2-time US Senate candidate Ward seeks top Arizona GOP post

In this Aug. 30, 2016, file photo, Kelli Ward concedes to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in their contest. Ward, who is running to unseat Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said July 17, 2017, she has met with White House officials about the campaign. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP)
Kelli Ward  (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP)

Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward said Monday she’ll seek the top post in the Arizona Republican Party and likely forego any effort to seek the late Sen. John McCain’s seat in 2020.

Ward said she believes her two Senate runs and background in the state Senate make her a solid candidate to shore up the party as Arizona becomes a battleground state.

“I think that it’s time for a new strategy, it’s time for a new leader, it’s time for the old guard to be moved out and people who embrace the entire party to move in,” Ward said.

Ward would likely face current chairman Jonathan Lines in a scheduled Jan. 26 election by party committee members. Party spokesman Robert Maxwell said Lines is expected to seek a second term, but had no further comment Monday on Ward’s announcement.

The state party has been fractured for years between moderates who embrace business-friendly strategies and avoid hot-button social issues and a more conservative wing that has embraced the tea party and President Donald Trump’s initiatives. McCain, who died last summer, was a frequent target of those conservative party activists, and Ward challenged him in the 2016 primary but lost by 11 percentage points. She ran again for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat this year, but lost in a three-way primary won by Rep. Martha McSally.

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in the general election.

Despite her campaign losses, Ward said those two statewide efforts have given her insight into what Republican voters want and an understanding of the issues that others don’t have.

The physician from Lake Havasu City said she’ll focus on changing GOP messaging on education and health care that she says has been poorly managed. She said she supports school choice, and public school teachers, but that GOP message hasn’t resonated. The same is true with health care.

“I think that as the GOP chairperson I can help us at the state level, at the local level and at the national level to make sure that our messaging and our strategy are appropriate so that we take the state from the purple that’s it’s become under the last two GOP leaders and become strongly right once again,” she said.

2020 is going to be a health care election

Dear Editor:

We’re in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis, and that’s going to determine how people will choose their leaders. But Martha McSally and Donald Trump are risking undermining the entire federal response to coronavirus if they choose a Supreme Court Justice that will repeal the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions.

Shamefully only hours after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Trump and McSally made clear that they intend to appoint a new justice. The nominee’s stance on the Affordable Care Act must be a litmus test in voting for the next Supreme Court justice

If that justice votes to uphold that lawsuit, not only will the 3 million Arizonans with pre-existing conditions lose their coverage or face astronomical premiums, but millions more will lose critical benefits we’ve come to expect over the past decade. Young people who are struggling to find work during this economic downturn won’t be able to stay on their parents insurance. Hundreds of thousands of low-income Arizonans will lose access to the state’s Medicaid coverage. Seniors will see their prescription drug costs increase by potentially thousands of dollars a year.

And that doesn’t even include the long-term consequences of COVID-19.

Over the past seven months, I’ve have watched cases surge, dissipate, surge again, dissipate and then increase steadily. Hopefully, prognosticators are wrong and there isn’t a major resurgence this fall as the cooler months approach and people spend more time indoors.

Over 6,000 Arizonans have died from COVID, out of the nearly 300,000 confirmed cases. We have no idea what the long-term consequences of the disease are for those who have survived it, but there are horror stories about people suffering from heart and lung problems months after contracting the disease.

That means that insurers will consider COVID a pre-existing condition. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) bans insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions: those who suffer from pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage and they can’t be charged higher premiums.

Trump and McSally know that their joint health care record is their biggest vulnerability: Arizonans fundamentally think insurers shouldn’t be able to punish people for pre-existing health conditions beyond their control.

Word of advice to the President and especially to Arizona’s appointed Senator, if the next Supreme Court justice doesn’t unconditionally support protecting pre-existing conditions and upholding the health care law of the land, Arizonans will remember in November and mark their ballot for Joe Biden and Mark Kelly.
Gregory Jarrin, MD


6 ways Congress can fight for recovery from pandemic now


By Valley of the Sun United Way

It’s clear the coronavirus has had a devastating impact on workers, families and businesses in Maricopa County and across Arizona. Our community is hurting and without immediate action from Congress, even more families will lose the federal supports that are keeping the country from economic collapse.

Locally, requests for food, rental and utility assistance, and laptops and hotspots for students, are skyrocketing. Our nonprofit community, which is feeling its own financial impact due to COVID-19, is stretched to meet the demand. Valley of the Sun United Way launched the United for the Valley COVID-19 Fund with the support of businesses, foundations and community leaders, and in collaboration with the Arizona Community Foundation. With that support, we’ve distributed more than $2.5 million to local nonprofit and education partners, providing services to more than 543,000 individuals.

In March, thanks to the bipartisan efforts from Sen. Martha McSally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and congressional members Andy Biggs, Ruben Gallego, Paul Gosar, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Debbie Lesko, Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert, and Greg Stanton, Congress passed legislation to help families stay in their homes, keep food on the table and make ends meet. But now, Congress must act quickly, and in a bipartisan manner, to pass another bill to address the long-lasting impact of this pandemic.

Valley of the Sun United Way joins United Ways across the nation to urge Congress to include these six provisions in the COVID-19 relief bill currently being discussed.

  1. Expand universal charitable giving incentives: Demand for nonprofit services in Maricopa County and across Arizona increased considerably due to COVID-19. Yet, charitable donations across the U.S. dropped by 6% in the first quarter of 2020, due to job loss and economic uncertainty. The temporary $300 charitable deduction included in the CARES Act is a step in the right direction. By co-sponsoring the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act, the charitable tax deduction will be expanded and provide a much-needed incentive for giving.
  1. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for working individuals and families: Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are among the best tools we have to fight poverty. When the economy weakens, many workers lose their earned income and thus would no longer qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps them stabilize their income. To address this problem, filers should be able to use their income from 2019 or 2020 when calculating their 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as policymakers have done for families affected by hurricanes and natural disasters in the past.
  1. Increase funding for Medicaid: Access to health care is more important than ever when facing a pandemic of this magnitude. Medicaid is a lifeline for millions, and helps keep communities safe. In order to protect families and provide access to much-needed care, states need increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentages funding that will last until we’re through COVID-19 and the economy has recovered.

Every dollar spent on increasing Federal Medical Assistance Percentages adds $2 to our gross domestic product. Those funds will reach our state quickly, freeing up dollars that can be reallocated to areas of greatest need. Increasing the federal Medicaid match rate by at least 12%, for the duration of the pandemic, is one of the most effective economic boosts Congress can offer during this unprecedented crisis.

  1. Provide supplemental emergency funding for programs that create financial stability for families and communities: In record numbers, callers are dialing 211 to speak with a trained community resource specialist and access available resources to help meet their needs. An emergency investment in this vital resource will boost 211’s capacity to answer tens of millions of new calls including inquiries about COVID-19, mental health services and essential needs to help families and individuals get through the pandemic.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program has been supporting those most at risk of homelessness and hunger, due to this health and economic crisis. Congress should continue to strengthen this program.

The child care system in this country needs emergency funding to keep the sector afloat. Providers are facing uncertain enrollment and increased operating expenses to meet new and important health and safety standards. Without access to care, millions of Americans will not be able to return to their jobs. If we want a successful economic recovery, working parents need to be able to access quality, reliable child care.

  1. Increase monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits: Due to COVID-19, there has been a spike in families experiencing food insecurity and 14 million children in our country are still not getting enough to eat. When American families were facing elevated hunger and food insecurity in wake of the 2008 recession, Congress increased monthly SNAP benefits by 15%. In the face of a pandemic and even deeper economic crisis, surely Congress can make this same commitment.


  1. Invest more in enhanced unemployment insurance and Economic Impact Payments: While the previous economic relief packages have provided much-needed relief for workers, children and families, many are facing uncertainty in how they will continue to make ends meet. We must further extend unemployment insurance benefits to respond to the continuing job losses and furloughs happening across the country and here in our community. We also must provide additional cash support for individuals and families, including seniors and very-low income Americans, so they have access to this critical support.

Arizonans can’t wait! This community is counting on our congressional delegation to vote for America’s and Arizona’s recovery now.

Jenny Holsman Tetreault, chair, board of directors, Valley of the Sun United Way, is assistant general counsel, field operations, West and Northwest, US Foods.

John Graham, vice chair, board of directors, Valley of the Sun United Way, is chairman & CEO, Sunbelt Holdings.

Carla Vargas Jasa is president & CEO, Valley of the Sun United Way.

9th Circuit to hear appeal on McSally’s appointment

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Federal appellate judges have agreed to decide whether Martha McSally can continue to serve as a U.S. senator at least through the 2020 election.

And they have agreed to rush the case – at least by judicial standards.

In a brief order, the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by McSally and Gov. Doug Ducey, who appointed her, that there is no need to expedite the issue.

“Regardless of how this court ultimately decides this appeal, Arizona voters will have the opportunity to select the person to complete Sen. John McCain’s term in 2020,” wrote Brett Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the governor. And he argued that there would not be a need for an expedited hearing had the challengers to the appointment moved a bit faster when the case was heard in federal district court in Phoenix.

U.S. senator John McCain looks on during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. McCain and several other U.S. senators said they've warned the Afghan President Hamid Karzai that a failure to sign a key Afghan-U.S. security deal would pose a threat to the country and the region. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

James Tyrell III, McSally’s attorney, echoed those arguments in what amounts to a “me, too” filing with the court.

But that didn’t convince the appellate judges who agreed to move more quickly than normal and set a hearing for November.

That still leaves the question of whether there can be a final resolution and an order for a special election if it comes to that before the already scheduled August 2020 primary where McSally could face Republican foes in her bid to fill out the last two years of McCain’s six-year term and, if she survives that, the November general election where Democrat Mark Kelly hopes to unseat her. That’s because whoever loses this round is likely to seek U.S. Supreme Court review which could delay a final ruling.

“All we can do is try,” said attorney Michael Kielsky who is representing the challengers. And he conceded that a final determination could come too late to force the special election being sought.

But Kielsky said that, if nothing else, it would set the precedent for what happens in future Senate vacancies and how long an unelected choice by the governor can serve.

Central to that is the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It took the power to name U.S. senators away from state lawmakers and gave it directly to voters.

It also says that when there are vacancies, the governor “shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.” Ducey has done that, setting the primary for Aug. 25, 2020 and the general election for the following Nov. 3 to determine who gets to serve through 2022.

The lawsuit, however, contends the Constitution requires the appointment to be temporary “until the people fill the vacancies by election as the Legislature may direct.”

In this case, McCain died last August.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl on Sept. 4 to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain. Though Kyl accepted the appointment, he will not seek election in 2020 nor did he agree to serve out the full remainder of the term. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl on Sept. 4, 2018, to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. John McCain. Kyl resigned in January. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Ducey initially named former Sen. Jon Kyl to the seat until he quit in, at which point the governor selected McSally who had just been defeated in her own Senate race by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

But challengers are arguing that 27 months between McCain’s death and the November 2020 election hardly counts as a “temporary” appointment. He wants a special election ahead of that to give voters the chance to put someone other than the unelected McSally in office to represents them as soon as possible.

Challengers have to seek 9th Circuit intervention because U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa rejected his arguments that the Constitution requires there be a special election within a year, if not less, when there is a vacancy in a senate seat.

In her June ruling, Humetewa acknowledged that Ducey is allowed to fill a Senate seat on a “temporary” basis.

But the judge said she finds nothing in the law that says 27 months is too long for a temporary appointment. And Humetewa rejected the argument that allowing McSally to serve until the 2020 election infringes on that 17th Amendment right of voters to choose their own senators.

Humetewa also accepted arguments by Ducey’s attorneys that there are good reasons not to call a special election and instead let McSally serve through 2020. That includes arguments that turnout at a special election would be less than during a regular one, plus the cost of a special election.

A stutterer’s perspective on Gov. Doug Ducey

Doug Ducey
Doug Ducey

Oct. 22 marked International Stuttering Awareness Day, a day intended to raise public awareness of an issue faced by 1% of the world’s population and roughly 3 million Americans.

Subsequently, it was also the same week that Gov. Doug Ducey came under scrutiny by national syndicates and others for allegedly mocking presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s stutter at a rally for President Trump.

Critics and naysayers alike accused the Governor of ridiculing Biden on the basis of a seven-second clip circulated on social media and immediately concluded that he was guilty.

Scrolling through the disparaging comments and articles including one that implied if the Governor were in high school, he would be expelled for being a bully, I began to ponder my first introduction to Ducey and how I was treated with utmost respect.

My first years of my life I communicated with sign language and spoke my first word at age three. Taunted by bullies throughout my life, I have had my intellectual ability questioned due to my fluency and even had a parent once tell me that I would “most likely not be successful” because of my speech.

Mark Fitzgerald
Mark Fitzgerald

Despite my life challenges, I have managed to build a thriving yet youthful career in government relations and even had the privilege of being mentored by United States Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett. I do not view my situation as a disability or something that impedes my success; rather I deem it as something that I can and will overcome.

I first met the Governor at a fundraiser for then Congresswoman now United States Senator Martha McSally in 2018. One of the youngest attendees invited, I was surrounded by statesmen and leaders alike including former US Senator Jon Kyl and former Congressman now Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz. A setting full of well accomplished people, I was easily one of the most inexperienced individuals in attendance and my nervousness overpowered my fluency, which resulted in a struggle to simply say my first and last name. Greeting the Governor, I forcibly introduced myself. In a stutterer’s mind, these consequential moments seem like an eternity but only last a few seconds. Finally expressing my statement, the Governor smiled and asked me where I went to college. I promptly responded, “The University of Arizona” and the Governor, an Arizona State University alumnus quipped, “Mark, when I was running for Governor, I said I would be a leader for all Arizonans…. even a Wildcat like yourself.” As others, including high profile individuals and donors, lined up to speak with him, Governor Ducey listened intently and never interrupted me nor walked away, in contrast to the many in my lifetime who have. This moment served as a testament to the person and leader who Governor Ducey is – a compassionate, respectful leader who looks past your challenges and sees your potential. He is a leader who believes that adversity does not build character but rather reveals it. Subsequent encounters with Governor Ducey have been equally respectful. He has gone out of his way to say hello, remembering my name and exchanging encouraging words.

At the 2020 Democratic National Convention in August, arguably the most widely talked about event of the week was 13-year-old New Hampshire teen Brayden Harrington who spoke on behalf of Biden. A heartfelt moment, I saw many similarities between the young teenager and myself. Aside from our similar speech patterns, we shared another thing in common: we both had leaders of two different ideologies care and listen to us as we spoke. My personal interactions with the Governor have been shared countless times. I always conclude that stuttering will never deter you from success. Most accomplished leaders will take into account your opinion even if it takes lengthened time to speak.

The United States remains at a time of hyper partisan divide, where leaders are demonized solely by association with another. Those who participate on social media remain keen on attacking and mischaracterizing anyone who does not fit their political narrative and ideology. If one does not believe in similar principles, critics will find any means to speak negatively about you. We need to look past partisan like behavior and ideologies and rather recognize each other for our virtues and moral character.

Arizona is fortunate to have a compassionate leader like Governor Ducey. He is a good man who has always treated me with utmost respect. He should be characterized on the virtues he puts forth, not on a seven second clip taken out of context.

Mark Fitzgerald is a Legislative Assistant at Arizona Governmental Affairs.



Arizona deserves better than Ducey, McSally, Trump in this crisis


We love Arizona. Even the heat and the traffic – all of it. It is our home, our people and our families are here, and we have built political power in our community for more than a decade. That’s why it’s tearing us apart watching our state become the number one hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the world, with Black, indigenous, Latino, and low-income communities hit the hardest by this deadly virus. Now, nearly six months into the pandemic, with government rental assistance programs failing, and the end to the federal unemployment stimulus on July 25th, we are outraged to see our state and federal government flounder aimlessly from one hashtag to another without a clear plan to take care of our people.

