own, having previously served on the commission as a Republican. He has said he switched after recognizing the influence APS had over the other Republican commissioners. He and Kennedy ran as a team pledging to change the status quo.
The Democrats will face Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman in the Nov. 6 general election. Olson and Glassman defeated incumbent Tom Forese in the Republican primary.
Sen. David Farnsworth cruised to an easy victoryover a challenge from San Tan Valley Republican Michael Hernandez for re-election to the state Senate.
Farnsworth is running for his third full term in the Senate representing Legislative District 16, which covers parts of Mesa and San Tan Valley, and Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.
After Farnsworth faced no primary election opponent in 2016, Hernandez emerged to try and oust him, citing the incumbent lawmaker’s opposition to incorporating San Tan Valley as his reason for entering the race.
Hernandez also garnered the endorsements of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and the Arizona Police Association, but it wasn’t enough to sway voters to give the boot to Farnsworth, who’s now held the seat since he was appointed in September 2013.
Farnsworth also served a term in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1997 to 1998.
Farnsworth will face token opposition from Benjamin Carmitchel, the lone Democrat running for the state Senate in LD16. Republicans hold a two-to-one registration advantage among voters in the conservative East Valley district.
State Sen. Steve Smith called on rival candidate Wendy Rogers to drop out of the Republican primary for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and threatened to sue her over radio ads and a website, where her campaign implies that the modeling agency he works for is tied to sex trafficking and engages in inappropriate conduct with minors.
In an ad running on numerous radio stations across CD1, a sprawling district that stretches from the state line with Utah to northern Pima County, Rogers’ campaign calls Smith “a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking.” Rogers repeats and elaborates on those claims in an anti-Smith website her campaign runs, www.slimysteve.com.
The website accuses Smith of being the director at a modeling agency that “recruits children” and advertises on websites that feature Playboy models and includes photos of models from the The Young Agency’s website that show young women wearing bikinis and lingerie.
Furthermore, Rogers’ website says, The Young Agency advertises on modelmayhem.com, a website “full of pornographic material” – most of the models on the website are not nude, though some have nude photos as part of their portfolios. Rogers’ website also claims that modelmayhe.com was linked by law enforcement to several disappearances, rapes and instances of human trafficking, citing a report that originally ran in 2013 on an ABC affiliate in Columbia, Mo.
But at a press conference on Thursday at Phoenix Law Enforcement Association headquarters in downtown Phoenix, Smith said Rogers’ allegations are intentionally dishonest and they convey wildly false claims that The Young Agency, where he’s worked for more than 10 years, is connected to sex trafficking or engaged in improper conduct with underage girls.
Smith said Rogers used the word “underage” on purpose, and said it’s defined as meaning someone is too young to legally engage in an activity, particularly drinking or sex.
“That’s the definition, and she is tying that definition to the company that I work for,” Smith said. “Needless to say, her claims or her innuendo is 100 percent false.”
He noted that Rogers never directly accuses him or The Young Agency of such conduct, only that they are “linked.”
“That’s the most egregious fraud that she’s trying to link the two of them together,” he said.
Smith said regarding the claim that the Young Agency advertises on a website linked to human trafficking, Model Mayhem has more than 1 million users and is “kind of like the Facebook for the [modeling] industry.” He said his understanding is that someone on the website may have committed crimes at some point, but saying he advertises on a website that’s linked to human trafficking is like saying he’s linked to crimes committed by Craigslist users if he sells a lawnmower on the website, or that anyone with a Facebook profile is linked to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Smith said the things that Rogers is implying about him and his company are reckless.
“To even infer that somebody in this company is at all associated with anything that she’s even remotely trying to infer is so blatantly … it’s almost evil,” Smith said.
Smith emphasized that the Young Agency, which he called a “Christian-based company,” does not book models for nude photo shoots. It does feature women, some of them under 18, wearing bathing suits or other revealing clothing, which he said is for clients, such as swimming pool companies. He said the photo shoots his company’s clients do are for the type of ads featured in Sunday newspapers for regular businesses, and that the Young Agency has clients of all ages – from babies to senior citizens.
“The right thing to do is remove herself from this race and search her soul why she would stoop so low,” he said.
Smith also called Rogers’ claims “potentially tortious” and said he may pursue legal action against her.
Rogers’ campaign stood by its ads, and continued its criticism of Smith, describing him as being in “panic mode.” The campaign did not respond to several follow-up questions from the Arizona Capitol Times.
“If Steve Smith can’t handle scrutiny about his supposed ‘Christian’ website with teenage bikini models and girls in lingerie, and the fact that he personally has a profile on Model Mayhem, a website linked to human trafficking by ABC News and the Huffington Post, then he does not have the stomach for a fight against Tom O’Halleran,” Rogers campaign manager, Spence Rogers, said in a news release.
Several law enforcement figures who support Smith spoke out against Rogers’ allegations. Justin Harris, president of the Arizona Police Association, called her campaign’s claims “a new low in the political forum” and “an act of desperation,” while PLEA President Ken Crane described them as “ludicrous and beyond the pale.”
“We are shocked and astounded at what we view as baseless inferences being leveled by the Wendy Rogers campaign trying to infer that Senator Smith’s personal business is somehow tied to sex trafficking,” Crane said.
Smith and other speakers noted that Rogers has run and lost in every election year since 2010, when she sought a state Senate seat, followed by campaigns for the 9th Congressional District in 2012 and 2014, and for the 1st Congressional District in 2016 and 2018.
“For 10 years … Wendy Rogers has been trying unsuccessfully to get elected to political office. And today, she’s so desperate to win that she’s abandoned truth, decency and the values of the Republican Party,” he said.
Rogers, Smith and political newcomer Tiffany Shedd are vying for the Republican nomination in the district. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran, who was first elected to the seat in 2016.
A handful of candidates for the Arizona Legislature share the distinction of suing the state they hope to represent.
Tim Jeffries, a Scottsdale businessman running for the state Senate in Legislative District 23, was ousted from state government by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2016. Jeffries, then the Ducey-appointed director of the Department of Economic Security, was forced to resign amid reports that he’d fired hundreds of state workers and used a state plane to fly to Nogales to celebrate with employees who gave up their job protections.
Also ousted from DES that day: Charles Loftus, who’s running for the state Senate in Legislative District 20. Loftus was the agency’s chief law enforcement officer under Jeffries.
Both were excoriated in an audit of security policies at DES. A review by the Department of Public Safety noted the DES security program under Jeffries and Loftus’ watch, when the agency amassed a stash of guns and ammunition to equip armed employees, was “rife with disorganization and inefficiency.”
Jeffries was one of three staffers found not in compliance with DES policies when they carried firearms at state facilities, the audit found.
Jeffries and Loftus deny those findings. Together, they’re suing the state for libel, claiming that the DPS audit amounted to a series of maliciously false statements aimed at undermining their efforts to weed out corrupt contracts at DES.
The former DES workers may soon be joined by former lawmaker Don Shooter, who’s seeking a political comeback less than six months after his colleagues expelled him from the House of Representatives.
