Chris Herstam: One of the last moderates calls it quits

Chris Herstam (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)
Chris Herstam (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

Chris Herstam, 68, spent 35 years at the Capitol, first as a lawmaker and last as a lobbyist at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, but the longtime public policy fanatic is ready to call it quits.

Herstam a longtime moderate Republican, who only recently declared himself a Democrat, will retire at the end of the year.

A familiar face in state politics, Herstam was elected in 1982 to his first term in the House, where he served for eight years. In 1991, he joined then-Gov. Fife Symington’s administration as chief of staff, and from 1993-96 he served as Symington’s Department of Insurance director. In 1997, Gov. Jane Hull appointed him to the Board of Regent. And he served on the transition teams for multiple governors.

Cap Times Q&AWhat will you do after you retire?

I don’t really know. When you work for a big law firm and you have 20-plus clients that you represented at the state Capitol, you really, from an ethical standpoint, cannot program your life once you hang up your lobbying shoes because there are conflicts of interest involved.

You can’t line something up from a professional standpoint while you’re still representing clients. It’s just not the way to go. I’m not a registered lobbyist for the first time in a long while, and the feeling is wonderful. Free at last! It’s thrilling not to be a registered lobbyist because the world has changed so dramatically politically at the Capitol and life as a lobbyist is so different than it used to be.

I hope I’m still going to be very involved in the political world, especially public policy. I’m a public policy wonk. I help teach a public policy class at the Flinn Foundation, and have done so for the last seven years. I hope to continue doing that.

It also used to be that my family and I were able to spend two or three weeks each summer up in cool Pinetop, Arizona. Now we’ll be able to spend two or three months in cool, Pinetop each summer. That’s the major lifestyle change.

Why is lobbying nowadays so different than it used to be?

Lobbyists have disgustingly become the backbone of Arizona’s election finance system when it comes to the state Legislature. At least 80-percent of all campaign contributions raised by privately financed legislators come from registered lobbyists. That’s appalling. Republicans at the state Capitol, each year, pass Draconian election reform laws that rely more on lobbyist contributions, and hide corporate contributions. The spread of dark money in Arizona is the most politically corruptive force that I’ve seen in my 35 years at the state Capitol. That’s what I won’t miss one bit.

Where did all the moderate politicians go?

The moderate politicians have been killed in GOP primaries. In fact, many moderate Democrats have been exterminated in the Democratic primaries. The two parties have become more litmus test oriented.

In my day, you were taught in political science classes that parties existed only during elections and they had to maintain a big tent theory in which they were inclusive and wanted different viewpoints on all issues. Over the years now, the parties have become pup tents as opposed to big tents. They each have litmus tests, and you can’t get out of a Republican primary for any office unless you’re pro-life and you can’t get out of a Democratic primary for any office unless you’re pro-choice. It’s a more polarized political atmosphere. As a result, not a lot gets done. I think that’s the number one frustration of citizens in Arizona is they don’t see problems being aggressively solved in a timely manner at the state Capitol. It didn’t used to be that way.

Do you miss the way things were in Arizona government and politics?

I miss Arizona elected officials coming into office for one major reason, and that’s to make Arizona a better place and to solve problems. Now, too many elected officials come into office with the major goal being to get re-elected and they have to toe the party line. That destroys the art of compromise and that destroys our ability to solve problems.

Please reflect a little on your time working in government.

First I experienced the legislative branch, and when I had the opportunity to experience the executive branch, eventually as chief of staff, how could I turn that down? And when I was burnt out, doing that after a year and a half, I said, “I’ve got to move on.” I went and worked for a health insurance company, Symington went and brought me back to be his Department of Insurance director. For the same reason, I came back. I thought, “God, I can run an agency. This is like the trifecta for me.” I’m very fortunate, I really am. Now that I sit here thinking about this, I’m very fortunate to have had many unbelievable public policymaking experiences. I’ll never regret them.

Having worked in government for so long, you must know where all the bodies are buried.

Yes. I know the graveyard very well. I know where a lot of wonderful, centrist, moderate legislators are buried. That’s the sad part, but it’s the political reality of today.

Tell me about your switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

I’ve been voting Democratic for 15 years, but I was stubborn and I wouldn’t change my party registration. Then, when I saw Donald Trump going down the escalator to the lobby of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy for president, I realized – this is it. This guy fits this party tragically and I’m embarrassed to still have the term Republican by my name. I went online and changed my party affiliation.

I sincerely believe that by 2030, which is only 12 years from now, Arizona will go blue. We will have a Democratic Legislature, we will have a Democratic governor and it will be the norm in Arizona. The demographics are what they are. We have increasingly become a Latino-oriented population. There’s nothing wrong with that. One of the reasons I switched parties was because the Democratic Party was inclusive. The Republican Party to this day relies on its aging, white base.

What were some of the highlights of your career?

The very first bill I got passed in the Legislature was as a freshman. Majority Leader Burton Barr told me I’d never get it through because it had failed in the past. When it got through the House, Barr turned around, I was sitting in the back row. He stood up and applauded me, which I’ll never forget. The bill was mandatory child restraints for children up to five years old. We did not have them back then, in 1983. Of all the legislation that I’ve touched in my career, what could be more important than that? I will always consider that a highlight. My very first bill!

I think impeaching Evan Mecham was also important because it sent the message that nobody is above the law, and a sitting governor that misuses public funds, and lies … it tells you that there is a day of reckoning.

Former AG Grant Woods dies at 67

Former Attorney General Grant Woods at a 2013 press conference (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

Former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods who left the party to become a Democrat died Saturday. 

The cause of death for the 67-year-old Woods was not immediately made available. 

Woods, who entered politics as chief of staff to the late Sen. John McCain, served eight years as the state’s top prosecutor. That paralleled the time that Fife Symington was governor, a fact that often resulted in the pair squabbling over issues like the governor ordering Woods to drop his historic lawsuit against tobacco companies, an order he ignored and managed to get a settlement of hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. 