Alejandra Gomez
Alejandra Gomez

Arizona desperately needs leadership, decisive action, and to listen to the voices of the community who are living this nightmare every single day. When COVID-19 started to become real in the United States and the majority party in the state Legislature spent sickening amounts of time trying to downplay the virus and even calling it a hoax, we stepped up and called for a comprehensive People’s Bailout that would have addressed many of the housing, unemployment, and healthcare disasters we are seeing play out in real time in our neighborhoods. When legislators forced votes on many of these issues in March, including $40 million for rental assistance, $10 million for food banks, and providing paid family and medical leave to those impacted by COVID-19, we watched with dismay as each was shot down on party lines. And in the U.S. Senate, the leadership vacuum is just as large. As the COVID-19 crisis only gets worse by the day, we have watched Senator Martha McSally let President Trump do the talking instead of stepping up with a clear plan to help her constituents.

Tomas Robles
Tomas Robles

With the Legislature adjourned sine die and no special session forthcoming, Gov. Doug Ducey is left as the chief policy maker in Arizona. As we write this, the Governor is sitting on tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money that the Legislature appropriated in March. Right now, he has the power to appropriate more money for rental assistance and a boost to unemployment payments. Time and time again, he has shown his disconnect from reality, with his interest in pleasing President Trump and providing political cover to McSally greater than taking care of Arizona. When we extended an invitation in April for the governor to hear directly from our members most impacted by COVID, we received no response. No wonder his approval numbers for his handling of the pandemic are the lowest of any governor in the nation.

Arizona has a cascade of crises careening towards us, and Ducey is more interested in pretty words than real action on behalf of our families, while McSally is content to sit on the sidelines and watch Arizonans fall ill, face eviction, and record joblessness. Thousands of Arizona families are unable to pay basic bills like rent, food and utilities. Ducey is still sitting on tens of millions of dollars in aid appropriated by the Legislature for just this moment. McSally has failed to lead and allowed the HEROES Act, which would provide desperately needed relief and economic stimulus, to sit on a shelf collecting dust for more than two months. This is our State leadership, Arizona? It didn’t have to be this way in the state we love and have fought so hard for time and time again. The time to act aggressively, substantively, and with the urgency that meets the issues at hand is now. LUCHA stands ready to work in a real, concrete way on policy that centers those most impacted and meets the moment. Until then, it has become all too clear that the governor’s press conferences and McSally’s Twitter account will continue to be all talk and no action on behalf of the people they are supposed to serve.

Alejandra Gomez and Tomás Robles, Jr., are co-executive directors of LUCHA.

Arizona GOP fundraising drops significantly under Ward

Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The Arizona Democratic Party is out raising the state GOP by a lot.

New campaign finance reports show the Arizona Republican Party collected just $81,320 in the three months ending Sept. 30. By contrast Democrats raked in $347,841.

And this isn’t just a one-time problem.

An analysis by Capitol Media Services finds that Republicans managed just $382,582 for the first nine months of the year, including nearly $180,000 from political action committees. Democrats took in $641,345, with $339,312 from PACs.

“I think it’s too early to declare this some sort of crisis for the Republican Party,” said GOP political strategist Stan Barnes.

And the phenomenon is not new, with an energized Arizona Democratic Party bringing in more cash during the two-year 2018 election cycle than the Republicans, though by nowhere near the current disparity.

“But it’s fair to say the world’s going to be watching whether or not this leadership of the party can raise the kind of money necessary to be relevant,” Barnes said. “And that question still remains.”

That “leadership” issue refers to the decision by precinct committeemen in January to oust party Chairman Jonathan Lines, who had been the establishment favorite, in favor of the far more conservative and overt Trump supporter Kelli Ward.

Ward, a former state senator from Lake Havasu City, had failed in two prior attempts to gain statewide office: a primary challenge to U.S. Sen John McCain in 2016 and, just last year, her bid to become the Republican nominee for Senate in a primary eventually won by Martha McSally.

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said that Ward’s history as a candidate – and an unsuccessful one at the statewide level – is part of what’s going on now with fundraising.

“It’s a different role,” he said of being the party chief.

“It’s really behind the scenes,” Coughlin said, with the party chair working closely with other elected officials “and being very servant-oriented to their needs and solicitous of their needs and desiring of their support.”

And Ward?

“She seems much more comfortable in front of the scenes,” Coughlin said.

That includes most recently her role in leading some anti-impeachment demonstrations. And Ward has taken a much higher public profile than her predecessors.

“Of course, that doesn’t sit well with major donors,” he said.

Zach Henry, spokesman for Ward and the state party, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

But the issues for the GOP go beyond who is leading the party. There’s the Trump factor.

“The Donald Trump cloud over the state of Arizona is a consequence,” said Barnes. “And I think one of those consequences is traditional large-gift donors are unsure.”

None of that, he said, means that Trump himself is in danger of losing Arizona.

“But donors and their money are emotional people,” Barnes said. “And the president’s impact on some of those egos is probably meaningful and having an impact on contributions.”

Put another way, Barnes said the history of the GOP is that its fundraising has done better when the party apparatus was controlled by the more “country club establishment wing.”

Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams said that, in some ways, the lag in donations to the state party following Ward’s selection is not a surprise. He said that the ability of the party chair to connect with donors and rake in cash is built on relationships.

`Do you have existing relationships and do you have the ability to make new relationships?” he asked. “It’s a lot of work.

That, however, leaves the question of whether Ward will get to that point.

“I believe she has the ability to build relationships,” said Adams who until last year was chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey. “I don’t know that’s she’s doing it yet.”

Barnes thinks she’ll come around.

“It seems to take time for that new chairman to figure out where the love is among the contributors that support that chairman’s point of view or that chairman’s agenda,” he said. “I have long-term confidence that Kelli Ward is going to figure that out.”

So what’s the impact of the party having less money?

“You can’t win elections without money,” said former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She said it’s critically important now, on the heels of some key Democrat victories in 2018, “to help these candidates take back the seats that we lost last time.”

That includes trying to wrest control of the state’s congressional delegation, with Democrats holding five of the nine House seats, and the fact that the GOP edge in the state House slid by four, to the bare minimum 31-29.

And McSally hopes to hang on to the U.S. Senate seat that used to belong to McCain.

Still, Brewer said any reticence by GOP faithful to give to the party need not be fatal. She said there are other options.

One, said the former governor, is to give directly to the candidates. Brewer said donors also can write checks to the Republican National Committee.

Still, she said, that could be a hardship on some candidates.

“They’ve always counted on the party,” Brewer said.

Coughlin said there already are mechanisms in place to find other ways to help.

He noted that Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have formed what amounts to a political action committee to solicit donations for GOP legislative candidates. And consultant Nathan Sproul said the Trump re-election campaign is expected to pump major dollars into the state, with dollars also expected to flow in to keep that U.S. Senate seat from falling into Democrat hands as what happened last year with the election of Kyrsten Sinema.

Still, Coughlin said, it would be more efficient to have these kinds of campaigns coordinated by the party, even to the point that it gets a better rate on its postage.

“But if they’re not bringing anything to the table themselves, and particularly because it’s a caustic relationship with the other electeds, then maybe you rethink that.

Arizona needs leaders to stand tall, remain independent during crisis

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles with her staff after delivering her first major speech on the Senate floor, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 30, 2019. McSally is a former Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

When Martha McSally was appointed to the U.S. Senate, she promised to “devote all of my energies to ensuring that all Arizonans have a voice.” As we face the devastating effects of coronavirus, now is McSally’s chance to follow through on those words. Blindly following Mitch McConnell and actively participating in the culture of corruption he has created will not cut it. We need McSally to be an independent voice for Arizona, now more than ever.

The passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will go a long way toward addressing the many hardships Arizonans have and will continue to face. But the way we arrived there is deeply troubling.

Mark Cardenas
Mark Cardenas

The initial version of the relief package was partisan and failed to provide protections for American workers. Worse, it was loaded with special interest giveaways and a totally unregulated $500 billion-dollar slush fund for big business with no oversight. The bill was a perfect illustration of the corporatist rot and corruption McConnell has created.

McSally blindly following McConnell’s wishes and so willingly voting for a Wall Street oriented bill should concern Arizonans.

Further, attacking Democrats for not supporting McConnell’s Wall Street driven relief package, then falsely describing the bi-partisan bill that passed as more or less the same does not demonstrate leadership, and it is not the voice Arizonans need in Washington.

Even with the relief package, the work is not done, as Arizona faces a continued shortage of ventilators, masks, gowns, and other essential medical supplies. The director of the Department of Health has now recommended limiting testing even further to ration the dwindling supply of tests. As a fellow veteran, I wonder: Would we ever go into combat so short on critical supplies?

Cases and deaths in Arizona continue to rise, and our hospitals are nearing capacity. Veterans like myself, first responders, the elderly, and other at-risk populations will continue to need additional assistance as new and unforeseeable problems are sure to emerge.

McSally must stop the partisan games. Instead of making false proclamations of suspending her campaign to focus on this crisis, we need McSally to find her independent voice and take decisive action to help our state.

McSally must use the bully pulpit of her office to call on leaders in Washington and here in Arizona to take immediate action. Like her seatmate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and conscientious mayors around the state, McSally should call upon Gov. Doug Ducey to take more aggressive measures to curb the spread of coronavirus in Arizona, starting with narrowing the list of essential business and activities.

And the work in Washington can’t simply stop with this relief bill. Given the opportunity, McConnell will slip right back into his habits of abetting his corporate allies. McSally must push to ensure there is no premature “opening” of the economy by some arbitrary date, only to satisfy McConnell’s corporate allies. McSally must call on McConnell and her GOP colleagues to commit to doing what is best for everyday Arizonans and the country.

To get through this crisis we need our leaders to step up and stand as independent voices for us and not Mitch McConnell or Wall Street. Instead of taking a three week recess, perhaps McSally should immediately return to Washington and continue working.

Like Senators Goldwater, Hayden, or McCain, Arizonans want leaders who will stand tall and remain fiercely independent during this crisis. McSally now has that chance. I hope she won’t let us down.

— Mark Cardenas is an Iraq War veteran and a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019. He currently is a legislative affairs specialist at Torres Law and Consulting Group.

Arizona political ad spending hit record high – $129M

(Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Spending on campaign ads in Arizona reached a record $129 million this year, part of a national trend that saw cable and broadcast election ad spending top $3 billion for the first time in a midterm election cycle.

In Arizona, the spending was driven by high-profile campaigns like Proposition 127 and the race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona.

A report by Advertising Analytics said that more than half of the 2018 ad spending went toward the Senate race, including the heated GOP primary, with other significant spending on the governor’s and attorney general’s races.

“It is absolutely unprecedented for a midterm. It has shattered every record there is,” said Steve Passwaiter, vice president and general manager of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. “That kind of spend rivals previous presidential cycles.”

Some 40,470 ads were broadcast for Arizona congressional races in October alone, according to a Wesleyan Media Project analysis of Kantar’s data. That saturation led to what Brian Dille, a Mesa Community College political science professor, called a television “wasteland” during the campaign.

“I had a lot of people saying to me that, ‘I can’t wait ’til this election’s over so I can have normal TV again,’” he said.

And a lot of those ads went negative, an additional turn-off for many.

“I would say for Arizona – and I’ve been teaching here for 23 years – this would be one of the nastiest and most negative campaigns that I’ve seen and, again, a free-for-all of outside money flooding in,” said Erich Saphir, political science professor at Pima Community College.

Passwaiter said outside spending by political action committees and other groups played a big role “not just in Arizona, but around the country.”

“The amount of money that’s being spent by the PACs dwarfs what’s being spent from the candidates,” Passwaiter said. “There are only a few instances I can think of around the country where the candidates in a reasonably competitive race outspent the PACs.”

Regardless of who paid, Dille noted that there were also a few bright spots among the onslaught of negative messages.

“I saw a couple of positive ads that were a breath of fresh air, that I actually paid attention to,” he said. “Sinema ran one where she talked about her values and why she wanted to be senator, and that was just so refreshing to have someone tell you why they want you to vote for them, because most of the advertising is focused on why not to vote for the other side.”

But Arizona political consultant Kevin DeMenna said negative ads are just part of politics, and that they can help a critical voter.

“It’s all still vigorous, it’s a contact sport, and now there are just a lot more ways to communicate, and that’s the take-away,” he said. “The duty really rests with the voter to discriminate between good and bad information.”

And while people complained about the deluge of ads, DeMenna said the volume of ads is a good thing.

“It clearly isn’t turning people off, so much as they may not be enjoying the process of being informed,” he said.

DeMenna said that “money is driving the process – no apologies for that.” Passwaiter agreed that the ad blitz was a product of “incredibly robust” fundraising and outside spending, and the target audience.

“This, also, was a midterm election,” Passwaiter said. “Midterm elections usually tend to skew a little bit older than presidential elections do and if you are going to try and make an impression on those folks … they tend to be really heavy users of television.”

Dille said he expected that an open Senate seat would draw “a lot of national money” that would help fund “a ton of TV ads. Over and over and over again, it was Sinema and McSally ads.”

Mark Gorman, CEO of Matrix Solutions, said in an emailed statement that their data showed Sinema and McSally “spent similar margins on local TV ads.”

While it may be safe to turn the TV on again, DeMenna warned that more spending records will probably be set with the next election – especially in a state like Arizona, given its politics and its situation of essentially “one media market.”

“It’s an extraordinary state, the urban center of our state is cost effective,” he said. “More money spent on a single election cycle, on single issues, than ever before … that’s the new refrain, that every cycle we’re setting new high-water marks.”

Arizona Rep. McSally tells colleagues she’ll run for Senate

In this June 14, 2017 file photo Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,File)
In this June 14, 2017 file photo Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,File)

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, Congressional District 2, has told Republican colleagues that she will enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Jeff Flake, a move that puts a mainstream candidate who could win backing from President Donald Trump into the primary race.

McSally hasn’t made a formal announcement of her intention to run in next year’s Republican primary. But U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, Congressional District 6, said Tuesday that she told fellow Arizona GOP members of Congress that she was running.

“She said she’s in for Senate,” Schweikert said of the talk he had with the southern Arizona congresswoman on Monday. “It was one of those just sort of as you’re running around from votes, so there wasn’t much of a conversation on my part.”

McSally’s staff didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A former Air Force fighter pilot who represents a moderate district, McSally would face off against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and could face other Republicans who have been considering getting into the race.

Ward lost badly in a challenge to Sen. John McCain last year.

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is seeking her party’s nomination along with several lesser-known Democrats.

Flake announced last month that he would not seek re-election. He has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and acknowledged that he could not win a GOP primary in the current political climate.

Mainstream Republicans in Arizona have been searching for another primary candidate because they believe Ward cannot beat Sinema.

Ward discounts talk that she’s unelectable, saying in a recent interview that people are rallying behind her.

“The people who are dismissive, some of them have sour grapes because they didn’t get in at the right time to be able to build the organization that I’ve built,” she said.

Even ahead of an expected McSally announcement, she was targeted by conservative groups. A group affiliated with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon launched a website last week attacking what it called “McSally’s troubling history of supporting amnesty and being weak on illegal immigration.”

If McSally formally enters the race, it could make it easier for Democrats to retake her seat representing Arizona’s 2nd District.

The seat had been held by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, then won by Democrat Ron Barber when she stepped down in 2012 following an assassination attempt that left her badly injured. McSally defeated Barber by 167 votes when he sought re-election in 2014.

She handily won re-election last year by a 14 percentage point margin.

A House re-election may be tougher next year, with former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick seeking her party’s nomination.

McSally has threaded a needle in her Tucson-area district, pushing border security and veterans issues while fighting to save the jet she flew in combat, the A-10, from retirement by the Air Force.

In May, she was quoted using an expletive urging fellow Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in advance of a vote. She took heat back in her district for the vote and has worked since then to moderate her stance.