The expulsion came February 1 after an investigation initiated by the House found that Shooter, a Yuma Republican, had sexually harassed several women, including a fellow lawmaker, and created a hostile work environment.
Defiant to the end, Shooter claims his ouster was “orchestrated” by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, and Ducey’s chief of staff, Kirk Adams. There are similar claims made in the lawsuit filed by Jeffries and Loftus, who in court filings allege that Adams and other government agents attempted to silence them for “bringing to light… malfeasance, corruption and incompetent administration” in state procurement practices.
In a notice of claim submitted April 16, Shooter’s lawyer, Kraig Marton, alleged the former lawmaker was expelled to prevent him from uncovering “serious issues of malfeasance in state government contracts.”
Shooter had to wait 60 days before he can pursue a lawsuit in order to give the state a chance to respond. That time elapsed as of June 18, but Shooter has yet to file a lawsuit.
He insisted the pending case will prove that he is the real victim.
“Let the people speak, let the people decide,” Shooter said of his re-election bid. “Let the people say if this is important, or if my seven years of good service to my district and, and, the fact that I’m being harassed and persecuted by people who will be proven to be doing so in the lawsuit, whether that matters.”
Loftus said the lawsuit is mostly a non-issue on the campaign trail.
“At first I thought it might be a burden, but when I explain and detail out the circumstances and the reason that we are fighting this, I turned it into a little bit of a positive,” he said. “I’ve only been asked about two or three times. I’ve been asked more by other candidates” than by voters, he added.
If anything, the lawsuit hews closely into an issue that Loftus said is a pillar of his campaign, citing arguments in court filings that “to take away their credibility and prevent further investigation into the corruption and malfeasance that Jeffries and Loftus were trying to uncover,” government forces set out on “a massive campaign of libel.”
“I’m an enemy of public waste, fraud and corruption, and this really solidifies the position I’m taking in the campaign,” Loftus said.
Jeffries, who declined to be interviewed, wrote in an email that the lawsuit “doesn’t adversely impact my campaign one iota.”
He pointed to his experience leading DES, experience he wrote gives him a leg up on legislators who “only know government agencies from the outside, and rarely even visit them to learn about them.”
It may get awkward if either candidate is elected this fall – one of the core duties of legislators is to adopt a budget, a process that the Governor’s Office and his chief of staff, Adams, are deeply involved in – but both Jeffries and Loftus said their ongoing litigation wouldn’t impact their legislative work.
There is a history of sitting lawmakers suing Arizona. A group of GOP lawmakers sued Arizona in 2013 to overturn the state’s Medicaid expansion law. In 2006, lawmakers sued then-Gov. Janet Napolitano over a line-item veto in the budget that cost state and university employees a pay raise.
Those were issues-based lawsuits, unlike the defamation case filed by Jeffries and Loftus.
“It’s going to be awkward anyways. They fired me,” Loftus said. ”Either way, we’re going to have to put our differences apart and do what’s good for the state. You would hope they’d be more reasonable in their approach.”
Shooter likened his own prospective lawsuit to Jeffries and Loftus. He, too, Shooter claims, was silenced by Adams for attempting to expose nefarious procurement practices in state government, though he did not provide details that presumably will be included in his lawsuit.
“All three lawsuits are the result of corrupt procurement practices being foisted on the people. That’s your angle,” Shooter said. “All three of them are trying to tell you the same thing. Why do you think that is?”
A spokesman for Ducey declined to comment.
Campaign consultant Kyle Moyer said most voters aren’t tuned in enough to be aware of the pending lawsuits filed by candidates. A perusal of Jeffries and Loftus’ websites shows no mention of their ignominious departure from the Department of Economic Security, or their ensuing libel case against the state of Arizona.
Jeffries, however, fully embraces the persona that sent waves through the agency he once led, for better or for worse. His campaign bio boasts his “21 transformative months” leading the second largest state government agency in Arizona, and cites a questionable statistic he touted while still at DES: “employee satisfaction and morale improved an astounding 300 percent within 13 months.”
Loftus boasts of stints at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General within DES.
The only way voters may catch on is if those lawsuits garner significant media attention, Moyer said. While Jeffries caused a media firestorm during his roughly two years at DES, he’s largely stayed out of the news since.
Shooter has made plenty of headlines, but for reasons beyond his claims of a conspiracy to oust him from office.
For every story about Shooter’s attempted comeback, voters are reminded of the behavior that led to his dismissal from office in the first place – the habitual sexual harassment of women at the Capitol.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale – who coincidentally is running against Jeffries in LD23 – first named Shooter as one of the men in the Legislature who had harassed her, and she filed a libel and slander lawsuit against Shooter on June 14.
After Ugenti-Rita came forward, eight other women told stories of inappropriate, sexually charged comments and unwanted touching, although an independent investigation did not uphold all of the allegations.
Shooter and his attorney tells a different tale.
Marton wrote in the notice of claim that Shooter’s ouster wasn’t for “discriminatory conduct,” but for his years of discreetly raising concerns about “questionable procurement practices and wasteful spending in government.”
“I’ve already said what I’ve done, owned up to it, apologized for whatever I did,” Shooter said. “But the fact of the matter is, what came about, and I’m going to prove it in court, I’m going to prove it, and you’re going to see it all pretty soon…”
But the Yuma Republican quickly fell back on election night, and wound up a distant third, more than 5,000 votes behindincumbent Sen. Sine Kerr, a Buckeye dairy farmer in her first race for the Legislative District 13 Senate seat. Kerr has represented the district since January, when she was appointed to the Senate to fill a vacancy.
Shooter also trails Brent Backus, a Waddell Republican, in the primary election.
The election-night loss is a rebuke of Shooter, who sought to rally support for his campaign by leaning heavily into the accusations against him.
Shooter, who represented LD13 in the Senate from 2011 to 2016, touted a poll he said was conducted while he was deciding whether or not to run again, in which he asked prospective voters whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a lawmaker they knew was thrown out of office for sexual harassment. He boasted that the voters responded that they would be more likely to vote for such a lawmaker. And a billboard west of Yuma urged voters to elect Shooter to “make a liberals head explode.”
Kerrhas an easy path to winning the general election. Republicans hold a nearly two-to-one advantage among registered voters in the district, which stretches from northern Yuma County to northwestern Maricopa County.
Michelle Harris, an Air Force veteran, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
LD13 Senate by the numbers
Yuma County: 100 percent of precincts reporting
Maricopa County: 58 percent of precincts reporting
State Sen. Steve Farley can rattle off details of the state budget until your eyes glaze over.
After 12 years in the Arizona Legislature, he has transformed into a full-blown policy wonk. He loves policy so much he claims he even dreams about it.
But Farley is trading in his legislative office for a chance to take on Gov. Doug Ducey this fall.
Locked in a three-way race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Farley is relying on his legislative experience and superior fundraising to help him win the August primary.