And it was Woods, after Symington was convicted in federal court of defrauding creditors, who told the governor he legally had to leave office and could not wait while the case was on appeal. 

There were other ways Woods developed a reputation as someone who did not toe the party line. 

In 1997, for example, he helped put a measure on the ballot to prevent lawmakers from tinkering with what voters had approved. 

That followed the 1996 voter approval of a measure allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana and other illegal drugs. The Republican-controlled legislature, insisting voters didn’t understand what they were doing, effectively repealed it the following year. 

Woods said while he opposed the 1996 initiative, he did not think it was right for lawmakers to second-guess what voters had enacted. The measure, approved in 1998, became the Voter Protection Act. 

Out of office for nearly two decades, Woods formally broke with the GOP in 2018. He said at the time much of that was due to his frustration with the Republican Party and that its members would not stand up to President Trump. 

He also endorsed Kyrsten Sinema in her bid 2018 for U.S. Senate where she became the first Democrat elected from Arizona in two decades. 

Woods subsequently weighed his bid for the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by McCain before he died, but ended backing out. That race subsequently was won by Democrat Mark Kelly. 

While on the political sidelines since then he has stayed involved in politics, becoming a verbal critic of the state Senate conducted audit of the 2020 returns, calling it “a clown show” and saying those hired “have no idea what they’re doing.” 

There are other issues where Woods did not go along with what at the time was the prevailing GOP philosophy. 

In 1996, for example, a group launched an initiative drive designed to reduce the flow of people entering the state illegally, with sanctions against employers who hire people not here legally and mandatory cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration officials. 

Woods lined up against the measure along with fellow Republican Lisa Graham Keegan, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. 

His bucking of the GOP line goes back even farther. 

In 2010 he threw his support behind Democrat Felecia Rotellini for the job he once held, saying she was the better candidate than Republican Tom Horne. That, however, didn’t help Rotellini win. 

But that same year he was co-chair of Republican Jan Brewer’s campaign to earn a full term of her own as governor after she inherited the position following the resignation of Janet Napolitano despite the fact that he did not support her decision to sign SB1070, a wide-ranging measure designed to give police more power to detain and question those they suspected of not being in the country legally. 

Four years later — and while still a Republican — Woods again crossed party lines with a 2014 commercial supporting Democrat Fred DuVal for governor over Republican Doug Ducey. That endorsement, however, was not enough to help the Democrat win the race. 

Woods also was an early supporter of an effort to repeal a 2008 voter-approved measure which denied the rights of gays to marry. 

He opposed various efforts pushed by Republicans and their allies in the business community to amend the Arizona Constitution to allow lawmakers to limit lawsuits and jury awards. 

And he worked with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a Democrat and one-time gubernatorial hopeful, to create “wide open primaries,” where any registered voters would be able to cast a ballot in the primary election, with no regard to party. That never was enacted. 

During his time as attorney general, Woods developed a reputation for enforcement of laws protecting consumers. 

For example, he filed suit in 1993 against two Southern Arizona stores that he said were telling customers that what they were buying was handmade Indian jewelry and that the stones were genuine. 

He also warned retailers that they cannot claim that buyers are getting a break from the “manufacturer’s suggested retail price” if the item rarely is sold for that figure. 

And he went after Circle K for advertising it was selling a “new” formula of gasoline when it ended up being the same old stuff the company had sold before. Without admitting a violation, the company agreed to donate 100,000 gallons of gas to charity and $30,000 in costs. 

There were some controversies. 

Woods and Rob Carey, his chief investigator, were the subject of a criminal probe involving commingling various office funds, including money raised for a Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship and luncheon. Some of the MLK funds were used for staff retreats and spent on beer and rental of a karaoke machine. 

The case ended in early 1996 when the pair admitted funds were spent for purposes “other than (those) for which they were solicited or collected.” They paid a civil fine of about $30,000. 

Woods, as attorney general, also filed suit to block the designation of 2 million acres as critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl, saying, among other things, that the state would suffer financial harm from the loss of revenues in timber sales and grazing rights. 

And in 2009 he worked on behalf of the payday loan industry to be allowed to remain in business with their high-interest, short-term loans despite a public vote the year before to the contrary. 

He is survived by his wife, the former Marlene Galan, who was a Phoenix TV reporter when they met. 


Former political rivals support Prop. 211

I had the pleasure of serving as your governor during a simpler time. A simpler time when you actually knew who your political opponent was. Today, running for office requires great risk and great courage. Risk that you never know who your actual political opponent might be. It’s like being in a boxing match with an opponent you can’t see. It takes substantial courage to fight someone you can’t even see. It is time to end that.

Fife Symington

That’s why I am joining Democrats, Republicans and independents asking you to vote YES on Proposition 211, the Voters Right to Know Act. If passed, any group spending more than $50,000 on statewide campaigns or $25,000 on local campaigns will have to disclose the names of the original contributors who provided the money for the campaigns.

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is leading this effort. You may remember that Terry ran against me in 1990. He was a worthy opponent and ran an honorable campaign. Today he is trying to bring honor back to Arizona politics through Prop. 211 and I am proud to support Terry and this initiative.

Dark money is political spending on elections by anonymous sources. Dark money benefactors have the power to donate unlimited funds without any disclosure, ultimately impacting the results of our elections. The contributions of ordinary citizens are capped and are a matter of public record, yet a few organizations and individuals are protected from declaring their donations. It is time to end that – this initiative will do that.

Arizonans have the right to know who is participating in our elections. Today undisclosed contributions could be coming from out of state, out of country, organized crime groups, drug cartels or even foreign governments. We must put an end to this. We must return the power to the voters, to the people of our great state and demand that contributions be disclosed. This is as it was and as it should be today.