Arizona Senate campaigns get creative amid virus scare

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix, campaigning in the traditional way. But now, the global pandemic that is shaking up life is also forcing Arizona's U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix, campaigning in the traditional way. But now, the global pandemic that is shaking up life is also forcing Arizona’s U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Martha McSally is volunteering at the Salvation Army. Mark Kelly is using his background as an astronaut to entertain kids stuck at home.

The global pandemic that is shaking up the nation’s way of life is also forcing Arizona’s U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when rallies are verboten, door-to-door campaigning is off limits and voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics.

Political campaigns are about connecting with people. Inspiring and motivating them. Encouraging them to the knock on doors, speak to their friends and neighbors and get out the vote. That connectedness is the antithesis of social distancing.

FILE- In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kelly said Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, that he's running to finish John McCain's term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

But they also can be helpful. Both campaigns say they are using their networks of staff and volunteers to check in on people and help those in need. Both have their aides working from home and have forgone door-to-door campaigning and large events for volunteers or supporters.

The race is a top-tier contest that will help determine control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans’ strong grip on Arizona politics is loosening with the growth of the Latino electorate and the GOP’s growing weaknesses in the fast-growing suburban areas of Phoenix. In 2018, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally for the state’s other Senate seat. McSally was later appointed to John McCain’s former Senate seat and is hoping to hold onto it after the November election.

“The election is seven months away,” Kelly said in a phone interview. “We’ve got time to figure this out, different ways to communicate with the electorate.”

Kelly this week joined his brother, Scott Kelly, another former astronaut, to appear in a live 20-minute Instagram broadcast targeted to children. The twins took turns reading Mark Kelly’s children’s book, Mousetronaut, about a mouse that travels in space, then answered questions about their favorite space foods, if it’s scary to travel in space and whether there are chickens up there.

The brothers, both dressed in NASA jackets, never mentioned Mark Kelly’s Senate race, though his campaign promoted the talk on social media.

Kelly told kids to think of their time away from school like a mission in space, their family the crew; everyone has to work together, listen, do their chores and their work to make a successful mission.

It’s the quarantine version of a strategy Kelly has employed for much of the campaign to date — using his four space missions to connect with children and talk about science instead of politics.

McSally announced last month she was cancelling plans to air a new television ad, though the ad time hadn’t been booked yet. This week she said she’s donating her April paychecks to the Salvation Army and all money that comes into the campaign to the Salvation Army. On Friday, she volunteered at the organization, handing out food and supplies to people driving through.

Through her Senate office, McSally has stepped up her use of telephone town halls that her office says reach tens of thousands of people, holding two of them in less than a week. She has touted the bipartisan rescue package to help people struggling with lost wages as the economy has shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, the virus caused by the new coronavirus.

She has fielded detailed questions from worried taxpayers, caregivers and business owners about how they will receive the $1,200-per-person stimulus money or how to apply for small business assistance. She has also pushed back against constituents suggesting the orders to stay at home are too aggressive or that only the elderly and sick need to worry.

“It’s on each of us to go where the facts are,” McSally told one caller on a Thursday town hall. “This is a deadly virus.”

Most people feel mild or moderate symptoms from the coronavirus, but some experience more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. Older people and those with existing health problems are most at risk for the severe complications, but others have experienced them too.

Public health officials say staying home will slow the spread of the virus and help ensure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with sick people, which could raise the death toll of people with treatable problems who can’t be effectively cared for.

Arizona Senate race could impact confirmation of new justice

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles as she removes her face covering to speak prior to Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak at the "Latter-Day Saints for Trump" coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., smiles as she removes her face covering to speak prior to Vice President Mike Pence arriving to speak at the “Latter-Day Saints for Trump” coalition launch event Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

If Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins a seat in the U.S. Senate, he could take office as early as Nov. 30, shrinking the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicating the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Kelly has maintained a consistent polling lead over Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat held by John McCain, who died in 2018.

Because the contest is a special election to finish McCain’s term, the winner could be sworn in as soon as the results are officially certified. Other winners in the November election won’t take office until January.

Trump has pledged to nominate a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon who died Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Mark Kelly rallies supporters at the launch of his campaign for U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Van Buren in Phoenix. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Mark Kelly rallies supporters at the launch of his campaign for U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Van Buren in Phoenix. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

If Kelly wins, the timing when he formally takes office could be crucial in determining who replaces Ginsburg. It could eliminate a Republican vote in favor of Trump’s nominee — the GOP currently has 53 seats in the 100-member chamber — or require McConnell to speed up the nomination process.

With McSally in the Senate, four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.

McSally quickly laid down a marker, declaring on Twitter within hours of the announcement of Ginsberg’s death that “this U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.”

She has not elaborated on whether the confirmation vote should come before or after the election. But she highlighted the renewed stakes of her race in a fundraising pitch on Saturday.

“If Mark Kelly comes out on top, HE could block President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee from being confirmed,” she wrote.

Democrats in 2018 found success in Arizona, a state long dominated by the GOP, by appealing to Republicans and independent voters disaffected with Trump. The Supreme Court vacancy could shake up the race and boost McSally’s lagging campaign by keeping those voters in her camp.

Kelly said late Saturday that “the people elected to the presidency and Senate in November should fill this vacancy.”

“When it comes to making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Washington shouldn’t rush that process for political purposes,” Kelly said in a statement.

FIn this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks during a discussion on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FIn this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks during a discussion on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Republican and Democratic election lawyers agreed that Arizona law is clear: If Kelly wins, he will take office once the results are official.

Arizona Supreme Court precedent favors putting elected officials in elected positions as soon as possible, said Tim LaSota, the former lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party and a McSally supporter.

“Somebody who has only been appointed does not have the imprimatur of the electorate,” LaSota said. “It’s sort of intuitive that the law should favor somebody who has won an election as opposed to someone who’s just been appointed.”

Arizona law requires election results to be officially certified on the fourth Monday after the election, which falls this year on Nov. 30. The certification could be delayed up to three days if the state has not received election results from any of the 15 counties.

Mary O’Grady, a Democratic lawyer with expertise in election law, said the deadlines are firm and there’s little room for delay.

“I don’t see ambiguity here,” said O’Grady, who was Arizona’s solicitor general under two Democratic attorneys general.

Arizona law allows recounts and election challenges only under very limited circumstances, she said.

“Usually, the Secretary of the Senate’s office goes out of its way to accommodate the new senators coming in,” former Senate Historian Don Ritchie told The Arizona Republic, which first reported on the prospect for Kelly taking office early a day before Ginsburg’s death. “The old senator is out of their office there. I mean, they actually literally put a lock on the door so their staff can’t go in.”

Arizona Senate race goes to overtime with glacial vote count

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Arizona’s knock-down, all-out Senate race is heading into overtime, as a neck-and-neck contest between two congresswomen collides with Arizona’s sometimes glacial vote-counting procedures.

Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema were separated by a small fraction of the votes tabulated as of early Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots still outstanding.

Though the vast majority of Arizona voters cast their ballots early by mail, those who receive early ballots but then drop them off in person at polling stations on or close to Election Day can jam up the system.

That’s because the state’s most populous county, Maricopa, can take days to count those ballots while they simultaneously tabulate Election Day votes.

The so-called “late earlies” may not be counted until Thursday in the county, where about 60 percent of Arizona’s voters live. Arizona counties with far fewer voters may also face long delays processing those ballots.

That leaves the contentious Senate race a cliffhanger in what’s otherwise shaping up to be another banner Arizona year for Republicans. The GOP has won every statewide race in Arizona over the past decade, and Democrats were hoping Sinema could break that streak.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick was elected to the Tucson-area swing district seat vacated by McSally. Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s mainly northern Arizona seat was too close to call early Wednesday, and the outcome will determine which party gets the majority of the state’s nine member U.S. House delegation.

The election featured heavy statewide turnout of about 60 percent, more in line with a presidential election than a midterm.

The Senate contest was the marquee race, a contest between two champion fundraisers who are no strangers to tight races. McSally lost her first general election by less than 200 votes and won her second by about that many, and Sinema also represents a competitive swing district.

The two are battling over the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who decided not to run for re-election because he realized his criticism of President Donald Trump made it impossible for him to survive politically.

McSally and Sinema have both remade themselves politically. McSally, 52, is a onetime Trump critic who has embraced the president since his election. She has tried to rally Republican voters by emphasizing her military background as the first U.S. female combat pilot while touting her support for the president’s tax cut and other parts of his agenda.

Sinema, 42, is a former Green Party activist who became a Democratic centrist with her first election to the House of Representatives in 2012.

She’s one of the congressional Democrats most likely to vote to back Trump’s agenda but has spent the race hammering McSally for casting a vote for the health bill backed by the president. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which didn’t become law, would have weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

In response, McSally criticized Sinema over her shifting views, contending she was still a closet liberal who disrespected the military. Republican ads publicized a 2010 video of Sinema repeating a comedian’s description of Arizona as “the meth lab of democracy.”

McSally also accused Sinema of treason for an offhand comment in a 2002 radio interview with an anti-war talk show host who suggested hypothetically he might join the Taliban. Sinema had responded it would not bother her if she did so.

During her 2016 campaign to be re-elected to her Tucson area swing district House seat, McSally criticized Trump for attacking the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq and for a videotape in which the future president bragged about sexually assaulting women.

That earlier criticism of Trump hobbled McSally during this year’s three-way Republican primary for Senate, when challengers attacked her not supportive enough of the president.

Sinema faced no real opposition in the Democratic primary and had months to define herself as a nonpartisan, problem-solving centrist on the airwaves while her allies slammed McSally with attack ads over the Republican’s health care vote.

The candidates and their allies spent more than $90 million in a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Also at stake is Arizona’s role in national elections. Democrats have repeatedly hoped the state’s growing Latino population and influx of more educated professionals would make it competitive.

The Senate race will test that theory and may help determine whether Democrats target Arizona in the 2020 presidential election.


For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Arizona Senate race likely to be a tale of 2 pivots

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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.

U.S. senatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., celebrates her primary election victory, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. McSally will face U.S. Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., in the November election as they seek the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. senatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., celebrates her primary election victory, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. McSally will face U.S. Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., in the November election as they seek the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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.

“Dang, this is going to be a race,” Noble said.

Arizonans shouldn’t be punished for working remotely during pandemic

(Deposit Photos/Red Pixel)
(Deposit Photos/Red Pixel)

Millions of Americans have been forced into new remote work arrangements during the coronavirus health crisis. The health risks are paramount, but day-to-day challenges like video conferencing and children’s education have made the situation even harder for remote workers. And absent action from Congress, remote work can have consequences for these taxpayers’ wallets as well.

Lockdowns, social distancing guidelines, care for sick loved ones and other reasons have seen Americans begin working in a state other than their normal work site since the onset of the pandemic. They may not be aware, however, that doing so could expose them to income tax filing and payment obligations in different states.

Approximately 3.5 million Americans could potentially run afoul of these rules and face additional tax obligations, based on surveys of Americans switching to remote work and census data of pre-pandemic interstate commuters. This number could potentially be even higher, as taxpayers who reside in the same state as their work offices could still face new tax obligations if they work temporarily somewhere else. For Arizona specifically, this could mean more than 49,000 Arizonans facing these new tax obligations.

Absent action from Congress, this can have real consequences. Not only do they have to face the already substantial burden of record-keeping and updating withholding at a time when most Arizonans have greater things to worry about, but working remotely in higher-tax states could lead to an unpleasant surprise when it comes time to file taxes next year.

Andrew Wilford
Andrew Wilford

Even Good Samaritans are not safe from the tax man. When tens of thousands of out-of-state health care workers put themselves at risk by volunteering to travel to New York City, answering its pleas for aid during the pandemic, they thought they were doing a good deed. But New York has made clear that it will move aggressively to tax the income of these volunteers, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo claiming that the state was “not in a position to provide any subsidies right now.”

Such actions are unfortunately unsurprising given New York’s status as a high-tax state that is known for rigidly pursuing every tax dollar from people who do work in the state. An analysis of what kinds of taxes that some of these health care emergency workers may face when doing remote work in New York found that a registered nurse may see a $750 tax increase, and an ER doctor could face as much as a $1,200 tax hike. Though New York is just one state aggressively pursuing remote workers’ tax revenues, the increased burden other states’ taxpayers can face from being subjected to its tax regime shows the danger of failing to rein in similarly aggressive states.

And for Arizona taxpayers who normally work in one of a few states, this can work the other way as well. Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and (of course) New York enforce a so-called convenience of the employer rule. This means that Americans who normally work in one of these states but switched to working in Arizona for any reason other than absolute necessity can still face tax liability in that state. Often, those wages get double-taxed, meaning that they can face tax bills on the same income from Arizona as well.

The tax consequences of paying double state income taxes can be catastrophic to taxpayers trying to get by in a recession and a pandemic. A taxpayer making just over $42,000 a year splitting time between Connecticut and New York could see a tax increase of nearly $1,400.

Arizona small- and medium-sized businesses can face difficulties from these rules as well. Because just one employee working in a state can expose a business to tax obligations in that state, employees working remotely can create headaches for business tax compliance, including the need to file in additional states or apportion their taxes differently. Not only is this an additional compliance burden, but it could discourage businesses from following public health guidelines and allowing employees to work remotely.

The good news is that these are eminently solvable issues. U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced bipartisan legislation that would address all these problems by limiting states’ ability to go after the income of remote workers, volunteers, and businesses on the basis of COVID-induced remote work. The Senate’s Phase Four proposal also included a version of this legislation that would likewise address the problem of states aggressively taxing remote workers.

Arizonans have enough on their plates in the middle of the pandemic without having to fend off overly aggressive tax bureaucrats. U.S. Sen. Martha McSally should take the lead in protecting Arizonans from unnecessary tax and filing obligations and support efforts to address taxation of remote workers.

Andrew Wilford is a policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to tax policy research and education at all levels of government.

Arizona’s drought plan offers key lessons for the road ahead


By now most have heard the news: Arizona, the other six Colorado River Basin states, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation secured a major victory for the health of the Colorado River by completing the Drought Contingency Plan (“DCP”) agreements this spring, and getting Congress to enact implementing legislation within weeks. It had become clear that we needed to take action to plan for a drier future in the region.

Even with an extended drought that added urgency to negotiations, it was not easy to achieve this success. Each of the seven states had to develop a plan to implement the DCP agreements. And Arizona, which was facing the biggest potential reductions in Colorado River water deliveries, faced a major political and practical challenge. Political victories like the adoption of Arizona’s DCP Implementation Plan should be well understood because we will need to ensure similar successes on other water issues in the near future.

Glenn Hamer
Glenn Hamer

So what did Arizona do right, and what can we learn from this process as we take on other water issues going forward?

Generally, the politics of scarcity can bring out the worst kind of political behavior. However, in this case, it brought out Arizona’s best.  There were at least five key ingredients that led to agreement on how Arizona would implement the drought plan agreements.

First, leaders demonstrated selflessness and prioritized the best interest of the entire state. The “Arizona Lower Basin DCP Steering Committee” process was co-chaired by policy experts who were directly responsible for the plan’s implementation – Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) Director Tom Buschatzke and Central Arizona Project (CAP) General Manager Ted Cooke.  At the outset of this process, Buschatzke and Cooke (reflecting the perspectives of their agencies) differed on important issues, but they also understood that reaching an agreement on the DCP was of paramount importance and required creativity, compromise, and extraordinary persistence.

Second, the Steering Committee process met the test of ensuring robust involvement by diverse stakeholders. Virtually every stakeholder group was represented. Agendas were published, timelines were adopted, information was shared about the risk to Arizona’s water supplies, and small group discussions were encouraged to work through difficult issues. At times the meetings were contentious. Yet the process also produced creative solutions, good faith negotiations, and broad consensus on the essential aspects of the plan.

Kevin Moran
Kevin Moran

Third, key government leaders like Gov. Doug Ducey, Senate President Karen Fann, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, and the CAP Board each made funding commitments that sent powerful signals to the stakeholders and facilitated agreement on the plan’s conservation and water sharing components.