But victory is far from assured. Polls show Farley, the only candidate in the race with any experience as an elected official, trailing Democrat David Garcia, an associate professor at Arizona State University who ran for state superintendent of public instruction four years ago.
As the primary draws near — forcing Democrats to choose sides in the governor’s race — Farley is counting on his wonkiness to help him win it all. After all, it was Farley’s ability to explain complicated budget issues that had teachers flocking to his Capitol office during the “Red for Ed” strike and now he’s using that same tactic to win over primary voters.
After representing Tucson for six years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate, Farley is banking on his legislative experience to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Farley, 55, became interested in state politics after he helped form Pima County’s Regional Transit Authority.
A graphic designer, Farley’s professional claim to fame stems from his creation of tilography — a way to transfer photographs to glazed ceramic tile. He likes to joke that with his political career and his work as a public artist, he gets to exercise both the left and right sides of his brain.
Compared to Garcia’s Bernie Sanders-style populist campaign, Farley is largely seen as the “safe” choice in the gubernatorial race. He better fits the mold of rare Democrats, like Janet Napolitano, who have broken through the GOP stranglehold on Arizona to win higher office.
But this is no ordinary election year.
With President Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats are energized and ready for change. As a result, some voters feel reliable Democrats just aren’t enough anymore.
Nationally, a spate of women and minority candidates are winning elections, which could mean good news for Garcia, a Latino, and Kelly Fryer, the third candidate seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
But Farley’s not too concerned with his primary opponents.
“I’m not running to beat a Democrat. I’m in this to win this race and beat Doug Ducey,” he said in a recent interview.
He jumped into the governor’s race because he saw this as an atypical election year. After Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss fired up Democrats across the country, the Governor’s Office suddenly looked winnable.
“I saw this year as a tremendous opportunity with the energizing of the Democrats … that there was a real possibility of turning this state around,” he said.
Farley doesn’t like labels. But if he has to choose, he likes to consider himself a “responsible liberal,” co-opting the words of an Arizona Republic columnist.
Much like the details of complicated state policies that Farley likes to dig into, he sees himself as a long-form kind of person. He dislikes running for office in an age where policies are reduced to quick-hit hashtags, like #AbolishICE.
Just look at his Farley Reports — Farley’s weekly blog posts to update his constituents on legislative sessions. He has posted hundreds of lengthy Farley Reports.
“I go on at length. I’m not 140-character guy,” he said.
Even Farley’s pitch for himself at fundraisers and other campaign events isn’t quick and snappy. Instead, it’s lengthy and thorough. He often cites a plethora of specific budget figures to make his case.
Numbers are important
Farley’s wonkiness fits into his belief that better policy equates to better living for everyday Arizonans.
“People get bored with numbers,” Farley said. “But the numbers, because people tune out, they’re the most important thing we have. If you don’t pay attention to the numbers, there are people who will pay attention and they will not have our best interest in mind.”
It’s Farley’s grasp of state politics and his understanding of what goes on behind the scenes at the Capitol that won Beth Ballmann over. A Democrat from Cave Creek, Ballmann votes every election cycle, but she’s trying to get more involved this year.
“I am encouraged to hear that he has been in the Legislature for 12 years,” she said. “I think that really does make a difference. He knows how to win elections.”
Farley’s 12 years in the Legislature culminated in a fiery education speech at 4:45 a.m. on May 3 as lawmakers finished debate on the state budget.
Hopped up on Dr. Pepper, adrenaline and no sleep, Farley launched into an 11-minute tirade criticizing the state of public education in Arizona, praising the “Red for Ed” movement and repeatedly slamming Ducey before voting in favor of the education budget, including the 20-percent teacher pay raises the governor proposed.
As the teachers in the gallery rewarded the gubernatorial candidate with silent jazz hands — a move he taught them so they could maintain the quiet decorum of the Senate chamber — Farley made the rock on sign with his hands.
“Universal public education is one of those things that made us into the country that we are today, and our decreasing commitment to it, particularly here in Arizona, is threatening that greatness that we achieved,” Farley said.
The state budget put Farley in a sticky situation. Democrats typically oppose all parts of the GOP-proposed spending plans. But if Farley had voted against the K-12 funding plan, Ducey’s campaign — with its massive war chest and support from outside groups — could have run ads slamming his vote against significant teacher pay raises.
Farley, the son of teachers, has been fighting for public education since he was 15-years-old and tried to get a local newspaper reporter to expose the shady administration at his mother’s school.
A California native, Farley went to the California Daily Report in Ontario to blow the whistle on overly controlling school officials who were micromanaging his mother’s classroom.
“I had a big sense of justice at the time,” Farley said. “It just didn’t seem right.”
The reporter didn’t bite on the story.
Now, Democrats and Republicans alike are recognizing Farley’s commitment to public education.
Misty Arthur, executive director and lobbyist of the American Federation of Teachers Arizona chapter, praised Farley as a knowledgeable fighter for public education. The federation was looking for a pro-public education candidate who could elicit bipartisan support, she said.
“He just wants what’s best for teachers and it seems like he’ll go out on a limb for it,” said Arthur, a Republican.
The teachers union endorsed Farley in the primary.
Garcia did not seek the chapter’s endorsement, Arthur said. But even if Garcia had, his past history sitting on the board of a charter school would have hurt his chances, she said.
Garcia was endorsed by the Arizona Education Association, and he often says that he will be the most education-friendly governor the state has ever seen because he is a teacher. He is an associate professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
But at a recent Farley campaign event, teacher Phaedra Culley said she had switched her support from Garcia to Farley.
In 2014, Culley was firmly behind Garcia’s schools superintendent bid. Now, she’s on the Farley-for-governor bandwagon.
“I don’t know what it is, I just can’t get behind David Garcia,” she said.
When Culley visited the Capitol during the “Red for Ed” strike, she appreciated Farley’s efforts to keep the visiting teachers informed by posting meeting notices and budget updates on his official Facebook page.
As Farley likes to say, he turned his Facebook page into the village newspaper of “Red for Ed.”
Culley, a teacher at Gilbert Classical Academy, said she is impressed by Farley’s breadth of knowledge and his tangible education plans.
“There is just something about Steve Farley that is strong and informative,” Culley said.
One of Farley’s top priorities, should he be elected, would be to cut $3 billion in corporate sales tax loopholes in order to better fund K-12 education and reduce sales taxes. Farley won’t say which loopholes he wants to scrap because he envisions it as a bipartisan process involving members of the Legislature.
During the “Red for Ed” movement, most Arizona teachers were united against Ducey. Then, many of them refocused their energy in backing the Invest in Education Act.
But now, Arizona’s teachers — easily one of the most impressive and engaged political forces this election cycle — are splitting up as they line up behind various gubernatorial candidates.
It’s not clear yet which Democratic candidate will capture the bulk of the teachers’ support.
On the campaign trail, Farley touts a history of bipartisanship and working across the aisle, aspects that could play well among independents and Republican voters should he make it to the general election.
He boasts of playing an integral role in working with former Gov. Jan Brewer to usher in Medicaid expansion.