During the 2020 elections, more than $20 million was spent by anonymous sources to influence the outcome of our state legislative elections alone. This election cycle seems to be just as bad as anonymous political spending is used to attack people and issues and the public is in the dark as to who is cutting the checks. It’s not right. Arizona voters deserve to know the individuals and corporations that are influencing our vote.

Other states like Alaska and Montana have demanded disclosure and it’s time for Arizona to do the same. As the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia said, “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously … This does not resemble the home of the brave.”

It is time we live up to the late Justice Scalia’s hopes for our country and be brave. This initiative will do that. It deserves your support, please vote yes on Proposition 211.

Fife Symington is a former governor of Arizona.


Hobbs keeps donations secret for inauguration events

Lake, Hobbs, governor, gubernatorial, election, general election, ballots, Finchem, Hamadeh, Mayes, Kelly, Trump, election deniers
Democratic Arizona Governor-elect Katie Hobbs speaks at a victory rally on Nov. 15 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

By Bob Christie

Incoming Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is kicking off her term with a celebratory ball, a first for a new governor since Fife Symington had one in the 1990s.

But Hobbs, who touted transparency as part of her leadership, has refused to disclose which people or corporations are paying for the party.

And the lack of full public disclosure continues with her taking the oath of office on Monday. That event, four days before the ceremonial oath, will be closed to the public and media, with the exception of a pool news photographer.

And the costs of that Thursday ceremony are being picked up by special interests, including lobbyists, companies that do business with the state, developers and builders. But the new administration, while listing official “sponsors” for the event, has been unwilling to share how much each is paying for that privilege.

The incoming governor’s unwillingness to share details of the events publicly, how much they will cost, just who is paying and how much stand in contrast to her promise to make her administration “the most ethical and accountable” in history.

On her “katiehobbs.org” website, she vows to make state government more transparent, “because the people deserve to know what their leaders are doing with their money.”

That reticence to share information about the source and use of the funds, at least for now, is a change from the three previous administrations, which were open with the costs of the inauguration and related events – and the fundraising efforts needed to throw big bashes without spending too much of the taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.

When Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano took the oath of office in 2001, she collected $150,000 from donors and those attending four inaugural receptions, followed by public disclosures.

But that wasn’t enough to cover all the costs. So the state treasury also coughed up $50,000, mainly for renting and staffing the audio-visual equipment for the large-screen TVs that ensured even those in the back of the Capitol courtyard could see what was happening.

Republican Gov. Jan. Brewer’s 2011 inauguration was cheap by comparison as the state struggled with fallout from the Great Recession and cratered state revenue. The event cost $65,000, and expenses included renting the chairs and other necessities to house a large Capitol crowd and covered $13,000 worth of keepsake coins stamped with her likeness for guests.

Brewer raised $200,000 for the event and no tax dollars were used.

And the leftover cash was used to renovate the governor’s offices on the 9th floor of the executive tower.

Outgoing GOP Gov. Doug Ducey was inaugurated in 2014 and 2018, and both times he tapped special interests like lobbying firms and big businesses to pay for some of the costs.

The 2018 event brought in cash by selling off special seats. Acquiring a pair of VIP seats costs a minimum of $10,000, which also got entrance to a special reception. Bigger checks added a photo with Ducey, and a $25,000 payout netted six seats in the front rows, three parking passes, the reception and photos, inaugural pins for all six and corporate logos on programs and the inauguration website.

This year, however, Hobbs press aide Joe Wolf said no one will have to buy tickets to watch the Thursday ceremonies.

But that doesn’t mean the incoming governor isn’t tapping donors, special interests and firms that do business with the state.

A list of event sponsors on the official state inauguration web page leads with Arizona Public Service Co., suggesting the state’s biggest utility is the single largest donor.

The company may have some fence-mending to do with the new governor.

In 2021 it gave $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association. It hasn’t yet disclosed how much it spent in 2022.

And the RGA, in turn, financed millions of dollars in TV commercials attacking Hobbs, much of that accusing her of being lax on border enforcement.

Neither aides to Hobbs nor APS will disclose how much they are now donating to the ceremony, with the company instead saying only that it is joining with other Arizona businesses in supporting the new governor’s inauguration.

“This support is directed specifically to the 2023 gubernatorial inauguration committee, meaning it can be used in support of all inauguration functions,” the statement said. “This an important event for Arizona and its citizens; and we are pleased to be a participant.”

Others listed on the inaugural committee’s website as opening their checkbooks for the event – but with no amounts – include the insurers who provide state Medicaid services, a public affairs and consulting firm for the mining industry, developers, builders, lobbying firms and Hensley Beverage. Hensley is controlled by Cindy McCain, the widow of Republican Sen. John McCain, who was the target of vitriol by Republican Kari Lake during her losing campaign against Hobbs.

“This is a private event not being paid for with public funds,”’ said Hobbs press aide Murphy Hebert when asked for specifics.

Other officials who take office Monday include Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who is replacing Hobbs as secretary of state, and Kris Mayes, who defeated Republican Abraham Hamadeh for attorney general in what is believed to be the tightest win for a statewide office in Arizona history. Recount results opened in court on Thursday confirmed Mayes won by just 280 votes. She had been ahead by 511 votes out of about 2.5 million cast before a few hundred uncounted ballots were located during the recount.

Two Republicans also won statewide office and begin their terms Monday: Treasurer Kimberly Yee won a second term and Tom Horne defeated incumbent Kathy Hoffman and will become the state’s top K-12 school official as superintendent of public instruction.

While the number of guests expected for Thursday’s official inauguration hasn’t been released, it will be large. The state Department of Administration sent a memo to state workers warning of road closures, heavy traffic and tight parking availability, since many state lots will be cordoned off for those attending Hobbs’ inauguration.