Fourth, it helps to have a deadline – and this came in the form of stern, timely leadership from federal Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. Last December Burman announced that the seven Colorado River basin states had to complete the multi-state DCP agreements by January 31, 2019 or one would be imposed by the federal government. Arizona’s leadership in enacting its statute by that deadline set the stage for California to complete its own plan.

Finally, the entire process was defined by bipartisanship. A water crisis would impact all of us, regardless of party affiliation, something leaders from both parties at the Legislature recognized as they participated in the Steering Committee. State Sen. Lisa Otondo (D-Yuma), for example, met the sometimes steep learning curve of a complex subject head-on, emerging as a trusted educator for her fellow legislators. Her hard work earned her special recognition by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its end-of-session awards ceremony. On Capitol Hill, Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Raul Grijalva, lawmakers who typically occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum, shepherded the federal implementation of the DCP through to passage. The success of the DCP could and should prove to be a model for how to find solutions to other difficult public policy challenges.

Arizona will need to bring the same quality of leadership and creative problem-solving that produced the DCP success story when water stakeholders resume work on the other pillars of a sustainable water future:  protecting groundwater in both urban and rural areas, starting the regional process of re-negotiating the 2007 Interim Guidelines, and finding collaborative ways of conserving water while benefitting Arizona’s rivers and streams. The passage of DCP was historic for Arizona.  Now, we have an opportunity to develop solutions for the long-term conservation of our state’s precious water resources.

Kevin Moran is the Senior Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Western Water Program. He served as a member of the Steering Committee that developed the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan. Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also served on the Steering Committee.

Billionaire Tom Steyer to spend $2 million on AZ youth vote initiative

Tom Steyer is interviewed on Cheddar on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, April 2, 2018. Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund magnate-turned-liberal activist, has committed at least $31 million this year to what is believed to be the largest youth vote organizing effort in American history. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Tom Steyer is interviewed on Cheddar on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, April 2, 2018. Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund magnate-turned-liberal activist, has committed at least $31 million this year to what is believed to be the largest youth vote organizing effort in American history. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Hoping to incite a blue wave in Arizona, billionaire mega-donor Tom Steyer will pour at least $2 million into state elections this year.

Steyer’s youth vote program will focus on keeping Democratic control of Arizona’s 1st and 9th Congressional Districts and flipping the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican running for U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat.

Steyer is also aiming to propel Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to victory in the open U.S. Senate race and unseat Gov. Doug Ducey, who is up for re-election this year.

While Steyer has poured money into Democratic causes for several election cycles, this will mark the first year Arizona will be included in Steyer’s youth organizing movement NextGen Rising. Steyer is investing $30 million in 10 states to push Democrats to victory in the midterm elections.

“We’ll see if we’re right, but we think that there is an aura around Arizona being a bright red state that is out of date,” Steyer said in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times.

Steyer’s strategy is to get young voters, largely those on college campuses and those between the ages of 18 and 35, registered to vote and politically engaged. Polls show President Donald Trump is especially unpopular among young voters, who tend to skew more liberal.

The Democratic activist, who made his wealth managing a hedge fund, may have political aspirations of his own. Steyer’s campaign to impeach President Donald Trump and his recently launched series of town hall meetings with voters have boosted speculation that he may run for president in 2020.

NextGen Arizona already has 19 paid staffers on the ground, and they expect to have 55 in the state by November. In addition to targeting nearly 800,000 young voters through direct mail and digital advertising, NextGen will work on 24 Arizona college campuses, including 12 community colleges and Diné College.

Arizona GOP spokeswoman Ayshia Connors called Steyer’s plans a waste of money.

“We are aware that he’s doing this and launching campaigns here to try and butt in, but every time he sticks his nose into business in other states it hasn’t paid off for him,” she said.

The conservative Koch Brothers have their own youth organizing group called Generation Opportunity, a sister organization to Americans for Prosperity. But the Arizona chapter has no plans to get involved in 2018 elections at this time, said Chalon Hutson, the group’s field director.

NextGen prides itself on using new digital strategies and unique tactics to appeal to millennial voters.

On Tuesday, the group will hold a music festival at Northern Arizona University and host a petting zoo at Arizona State University to entice students to register to vote.

But NextGen doesn’t forsake traditional get-out-the-vote strategies. The group plans to knock on at least 43,000 doors, and will focus on issues such as immigration, access to affordable healthcare, making higher education more affordable and climate change.

Funneling young voters’ passion on the issues incites them to vote in large, statewide races, but also gets them fired up about down ballot races and initiatives, Steyer said.

“The great thing about doing grassroots [organizing], particularly for young voters, is it’s really a turnout question to a great extent,” Steyer said. “If you get people into the issues, if you get people engaged in the political process and they subsequently participate at the polls, then they’re going to vote in every single one of those elections.”

Steyer has seen mixed results with his NextGen program. While the organization saw great success in Virginia in 2016, the group has suffered political losses in some redder states.

In Virginia last year, the youth vote program helped catapult Democrat Ralph Northam to victory in the governor’s race and played a role in electing an unprecedented number of Democrats to Virginia’s House of Delegates — drastically altering the makeup of the state legislature. Young voters, who are typically fair-weather voters, turned out in record numbers.

NextGen will base its Arizona strategy off what they did in Virginia, but the progressive political group will have more time in this state. NextGen embedded in Virginia approximately four months before the general election. Seven months out from the general election, NextGen is already making its presence known in Arizona.

Tom Steyer is also pushing a renewable energy ballot initiative that would force Arizona utilities to get half their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Getting the 225,953 valid signatures by July 5 to put the measure on the ballot will likely cost millions, but climate issues are near and dear to Steyer’s advocacy. He initially formed NextGen Climate (now NextGen America) as an initiative to fight climate change.

But Arizona utilities are putting up a fight against Steyer’s Clean Energy for Healthy Arizona Amendment. The state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co., worked with lawmakers to pass legislation that would essentially nullify the ballot measure by reducing the fines on utility companies failing to comply down to a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $500.

APS also crafted it’s own ballot initiative that on paper, looks nearly identical to the clean energy amendment, but gives electric utilities an out because it prohibits the Arizona Corporation Commission from implementing the renewable energy mandate should it have any effect on customers’ bills.

“Obviously, it’s a very confusing time because of what APS has done,” Steyer said. “They’re making this a very confusing thing.”

Steyer’s initiative would tie the commission’s hands, but the opposing ballot measure empowers the corporation commission to do what they were authorized to do by evaluating energy projects and regulating utilities, said Arizonans for Affordable Energy spokesman Matt Benson.

The APS-backed measure is still making its way through the legislature.

“I think the point is to give voters a choice and to highlight for voters the unintended consequences of approving Tom Steyer’s initiative, Benson said.

Should both initiatives make it on the November ballot, the one with the most votes will become law.

Bills would insert politicians into private, medical decisions


On February 25, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., demonstrated just how out-of-touch she is with the people of Arizona when she voted in support of two pieces of anti-choice legislation designed to attack reproductive freedom through dangerous disinformation about abortion. I was shocked and disappointed to see a guest column on the Arizona Capitol Times website on February 25 peddling the same harmful disinformation in an effort to promote political interference in deeply personal family decisions.

The two bills referenced in this week’s column and supported by McSally are part of a coordinated effort between Republicans and the anti-choice movement to weaponize disinformation in hopes of distracting from their unpopular agenda of banning abortion. The truth is, supporters of this legislation are using inflammatory terms not grounded in medical science in an effort to mislead Arizonans and push forward an extreme agenda to ban abortion. What these bills would really do is insert politicians into Arizonans’ personal decisions about pregnancy, often in devastating circumstances when something has gone terribly wrong with a pregnancy or a baby is dying and can’t survive for long.

Most of us try to live our lives without interfering in other people’s lives. When families are making difficult, complicated, personal medical decisions, one-size-fits-all laws don’t work. Arizonans know this – that’s why a majority support safe and legal access to abortion.

When it comes to abortion or pregnancy loss, politicians in Washington, DC and Phoenix cannot know what every woman and her family is going through. They are going to hurt real people in complicated situations, people who are trying to make the best decisions for their families, often when faced with heartbreaking news. We need elected officials to stand with the majority of Arizonans who support a woman’s right to make personal decisions about pregnancy free from interference from politicians.

Caroline Mello Roberson is Southwest regional director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Buyer beware – McSally turned her back on us

Dear Editor:

Senator Martha McSally has flooded the airways with advertisements stating she will protect our health care. Instead, she just voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is against the Affordable Care Act, to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Justice Barrett will be given the opportunity, in a few weeks, to destroy this law that benefits millions. McSally has just turned her back on the citizens of Arizona, who have counted on the ACA for their survival.

If you were going to vote for Senator McSally, you might want to think about some very frightening facts. The Supreme Court is now, not moderate, but extremely conservative with Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society members who want to change laws that safeguard everyone. It is unconscionable that while more than 55% of adults favor the ACA, 60% believe in science, climate change, and our environment along with 66% who want a woman’s right to choose remain law, the Supreme Court is now prepared to dismantle each of these laws. Think about the control these justices have over your life and their blatant lack of empathy for women, their ignorance regarding science, and their vengeful obsession to get rid of the ACA.

Joanie Rose is a Scottsdale resident.

Campaign season officially kicks off – let the games begin

It’s election season once more, and this cycle starts with a few curveballs.

May 30 marked the deadline for candidates to submit petitions to run for legislative, statewide and congressional offices. Unlike in previous election cycles, few legislative races are uncontested.

In addition to incumbents, a few familiar names popped up, including a surprise primary challenger for Gov. Doug Ducey, a bid by recently-expelled former Yuma Rep. Don Shooter to reclaim his old state Senate seat, and former House Speaker David Gowan, who was accused of misuse of state vehicles, likewise is running for the state Senate.

So, pop some popcorn and settle in for an entertaining election season.

U.S. Senate

Sen. Jeff Flake
Sen. Jeff Flake

The race to fill the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Jeff Flake, who is retiring, is expected to be the biggest contest in Arizona this year.

Republicans face a contentious primary with U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio duking it out in the primary.

Likely Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema also qualified for the ballot. She faces first-time political candidate Deedra Abboud, who is also a lawyer, in the primary.


Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

State Sen. Steve Farley and educator David Garcia, who ran for superintendent of public instruction in 2014, will face off for the chance to take on Gov. Doug Ducey. Also on the Democratic primary ballot is Kelly Fryer, a first-time political candidate who is CEO of the YWCA of Southern Arizona.

But Ducey won’t get to coast to the general election. A last-minute addition to the governor’s race, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett gathered 7,828 signatures in about six weeks to qualify for the Republican primary.

Ducey’s campaign seems unfazed by the competition. “It would not be an election cycle without Ken Bennett on the ballot,” said J.P. Twist, Ducey’s campaign manager.

Ducey’s campaign war chest sits at $3 million on hand, which means Bennett, who is hoping to use Clean Elections funding, can’t compete financially. But Bennett, who came in fourth in the six-way Republican primary contest for governor in 2014, is undaunted by Ducey’s formidable cash advantage and is preparing to hit the governor on his record.

“Four years ago, he ran on a bunch of promises,” Bennett said. “Many of those promises turned out to be not true. We’re in this race because the truth matters.”

Secretary of State

Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)
Michele Reagan at her 2015 inauguration (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

In the secretary of state’s race, Republican Steve Gaynor takes on incumbent Michele Reagan. A wealthy businessman, Gaynor has vowed to self-fund his campaign to take out Reagan, who some Republicans fear may be vulnerable in the general election.  Democrats in the race are Sen. Katie Hobbs, Leslie Pico and Mark Robert Gordon.



Four Republicans and four Democrats are hoping to get their party’s nod for the congressional seat that McSally is vacating. This could be the most competitive congressional race, not only because of the open seat but because history shows the 2nd Congressional District is a true tossup district.

A similar situation exists in CD9, the seat occupied by Sinema, with three Republicans and two Democrats vying for the nominations. But that district leans slightly more Democrat in performance than southern Arizona’s CD2.

And in CD8, Republican Debbie Lesko, who just won a special election to replace Trent Franks, will have to defend her seat in the primary. Former Maricopa County School Superintendent Sandra Dowling, who pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor to end felony bid-rigging charges years ago, wants to be the GOP nominee in the heavy Republican district. Democratic candidate Hiral Tipirneni, Lesko’s opponent in the special election, is also gunning for a second chance at the seat.

Arizona Senate 

LD6: Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, who is termed out after serving eight years in the House, is looking to unseat her seatmate, Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake. The Republican winner will face off against Democrat Wade Carlisle in the general election.

LD23: Tim Jeffries, who was fired as head of the Department of Economic Security, is running in a four-way GOP primary that includes Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who is termed out of the House. Jeffries was ousted amid reports that he fired hundreds of state employees and used a state plane to travel to Nogales to drink with employees who gave up their job protections.

LD27: As Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, steps down to run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, her nephew, Cipriano Miranda, aims to keep the family name in the Legislature and has filed to run for the open seat, but so has House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, who hopes to make the switch to the Senate.

LD28: Mark Syms, husband of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, is challenging Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, in a move that could jeopardize the GOP’s hold on the critical swing district. Running as an independent, Mark Syms’ candidacy has some Republicans worried that his campaign will throw the race to Democratic candidate Christine Marsh. Mark Syms had jumped into the legislative race after Republican Kathy Petsas, who is viewed as holding more centrist views, filed to compete for a House seat.

LD30: House Reps. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, and Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, are facing off for the seat.

Arizona House

Teachers: A handful of teachers inspired by the “Red for Ed” movement are running for legislative seats. Middle school teacher Jennifer Samuels qualified to run for the House in LD15 and is one of three Democrats in the race. Bonnie Hickman, a teacher in the Gilbert Unified School District, is competing in a crowded field of Republicans gunning to take out Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, in LD16. Several other teachers are seeking legislative seats.

LD2: Former state Rep. John Christopher Ackerley, a one-term Republican who held a seat in the predominantly Democratic district, is attempting a comeback. Ackerley pulled off an upset victory in 2014 but lost to Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, two years later. Ackerley will face off against Anthony Sizer, an engineer also seeking the Republican nomination. Hernandez and Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Green Valley, have also filed to run.

LD5: Incumbents Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, and Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, face two primary challengers – businessman Leo Biasiucci, who ran as a Green Party candidate in 2012, and Jennifer Jones-Esposito, first vice chair of the La Paz County Republican Committee. The two GOP winners will face off against Democrat Mary McCord Robinson in November. The race, however, recently turned ugly after Biasiucci and his allies accused Mosley of stealing his nominating petitions from a Lake Havasu City gun store. Mosley denied the allegation and instead accused the gun store owner of having thrown away his petitions. Though Cobb said she isn’t running on a slate with any of the three other candidates, she said she urged Biasiucci to get into the race and run against Mosley.

LD16: Five Republican candidates are looking to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction, or to unseat Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, a vocal opponent of the “Red for Ed” movement. Townsend consulted with lawyers about the possibility of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those affected by the walkout.

LD24: Democrats, including incumbent Rep. Ken Clark, of Phoenix, faces a seven-way primary for the district’s two House seats. Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, is termed out and is running for the Senate.

LD28: Democrats abandoned their single-shot strategy as they seek to capitalize on an expected “blue wave” in November. In addition to Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, Aaron Lieberman, also of Paradise Valley, has filed to run for the Democratic nomination. This is the first time since 2002 that Democrats have fielded two House candidates in the district. Two Republicans are also gunning for the House seats: Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, and Kathy Petsas, the district’s GOP chairwoman and a longtime Republican activist. While Petsas is ostensibly running against Butler and Republicans are hoping to get three for three in November, Petsas could unseat Syms instead. Syms has struck a decidedly conservative tone in her famously moderate district, while Petsas boasts more moderate credentials.

 Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

Candidates can’t count on recount in close races

Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a "vote" sign outside a polling station prior to it's opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections official Deborah Atkins places a “vote” sign outside a polling station prior to it’s opening, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Any losing candidate in the general election who is counting on an automatic recount needs to come close to winning.