The Medicaid expansion vote happened in 2013, Farley’s first year in the state Senate. A newbie in the upper chamber, he caught Brewer’s attention when he offered to help her with simplifying the state’s transaction privilege tax. As someone who sometimes has to pay TPT in his business, Farley had ideas for how to simplify the state’s tax code.
Last year, Farley introduced a bill that would require periodic review of the state’s more than 300 sales tax exemptions and exclusions. With Republican support, he was able to push the bill out of the Senate in a 28-2 vote. The bill later stalled in the House.
But Farley worked with Republicans long before he joined the Legislature in 2007.
For years, he worked with former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, a Republican, to improve Tucson’s public transit — a widespread partnership that led to the creation of the Sun Link streetcar.
Walkup has endorsed Farley in all of his campaigns since.
“I endorsed him throughout all these campaigns because I knew that his heart was in the right place,” Walkup said.
Farley has shown his colors in the Legislature, Walkup said. He said Farley was instrumental in pushing Medicaid expansion and through that, he showed he was capable of working across the aisle.
Whether Arizonans like it or not, they are being driven by what is happening in Washington D.C., and what’s happening across the country has voters rethinking the kind of leader they want here at home, he said.
“I think we want the old-style leadership where you care about all of the people and you care about our friends and our allies,” Walkup said. “Those are the kind of people this country is going to put back into office.”
Recent polls show Garcia leading the pack in the gubernatorial primary. And some national media outlets act as though Garcia winning the primary is a foregone conclusion. A recent Politico Magazine article on the state of Arizona’s gubernatorial contest and U.S. Senate race didn’t even mention Farley.
But polls, like the one put out by Data Orbital this month, show roughly half of Democratic voters are still undecided in the governor’s race, which could indicate there’s no clear winner yet.
Citing his campaign’s superior financial resources — he has double the cash on hand of Garcia’s campaign — as a major advantage heading into the primary, Farley seemed unconcerned by recent polls.
His campaign recently filmed a statewide TV advertisement to air sometime before the primary, and is ramping up events and outreach to sway those undecided voters.
“This is anyone’s race and we’re the only ones with the ability to communicate at this point,” Farley said.
Rep. David Stringer emerged unscathed following controversy over comments he made about race and immigration earlier this summer.
Stringer and Rep. Noel Campbell, both of Prescott, defeatedpolitical newcomer Jodi Rooney in the GOP primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 1.
Stringer ran for re-election despite calls for his resignation from state party leaders after he told a GOP gathering in June that there are “not enough white kids to go around” in Arizona’s minority-laden public schools, a comment widely condemned as racist, but one Stringer insists was taken out of context.
In a 51-second snippet of his speech, which Tempe City Councilman David Schapira, a Democrat running for Superintendent of Public Instruction, posted on Twitter, Stringer says immigration is “politically destabilizing” and “presents an existential threat” to the country.
Stringer said his intent wasn’t to make a racially charged statement but was an attempt at having an honest discussion about race. And while he apologized to anyone he offended with his comments, he said pointing out that 60 percent of students in Arizona’s public schools are children of color is “not a racist comment, it’s a statement of fact.”
After his comments emerged, Arizona GOP Chairman Jonathan Lines and Gov. Doug Ducey called for Stringer to resign, which did not occur.
Instead, hoping to put the controversy behind him, Stringer met with a group of African-Americans to tell them he is working on issues of interest to their community and his comments about immigration and assimilation were misconstrued or misunderstood.
But he didn’t exactly apologize for anything he said, blaming the dust-up on a “Democrat hit piece” that excerpted 51 seconds of a 17-minute speech he gave in which he also spoke about criminal justice, education and touched on his accomplishments during the 2018 session.
And since the 51-second snippet made the rounds on social media, Stringer has doubled down on his remarks in a 60-second radio spot posted to his Facebook page on Aug. 14.
The controversy, however, appears to have had little impact on the race in what is a considered a safe Republican district.
Phil Goode, first vice chairman of the Yavapai County Republican Committee, said Stringer’s comments have instead energized the Tea Party segment of the GOP party in Yavapai County, Stringer’s voting base.
Campbell and Stringer will will face off against Democrats Ed Gogek and Jan Manolis in the Nov. 6 general election.
The district, which includes the majority of Yavapai County, Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley, and parts of northern Maricopa County, is heavily conservative. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in LD1 by nearly 45,900 voters.
Early ballot results signal a long night – and possibly week – ahead for the superintendent of public instruction candidates.
As of Wednesday morning, Republican Frank Riggs had maintained a slight lead over Democrat Kathy Hoffman, most recently a former speech therapist in the Peoria school system. Riggs was ahead by less than one percentage point, giving Democrats hopes of capturing the party’s first victory for a statewide office since 2008.
And if the August primary was any indication, it could be days before the winner is declared.
Riggs’ victory over the crowded Republican primary was not made official until a week after the polls closed.
The former California congressman won the nomination by just 359 votes more than the runner up, Bob Branch, according to a final vote count announced on September 4.
Hoffman meanwhile faced off against just one Democratic challenger, David Schapira, and won nearly 22,000 votes ahead.
In many ways, they agreed on some common points.
Both sought greater oversight of charter schools, which are private operations that technically are public schools. Riggs in particular said Arizona should no longer allow these to be for-profit operations.
They also opposed Proposition 305, the measure to ratify the legislative decision to expand who is eligible for vouchers of public funds for private and parochial schools. But Riggs said he could support an expanded program if priority was given to low-income families; Hoffman said there would be less demand for vouchers if the state properly funded its public school system but said she would not eliminate the existing vouchers available to certain students.
Riggs, however, said he opposed a plan – no longer on the ballot – to raise income taxes on the state’s most wealthy to fund education. Hoffman said the state’s schools needed the $690 million that would have raised.
Hoffman also supported the Red for Ed movement and the strike earlier this year by teachers, saying that was necessary to get public attention for the fact that state aid for education has not kept pace with inflation. Riggs said while the movement had admirable goals it quickly became co-opted as a way of supporting Democrats.
Superintendent of public instruction by the numbers
Democrats abandoned their single-shot strategy in the Legislative District 28 House race this year, and it paid off.
Incumbent Rep. Kelli Butler and fellow Democrat Aaron Lieberman pulled ahead of Republicans Rep. Maria Syms and Kathy Pappas Petsas early on and maintained their lead.
Syms sparked controversy early in the cycle when her husband, Mark Syms, challenged Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee as an independent, a move many saw as jeopardizing Republican control of the Senate. And she didn’t redeem herself in the eyes of fellow Republicans. During a debate in September, Petsas said Syms sowed disunity among the Republicans seeking to represent LD28 in both chambers.
In the midst of the Republican infighting, Lieberman pulled ahead of the pack in the money race, raising about $236,000 in total contributions as of the latest campaign finance reporting period. Butler was never far behind.
Some Democrats worried that abandoning the previously successful single-shot strategy and not focusing on protecting Butler’s seat was the wrong move. Those in the party seem to have called it wrong.