To make room, state employees assigned to buildings in the Capitol complex are being “strongly encouraged” to avoid the office on Thursday and to instead work remotely.



Hobbs offers ‘open door’ for GOP lawmakers, but …

Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks after taking a ceremonial oath of office during a public inauguration at the state Capitol in Phoenix, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

At a public inauguration ceremony on Jan. 5, Gov. Katie Hobbs repeated the message she’s emphasized since winning election almost two months ago: she’s ready to work across the aisle with Republican lawmakers, within reason.

“Let me say unequivocally, to every elected official here today, that if you’re ready to make real progress on the issues that matter most to the people of this state, then my door will always be open,” Hobbs said.

“Let me also say just as clearly,” she continued, “that chasing conspiracy theories, pushing agendas for special interests, attacking the rights of your fellow Arizonans, or seeking to further undermine our democracy will lead nowhere.”

Hobbs is the state’s first Democratic governor since former Gov. Janet Napolitano left office in 2009, and she’ll have to work with a Legislature that’s ruled by slim Republican majorities in both houses. After running as a moderate, Hobbs repeated her promise to work across the aisle and include Republicans on her team.

“We must work together to make real progress,” she said. “That’s why you’ll see my administration bring people together from all parts of the state and from across the political spectrum – Democrats, Republicans and independents – with different points of view, to work side by side.”

She’s started to do that – her transition team was co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican, and in a few key state agencies she’s keeping leaders appointed by her predecessor, former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Mesa Mayor John Giles, a Republican supporter of Hobbs, also delivered a speech on Jan. 5.

The ceremony was held in the Capitol courtyard between the Arizona Senate and Arizona House of Representatives and drew hundreds of attendees. Those on hand included former Govs. Ducey, Jan Brewer and Fyfe Symington; U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema; and Sonora, Mexico Gov. Alfonso Durazo.

In addition to Hobbs, four other Arizona officials took the oath of office on Jan. 5: Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes, Republican Treasurer Kim Yee and Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. Robert Brutinel, chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, administered the oath of office to Fontes, Mayes, Yee and Horne.

For Hobbs, the oath was administered by Roopali Desai, a lawyer who represented her on many political and election cases while Hobbs was secretary of state. Desai was appointed to be a federal judge last year.

A handful of protesters, kept far from the inaugural ceremonies, protest Jan. 5, 2023, against Gov. Katie Hobbs. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

The event was purely ceremonial, however. The five officials sworn in on Jan. 5, plus Republican Mine Inspector Paul Marsh, also took the oath of office on Jan. 2 at a private event in the Executive Tower. The public event was set for Jan. 5 to avoid falling on a holiday.

Hobbs’ 14-minute speech was aspirational and touched on the big promises she made during the gubernatorial campaign, but it didn’t lay out exactly how that will translate to lawmaking or executive action even as it came days before the start of the 2023 legislative session.

“We must find common ground and do what’s right,” she said. “To invest in public schools and finally provide the support our students, teachers and parents deserve; to create good-paying jobs at lower cost; to defend reproductive freedom and women’s rights; to ensure public safety in all communities; to ensure access to safe, affordable housing; to enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive; to hold Washington accountable for our broken immigration system and its devastating impact on families and communities; to safeguard our elections; to protect our forests and public lands; to secure Arizona’s water future.”

Sticking to broad themes might be a nod to the fact that Hobbs, unlike Ducey, won’t have the luxury of dictating a policy agenda and working with members of her own party to push it through the Legislature. Or it might just mean she’s saving more explicit policy plans for her next major speech on Jan. 9, which will mark the start of the legislative term.

In an interview the day before the inauguration, Hobbs said her top three priorities for the 2023 legislative session are bolstering public education funding, addressing housing issues like affordability, and getting a state budget passed.

On Jan. 5, the courtyard was blanketed in white chairs for the attendees, with more seating on metal bleachers in the back. A miniature Arizona flag was laid on each seat. A drone – apparently a security measure – was tethered over the Senate building and then hovered over the crowd throughout the ceremony.

One issue hanging over the event was the fact that Hobbs hasn’t revealed exactly how it was funded. Her team has published a list of sponsors – which includes major corporations whose work is impacted by state law like Arizona Public Service and Banner Health – but hasn’t listed how much each sponsor donated to the inaugural day activities.

In spite of the talk about political cooperation and bipartisanship, some parts of Hobbs’ “unity” message could also be read as partisan talking points and could preview an ongoing political strategy for the Democrat who won office largely by casting her Republican opponent as out-of-touch and extreme.

“Now is the perfect time to move past division and partisanship and return to a path of cooperation and progress,” she said at one point. At another moment, speaking about voters’ choices in the November 2022 election, she said Arizona voters “rejected those who seek to divide, to pit Arizonan against Arizonan, community against community.”

That was a thinly veiled reference to Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who emulated former President Donald Trump’s political style and openly embraced his debunked claims about widespread fraud in Arizona’s elections. Lake did have prominent Republican detractors, but several GOP legislators supported her campaign.

Outside of the inaugural ceremony, beyond tall metal security fencing, a small group of Lake supporters gathered, carrying flags and yelling intermittently, their voices just barely audible as Hobbs and other officials laid out their plans for the state.



In Their Words: Jane Dee Hull

Jane Dee Hull in 1999
Jane Dee Hull in 1999

For almost 25 years Jane Dee Hull was in the thick of Arizona politics, governing and legislating, and yet she said she’s most proud of being proud of “very little” in her career, which speaks to her political philosophy. Hull became the first and only woman so far to be speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives when her colleagues elected her in 1989, and she held onto the post until 1992. Her election to secretary of State in 1994 set her up for her next political gig: governor. She filled out Gov. Fife Symington’s term and in 1998 she became the first woman to be elected to the office. Hull gave a one-hour and 37-minute interview on December 13, 2007, with the Arizona Memory Project, supported by the Arizona State Library, which has a collection of oral histories of former legislators. Below, are just a few topics from her expansive interview.