Really close.

In statewide races, there is a general law that requires a recount if the margin of votes between the two candidates is one-tenth of one percent. With perhaps 2.3 million votes already counted or yet to be tabulated in the race for U.S. Senate between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally, that would translate out to about 2,300.

But here’s the thing.

The same law says a recount is based on the lesser of that 0.1 percent or 200 votes. And given the number of votes cast statewide, it would be the 200 votes that would trigger a new count.

That same law applies to the race for school superintendent, though that contest does not appear close.

But the final tally in the race for secretary of state could come within that margin. In fact, at one point this week the difference was just 150 votes, with Democrat Katie Hobbs in the lead over Republican Steve Gaynor.

It could take days before the final tallies are in.

Recounts on legislative races require an even closer margin, with the process being triggered by a 50-vote difference.

State Elections Director Eric Spencer said there can be no action on a recount until the official canvass of votes. That’s set for Dec. 3.

If one of the races falls within the margin, don’t expect to see rooms full of workers examining ballots by hand. Instead, the machines that tabulated the ballots in the first place are reprogrammed and the ballots are fed back through them again.

There is a check of sorts on the machines.

Officials from both political parties select 5 percent of the precincts where the ballots cast there are then examined by hand.

If that hand count comes within the designated margin, then the machine recount is certified as correct. That designated margin is 2 percent for early ballots and 1 percent for polling places.

Spencer said if the hand count is outside that margin, an even larger random batch of precincts are added to the mix. And if that count also comes outside the margins, then Arizona would be looking at a total hand recount.

Recounts are not rare in Arizona.

Two years ago Andy Biggs won the Republican nomination for Congress after his margin of victory over Christine Jones came within the 200 votes. As it turned out, the recount added four votes to his tally and subtracted seven from hers, giving Biggs the win by a margin of just 27 votes.

McSally is no stranger to recounts. She got her congressional seat in 2014 by ousting incumbent Democrat Ron Barber by just 167 votes following a recount.

And in 2010 a bid by the Legislature to change the Arizona Constitution to reduce the amount of time people had to file initiative petitions failed on Election Day by 128 votes, triggering a recount. In the end, the margin of defeat was 194 votes.

Spencer said there is no provision in Arizona for an unhappy candidate or political party to demand a recount, even if offering to pay for it. But he said there are other sections of state law that allow someone to sue to contest the results.

But the law has only a specified number of grounds to support litigation, ranging from evidence of bribes and illegal votes to the candidate being ineligible to hold office.

Spencer said those challenges also have to wait until after the formal canvass.

Climate changes affect everyone, time to act


Why should I care!?

That is a question that I often hear when I speak with others about climate change. It is not an easy one to answer but it must be answered. The truth is that climate change affects every one of us, daily. It is hard to grasp the idea of climate change if one does not see the affects directly; however, this is far from the truth.

Arlinda Bajrami
Arlinda Bajrami

Climate change is happening as I type out this sentence. Temperatures are increasing at dangerous rates this summer not only here in Arizona but all over the country. I have heard some people also ask “Well, what does this mean?” This means that every single person must constantly worry about their health. It means that people must spend less time outdoors and more time indoors with the AC blasting increasing the use of energy which results in higher utility rates.

This also means that as temperatures increase, then places like Arizona will experience more days where the air quality is dangerous. Environmental regulators all across Arizona have issued ozone pollution advisories several times this month, which is formed when vehicle exhaust and chemical solvents combine with extreme heat. These types of advisories are not only dangerous to everyone but even more dangerous to those who have respiratory problems, children, and the elderly. Who wants to continue to live like this? I don’t think many people would say yes.

We must combat climate change and we can do that not only individually by taking public transportation, carpooling, recycling and reusing, tree planting, but also at the city, state, and national level. We can do this by holding our elected officials accountable and advocate for the support of climate change bills, such as S. 1743, the International Climate Accountability Act. This bill will direct the president to develop a strategic plan for the United States to meet its commitment and standards as required under the Paris Agreement. This bill is important because the United States is responsible for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is the primary cause of global warming. If the United States officially leaves the Paris Agreement, it is reported that this will have devastating impacts on our economy, costing billions of dollars.

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has co-sponsored this bill, however, Senator McSally has not. This is where everyone can make an impact to combat climate change. People in Arizona must contact McSally to advocate for this bill. Everyone can do this by contacting McSally’s office at (602) 952-2410 and asking her to support S. 1743 and everyone can sign Mi Familia Vota’s online petition called Stop Trump’s Attacks on Climate Action at bit.ly/ClimateActNOW.

Arlinda Bajrami is an environmental justice organizer for Mi Familia Vota.

Court upholds Ducey’s decision on U.S. Senate election

Sen. Martha McSally in December 2018 when Gov. Doug Ducey announced he would tap her the following month to replace Sen. John McCain. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Sen. Martha McSally in December 2018 when Gov. Doug Ducey announced he would tap her the following month to replace Sen. John McCain. PHOTO BY HOWARD FISCHER/CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES

Martha McSally can keep the U.S. Senate seat she was given by Gov. Doug Ducey through at least the end of the year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

In an extensive ruling, the three-judge panel concluded that Arizona law gives the governor broad discretion in deciding when to call a special election to fill an unexpired term. In this case, they said, Ducey was within his power to call the election for later this year – four years into the term of the late Sen. John McCain – rather than earlier.

Judge Milan Smith Jr., writing for the court, acknowledged that there will be a 27-month gap between the August 2018 death of John McCain and the chance for voters to decide who they want in office. Ducey initially appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, replacing him with McSally in January 2019.

At the heart of the fight is the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which took the power to name U.S. senators away from state lawmakers.

It also says when there are vacancies the governor “shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.” Ducey did that, setting the primary for Aug. 25 of this year and the general election for Nov. 3 to determine who fills out the rest of the term which ends at the end of 2022.

Thursday’s ruling, unless overturned, sets the stage for McSally to continue her bid to try to keep the seat for another two years against a challenge by Democrat Mark Kelly.

The lawsuit filed in November 2018 by five registered voters – two Democrats, one independent, one Libertarian and one Republican – argued that the U.S. Constitution requires the appointment to be temporary “until the people fill the vacancies by election as the Legislature may direct.” Attorney Michael Persoon argued there should be a special election before the end of 2020, an election that could result in voters choosing someone other than McSally – and other than a Republican – to serve through the end of McCain’s term in 2022.

The problem with that, Smith said, is that there is legal precedent to the contrary. He cited a 1969 federal appellate court ruling which found it was not unreasonable for the state of New York to wait until November 1970 to have an election to fill the vacancy created by the June 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy, a gap of 29 months.

And in this case, Smith said, the lapse between McCain’s death and the 2020 general election is less than that. That the judge said, makes the timing of Ducey’s special election call “a permissible exercise of the state’s discretion.”

Still, he acknowledged, that still leaves the question of what constitutes “temporary” in the context of the governor’s power to temporarily fill the vacancy.

“We would have difficulty reading it to approach anything nearing that full six-year term,” Smith said. Separately the judges threw out the challenge to the part of state law that required Ducey to appoint a Republican, like McCain. The judges pointed out that the governor said he would have appointed McSally even if that restriction did not exist.

DACA can make the American Dream a reality for thousands


The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on November 12. Court injunctions have left protections temporarily in place, but should the Supreme Court make a decision terminating the program, which they could as early as January 2020, these protections will be stripped and Dreamers, such as myself, could be subject to deportation. We need our Arizona senators to act now.

Denis Alvarez
Denis Alvarez

For the most part, I know what I want my future to look like. I want to graduate from Arizona State University and become an educator. I want to stay in Arizona and give back to my South Phoenix community. These are end goals that I have made for myself and have been developing from the mentorship of my sisters, parents, and teachers.

At five years old, my family immigrated to Arizona. My parents have always emphasized that education would take me where I want to go. I am fortunate that I was here at the right time and at the right age and to have had a resource for me to attend college. DACA was announced when I was 13. By the time I was 16, the hard work had already been done by those who came before me. I was eligible to have a driver’s license, to work, and to apply to the few DACA eligible programs and scholarships. I didn’t think about what I would do if I didn’t have this. It wasn’t until I was crying in my counselor’s office that morning of September 5th, scared because what I felt so certain about once before, now felt impossible. I didn’t know what DACA being rescinded meant for me, my scholarship, and my ability to study at ASU. I had the opportunity to step on to campus as a student and I wasn’t willing to let it become temporary.

The DACA program has made my ability to achieve the American Dream a reality, but without it, I could be subject to deportation to a country I hardly even know or remember, taking with me all that I’ve worked towards and contribute to my community, family, and Arizona economy.

I am not alone in this. If the Supreme Court terminates DACA protections, the more than 30,000 Arizona DACA recipients like myself will be removed from our studies and places of work, and the state could lose $1.3 billion in annual GDP.

Arizona’s economy and communities throughout this state will be negatively affected if our protections are stripped. I encourage my fellow DACA recipients to renew while they can and ask that Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally work in a bipartisan manner to pass permanent protections for Dreamers through legislation such as the American Dream and Promise Act before it’s too late.

Denis Alvarez is the lead advocacy director for Undocumented Students for Education Equality.

Dem gubernatorial candidates deplete cash as primary nears

Steve Farley and David Garcia
Steve Farley and David Garcia

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.

Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls Kelly Fryer, Steve Farley and David Garcia debate Tuesday night. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Democrat gubernatorial hopefuls Kelly Fryer, Steve Farley and David Garcia debate Tuesday night. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

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.

Democrat Kelly reports $12.8 million for Arizona Senate bid

Mark Kelly rallies supporters at the launch of his campaign for U.S. Senate on Feb. 24, 2019, at the Van Buren in Phoenix. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Democrat Mark Kelly says he raised nearly $12.8 million during the second quarter for his bid to unseat Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally.

Kelly’s campaign said Tuesday he’ll report having nearly $24 million in the bank at the end of June.

The retired astronaut has consistently outraised McSally in one of the most closely watched 2020 Senate contests. He’s reported the strongest fundraising of all Senate candidates this year, including incumbents.

McSally has not yet disclosed her fundraising haul for the second quarter.

McSally took office last year after she was appointed to the seat left empty when Sen. John McCain died. Democrats see the seat as a prime pickup opportunity after McSally lost a 2018 race for the state’s other Senate seat to Kyrsten Sinema, the first Democrat to win a Senate contest in Arizona in three decades.

Arizona has shown promise for Democrats, who now control five of nine U.S. House districts and several statewide offices.

Democratic fundraising titans prepare for Arizona clash in 2020

Mark Kelly speaks with supporters at the Phoenix launch of his U.S. Senate campaign at The Van Buren on February 24, 2019. A litany of Democratic PACS are spending big money in Arizona to turn the state blue. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Mark Kelly speaks with supporters at the Phoenix launch of his U.S. Senate campaign at The Van Buren on February 24, 2019. A litany of Democratic PACS are spending big money in Arizona to turn the state blue. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

Big-money national Democratic groups are gearing up for what could prove to be a watershed election in Arizona, investing millions in staff, advertising and canvassing efforts to swing key races and turn out likely Democratic voters.

Success would mean more than picking up a Senate seat and winning some congressional races, though that certainly wouldn’t hurt the Democratic cause. Key victories could be a testament to the contestability of once-staunchly Republican Arizona – in essence, the extension of an invitation to moneyed progressive causes that now have evidence of a return on their investments in the state. This has its own suite of implications – on local campaign strategy, candidate messaging and the efficacy of outside-the-party PAC fundraising against institutional party fundraising. 

A litany of Democratic PACs with seemingly computer-generated names like NextGen America, the Progressive Turnout Project, Flippable, MoveOn, Arena, the FutureNow Fund and others have all announced large investments in the state, building on groundwork laid in the last election cycle, which served as a sort of coming-out party for the state in national Democratic circles.

The 2018 election cycle introduced many in this cast of characters to the state political scene – NextGen, founded and largely funded by now-presidential candidate Tom Steyer, spent $3.4 million in Arizona last year. FutureNow, founded by Pritzker Family scion Adam Pritzker, economist Jeffrey Sachs and former New York Assemblyman Daniel Squadron, spent heavily on the 2018 Senate race in LD28, in which teacher Christine Marsh fell short of unseating Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, by two-tenths of a percent.

Several consultants, strategists and PAC staffers on both sides of the aisle told the Arizona Capitol Times that the positive results in that cycle – which netted the Democratic Party several seats in the state House, four statewide positions and generated wave turnouts among typically low-propensity voters – opened the door for the influx of national interests that are already preparing for battle in 2020, even as primaries in most races remain heavily contested. 

And if returns are again positive this cycle, if the fractured but powerful Democratic fundraising machine is able to take on the institutional fundraising arms of the GOP, it could well mean that Arizona voters should expect more of the same in future years. 

“The national implication for Arizona is at a zenith,” said Mike Noble, a pollster and former GOP strategist with OH Predictive Insights. “If you would have said four or five years ago that the Democrats could have two U.S. senators, people would be looking at sending you to the looney bin.”


Two years ago, Alex Galeana was a NextGen regional director in California’s Central Valley. Ahead of him was a daunting task: flipping California’s 10th Congressional District, which went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 but had been represented by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican, since 2013. It was slated to be one of the most competitive races in the country, in an agricultural district with a large Hispanic population that Democrats had struggled to make headway in. 

Denham would lose to Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder by almost five points, a bellwether result that gives a sense of the kind of races that Galeana, now NextGen’s state director in Arizona, is used to working.

“We have the infrastructure from 2018,” he said. “We organized one of the biggest youth voting programs in (Arizona’s) history. I don’t see a scenario in which we don’t succeed.”

The organization is investing $45 million across 11 battleground states in 2020, and Arizona is at the top of the list. While NextGen is reluctant to release exactly how much they aim to spend in Arizona, press secretary Heather Greven said it’ll be “the biggest initial commitment to Arizona we’ve ever had since our organization formed in 2013.” 

This means, she said, at least 55 paid staff by Election Day and upwards of 360 organizers. This behemoth organizing effort has a similar focus as in 2018: registering young people, especially young people of color, and turning them out to vote for Democrats, namely Mark Kelly and whomever the eventual Demcoratic nominee for president is. And Greven said that no race was off the table, whether that means taking on Rep. David Schweikert, the GOP incumbent in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, where a close contest is brewing, or trying to flip the state House, where the Republican party has only a two-vote majority. 

“We stayed here after 2018, and we’ve been running all through 2019,” Greven said. “The board doesn’t get erased between cycles.”

And though NextGen claims primacy in the voter registration game, it’s far from the only organization coming into Arizona with that objective. Progressive Turnout Project, a grassroots organization founded by a former treasurer for the campaign of Illinois Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider, is planning at least a $2 million initial investment in the state for 2020. That money, said spokeswoman Kait Sweeney, will buy five offices, 62 staffers and a goal of knocking on 886,000 doors. 

“We looked at the data of, where can we be the biggest value ad for the party, what races are going to be the deciding factor,” Sweeney said. And that data pointed to, among other states, Arizona. 

“We’re looking for states where there’ll be a major race, and where the number of low-propensity voters is greater than the margin of victory,” she said. 

Congressman David Schweikert speaks at a panel at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 2013 Manufacturer of the Year summit. Schweikert, the GOP incumbent in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, could be in for a close race in the 2020 general election and Democratic PACS have indicated they will spend large to turn the state to Democratic control. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Congressman David Schweikert speaks at a panel at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 2013 Manufacturer of the Year summit. Schweikert, the GOP incumbent in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, could be in for a close race in the 2020 general election and Democratic PACS have indicated they will spend large to turn the state to Democratic control. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

And this is just a sample of the smorgasbord of national interests that will be playing in the state in 2020. FutureNow, which in 2018 spent heavily on the campaigns of Marsh and Rep. Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, and made regular $30,000 or $50,000 contributions to the Arizona Democratic Party, is targeting the state House. Need to Impeach is paying for mobile billboards to traverse CD6, demanding that Schweikert voice support for impeachment of President Donald Trump. 