But Republicans may have found some redemption in Brophy McGee, who was leading her Senate race against Democratic challenger Christine Marsh by just about 1,500 votes Wednesday afternoon.
Lieberman was one of at least three Democratic newcomers who overcame Republican incumbents in the House. Domingo DeGrazia topped Rep. Todd Clodfelter in Legislative District 10, and Jennifer Jermaine ousted Rep. Jill Norgaard in Legislative District 18. Those outcomes narrow the party split in that chamber to 32-28.
And Dems could gain a fourth seat. Rep. Jeff Weninger won his re-election bid in Legislative District 17, but the race for the second seat was too close to call. Weninger’s fellow Republican Nora Ellen was behind Democrat Jennifer Pawlik by 1 p.m. Wednesday, but just about 400 votes separated the two.
If President Donald Trump is the most bombastic figure in the Republican Party right now, Gov. Doug Ducey may be his polar opposite, leaving the governor in an increasingly awkward position this election cycle.
Ducey may have little choice but to show respect to Trump, but in doing so, he could hurt his standing with moderate votes if he takes it a step too far.
And this year more than ever, candidates up and down the ballot will have to be especially aware of how their actions play with the folks at the center of the political spectrum.
Sen. Bob Worsley won’t seek re-election this fall, and the timing of his announcement has some East Valley Republicans furious that it’s now too late to enter the race.
His retirement clears the field for newcomer Tyler Pace’s election to the state Senate. Worsley denied recruiting Pace, a fellow Mesa Republican, but said after meeting with his would-be primary opponent, he determined he’d be an excellent senator for Legislative District 25.
“I think he’s just a good guy,” Worsley said of Pace. “He’s not going to make all the decisions I would’ve made, but I just think he’s a reasonable guy.”
Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, isn’t buying it.
“The fix is in,” Bowers told the Arizona Capitol Times on June 18. “I guess he’s too scared that somebody might want to actually just take a run at it.”
Bowers didn’t even realize there was another Republican running for the Senate in LD25 until Worsley’s announcement. Bowers since met with Pace on June 20 and discovered that the young candidate is married to the niece of Kirk Adams, Gov. Doug Ducey’s chief of staff and a prominent East Valley Republican.
“He calls him Uncle Kirk,” Bowers said. “He said that Kirk was surprised by what he did.”
Pace could not be reached for comment.
Adams confirmed Pace is married to his niece, but denied any involvement in Pace’s candidacy.
“I’m not involved with his campaign nor did I recruit him or ask him to run,” Adams wrote in a text message. “That said, I think he will represent the district well. He better, he’ll be my senator now.”
Pace’s campaign ramped up days before the May 30 deadline to submit nominating petitions to run for office. He registered his website’s domain name on May 25, the same day he created a campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s Office.
He then collected 1,461 signatures in just five days, a staggering pace of roughly 292 signatures a day.
For comparison, another legislative candidate gathered roughly 200 signatures a day, collecting more than 2,000 signatures in 10 days. That candidate, independent Mark Syms of LD28, had nearly 1,700 of those signature invalidated.
There’s no time left for East Valley Republicans to scrutinize Pace’s signatures. Petition challenges could be filed no later than June 13.
Nor is there time for another candidate to enter the fray in LD25. With Worsley’s exit, the race is down to Pace, who’s unchallenged in the GOP primary, and Democrat Kathy Mohr-Almeida. In a district where Republican voters outnumber Democrats roughly two to one, Pace has a clear path to the Senate.
Rustin Pearce, an LD25 precinct committeemen and the nephew of former Sen. Russell Pearce, said some East Valley Republicans are livid that Worsley cleared a path for Pace by announcing his resignation after the deadline to qualify for the ballot. A small group of LD25 Republicans were trying to find a candidate to run against Worsley in the primary, Pearce said.
When Worsley was apparently seeking re-election, other prospective candidates took a pass on the race.
“Nobody wanted to get into that mess because Bob Worsley was willing to spend so much money,” Pearce said.
The last time Worsley faced a serious Republican challenger in the LD25 primary, he loaned his campaign $452,000.
“Who wants to throw away a half a million dollars to get a $24,000 job?” Bowers said.
Worsley acknowledged that he only left the race because Pace seems like a reasonable Republican, and wanted to ensure the district was represented by the right person. Pace can give the district a fresh start, whereas Worsley would have been termed out after another two years in the Senate, the senator said.
“I looked at the next two years and said, I don’t think in this environment I’m gonna be real helpful, and I can get more done on the outside supporting good people and trying to help the party wake up from this nap,” Worsley told the ArizonaCapitol Times.
A successful businessman outside the Capitol, Worsley first took office in 2013 after defeating Russell Pearce, who was recalled in 2011 after spearheading Arizona’s most famous anti-illegal immigration law, SB1070. Tyler Montague, an East Valley consultant who first helped recruit Worsley to run in 2012, said the senator was ready to retire after one term.
“Bob’s told tons of people, ‘Hey I would love not to run. But I don’t want to have done all this work and have one of the Pearces or somebody like that, someone with that mindset, take over and embarrass the state.’” Montague said
The Arizona treasurer’s race pits the state senate majority leader and former treasurer’s office employee against a tax attorney and former Maricopa County Democratic Party chairman who aspires to shake things up in the state office.
Republican Kimberly Yee is facing off against Democrat Mark Manoil for the chance to manage the state’s $15 billion in assets.
A rising star in the GOP, Yee was the state’s first Asian-American woman to serve in the state Legislature and has served in both houses since first taking office in 2011. Before that, she served as former Treasurer Dean Martin’s communications director.
Manoil, who has previously ran for the state corporation commission, spent 30 years as an attorney in private practice. He also wrote a book on tax lien investing and enforcement.
The treasurer’s race should be an easy win for Yee — a Democrat hasn’t held the office in 50 years and Democrats haven’t run a candidate for treasurer since Gov. Doug Ducey sought the office in 2010. But 2018 is no normal election year.
The two candidates differ greatly on their visions for the office.
Yee thinks the treasurer’s office has been well run by previous Republican officeholders. But Manoil says he would make changes within the office and use his stance as treasurer to talk to the Legislature about major policy changes.
Manoil aims to use the treasurer’s platform to take a stand against Prop. 108 — the citizens initiative that required the Legislature to reach a two-thirds majority vote in order to raise taxes.
Coupled with a growing number of tax cuts coming out of the state Legislature, the measure has tanked K-12 and higher education funding, Manoil said.
He would push the Legislature and Arizonans to rethink the ballot initiative passed in 1992 by either repealing it entirely or amending the measure so there is more flexibility in the Legislature’s taxing abilities.
“The treasurer is not a legislator, and the treasurer is not going to start raising your taxes tomorrow,” he said. “But the treasurer should be able to speak honestly with people in the state about structural problems in our state government that prevent the government from delivering on its promises and its obligations.”
Yee, a supporter of low taxes, opposes repealing Prop. 108.