Former Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull at the 2019 AZBio Awards ceremony on October 2, 2019. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Former Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull at the 2019 AZBio Awards ceremony on October 2, 2019. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

On Evan Mecham

I was the majority whip. I think I was one of the first women in the House to be majority whip. To the surprise of everybody, Evan Mecham beat Burt Barr in the primary and was elected because of a three-way race. Hard feelings with some people [untelligible] about his election because he had a track record of not being real easy to work with, and so it was difficult. It was difficult for me as a woman because he basically held to the Mormon belief that women should be at home, and it was certainly difficult for the women Mormon legislators who supported him to the very end, but he really didn’t think women should be at leadership meetings, he really didn’t think women should be there, so I was always looked at askance when we went up to meet with him.

The impeachment just happened. It was one of those things: Don’t hire a lawyer and threaten something unless you know you can finish it. What he was impeached for I don’t think there was any doubt that he did. The question was some of the things probably were not worth an impeachment. In hindsight, as I’ve gone along I probably regretted that we took that step, but again, you start in, you can’t just investigate and say we’re going to stop. And the more it turned up, the more it made you go forth. I was the majority whip. I think I was one of the first women in the House to be majority whip. To the surprise of everybody, Evan Mecham beat Burt Barr in the primary and was elected because of a three-way race. Hard feelings with some people [untelligible] about his election because he had a track record of not being real easy to work with, and so it was difficult. It was difficult for me as a woman because he basically held to the Mormon belief that women should be at home, and it was certainly difficult for the women Mormon legislators who supported him to the very end, but he really didn’t think women should be at leadership meetings, he really didn’t think women should be there, so I was always looked at askance when we went up to meet with him.

I was the one who had to go up and tell Rose Mofford that she was going to become governor because, as I recall, he had to move out as the House voted, not with the Senate vote. To this day, when we’re on the same platform, which we have been occasionally, somebody will ask her what was the worst day of her life and she’ll say, “The day someone came up to tell me that I was going to become governor,” and mind you I was that somebody.

Jane Dee Hull, Speaker of the Arizona House, in her office circa 1989-1992. FILE PHOTO/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Jane Dee Hull, Speaker of the Arizona House, in her office circa 1989-1992. FILE PHOTO/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

On being speaker of the House

I think one reason I had not been particularly eager (to be speaker) is if you’re in leadership you endorse the majority program and you vote yes on bills that (previously) I had the luxury of not voting on, so my voting record kind of changed probably from conservative to conservative, slash, moderate. Because again, you’re dealing with 35, 38 people in the majority and there’s a (unintelligible) you have to realize you have to cope with it. And, you’re representing the whole state – you’re not just representing District 18.

[I ran the Legislature] with an iron hand. I had a majority whip and a majority leader and my whip was stronger than my leader. After the impeachment, the caucus kind of broke down into two groups: The pro-Mecham and the anti-Mecham, or whatever it was, even though with the turnover of the election, particularly in the House there weren’t that many pro-Mecham people – maybe ten, twelve out of the caucus. You had to balance those when I came in probably more than had ever happened before. And what has continued to change – what I used to say was don’t ever let it happen in Maricopa County – when I began you didn’t have an East Valley and a West Valley and a central Phoenix caucus and a north Phoenix caucus and a Tucson caucus, but now  those things because we’ve grown are so much more prevalent.  As speaker, I had to know how to move between the two groups and keep them all as happy as they could be while saying no once in a while.

Political philosophy

I really have never thought we needed as many laws as we have. While I would sign onto bills, I rarely let myself get into a position where a bill was more important to me than my word or anything else. I didn’t want to be blackmailed for a vote. I learned you could legislate, you could legislate fairly, you could work on the budget, there were a lot of things you could do but you don’t have to go back to your district and say I just passed forty new laws for you all to take care of and live with.

On learning the ropes in the legislature

You watch people. You watch people that were very successful. You watch people that were very unsuccessful. You say, “I don’t want to be like them and talk all the time.”

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for space. 

Jay Heiler: Doing civic work without being in government

Jay Heiler

Jay Heiler could be caught in the middle of a contentious U.S. Senate race right now. Instead, he joined boutique law firm Beus Gilbert PLLC.

A member of the Arizona Board of Regents, a charter school entrepreneur and former chief of staff to Gov. Fife Symington, Heiler contemplated challenging U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake for his seat last fall. But that was before Flake announced his retirement.

Now Heiler, 58, is perfectly content to cheer on Republican nominee Martha McSally from the sidelines as he starts a new chapter in his life. Heiler joined Beus Gilbert in July, carrying over his consulting work to the firm that specializes in real estate law and commercial litigation.

Cap Times Q&AWhat will you be doing at Beus Gilbert?

I’m going to be practicing law across several different fields with both sides of the practice, which is commercial litigation on one hand and real estate and entitlement law on the other. Then, I’m also bringing my own practice into the firm of government affairs and government relations, which really overlaps both to some degree. It just seemed like a really good fit and really great people to work with.

Where do your passions lie in the legal world?

The highest and best use of the law is to right wrongs, to advance justice, and in the public sector, to improve the life of the community and the lives of individuals in the community. St. Thomas Aquinas said the law is an ordinance for the common good made by those who have care over the community. That’s always seemed like a pretty good definition to me.

You came from a solo practice, correct?

I was just doing consulting work, but I went and activated my law license and I’m now back at it. I was an assistant attorney general when I got out of school. I was a prosecutor originally. I was in journalism as an undergraduate, then went to law school, worked as a prosecutor, then I went back into journalism and wrote editorials at the newspaper in Richmond, Virginia, The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

All those years when I was practicing on my own, I never really wanted to create a firm because I didn’t want everything that came along with that. I really just wanted to operate as long as I could as a lone wolf and keep my time free and my schedule flexible to build Great Hearts, which is a charter school organization. I’ve been at that for about 16 years now.