“Progressive groups are cognizant of the importance of our state,” said Ben Scheel, a Democratic strategist and director of Bright Phoenix. “Under Obama, local elections were not the focus of the DNC or any other leading progressive groups. Now, we’re seeing investment.”

Flat Footed 

The focus in 2018 was turnout, and Democratic groups succeeded on that front. Almost 65% of the state’s registered voters cast ballots, a figure driven in part by enthusiastic participation by young people and women, both groups that lean leftward. While it’s hard to point specifically at participation by groups like NextGen as a root cause – especially when broader national factors were at play – their presence was certainly felt.

The group sent 1.2 million pieces of direct mail and registered more than 20,000 young voters in Arizona. All this in an election where the Republican fundraising machine was caught flat footed, said George Khalaf, a GOP strategist and CEO of Data Orbital, a polling firm. 

But he insists that in a general election with a literal celebrity in the White House and political groups abuzz with talk about the existential stakes of the election, spending millions on turnout may not generate the same kind of returns that doing so did in 2018. 

“I have seen a lot of national groups come in and be fairly misguided, or read the tea leaves wrong,” he said. “Any group that’s coming out and doing get-out-the-vote, it’s not going to be the same impact that it was in 2018.”

That’s not to say that those groups shouldn’t think about Arizona, he said. In fact, he recommended that they double down, if they want to win. Rather, he said they should be careful.

An influx of national attention in a local race can mean nationalizing the race itself, something Democrats, especially in competitive districts, usually try to avoid, he said 

National Democratic groups spent heavily in 2018 in the race between teacher Christine Marsh, left, and Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee in Legislative District 28, but were unsuccessful. Democrats again are targeting the district.
National Democratic groups spent heavily in 2018 in the race between teacher Christine Marsh, left, and Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee in Legislative District 28, but were unsuccessful. Democrats again are targeting the district.

Marsh, who lost in LD28 to Brophy McGee, said the national attention her race got didn’t pressure her to change her message. But that was in a midterm.

“With Arizona being an official battleground state, and Maricopa especially, with people talking about the presidency going through Maricopa County, I don’t know if that will change,” she said. 

Moreover, Republicans will likely recognize what they failed to in 2018, Khalaf said – that the state is in play. And while GOP PACs founded by the millionaire du jour aren’t sending out press releases about ad buys and registration efforts like their counterparts on the left are, the Republicans have the advantage of holding power in the White House and the Senate. This means that PACs associated with Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, like Senate Leadership Fund, or OneNation, which have both accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars to defend Senate seats, including U.S. Sen. Martha McSally’s, will enter the fray. As will groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund and America First Action, which is associated with Trump. 

“Will they be caught flat footed again? I don’t think so,” said Noble, of OH Predictive Insights. 

Democrats in the state will not only have to contend with those leviathan fundraising operations, but will also have to grow accustomed to the strategic environment created by having so many fish in a relatively small pond. 

The arrival of national cavalry will likely mean more homogenous and possibly national  messaging in Democratic campaigns, though Scheel, the Democrat strategist, feels that’s probably a good thing, given the funding-dry environment he’s used to. 

And it could also mean a competition for staffing and resources, as most groups want to hire as many local operatives as possible — not to mention presidential campaigns will also be looking to make local hires.

“We’re trying to run campaigns, and there are 47,000 Democrats running for president. Try hiring a regional field director,” said Rodd McLeod, a longtime Democratic strategist in Arizona. 

But even with the logistical challenges, and even with the risk of nationalizing the messaging, and even if turnout isn’t the make-or-break factor in 2020, why should Democrats say no to extra attention?

“In 2018, the big national money didn’t invest in the governor’s race,” said McLeod. “When we don’t have their investment, but the other side does, then they cream us.”

Test Case 

If the money comes through, and the results look peachy — especially in the state Legislature and in swing districts like the 6th Congressional District, it’s hard to imagine that Arizona won’t be considered in play for the foreseeable future, Khalaf said.

But for Galeana, of NextGen, it’s about more than what the numbers say on the Secretary of State’s website in November. He sees Arizona as a test case: it’s a purplish state with a growing population, of which an increasing share is nonwhite. 

As the Democratic Party looks to assert itself in other states once thought unwinnable — think, perhaps, in the South — Arizona’s role grows. 

“When it comes to demographics, a lot of people should look at Arizona,” Galeana said. “Arizona can be a model for the rest of the country.”

Corrections: This story has been revised to correct the spelling of Alex Galeana. 

Dems squander record turnout, sky-high enthusiasm

Arizona Democrats had lofty ambitions heading into Election Day.

Their wish list included picking up a U.S. Senate seat, ousting Gov. Doug Ducey, picking up other statewide seats and flipping the state Senate.

Despite record turnout, even among groups that don’t typically vote, and unrivaled levels of progressive enthusiasm that was predicted to be a “blue wave” ended up being closer to a pale blue ripple.

Democrats fielded a candidate in nearly every federal, statewide and legislative race — a strategy to boost turnout and propel more Democrats to victory. But the strategy has yet to net Democrats any major victories. As of press time, several key races were undecided because approximately 600,000 votes were still being processed.

Here’s a look at the Democratic wins and losses this election cycle.

Arizona Senate (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Senate (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

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.

(Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
A crowd of red-clad teachers, students and Red for Ed supporters could be seen from the top of a parking garage near Chase Field as they gathered there on April 26 before marching to the Arizona Capitol. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

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.

In this photo taken Wednesday, June 27, 2018, environmental activist & billionaire Tom Steyer poses at his offices in San Francisco. Arizona’s largest utility is fiercely opposing a push to mandate increased use of renewable energy in the sun-drenched state, setting up a political fight over the measure funded by Steyer. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this photo taken Wednesday, June 27, 2018, environmental activist & billionaire Tom Steyer poses at his offices in San Francisco. Arizona’s largest utility is fiercely opposing a push to mandate increased use of renewable energy in the sun-drenched state, setting up a political fight over the measure funded by Steyer. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Tom Steyer

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.

He spent $545,000 on efforts to get Garcia elected and poured $250,000 into electing Democrats to the Corporation Commission, a race that is still too close to call. Democrat Sandra Kennedy trails both Republican candidates by 1 percentage point.

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.

“Kiss my ass, Tom Steyer” he said. Steyer’s group, NextGen, spent upwards of $3.6 million on attack ads against Brnovich.

But pro-Prop. 127 group Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona says the benefits of running the initiative campaign are there, but intangible.

The group claims the clean energy campaign attained a higher goal: Damaging the reputation of Arizona Public Service Co. and reducing the company’s influence on state politics.

“I feel like we’ve changed the dynamics against them to the point that being seen as cozy with APS is now a liability,” said Eric Hyers, campaign manager for the clean energy initiative.

Yenni Sanchez, 18, has registered people to vote for three years. She said that she registers as many people as she can because she isn’t eligible to vote. Daniel Flores, 16, is also a volunteer. (Courtney Columbus/News21)
Yenni Sanchez, 18, has registered people to vote for three years. She said that she registers as many people as she can because she isn’t eligible to vote. Daniel Flores, 16, is also a volunteer. (Courtney Columbus/News21)

Youth vote

Another Steyer initiative, NextGen sunk $3.4 million into registering new, young people to vote and getting them to the polls on Election Day.

And on its face, it appeared the efforts worked as many Arizona State University students waited in line for more than two hours to vote at a polling place on campus.

Youth-dense precincts at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona all showed significantly higher voter turnout than in 2014 — the last midterm election, according to data from NextGen.

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.

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Woman power

Democrats ran a diverse slate of candidates, predominantly women and minorities, this election cycle.

So far, none of them won any statewide seats, but several races were still too close to call.

Women will shatter Arizona’s glass ceiling in the U.S. Senate this year regardless of who wins. Either Republican Martha McSally or Sinema will become the first female senator from Arizona.

Arizona Democrats still have a chance to boost female representation in statewide offices as the Corporation Commission and superintendent of public instruction races are still close.

Democrat Hoffman is locked in a close race for superintendent with Frank Riggs, who leads by less than 8,000 votes.

Political newcomer Steve Gaynor was declared the winner of the secretary of state’s race, but Democrat Katie Hobbs has not conceded because she trails by 2.6 percentage points with about 600,000 ballots uncounted.

On the Republican side, in winning her bid for state treasurer, Kimberly Yee became the first Chinese-American Republican woman in the country to be elected to a major statewide office.

Despite slight drop, Arizona still leads nation in women officeholders

(Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Despite a record number of women running for office this year, Arizona will actually lose one female elected official when congressional and legislative delegations take office in January.

But experts say the one-seat drop is nothing to worry about in a state that has regularly elected women to office, and other states are only now starting to catch up.

“I think the advantage of our history of the ‘wild West,’ where we tend to vote for individuals rather than party line or particular person, has meant that independent women had a seat,” said Catherine Nichols, political director for Arizona List, which is dedicated to electing Democratic women.

“For whatever reason, our voters have chosen to elect individuals over particular party line or traditional candidates,” she said.

Arizona had one of the nation’s highest percentages of women on the ballot this year, according to a Cronkite News review of ballots across the country.

And the state elected its first female U.S. senator as U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Republican, conceded defeat on November 12, to U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

And while Sinema will take Flake’s seat, her seat in the U.S. House will be taken by former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, taking Arizona’s U.S. House delegation from six men and three women to seven men and two women. And unofficial election returns indicate that women will lose one seat in the Arizona Legislature, falling from 36 members today to 35 in 2019.

The state is still a leader in electing women, however, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. While votes from the November 6 election are still being counted, the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL shows Arizona tied with Vermont for the highest percentage of women in the Legislature in 2018, with 40 percent each.

The data shows a pretty consistent increase in women in legislative and congressional seats over the years in Arizona.

Emily Schnurr, a Ph.D. candidate at Northern Arizona University, said she thinks Arizona’s history makes it particularly favorable for female politicians. It became a state during the Progressive Era, so the Arizona Constitution is modeled after many of those principles.

Schnurr said that while the Democratic Party typically sees significantly more female candidates than Republicans in the rest of the country, women are relatively well represented in the Arizona GOP.

“We’re a pretty red state, so I think that partisanship is more important than gender,” Schnurr said. “But we have a lot of women who are Republicans.”

She said women were helped this year by the high number of incumbents retiring or stepping down, which likely contributes to the record-high number of women heading to Congress in 2019.

“Incumbents have name recognition, they’ve got donor records, they’ve got a record that they can run on, and challenging candidates don’t have that,” she said. “As we’re seeing a lot of white men retire … then those open seats have a lot of potential for women to pick them up.”

Nichols of Arizona List said it’s important to have women in elected office.

“If you are a true believer in a republican democracy, there is no way that American politics can be truly representative until you get parity in men and women representing,” Nichols said. “So the more women you have, you simply get a better picture of what voters actually want.”

Nichols said she does not think it will ever be as easy for women to run for office as it is for men, but she does think it will get easier. And she said the rise of women in office will likely inspire more to run each year.

“Every glass ceiling that gets broken makes it easier for the next,” Nichols said. “Oh, we just saw the tip of the iceberg.”

Doug Ducey’s Donald Trump dilemma

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, accompanied by President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting with governors in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018, to discuss border security and restoring safe communities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, accompanied by President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting with governors in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 21, 2018, to discuss border security and restoring safe communities. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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.

Ducey spoke at a local Trump rally in 2016 just after the state’s primary election. But Ducey did not appear at a 2017 Trump rally in Phoenix, although he did welcome the president on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport beforehand.

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.

Weeks before Trump’s endorsement of Ducey, the governor would not say if he wanted the president’s endorsement, in an interview with the Arizona Capitol Times.

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.

Ducey attorneys respond to lawsuit challenging process of Senate appointment

Gov. Doug Ducey appoints Rep. Martha McSally to the fill John McCain’s senate seat currently held by Jon Kyl who stepped down Dec. 31 PHOTO BY DILLON ROSENBLATT/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Attorneys for Gov. Doug Ducey are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit demanding that he call an election — and soon — to determine who will occupy the U.S. Senate seat following the death of John McCain rather than let Martha McSally keep the post until 2020.

In legal papers filed Friday, Brett Johnson, who is leading the legal team, acknowledged that vacancies in the U.S. Senate must be filled by a special election. But Johnson told U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa that the U.S. Constitution allows the Legislature to let Ducey name a senator to serve until the next regular election.

The governor initially named Jon Kyl. And when Kyl quit at the end of last year, Ducey tapped McSally who had just lost her own Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

And the fact that election won’t be until 27 months after McCain’s death last August, he said, does not alter Ducey’s ability to have McSally serve until 2020.

Anyway, Johnson said, a special election solely to name a replacement would not just be expensive but also would give the edge to wealthier candidates.

In a lawsuit filed last year, attorney Michael Kielsky, chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party contends that the governor must call a special election as soon as practicable to fill the post, a period he said is no longer than six months. Kielsky, representing two registered Democrats, one Republican, one Libertarian and an independent, said there is no reason for an unelected person of the governor’s choosing to be able to serve through the end of 2020.

But Johnson said Kielsky is misreading the law.

There is no question but that Arizona law allows a governor to appoint a temporary replacement when a Senate vacancy occurs. That person has to be of the same political party as the senator who quit or died.

And the law does require that there be an election to determine who gets to finish out the balance of the term. In McCain’s case, his term ran through 2022.

Johnson, however, said if the next regular election is not within six months, then the appointee can serve until the regular election after that.

In this case, McCain died on Aug. 25. That was just three days before last year’s primary and 73 days before the general election. Based on that, Johnson said, Ducey had the power to name someone to serve until the 2020 election when the final two years of McCain’s term will again be up for grabs.

Kielsky, however, wants Humetewa to rule that voters should get a chance to name someone of their choice long before the 2020 election — a person who could be of any political party.

Johnson, in his new legal filing, said the “inconvenience and expense of a special election outweighs any advantage to be derived from having a more prompt vacancy election.”

He told the judge a special statewide election in 2016 dealing with school finance cost the state more than $6.4 million. And in this case, Johnson said, a special election would require both a primary and general election.

Johnson also claimed that a special election would give an edge to “special interest groups and candidates with considerable self-wealth or funding” because of what he said the cost of having to finance an off-year campaign. By contrast, he argued, having the vote to fill the balance of the Senate term at a regularly scheduled election “creates a greater opportunity for a stronger pool of candidates to run.”

And Johnson said special elections have a lower turnout.

Johnson also brushed aside the complaint that the current practice is unfair because it means the person that the governor appoints has to be of the same political party as the person being replaced.

No date has been set for a hearing.

Ducey picks McSally for U.S. Senate

U.S. senatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., celebrates her primary election victory, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. McSally will face U.S. Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., in the November election as they seek the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. senatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., celebrates her primary election victory, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed Martha McSally to fill the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Jon Kyl will vacate at the end of the year.

The announcement from the Governor’s Office Tuesday sets up a unique dynamic in which Arizona will be represented in the Senate by former foes.

McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will serve alongside each other after facing off in one of the most contentious and expensive Senate races in Arizona’s history.

In a statement, Ducey praised McSally’s dedication to serving her country, referencing her 26 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and her multiple deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan. He also praised McSally for representing Arizona in Congress for the past four years.

“Martha [McSally] is uniquely qualified to step up and fight for Arizona’s interests in the U.S. Senate,” Ducey said. “I thank her for taking on this significant responsibility and look forward to working with her and Senator-Elect Sinema to get positive things done.”

Ducey’s appointment of McSally comes mere days after Kyl tendered his resignation last week. The governor appointed Kyl in September to fill the seat previously held by the late Sen. John McCain.

Although Kyl could have held the seat until a special election is held in 2020, he promised to serve only through the end of the year.