Furthermore, she said the treasurer’s office is no place for someone to take on a policymaking role.
“The office of the treasurer has very specific constitutional duties, and to advance policies like my opponent is prescribing really should be done in the role of a legislator or someone who would run for the governor’s office, but certainly not the treasurer’s office,” she said.
Both candidates say they’re prepared to pilot the state through an economic downturn should the economy tank.
Yee last worked in the treasurer’s office during the economic downturn. Staffers predicted the drastic economic changes because of revenue forecasts, and knowing a downturn was coming, the office warned policymakers and the public, Yee said
“We were prepared that it was going to happen so we were able to plan investments,” Yee said. “So the state did not lose as much as it could have were we not prepared.”
Manoil aims to diversify the state’s revenue sources so it is less susceptible to an economic downturn. Specifically, Manoil wants to move the state away from depending heavily on sales taxes, because they can be the first to decline when a recession hits.
Nearly half the state’s revenue comes from sales taxes, but sales tax collections dropped 23 percent during the last recession.
Arizona becoming less reliant on sales taxes goes hand-in-hand with altering or repealing Prop. 108, Manoil said.
Manoil also wants the state to take a hard look at community banking, an idea Yee labeled as “socialized banking” that would interfere with free enterprise.
Inspired by North Dakota’s century old public bank, Manoil envisions the state partnering with banks and credit unions in small communities or on reservations that lack nearby banking services.
Both candidates have additional ideas on how to use the treasurer’s office to expand financial literacy.
When she previously worked in the treasurer’s office, Yee would visit K-12 schools and college classes to teach students about financial literacy, a program that she would prioritize if she were treasurer.
Yee would also better promote the Local Government Investment Pool, which allows cities, counties and towns to pool their assets with other localities for a better return on investment.
Manoil has also been mulling over an idea from Pennsylvania wherein the treasurer’s office would create children’s savings accounts for every child born in Arizona. The account would be set up with an initial $100 deposit that cannot be taken out until the child turns 18.
The initial contribution would come not from taxpayers, but from groups that manage college savings accounts, he said.
Yee seeking higher office later on down the line seems nearly inevitable, but for now she is laser-focused on the treasurer’s job, she said.
“Right now I’m running for state treasurer and this is an office that I know well,” she said. “We’ll talk about other things later on down the line, but this is the job I’m running for today.”
She criticized Manoil for his financial struggles during the recession, insinuating that he would not be a good financial steward of the state because of his personal financial problems.
On his campaign website, Manoil details that his home was foreclosed on and his car was repossessed when tough financial times hit his family. Manoil said he’s not trying to hide from his financial miscalculations. Lots of Arizonans suffered during the recession, he said.
“I hope voters don’t find that to be a complete disqualifier, it gives me a lot more compassion in my work,” Manoil said. His work as an attorney sometimes involves foreclosing on real estate, including family homes.
Yee said she felt obligated to bring it up because she is simply so passionate about the treasurer’s office that she wants someone responsible managing the state’s money.
“I care about this office so much, and I’ve always been a real advocate for the taxpayer, and I feel that there has to be someone in the treasurer’s office, who you can trust,” she said.
She also stressed that she has never shied away from a fight in any of her campaigns.
The winner of the election will replace Eileen Klein, who was appointed to the position earlier this year. Klein, who is not running for a full term, replaced Jeff DeWit, a former Trump campaign leader who was appointed to be NASA’s chief financial officer.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita will likely remain at the Capitol as she has a solid lead in the GOP primary for Senate in Legislative District 23.
The Scottsdale Republican faces a challenge from a former state agency chief, Tim Jeffries, who’s in second, and political newcomer Kristina Kelly, a distant third.
With 60 percent of precincts reporting,Ugenti-Rita leads the pack in a contentious race that saw her trade blows with Jeffries, who was forced out as director of the Department of Economic Security in 2016 amid reports that he illegitimately fired hundreds of state workers.
From the start, Jeffries made his campaign about Ugenti-Rita. Initially that meant drawing policy comparisons between the two Republicans, but by the end of August, the gloves were off for both.
Jeffries attacked Ugenti-Rita’s reputation, citing a sexually-charged joke she once made during a legislative hearing and reports of a relationship she had with a then-House staffer.
Ugenti-Rita hit back at Jeffries for his record at the state’s welfare agency, which he ran for nearly two years. He was forced out after reports that he fired hundreds of state workers and used a state plane to fly to Nogales to celebrate with employees who gave up their job protections.
If victorious, this would be the fifth time voters in LD23 elected Ugenti-Rita. She previously represented the district, which includes most of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, for eight years in the House.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Daaria Lohman in the general election, though the district’s demographics make an upset unlikely for the lone Democrat in the race.
Republicans boast a nearly 36 percent voter registration advantage in LD23, compared to just 20 percent for Democrats.
To stand up against legislative heavy hitters like House Speaker J.D. Mesnard or Sen. John Kavanagh, you need the varsity squad, Rep. Ken Clark told voters during a debate.
“You don’t put your junior varsity team in against the college team,” he said, asking that voters support him and John Glenn in the seven-way Democratic primary for the two House seats in Legislative District 24.
His remarks were met with audible booing from people in the audience, and struck a nerve with some voters who took Clark’s varsity comment to mean they should elect the establishment.
Results in the August 28 primary showed experience isn’t everything.
Two political newcomers, Amish Shah and Jennifer Longdon, defeated Clark, a two-term lawmaker, in the Democratic primary in LD24. Unofficial results show that Clark fell short of the second spot in the Democratic primary by 703 votes.
Glenn, Clark’s running mate, said he and Clark were dumbfounded by the Democratic primary results. The duo ran on a slate with Rep. Lela Alston, a longtime Phoenix legislator running for the state Senate.
Based on data he received over the past six weeks, Glenn said he and Clark felt confident they would be able to secure the top two Democratic spots.
Then Glenn came in fifth place, with just 9 percent of the vote.
“We’re kind of scratching our heads, to be honest,” he said, adding that it was “certainly an introspective moment.”
Sen. Katie Hobbs, who represents LD24, said a unique election environment this year played to the advantage of new candidates, not incumbents.
Glenn acknowledged that by positioning the slate as established, known quantities in this year’s political climate may have hampered their efforts. Nationwide trends have shown that some voters are more interested in new blood than experience.
“Ken and I both positioned ourselves on a message of experience because that’s factually true,” Glenn said. “Historically, this is a district that does appreciate experienced lawmakers and people who can actually move the needle at the Capitol – that’s not to say Shah and Longdon won’t do that, but that’s not what we saw this year.”
Put another way, Glenn hitched his wagon to Clark and Alston. And by doing so, voters viewed him as an establishment candidate despite the fact that he has never served as a legislator, Hobbs said.
A similar situation played out in Legislative District 3, where first-time candidates Andres Cano and Alma Hernandez beat out Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford in the Democratic primary, ending the Cajero dynasty in the Arizona Legislature after more than 40 years.