Why was now the right time to join a firm?

The fact is that this particular firm is very appealing because of the human elements involved and the practice fields the firm is best of class in. It’s also that phase of my professional journey where I just want to interact more with other leading professionals and build a great institution.

Speaking of Great Hearts, what do you make of the recent calls for increased transparency in the charter school system?

Lying at the bottom of all that conversation, which can be a productive conversation, is really a lot of tension over for-profit educational models in K-12. Great Hearts is not a for-profit educational model. Great Hearts is a nonprofit. But it is unlike the other, larger growth charter organizations in Arizona in that way. The construct of for-profit education is well known and has been around for many decades in higher education and it has a varied history. But the idea is still relatively new of for-profit presence at least as the operator of the school in K-12 education. I think everybody’s processing that now and having a discussion about it, which is good. It’s a discussion that should be held.

How did you start Great Hearts?

The idea came from understanding that charter schools were a market concept and the idea behind them was the introduction of some for market competition into K-12 as a means of lifting it. But as I considered doing that, I realized the way markets work is with scale and brands. There are always leaders in markets that make the most impact and achieve the most in a given sector. So the idea was to bring to the Phoenix community a scalable education model that would not only be better than public schools on offer, it would in fact, be better than private schools on offer.

You used to work for Symington. Do you ever miss working in the public sector?

Part of the reason I wanted to start Great Hearts was because I missed that. I wanted to create a valuable civic work that one could do without working in government and that’s how I’ve always thought of Great Hearts. It has always been in my nature that when I looked ahead to when I was old or near the end of my life, I wanted to have done something that mattered.

How did you meet Symington?

We were introduced by the then-editor of the editorial pages of The Republic, who was a guy named Bill Cheshire. Fife was having a tough first year in office at that point so we met and we just immediately hit it off.

What do you make of the news that Symington may run for the U.S. Senate?

I think he’s still got it in his system, too. But I think there’s still lots of turns in that road, starting with what happens in this Senate race and what happens with Senator Kyl. But if Fife decides to run for the Senate, that’ll be worth watching.

You recently considered running for the U.S. Senate, why?

I was asked to consider that at that time because it appeared many Republican voters were going to be looking for an alternative. So it wasn’t something that I had been planning, but I didn’t say no. And once you don’t say no, the process starts. It was something that I was very seriously considering, but when Senator Flake withdrew as early as he did, that left plenty of time for other candidates to also enter the picture. I truly believe that Martha [McSally] was an outstanding candidate and in many regards, a better candidate than I would be.

McCain lies in state at Arizona Capitol

A casket carrying Sen. John McCain arrives at the Arizona Capitol on Aug. 29, 2018, where he is to lay in state. McCain would be 82 today. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
A casket carrying Sen. John McCain arrives at the Arizona Capitol on Aug. 29, 2018, where he is to lay in state. McCain would be 82 today. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Americans think of two things when they think of Arizona: U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Grand Canyon, said Gov. Doug Ducey at a memorial service for the late senator Wednesday.

“Imagining Arizona without John McCain is like picturing Arizona without the Grand Canyon. It’s just not natural,” Ducey said.

McCain’s close friends, family and colleagues reminisced about Arizona’s senior senator and paid tribute to his life at a private memorial service in the rotunda of the old state Capitol building.

His body will lie in state Wednesday — an honor bestowed only to a great few Arizonans. It would have been his 82nd birthday.

McCain’s casket, draped in an American flag, sat atop the seal of Arizona. Later in the the day, the Capitol was open for the public to pay their respects.

McCain was more than a politician. He was a motivator to be better and do better, Ducey said. He was the only politician who, upon his death, could get Arizona and America to set aside politics and come together, he said.

“John McCain was about more than politics,” Ducey said. “He brought us above politics.”

Make no mistake, McCain took part in politics, plowing through elections with the energy and ferocity of a warrior. And he would fight like hell for the causes and issues he believed in, he said.

But McCain also called on everyone to look beyond their own self-interests. When he talked about “country first,” it was more than a campaign slogan or something to slap on a campaign sign, Ducey said.

McCain lived his life and political career by the idea of putting his country first, he said.

“We sometimes think that politics is life and death, but John McCain knew better because he had actually seen death and dying and tragedy,” Ducey said.

McCain’s love for America and its values stems from his more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. By learning about and understanding McCain’s time as a POW, the senator’s wisdom, values and life take on a much greater context, Ducey said.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl paid homage to McCain, saying the senator was an avid fighter for American values and a staunch defender of American national security.

McCain was a world traveler, said Kyl, who trekked across the world with the late senator. McCain knew more international leaders, more world history and had traveled to more countries than any other American official, he said.

He also knew when and where to assert American influence better than any other political leader, Kyl said.

“He represented our values all over the world as a senator from Arizona,” he said. “America is stronger for his fierce defense of our values.”

While he wasn’t born in Arizona — he moved here at age 45 — he quickly came to feel at home, and felt privileged to represent the Grand Canyon state. McCain is often referred to as Arizona’s favorite adopted son

Despite McCain’s death, his fight for America isn’t over yet, the burden has simply shifted, Ducey said. All Americans are obligated to continue the fight on his behalf, he said.

“As we march forward with the courage and resolve that he would have demanded, may we take comfort in knowing in that fight, John McCain will always have our back,” Ducey said.

Those in attendance at the memorial service included McCain’s wife, Cindy, and his sons Jack and Jim and his children from a previous marriage. His daughter, Meghan, sobbed at her father’s casket. Former Govs. Jan Brewer, Janet Napolitano and Fife Symington attended the service. Ducey was accompanied by his wife, Angela.