McSally said she is eager to get to work with Sinema, with all signs indicating that she will not let the contentious Senate race of the past keep them from working together.

“Over the last year, I’ve traveled across this great state, meeting with countless Arizonans, and listening to them,” McSally said in a statement. “I’ve heard about the challenges they face and the hopes they have for the future – and I’ve learned a lot. I am humbled and grateful to have this opportunity to serve and be a voice for all Arizonans.”

In determining who to appoint to replace Kyl, Ducey was thinking long term. More specifically, he was looking for a Republican who could run a strong campaign in two years and possibly again in 2022, at the conclusion of what would have been McCain’s six-year term.

Ducey’s appointment of McSally sets her up as the woman to beat in the 2020 special election, should she decide to run. With her national name recognition and the $1 million in campaign funds left over from her Senate run this year, McSally could be a strong contender in Arizona’s next Senate race.

She will also have the benefit of being the incumbent, should she seek to extend her Senate tenure.

McSally put up a strong fight in the November election Sinema won by about 55,000 votes.

Ducey faced outside pressure to appoint McSally. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lobbied the governor to appoint the two-term congresswoman from Tucson who was the country’s first female combat pilot.

Both McSally and Sinema are breaking barriers in the Senate. Before this year, Arizona had never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate. Now, McSally becomes the first woman appointed to a Senate seat from Arizona while Sinema holds the title of the first elected woman senator from Arizona.

But if McSally does decide to run in 2020, she won’t be able to get too comfortable in the Senate because the 2020 race will start ramping up almost immediately as Democrats are already lining up to jump into the race.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has expressed interest in running in 2020, as has former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, who recently switched parties from Republican to Democrat. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may also jump into the race.

Ducey and McSally will hold a joint press conference sometime today to discuss the appointment. Details of when and where the press conference will be held have not yet been announced.

Ducey says he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2020

Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to supporters, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at an election night party in Scottsdale, Ariz. Incumbent Ducey defeated Democratic challenger David Garcia for his second term. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Ending months of speculation, Gov. Doug Ducey said he’s not going to run for the Senate – at least not in 2020.

“I want you to know I’m going to serve the four years of my governorship,” Ducey, who was just re-elected, said in a Monday interview on KTAR.

The whole issue arises because there has to be a vote in two years to fill out the balance of the six-year term of John McCain, who was re-elected in 2016 but died earlier this year.

Ducey appointed former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who has shown no interest in running in 2020 or remaining until 2022.

In fact, Kyl might not even be in Congress that long.

When Kyl was appointed earlier this year, he said the only thing he would promise Ducey was that he would serve through the end of the current congressional session, which runs through noon on Jan. 3. That appointment, however, allowed Kyl, who was already promoting Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, to actually vote on his nomination.

If Kyl quits as anticipated, Ducey will have to name someone else to serve through 2020.

There has been some speculation that the governor would name former state House Speaker Kirk Adams, who just recently announced he was quitting as his chief of staff. That would allow Adams, who has said he wants to return to the private sector, to serve as a placeholder until the 2020 election at which point Ducey could run.

But that, the governor said Monday, is not in the cards.

“I was elected to be governor,” said Ducey who picked up 56 percent of the votes cast in last month’s race against Democrat David Garcia. “I plan on being governor for the next four years.”

If Kyl quits as anticipated, Ducey has to name another Republican.

One of the names being bandied about include Eileen Klein, who Ducey appointed as state treasurer after Jeff DeWit quit to take the post of chief financial officer of NASA in the Trump administration. Others have suggested naming to the post Martha McSally, a two-term member of Congress who just lost her own bid for Senate to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

The governor also faces a federal lawsuit by several individuals who contend that any Ducey appointee – whether Kyl or a successor – cannot serve through 2020. They argue that the U.S. Constitution requires the governor to call a special election within six months.

Aides to Ducey say that claim has no merit. No date has been set for a hearing.


Ducey, Sinema are wooing ample number of crossover voters

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate.  (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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.

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

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.

Ducey, Trump held secret meeting in October before rally

Gov. Doug Ducey waves to supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally for President Trump in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018. Ducey has been a leading fundraiser in the 2018 election. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Gov. Doug Ducey waves to supporters at a Make America Great Again campaign rally for President Trump in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

When President Donald Trump came to Arizona in October to drum up support for Martha McSally, he and Gov. Doug Ducey met for a private, one-on-one meeting.

The sit-down at a Scottsdale resort, which was not disclosed by the Governor’s Office, came at the tail end of Ducey’s re-election bid, wherein Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia tried to tie Ducey to the bombastic president at every turn.

When asked about the meeting this week, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office did not say what Ducey and the president talked about, nor did he specify for how long the two met, although he said the meeting was brief.

“Staff were not at the meeting so I cannot speak to the substance of the conversation,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said.

A copy of the governor’s schedule obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times through a public records request showed Ducey and Trump had a “sidebar meeting” around lunchtime on October 19, hours before both Trump and Ducey appeared at a rally in Mesa.

The item in Ducey’s schedule shows the meeting was not part of the joint fundraising luncheon put on by the National Republican Senate Committee for McSally’s U.S. Senate campaign. It also shows none of Ducey’s staffers were present when the governor sat down with Trump at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

It’s not clear if the item was put in Ducey’s calendar days, weeks, or hours before the event. The meeting started at 12:30 p.m., but no end time was given on the governor’s schedule.

Ducey’s spokesman characterized the sit-down meeting as quick and hastily pulled together. When asked why the one-on-one wasn’t publicly disclosed, Ptak pointed to the governor’s re-election campaign telling reporters that Ducey would appear at the Trump rally later in the day in Mesa.

“This was a quick conversation that happened alongside a previously scheduled event,” Ptak said. “It was publicly disclosed that the governor would appear with the president at an event that day and would be giving remarks.”

Ducey’s campaign informed reporters on October 18 the governor would speak at the Trump rally in Mesa the following day, but said other plans for the president’s visit were still in flux.

Neither Ducey’s campaign nor his official office made any mention of the governor attending the NRSC lunch or meeting privately with Trump, and the event was not included on Ducey’s weekly public schedule.

Throughout his re-election campaign, Ducey toed the line in embracing Trump.

Completely ignoring the president could have spurned conservative voters, but enthusiastically embracing Trump could have lost Ducey support from moderate Republicans and Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for him.

By the time the president came to Arizona in a last-ditch attempt to drum up support for McSally, polling showed Ducey leading Garcia by double digits — making the Trump factor less of a concern for the incumbent governor.

But throughout his campaign, Garcia often tried to compare Ducey to the president — a strategy employed by Democrats across the country during last year’s election cycle.

In the past, the Governor’s Office has touted Ducey’s events with the president.

In August of last year, Ducey’s office sent out a press release announcing he would join Trump at the White House for an event honoring border patrol agents. In May 2018, Ducey dined at the White House with Trump and other Republican governors in what was a highly publicized event.

Ducey Calendar (Text)

Ducey, Trump tout fed response to virus in Arizona

President Donald Trump meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump meets with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Gov. Doug Ducey’s meeting with President Trump on August 5 comes as both are seeking to write a new narrative about their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the president, the opportunity for each to praise the other is a matter of political survival. Arizona’s 11 electoral votes could prove crucial in his quest for another four years in office.

That was underscored by a photo-op at the White House with the pair chatting in front of a chart listing all the federal aid and medications provided by the federal government to Arizona.

But it goes beyond Trump’s own future. Also at stake is the bid by Martha McSally to hang on to the Senate seat formerly held by John McCain, a seat to which Ducey appointed her.

Martha McSally
Martha McSally

Ducey’s concerns for his own image are less immediate. With no gubernatorial race, he has no need to defend his handling of the virus until he decides what he wants to do after leaving office at the end of 2022.

Still, there are more immediate crucial issues.

The governor has a personal stake of sort in the McSally campaign.

His appointment of her came after she was unable to win a Senate campaign of her own in 2018, with Arizona voters preferring Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. A defeat this year could be seen as a message that voters believe Ducey made a mistake in appointing her following that defeat and, in doing so, giving her another shot at statewide election.

But there’s more.

The Republican governor faces the very real possibility of becoming a true lame duck for the last two years of his term if Democrats manage to take control of either – or both – chambers of the Legislature.

Democrats need to oust just one of the 31 Republicans to force a coalition in the House; picking up two seats would give them absolute control.

The Senate is a bigger hurdle, with Democrats having to move two seats into their column for a tie and three for a majority.

And all this comes as both Trump and Ducey are under fire from multiple quarters about how they have handled the COVID-19 outbreak.

FILE - In this June 18, 2020, file photo a discarded face mask and cigarette butt litter the sidewalk outside the Eastern Market in Washington. On Friday, June 26, Vice President Mike Pence said Americans should look to their state and local leadership for modeling their behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The comments only days after President Donald Trump held two campaign events that drew hundreds of participants but few wearing masks. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

For Trump, the issues center around his denial for months that there was a problem and his insistence that it would go away. Then there were the mixed messages, with the president at some points saying governors should bow to his leadership and then saying this isn’t a federal problem.

He still faces scrutiny as his own health experts continue to publicly disagree with him about the best course of action.

Ducey, for his part, waited until late March to declare an emergency. But it took him a few more days to close schools – at that point, for just two weeks. And it was only after Tucson and Flagstaff moved to shut bars and restaurants and other non-essential businesses that the governor followed suit.

And only at the end of March did he issue his order to have people stay at home other than to participate in “essential activities.”

Even then, he not only refused to impose a statewide requirement for masks but actually threatened local governments who wanted to impose their own mandates with legal action. Finally, in June, he relented, gave the go-ahead for cities and counties to act – and even started wearing a mask himself.

Potentially more significant was Ducey’s decision to not only lift that stay-at-home order in May but allow both restaurants and bars to reopen if they would promise to limit capacity and promote physical distancing.

The results were alarming.

On May 16, the day the stay-at-home order expired, there were 485 cases of the virus reported.

nightclub-featuredTwo weeks later – one week for incubation and one for getting test results back – cases had risen to 743.

But the worst was yet to come as customers flooded the newly reopened bars.

New cases peaked at 5,458 June 29, the date that Ducey finally admitted he made a mistake in allowing bars to reopen. He also decided at that point to again close gyms, fitness centers and water parks and forbid movie theaters from reopening.

Asked if he screwed up in his original decision, Ducey responded, “We’re fixing it.”

But the governor has not just taken fire from Democrats for what they see as his slow reaction to the public health crisis.

He also has his share of critics from his right who question his continued closure orders and the fact that he has not ordered schools to reopen for all in-classroom instruction. Instead, the governor has deferred to local school districts to make that decision, using yet-to-be-released “metrics”’ from the state Department of Health Services.

There even are discussions among some legislators of his own party about revisiting the emergency powers they gave him, if not now, then after this crisis is over.

And then there have been the court battles.

Ducey managed to fend off a bid by a Flagstaff resident to get a federal judge to rule that the stay-at-home order was an invasion of his rights.

And he also prevailed in the first two legal efforts by gyms and fitness centers to reopen.

That changed earlier this week when a judge declared that closure of the gyms without some ability to show they can operate safely violated the due process rights of the owners.

And there is a separate claim pending at the Arizona Supreme Court by the owners of more than 60 bars throughout the state that the law giving Ducey the emergency powers to keep them shuttered is unconstitutional.

Federal judge rules McSally gets to keep U.S. Senate until 2020 election

Gov. Doug Ducey appoints Rep. Martha McSally to the fill a U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death John McCain. PHOTO BY DILLON ROSENBLATT/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Martha McSally can keep John McCain’s Senate seat until at least the 2020 election, a federal judge ruled late Thursday.

Judge Diane Humetewa, a President Obama appointee, rejected arguments that the U.S. Constitution requires there be a special election within a year − if not less − when there is a vacancy in a Senate seat.

She acknowledged that the Constitution allows a governor to fill a Senate seat on a “temporary” basis. And Humetewa said that 27 months will have elapsed between McCain’s death last August and the next regular election in 2020.

But the judge said there is nothing in the law that says 27 months is too long for a temporary appointment. And Humetewa said that allowing Gov. Doug Ducey to put McSally into that office until the 2020 election does not infringe on the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which gives voters the right to choose their own senators.

In an extensive ruling, Humetewa also said that any argument in favor of forcing a special election is overshadowed by all the reasons advanced by attorneys for Ducey not to have one.

For example, she said, allowing McSally to serve until 2020 − when she would have to run for the final two years of McCain’s six-year term − actually increases the right to vote. She cited figures advanced by Ducey’s lawyers which show that special elections have a much lower turnout than regular November elections.

“The court finds voter turnout to be an important state interest,” Humetewa wrote.

The judge also said the state is entitled to consider that it would cost money to have a special election.

“Conversely, there would be no additional cost to the state to hold the vacancy election at the next general election in November 2020, as that election is already scheduled to take place,” Humetewa said.

And the judge also said a special election could lead to “confusion and inconvenience to voters,” including “the potential for months of highly politicized advertising leading up to the special elections, which would otherwise not occur at this time, and not allowing adequate time for voters to make an informed voting decision.”

Attorney Michael Kielsky, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of voters from various political parties, said allowing an unelected appointee to serve as a senator for that long “seems weird, violating the spirit if not the letter of the 17th Amendment.” He vowed to appeal.

Arizona law says if a Senate vacancy occurs more than 150 days from the next election then any temporary appointee can serve only until that election. But anyone named within 150 days of a vacancy can serve until the following election.

McCain died just days before the 2018 primary, freeing up Ducey under Arizona law to tap someone to serve through 2020.

He originally named former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to the post. But Kyl quit at the end of last year, allowing Ducey to name McSally, who by that time had lost her own Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Kielsky found the whole process flawed, especially with that 27-month gap between McCain’s death and the 2020 election. Humetewa, however, wasn’t buying it.

“The 27-month period, on its own, is not unreasonable considering case precedent, and does not amount to an unreasonable restriction on plaintiffs’ right to vote,” she ruled.

Nothing in Thursday’s ruling affects vacancies in the U.S. House which constitutionally can be filled only through a special election, with no opportunity for a governor to name an interim replacement.


Feds flag McSally for excessive campaign donations

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, speaks to supporters of President Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018.
Senator Martha McSally.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, whose fundraising practices have drawn scrutiny in the past, appears to have accepted more than $270,000 in excessive campaign contributions during the recent midterm campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Federal candidates can collect $2,700 from a single donor during a primary election, followed by an additional $2,700 from the same person during the general election.

But the federal agency flagged dozens of contributions to McSally from more than 60 contributors that appear to exceed those limits, including one who cut a $10,000 check during the general election alone, according to an analysis of FEC records. The agency said in a letter on Monday that McSally has until early March to correct any record-keeping issues or refund the money.

While many campaigns regularly cut refund checks when contributors give too much, a spokesman for McSally said she can’t control how much her supporters give. He said that her campaign is reviewing the matter and will either correct any bookkeeping issues or issue refunds.

“The McSally campaign has continued to follow the mandated guidelines of the FEC,” said spokesman Anthony Barry.

McSally lost in November after voters in red state Arizona elected Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema following a hard-fought — and costly — race. However, Gov. Doug Ducey appointed her to the Senate in December to finish the remainder of deceased Sen. John McCain’s term.

This isn’t the first time McSally has drawn attention for her fundraising and record-keeping. An audit by the FEC that was released last year found that the former congresswoman’s 2014 campaign accepted $319,000 in excessive contributions.

The agency found that her campaign had sloppy record-keeping, with account balances that were repeatedly overstated or understated. The audit also found that she failed to disclose required contributor information and did not report late-in-the campaign donations within the required amount of time.

Few contested primaries for independents to influence

From left are Nancy Barto and Heather Carter
From left are Nancy Barto and Heather Carter

Independent voters don’t have many contested races in Maricopa County in which they can sway the outcome with Arizona primary elections roughly two months away.