“In a normal election year, I would’ve said there’s no problem (for Clark) – incumbency matters and it carries more weight than anything else,” Hobbs said. “But this is anything but a normal election year, and our district is very diverse. I think folks stood up and said, ‘We want representation that matches our district.’”
Former Rep. Chad Campbell, a Democrat, isn’t convinced that there was any sort of anti-establishment trend that affected the LD24 race. There were plenty of incumbents who were re-elected across the state, and no one even bothered to run against Alston, who has served as a legislator for decades.
Campbell credited the upset to well-run campaigns by Shah and Longdon, and the unique dynamic of running in a race with so many candidates.
“When you have multiple candidates, especially this many candidates in an open race, anything can happen,” Campbell said.
More Arizonans voted in the 2018 primary election than in any other primary in the state’s history, a surge that was in part fueled by strong gains from Democrats at the polls.
The record-setting 33.26 percent turnout in August broke the previous high from 2010, when 30.09 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the primary election, according to unofficial results from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
That’s more than 1.2 million ballots cast, exceeding raw voting in 2010 by more than 215,000 ballots.
Seven of Arizona’s 15 counties set their own voter turnout records, too, led by a dramatic increase in voters in the most populous county, Maricopa.
In terms of raw votes, Maricopa County ballots accounted for most of the record-setting increase – the nearly 700,000 ballots cast were a more than 140,000 vote bump from the county’s previous high in 2010.
Maricopa County was also where a Democratic show of force, long expected in the wake of President Trump’s 2016 election, was most prevalent. Unofficial tallies from Maricopa County reveal that roughly 100,000 more Democratic ballots were cast in 2018 than two years ago. Republicans also boosted their raw voting numbers, but by far less, roughly 30,000 ballots, according to unofficial figures from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Even with those gains, Republicans still hold a distinct advantage in terms of raw voters among the 699,636 ballots cast in 2018.
Official splits in party turnout will be available after Secretary of State Michele Reagan certifies the statewide primary canvass on September 10.
Thanks to all those extra ballots, Maricopa County exceeded its highest ever turnout rate by 2.34 percent – 31.38 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, exceeding the previous record of 29.04 percent in 2010.
Cochise, Gila, Mohave, Navajo, Pima and Yavapai counties also broke their turnout percentage records.
Pima County saw the highest gain over its previous record for turnout, with a 4.71 percentage point increase to 39.93 percent.
Yavapai County boasted the highest voter turnout of any county, setting a new county record with 47.17 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.
While not all counties set all-time voting records, turnout rates did increase compared to 2016 in all but three counties, Graham, Greenlee and La Paz counties.
A nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group is claiming that a $500,000 contribution to Gov. Doug Ducey’s PAC is illegal and has asked Secretary of State Michele Reagan to investigate the contribution.
Citing campaign finance rules against shielding the real source of campaign contributions, the Campaign Legal Center says the Ducey Victory Fund Committee accepted a half million dollar contribution this election cycle from a shell corporation that was a front for an Arizona auto billionaire.
The Washington, D.C.-based group today asked Reagan to look into Blue Magnolia Investments, LLC, which it asserts was a company created by wealthy businessman Larry Van Tuyl, who made billions when he sold his auto dealership network to Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. The nonprofit group is asking Reagan to investigate both Van Tuyl and Blue Magnolia, but not the Ducey Victory Fund or Ducey’s campaign.
Blue Magnolia gave $500,000 to Ducey’s PAC on May 11, just two weeks after its formation as a limited liability company in Wilmington, Delaware.
Brendan Fischer, Campaign Legal Center’s federal reform program director, said his group identified Blue Magnolia as a “suspicious contributor” because all the evidence shows it did not have sufficient income from business revenue, assets or earnings to make the sizeable campaign contribution.
A representative for Blue Magnolia could not be reached for comment.
Van Tuyl’s name emerged as the man behind the corporation when the legal center filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Blue Magnolia after the group contributed $100,000 to a pro-Martha McSally super PAC on May 30.
That’s when the legal center first asserted Blue Magnolia facilitated a straw donation intended to hide its source, and thus, violated federal campaign finance law.
Approximately a month later, DefendArizona — which poured more than $21 million into Arizona’s U.S. Senate race to get McSally elected — updated its FEC report to identify Van Tuyl as the funder behind Blue Magnolia.
Now, the legal center is alleging Van Tuyl violated Arizona law by knowingly making a contribution under the name Blue Magnolia to the Ducey Victory Fund.
“We think the evidence is pretty clear that Arizona law was violated by having the source of this $500,000 contribution reported as Blue Magnolia when it appears very likely that Larry Van Tuyl is the actual source of that money,” Fischer said.
Fischer said the legal center has no evidence that the Ducey Victory Fund or the Ducey campaign had any knowledge that Blue Magnolia – if the charge is true – was being used as a vehicle for a straw donation.
J.P. Twist, Ducey’s campaign manager, declined to comment.
Arizona law allows PACs to accept unlimited contributions, meaning Van Tuyl primarily contributed to Ducey’s PAC via Blue Magnolia in order to shield his identity.
In the very least, the legal center is hopeful that, with the investigation, campaign finance reports will be updated to show that Van Tuyl was behind the contribution to Ducey’s PAC.
“That’s the most important piece – that the public knows the actual sources of funding for powerful elected officials,” Fischer said.
Van Tuyl has previously dabbled in Arizona politics, contributing $100,000 in 2016 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which worked to defeat the state’s marijuana legalization measure, Proposition 205. He also forked over $50,000 to the Proposition 123 campaign, which asked voters to consider a $3.5 billion education-funding package.
Ducey vocally opposed Prop. 205 and championed Prop. 123.
The Campaign Legal Center was founded in 2002 and describes itself as a watchdog on ethics and campaign finance issues. The group’s founder, Trevor Potter, served as general counsel to John McCain’s 2008 and 2000 presidential campaigns.
After an ugly primary campaign involving accusations of sex trafficking, fake polls and threats of lawsuits, Republicans in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District elected Wendy Rogers as the GOP nominee.
Unofficial results show that Rogers beat state Sen. Steve Smith by just 3,160 votes, but her vote count was more than double that of Tiffany Shedd
It was a hard-fought victory for Rogers after taking heat for accusing Smith of working for a company that engaged in sex trafficking and inappropriate conduct with minors.
But she left that behind in a statement declaring victory Aug. 29, turning her attention instead to Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran.
“Both Steve Smith and Tiffany were fierce competitors for whom I have great respect,” Rogers said in the statement “It is time to unite, so we can defeat radical leftist Tom O’Halleran.”
She will face O’Halleran, who did not have a primary challenger, in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Arizona’s 1st Congressional District By the Numbers
The statewide Democratic candidates who emerged victorious from primary elections reflect a diverse slate, with people of color and women making up the majority of the nominees. The Republican nominees reflect quite the opposite.
Not only is the GOP slate lacking broad diversity, but two incumbent women lost their re-election bids to male candidates, further homogenizing the Republican contingent.