Legislative leaders J.D. Mesnard and Steve Yarborough were in attendance, as were Secretary of State Michele Reagan, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Treasurer Eileen Klein.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake gave the benediction at the ceremony.

McCain died of glioblastoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer — Saturday at his family’s cabin near Sedona.

The private gathering Wednesday was the first in a series of events commemorating McCain’s life. A memorial service will be held at North Phoenix Baptist Church Thursday, before his body is flown out of state so he can lie in state at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Mike Liburdi: Takes flight on political law

Mike Liburdi (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)
Mike Liburdi (Photo by Carmen Forman/Arizona Capitol Times)

Mike Liburdi, Gov. Doug Ducey’s general counsel, returned to private practice last month.

Liburdi worked as Ducey’s general counsel during the governor’s first gubernatorial campaign in 2014, and then served in the same role in Ducey’s administration. From a young age, Liburdi knew he either wanted to work in politics or make a living as a pilot. In the end, he figured law school, the more pragmatic option, could propel him into the Arizona political scene. Back in private practice, Liburdi will work on commercial and constitutional litigation and some political law at Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Cap Times Q&AHow did you become interested in working in law?

I always wanted to be in politics. I loved it. I first got interested in it growing up with Ronald Reagan as president and Fife Symington as governor. And I knew I’d want to get involved in politics. When I was younger, there were two things that interested me. One was being a pilot and the other was being a lawyer. I figured I could always take flying lessons and fly as a recreation, but I should go to school and make law my career so I could get involved in politics.

It turns out that law has kept me so busy that I haven’t been able to get my private pilot’s license just yet.

Is getting your pilot’s license still on your to-do list?

It is. I’ll do it one of these days, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.

What was it about flying that interested you?

When I was younger, I used to ride dirt bikes. I grew up in north Scottsdale, like in the Cave Creek area. My brothers and I had dirt bikes, and we’d ride all around. It was a way to get away from our parents, to explore, to go on an adventure every time you got on the bike. When I got a little older, I figured out a way where I could get these flying lessons from a company down at Sky Harbor so when I got my driver’s license, I would drive myself down there and do an hour here and there. It was kind of an extension of the thrill of dirt biking. Now you’re doing the same thing, but in the air.

Do you remember how many hours of flying lessons you took?

I don’t. I have a log book buried somewhere.

You clerked for an Arizona Supreme Court justice – how did you get that gig?

It was an amazing experience. I clerked for Ruth McGregor, who was the vice chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court at the time. I think the biggest thing that left an impression on me from my clerkship with her was her view of the court’s role in the system of government. Even though she was a Democrat, she, in my opinion, had a conservative outlook on separation of powers. I think that experience — clerking for a Democrat with a conservative judicial outlook, who was appointed by a Republican governor, informed me as general counsel to Governor Ducey on advising him to think beyond party labels on judicial appointments.

You started out at Perkins Coie – tell me a little about that.

I started at a firm called Brown and Bain. It’s a funny story. When I interviewed with firms, I told them I was interested in being a litigator, but I wanted to do constitutional law, government law and I wanted to represent candidates. People had no idea what to make of it. I got an offer from Brown and Bain, which was one of the top firms in Arizona and had this national recognition of being a boutique intellectual property litigation firm. They also had some senior lawyers who were committed to doing constitutional law and public law, so that was what attracted me to them.

A couple years later, Brown and Bain was acquired by Perkins Coie to be that firm’s Phoenix office. I remember going to talk to the office’s managing partner and I said. “Hey, I was just on Perkins Coie’s website and I saw they did political law, and I’m very interested in doing that.” The managing partner said, “They do do political law, but it’s not the kind that you would be interested in.” What he knew and I didn’t know was that they did exclusively Democratic work.

How did that go over with you?

It went over fine for several years where I did mostly commercial litigation and if there was like a local ballot measure or a local referendum or something or a nonpartisan candidate at the local office, I would help out on those matters. But I never did work on a national political matter for the office just because it was all Democratic-oriented.

What was the most interesting case you’ve worked on?

I think the most interesting and significant case that I’ve worked on was the case when the Legislature increased contribution limits for candidates. In 2013, then-Representative [J.D.] Mesnard ran a bill to increase the contribution limits for state and local candidates. Arizona’s were so low at the time that our state was identified in a U.S. Supreme Court case in the mid-2000s as having contribution limits that may be so low as to violate the First Amendment. With the oncoming of independent expenditures after Citizens United, we had campaigns where the messages were being totally driven by the independent expenditures, and the candidates had very little to no say in the message. So, then Representative Mesnard increased the contribution limits and the Clean Elections Commission sued over it. The Legislature hired me to represent them.

Why leave the Governor’s Office?

Working as Governor Ducey’s general counsel was a dream job of mine. It’s a job that I had wanted since I was a very young lawyer. I felt very privileged to be able to serve as his first general counsel. That being said, I’m more of a private sector person so when I went into government, I had the outlook that I would be there for a limited time.

What were some of the big picture goals that you had hoped to accomplish before you left the office?

Starting in like the mid-2000s, it seemed like there was a growing animosity between the judiciary and the elected branches, and by that I mean the Legislature and the executive offices. One of my primary goals was to be a facilitator of dialogue between the judicial branch and the Governor’s Office, and to the extent I could, the Legislature. Very early on in my tenure, Kate King, who was the deputy counsel, and I would just go around and visit with judges. We went to Prescott. We went to Yuma. We went to Tucson. Whenever we did that, we were told, “Gee, nobody has ever done this before. Nobody from the Governor’s Office has ever taken the time to come meet with us and hear about our jobs.” I loved hearing that because it just reinforced to me that I was doing my job correctly.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Ruth McGregor’s name. 

New norm: Governing by social media

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey smiles as he holds up the signed bill allowing a major expansion of sports betting in Arizona at an event at the Heard Museum on April 15, 2021, in Phoenix. Ducey did not answer questions from the press at the event and reporters chased him out the backdoor as he rushed to his car. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey smiles as he holds up the signed bill allowing a major expansion of sports betting in Arizona at an event at the Heard Museum on April 15, 2021, in Phoenix. Ducey did not answer questions from the press at the event and reporters chased him out the backdoor as he rushed to his car. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Politicians are laying a new foundation in media relations and operating as if the Fourth Estate no longer exists.  

In Arizona, it’s governing by video press releases, leaving the state without a word for a softball interview, and launching campaigns for the state’s highest office on YouTube.  

It’s become a move out of Gov. Doug Ducey’s playbook that spawned from the Covid pandemic and is being adopted by State Treasurer Kimberly Yee and Arizona Regent and developer Karrin Taylor Robson, two Republican candidates seeking to replace Ducey as governor in 2022.  

For several months, Ducey held no press conferences as Covid raged throughout the state, and he now meets with the media very selectively. In 2021, he has had two press conferences and made himself available for a few questions after events.  

But when it came to signing SB1485, a divisive election bill that could lead to thousands of people being removed from the state’s early voting list, he spoke for three minutes on video to explain his thinking and champion the new law, avoiding questions from the press.   

On May 26, he left Arizona to attend a Republican Governor’s Association conference and did not alert the press corps.  

It’s a new strategy, and it’s catching on.  

On May 17, Yee and Robson launched campaigns for governor hours apart through videos and have not taken a single media request since then. 

Both Republican women have not returned a total of eight calls leading up to this story. 

Republican consultant Doug Cole of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants said this is becoming normal and it’s a shame.  

Politicians controlling the message while utilizing social media has clearly evolved over the past decade, Cole said, and “you can get in front of voters very quickly and on your terms.” 

“I don’t see this changing any time in the foreseeable future,” Cole said, adding that it has been effective for politicians, though he would argue it has affected the political discourse immensely.  

Doug Cole
Doug Cole

Cole, who was a communications director and deputy chief of staff under Gov. Fife Symington, said the only current politician he can think of who will talk to the media until the final question is asked and answered is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico.  

“AMLO stands up every morning until there’s no more questions, every single day,” Cole said. “John McCain operated that way on tough issues. … He would stand there until there would be no more questions, and he loved doing that.”  

But it’s not common anymore, especially among elected officials.  

Cole said it makes for a “healthy” democracy to have that level of discourse and to face tough questions. 

Kris Mayes, a Republican-turned-Democrat, shares that sentiment.  

“Sometimes you bristle under the questioning, sometimes you don’t like having to answer the question, but if you do run for and win office, it’s your duty to answer these questions,” Mayes said. “You don’t get a choice. You shouldn’t have a choice. It’s your obligation to answer to the people of Arizona, and you basically need to be willing to do that through the press corps.” 

Mayes has the unique perspective of not only being a former elected official – she served on the Arizona Corporation Commission from 2003 to 2010 – but she was also a former reporter for the Phoenix Gazette and Arizona Republic and was communications director for Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. 

Napolitano would meet the press every Wednesday at 10 a.m. 

Coming at the issue from both sides, Mayes said the press corps is crucial to a democracy and anybody who fights against that does not care about transparency or about the voters who elected them. 

“It certainly was not this way under Governor Napolitano and it’s a really worrisome development,” she said. “Voters need to be able to kick the tires on candidates and ask them questions and one way they can do that is through the media. And so, if candidates are cutting off access to reporters, then they’re cutting off voters’ access to them, and that’s not good for democracy at all.” 

Kris Mayes
Kris Mayes

The worst part, Mayes said, is that they are all getting away with it. 

There isn’t really a solution at this point either because everything from politics to the media has become so polarized. 

Two major topics happening in Arizona right now are Ducey’s attempt to pass a flat tax through the budget at the state Legislature and the state Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s ballots for the November 2020 election. Ducey clearly supports the flat tax – it was his proposal after all – but between him, Yee and Robson it’s been mostly silence on the audit. 

The governor has danced around addressing it, while Yee and Robson have been completely silent on both issues.  

Cole said one thing that is definitely not a solution is for the media to stop covering the political figures.  

“I don’t think that you all should abdicate that responsibility,” he said.  

Cole said he thinks with the evolution of social media platforms connecting politicians directly to their voters and constituents, the path was always leading here, but the pandemic made it worse. 

“Now it’s on hyperdrive,” he said, adding that politicians are “absolutely” using the pandemic to their advantage.  

“Because of the pandemic, there have been fewer public events, which means there are fewer opportunities for the media to catch public figures on the fly,” he said. “The communication medium has defaulted into the usage of social media platforms” rather than in-person events with availability for questions. 

Unlike Cole, Mayes does believe that the future political candidates who refuse to address the media are putting themselves at a disadvantage.  

“They’re losing an avenue to talk to voters,” Mayes said. 

Cole said he thinks it depends on the candidate.  

As for why Ducey and Yee and politicians like them are choosing to approach the press this way, Mayes said they don’t seem to care enough.  

“They’re doing a disservice to the people of Arizona,” she said. “In the case of Doug Ducey, clearly he’s doing things that are unpopular with the voters that are not particularly defensible and so he’s not answering reporters’ questions about it. In the case of Kimberly Yee, she also apparently doesn’t want to answer for Ducey and the Legislature’s actions.” 

And for those who have the courage to face the press corps, Cole has some tips. 

He said that standing in front of a gaggle of reporters who are “aggressively doing their jobs” is intimidating, and it takes some training to get used to.  

“You better know and have a good sense of your positions on a plethora of topics, and be able to communicate those succinctly and consistently,” Cole said. “When you poke your head out and say you’re going to run for a high office, you better be ready for primetime.”