All but two Democratic statewide candidates – Mark Manoil, who is running for treasurer, and Bill Pierce, candidate for mine inspector – are women, minorities or both.
The statewide GOP ticket is the complete opposite. Republicans have two women – U.S. Sen. candidate Martha McSally and treasurer candidate Kimberly Yee – running statewide.
Republicans are running a more diverse slate of candidates in state congressional races.
Arizona’s 1st Congressional District nominee Wendy Rogers and 2nd Congressional District nominee Lea Marquez Peterson join the GOP federal elections slate along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, who is defending her seat in the state’s 8th Congressional District.
But the GOP congressional delegation is also overshadowed by a more diverse group of Democratic congressional candidates.
The diversity of Arizona’s statewide Democratic ticket reflects a trend across the country wherein liberal voters are increasingly supporting women and minority candidates.
Just two black candidates have clinched governorships in the country’s history. But this year, black Democrats in Florida, Georgia and Maryland won their gubernatorial primaries, paving the way for what could be a historic Election Day.
The Democratic Party is seeing a surge in engagement among people of all ethnicities, said Felecia Rotellini, state party chairwoman. Democrats have always had the upper hand when it comes to diversity, but now women and minorities are fed up with Republican policies and are calling for change, she said.
The state’s Democratic candidates are spreading a message of inclusion and the party’s nominees show that, Rotellini said.
“This year, we have such great reflection of who we are in Arizona,” she said.
A representative for the state Republican Party did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Arizona has a long history of electing women, especially Republicans, to the state’s top offices. In 1998, a quintet of women – known as the Fab Five – clinched the state’s top five offices from governor to superintendent of public instruction. Of the five, Attorney General Janet Napolitano was the lone Democrat. The Republicans were Gov. Jane Dee Hull, Secretary of State Betsey Bayless, Treasurer Carol Springer, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham-Keegan.
The sheer surge of women and minorities seeking elected office is to some extent, an unintended side effect of President Donald Trump’s presidency, said Sharmin Dharas, executive director of Emerge Arizona. Emerge Arizona is an offshoot of Emerge America, a nonprofit devoted to preparing more Democratic women to run for office.
Emerge Arizona formed in 2004, but Dharas said the group has seen a groundswell of eager candidates after 2016.
“We’ve always had diversity in our candidates, but it’s showing more now because we’re having more women run for office because of the person that’s currently in the White House,” she said.
Women and minorities have felt increasingly marginalized since Trump took office and running for office is their way of speaking out, she said.
Motivating women to run for office in the earlier years of Emerge Arizona’s existence was tough because, on average, women have to be asked seven times to run for office, she said. Traditionally, women need more cajoling than men when it comes to jumping into elections, but women in the Trump era seem more gung-ho, Dharas said.
Women are also motivated to run when they see other women seeking elected office, she said citing Deedra Abboud jumping into the Democratic U.S. Senate primary against U.S. Rep Kyrsten Sinema.
“Seeing another woman that is capable of running for higher office enlightens other women and even women of color to want to run,” Dharas said. “Now, you’re creating a pipeline for other women to take over.”
State Sen. Katie Hobbs, January Contreras and Kiana Maria Sears – Democratic nominees for secretary of state, attorney general and corporation commission respectively – are among the slew of Emerge Arizona alumnae seeking elected office this election cycle. If elected, Contreras would be the state’s first Latina attorney general.
Women are already breaking barriers this election cycle. Arizona will get its first female U.S. senator this year with McSally and Sinema facing off for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia could be the state’s second Hispanic governor, following Raul Castro, who was elected more than four decades ago.
Diversity alone will not win Democrats elections, though. Republican and Democratic observers alike say this election is driven by the issues.
Story continues after graphic.
Identity vs. ideology
The contrasting slates may simply come down to a historic difference between the parties.
Identity politics play better with Democratic voters, while Republicans are more likely to stick strictly to the issues, said Republican consultant Paul Bentz.
Democrats have embraced the idea that “it’s somebody’s turn” or time for new voices to lead, he said.
The primary results in the superintendent of public instruction and secretary of state’s races are prime examples.
Incumbent Republican women were unseated in both cases by male candidates.
Superintendent Diane Douglas came in third place as former California Congressman Frank Riggs took the victory, and Secretary of State Michele Reagan lost the nomination to political newcomer Steve Gaynor.
But Bentz said their losses had nothing to do with gender. Douglas and Reagan were simply vulnerable candidates.
They’ve drawn criticism from their own party from the start. Douglas clashed early on with Gov. Doug Ducey and continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, and Reagan never escaped a variety of election woes, including her failure to mail out 200,000 ballot pamphlets before voters received early ballots in 2016.
While the Republicans sought to replace troubled officials, Bentz said Democrats focused on pushing back against the establishment with their nominees.
He pointed to the Democratic nominees for superintendent of public instruction and the Arizona Corporation Commission in particular. In both cases, male candidates who were cast as safe bets in the general election fell to women who have no experience in elected office.
David Schapira, a former legislator and Tempe City Council member, lost to educator Kathy Hoffman by nearly 22,000 votes in the Democratic primary for superintendent of public instruction. And former Corporation Commissioner Bill Mundell lost his chance to return to the commission. Kiana Maria Sears edged him out of the running as one of two Democratic nominees, the first of which was won by former Commissioner Sandra Kennedy.
Both Sears and Kennedy are black women who will now face Republicans Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman.
Bentz said Hoffman and Sears’ wins clearly show Democrats wanted someone different. Being female won’t be enough to secure victory, but it certainly won’t hurt in a year where more liberal leaning voters are turning out.
The same may be true in the secretary of state’s race, he said.
What Gaynor lacked in name recognition he made up for in cash flow during the primary. That’ll help in the general election, Bentz said. But it won’t guarantee him a win against Hobbs, who was unchallenged for the Democratic nomination.
Hobbs is a known figure in state politics, having served at the state Legislature since 2010 and as Senate minority leader since 2014. Again, her position as the female candidate versus the male won’t win her the race on its own, Bentz said. But it may offset the traditional Republican advantage when coupled with her experience in office.
But diversity alone is not enough.
More competitive races will come down to the campaigns candidates run and whether their messages can also appeal to independent voters, said Democratic consultant Chad Campbell
Sinema is the best example of that, he said.
She is not relying on the female or LGBT candidate equation to mean victory. Rather, he said, she is trying to reach a wide range of voters from liberals to moderate Republicans fleeing Trump, who Campbell said has played identity politics more than anyone on either side.
“The Republican Party is dominated by the identity politician in chief, and that’s Donald Trump,” Campbell said.
Trump has pandered to white, conservative voters. Diverse Democratic nominees across the country represent a backlash, he said.
They are the product of a trickle-down effect stemming from Republican candidates unwilling to disavow much of what Trump says and does, Campbell said.
“The [Republican] candidates can campaign all they want. We can talk about the issues all they want,” he said. “At the end of the day in a lot of these races, Trump is going to be the deciding factor.”
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