With every hot race like Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, versus Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, there are at least a dozen or so uncontested primaries on both the Democratic and Republican ballots this year in Maricopa County.

In the state Senate there are only five districts with a primary challenge, including the Barto and Carter race in Legislative District 15. Legislative District 22, on the Republican side, has Sen. David Livingston, the incumbent, against two opponents – Van Dicarlo and Hop Nguyen. Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita will face Alexander Kolodin in the Legislative District 23 Republican primary. On the Democratic side, Sen. Lela Alston faces Ryan Starzyk in Legislative District 24 and Sen. Juan Mendez will be challenged by Jana Lynn Granillo in Legislative District 26.

election-logo-2020The remaining Senate races either have candidates set to win the seat come November (barring a write-in campaign) or a one-on-one race that won’t matter for the primary.

In the House, 12 of the 20 districts in Maricopa County have a contested primary, meaning more than two candidates per party, and Legislative District 29 has contested primaries for both the Republicans and Democrats. Nine races are on the Republican side and the remaining four are for Democrats.

Both Legislative districts 1 and 15 will fill two vacancies as those current representatives either are termed out or retiring and several others have one open seat.

There are positives and negatives in not having a primary challenge as seen when Fred DuVal ran for governor in 2014, but there aren’t any races of that magnitude this election cycle.

Typically, the positives of no primary challenge is the ability to save money and resources for the general election race, but the negatives, if there is a competitive primary for the opposing party, are that all the attention will be on the opposing party’s ballot instead.

Independent voters can select which ballot they want to vote on during the primaries instead of having to re-register for a specific party like they would in a Presidential Preference Election. Currently, there are 1,249,379 registered voters listed under the “other” category according to April numbers from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Looking at other races on the August primary ballot, there is not a contested statewide contest, after four Republican candidates who intended to run for the Arizona Corporation Commission are no longer on the ballot. That leaves just two on the ballot with two others hoping for a write-in bid. For Democrats, only three are running for three seats.

The next major race in Maricopa County on the Democratic side is the primary for county attorney.

Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, was the last Democrat to run for that seat, losing to now-Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery by the slimmest margin in years for that office.

Three Democrats are running to unseat Allister Adel, the Republican who the County Board of Supervisors appointed to replace Montgomery last fall. Adel does not face a primary challenger.

Republican county candidates see challenges in the race for county assessor, county treasurer, county recorder and county sheriff, and among the few races for constable and justice of the peace. Whereas Democrats only have challenges for justice of the peace races in the Maryvale and Moon Valley precincts.

Federal races are a different story.

Arizona currently has nine congressional districts and all but the 2nd Congressional District touches Maricopa County, and of those eight the 7th Congressional District is the only one without a primary challenge for either party.

The most-discussed challenges for Congress in Arizona are the Democrats in the 6th Congressional District to see who will take on Rep. David Schweikert, who has been drowning in legal fees over what he called “an accounting error.” Dr. Hiral Tipirneni leads that pack with the most fundraising of any congressional challenger in the state, and one of the top nationwide.

She lost twice to Rep. Debbie Lesko in the 2018 8th Congressional District special and general elections. Now Tipirneni will see Anita Malik, the CD6 Democratic nominee in 2018, and relative newcomers Stephanie Rimmer and Karl Gentles.

In the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Tom O’Halleran is being challenged by the more progressive Eva Putzova, and the Republican race is between Tiffany Shedd and Nolan Reidhead.

Rep. Paul Gosar, in the 4th Congressional District, is the only remaining incumbent facing a primary challenge in Anne Marie Ward.

Then there’s the most talked about race nationwide between likely foes U.S. Sen. Martha McSally and Mark Kelly.

McSally will see a Republican challenger who has failed to raise significant money and show up in any polls nationwide. Whereas Kelly is only looking at a write-in candidate who goes by “Heir Hawkeye.”

Former Arizona AG Grant Woods says he won’t seek U.S. Senate seat

Democrat Donkey

Republican-turned-Democrat Grant Woods announced Friday he will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

Woods announced his decision on the Bruce and Pamela show on KTAR News 92.3 Friday morning.

“I am not going to run as a Democrat … I’m not going to run against Democrats in a primary,” he told KTAR News. “My ambition is to serve my country, to serve my state and to get people who don’t respect basic values like Donald Trump out of office.”

With Woods opting not to run, there are still zero candidates who have confirmed they will.

Grant Woods
Grant Woods

Whomever does win in 2020 will hold the seat until 2022 when the term ends. John McCain held the seat from his re-election in 2016 until his death in August 2018. Gov. Doug Ducey then appointed Sen. Jon Kyl, who served only from September to December. Ducey turned to Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, who took her oath in January after losing to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for the seat Republican Jeff Flake vacated. There will be another election in 2022 for the full 6-year term.

Woods told Arizona Capitol Times his decision crystallized over the last month for him that for a year and a half he would be running against Democrats and not McSally or Trump. “That’s not why I was interested in this,” he said. He repeatedly said Democrats are not the problem right now, but the way things are currently going they may be.

He was interested in running at first because “the country is in crisis because of President Trump and because people like Martha McSally have continued to enable him rather than fighting him.

Woods said he has not talked to any potential senate candidates yet, but did not say who if any of the candidates he would support against McSally, just that McSally needs to go.

“We beat her once, it’s a joke that she’s there so we need to beat her again,” he said.

He still thinks he could beat McSally one-on-one, but is not a fan of how late the primary is. The primary election is his biggest reason to not seek the seat.

“If it was a March primary, maybe things would be different,” he said.

Rep. Ruben Gallego has floated the idea of running, and Mark Kelly, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton and Hiral Tipirneni’s names have been thrown out as possible candidates as well. With Kelli Ward as new AZGOP chair, there’s also no telling if the party will support McSally’s re-election bid. Ward lost a tough battle in the August primaries to McSally, and also lost the 2016 primary to McCain.

Woods, a close friend of McCain’s delivered a eulogy at his funeral in August.

Woods said he does hope more Democrats enter the race that aren’t as liberal as Kelly and Gallego.

Woods was the Arizona Attorney General from 1991 to 1999 and before that he worked as chief of staff for McCain.

He said has has only run for one office, and running for senate is not his ambition.

He doesn’t really have any other political ambitions, but dodged a question about potentially seeking the governor’s seat in 2022.

“I’m just hoping to make it to ‘22,” he said. “It’s not my driving force in life that I need to be in office.”

Gallego declines to run for Arizona Senate seat

Congressman Ruben Gallego says he won’t run for the U.S. Senate, likely avoiding a contentious fight for the Democratic nomination to finish John McCain’s last term.

Gallego told The Arizona Republic Monday that it’s not in the best interests of the state or the Democratic Party for him to engage in a bitter primary fight with retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

Gallego is well-connected to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. Kelly jumped into the race last month and has signaled he’ll run a centrist campaign like the one waged in 2018 by his fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

The Arizona race is expected to be one of the top Senate contests in the country. Republican Sen. Martha McSally was appointed to the seat and is looking to keep it.

GOP in jeopardy of losing Arizona Senate seat, poll shows

In this Aug. 30, 2016, file photo, Kelli Ward concedes to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in their contest. Ward, who is running to unseat Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said July 17, 2017, she has met with White House officials about the campaign. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP)
In this Aug. 30, 2016, file photo, Kelli Ward concedes to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in their contest. Ward, who is running to unseat Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said July 17, 2017, she has met with White House officials about the campaign. (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic via AP)

Donald Trump remains more popular in Arizona than the nation as a whole.

But pollster Mike Noble said it doesn’t look like that will help the Republican Party hang on to the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.

The automated survey of 600 people likely to vote in the 2018 primary election found 45 percent of those asked rate Trump’s first year in office as a success. Another 49 percent disagreed and the balance was unsure.

That compares with a new Quinnipiac University national poll showing the president’s approval rating at just 33 percent and a Gallup survey with his positives at 38 percent.

Noble said that’s not necessarily a surprise.

“I think he’s holding the line a little bit better because illegal immigration, especially with Republicans, is still a top issue,” he said. Noble said that has been reinforced by Trump’s promises, made to Arizona audiences during the campaign and since election, to build a border wall, a project that has support among certain segments of the population.

But Noble pointed out that the 45-49 popularity rating comes in a state where Republicans have a 12-point voter registration advantage over Democrats.

More to the point, he said that while the president remains strong among those who describe themselves as conservative, moderates find Trump’s first-year performance disappointing by a margin of 2-1. And with independents making up more than a third of registered voters, that, in turn, is not good news for Republicans in the 2018 Senate race.

At this point, Noble said it looks like former state Sen. Kelli Ward has a strong edge over Congresswoman Martha McSally to be the GOP nominee. Ward leads 42-34 percent, though 24 percent are undecided.

McSally has not made a formal declaration of candidacy. But Noble said she already has 60 percent name ID, compared to 79 percent for Ward.

If Ward wins the Republican primary and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is the Democrat nominee, Noble said the current numbers give Sinema a three-point edge. That’s hardly a mandate, what with that being within 4 point margin of error.

Sinema fares a little less well in a head-to-head against McSally, with just a single point lead.

Noble said neither potential GOP nominee should take comfort from these numbers given that 12-point edge Republicans have in voter registration. He said much of this can be linked to the effect that Trump has had on politics at all levels.

“Look at the Virginia election,” he said.

It starts with a “surge” in Democrat turnout, much larger than the increase among Republicans. And Noble said the independents in that state skewed this election away from GOP contenders at all levels up and down the ticket.

“Having an ‘R’ next to your name is like having a giant bullseye on you politically,” he said, pointing out that the poll numbers for both McSally and Ward are nearly identical to the president’s approval rating in Arizona.

While McSally polls slightly better than Ward against Sinema, Noble said the numbers at this point suggest Republicans will nominate Ward, who has publicly aligned herself with the president. She is up by eight points in a head-to-head question.

All that, he said, is not good news for the GOP.

He said that Sinema, with a lot of cash in the bank and no strong primary contender, probably has no need to move to the left to win her party’s nomination. That means she doesn’t need to suddenly make a sharp pivot after the August primary — and it’s just weeks after that when early voting starts for the general election — to maintain her self-proclaimed label as a moderate to appeal to GOP and independent voters.

And there’s something else.

Noble said while Ward has higher name ID than McSally, she also has something else: higher negatives than positives, with 42 percent having an unfavorable view, versus 37 percent positive. McSally, by contrast, had a positive-to-negative ratio of 33 to 27.

That, however, did not come close to Sinema who the survey found 44 percent had a favorable view against 28 percent unfavorable.

State GOP spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair dismissed all the results, questioning the methodology.

She pointed out — and Noble acknowledged — that the survey is skewed to catch more voters 55 and older because he is calling only landlines and not cell phones. But Sinclair denied that should actually make the results more favorable to Trump and Republicans in general.

Nor was she swayed by the fact that Noble’s poll actually found Trump’s favorable numbers higher in Arizona than national surveys.

“I think he’s more popular” than the survey suggests, Sinclair said of the president. Sinclair conceded, though, she has no actual surveys to back up that contention, instead relying on what she said are other indicators.

“The Arizona Republican Party has seen an increase in voter registration and activism since President Trump’s election,” Sinclair said.

GOP, state ask court to keep status quo on ballot order


Attorneys for the state and Republican legislative leaders are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by Democrats challenging the way candidates are listed on the ballot.

Attorney Mary O’Grady, representing Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, does not dispute that a 1979 Arizona law spells out that the party whose candidate got more votes in the last gubernatorial election in each county gets to list its candidates first. That means that in 2020 GOP candidates will be listed ahead of Democrats in 11 of the state’s 15 counties.

But in new legal filings from earlier this month, O’Grady told Judge Diane Humetewa, a President Obama appointee, that even if people tend to choose the first person on the ballot, that doesn’t make the system illegal.

“Arizona’s ballot order statute establishes logical, efficient, and manageable rules that determine the order in which candidates’ names appear on a general election ballot,” O’Grady wrote. And she argued that nothing in the law precludes those who have sued – Democrats and Democratic organizations – from voting for the candidates of their choice.

In their lawsuit, the challengers say the statute is illegally “diluting” some people’s votes, citing research which shows that, everything else being equal, people tend to vote for the first candidate on the list.

They said that can be important, citing what is expected to be a tight race for the U.S. Senate.

Republican Martha McSally, appointed to the seat that used to belong to John McCain, faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Mark Kelly. If the law remains in place, McSally will be in the No. 1 position in most counties, including Maricopa where most voters live.

But attorney Kory Langhofer, representing Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers, argued that even if there is some such edge for the first position on the ballot – what he said has been dubbed the “donkey vote” – that does not make it an unconstitutional government-imposed burden. Anyway, he told Humetewa, it’s not like ballot order is the only thing that might make people decide how to vote.

“Even assuming that the ‘donkey vote’ exists, and even if it were possible to quantify its precise impact on election outcomes, ballot order is merely one of many cognitive shortcuts that voters employ in their electoral decision-making,” Langhofer wrote. He said there are other studies which show the impact of party label, incumbency, gender, name familiarity and even “religious-ethnic cues apparent from candidate surnames” that may influence voters’ decisions.

O’Grady, in her own arguments, told Humetewa that there are even simpler reasons for the judge to throw out the case.

First, she said, the individuals that sued lack legal standing, as they have suffered no particular harm — other than being unhappy about election results. And she said that does not change even if some voters do lean toward selecting the first candidate listed.

“The lack of an entirely rational electorate is not an injury-in-fact’ necessary to invoke (constitutional) standing,” O’Grady wrote.

She similarly argued that the committees who sued, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Priorities USA, a political action committee that backs Democrats, also have not identified any members who are actually harmed. Instead, O’Grady said, the groups are alleging “nothing more than a statistical probability that some of its members might be injured,” an allegation the attorney said is not enough to sue.

But that does not mean such a lawsuit is legally impossible.

“Candidates themselves may have standing to bring the equal protection claim alleged,” O’Grady wrote.

A hearing is set for March.

Much of the focus is on Maricopa County, where unless the law is enjoined, nearly two-thirds of the state population will get ballots with Republicans in top position in every partisan race.

According to the lawsuit, Maricopa voters have favored Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in all but two elections in the nearly 40 years that the ballot order statute has been in place. The only exceptions have been in 1982 when they supported Democrat Bruce Babbitt over Republican Leo Corbet, and in 2006 when Janet Napolitano, seeking a second term, outpolled Republican Len Munsil.

Green candidate drops out of U.S. Senate race, throws support to Sinema

Voters wait in line at dawn to cast their ballot in Arizona's presidential primary election, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
 (AP Photo/Matt York)

A last-minute decision by the Green Party candidate to drop out of the race for U.S. Senate could provide Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a needed bump.

Angela Green told KPNX-TV on Thursday she wants people to vote for “a better Arizona.”

“And that would be for Kyrsten Sinema,” she said.

Angela Green
Angela Green
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. Actually winning those seats and changing the face of the chamber are a different matter. Many of the women jumping into Senate races face uphill campaigns. (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AP Photo/Matt York)

Green, whose polling has never gotten above single digits, said she struggled with the decision.

“But that’s what it is,” she said.

Green said she could not support Republican Martha McSally who, depending on which poll is cited, is in a neck-and-neck race with Sinema. That decision, Green said, had to do with Sinema’s views.

“They are more in line with what my political, my agenda is, what I’m looking to do to help Arizona become more green again,” she said. That conclusion, Green said, came following watching the debate between the two contenders.

“Sinema’s stance on a lot of things are close to mine,” she said.

Whether that moves the needle remains to be seen.

A survey by OH Predictive Insights released Wednesday put McSally at 52 percent versus 45 percent for Sinema. Green was polling at 1 percent, with 2 percent undecided. That survey was taken between Oct. 22 and 23.

But a CNN poll covering Oct. 24 through 29 had Sinema up 4 points, the poll’s margin of error.

And one done by NBC and Marist in the Oct. 23 to 27 had Sinema with a 6-point lead in a head-to-head race, though Sinema’s lead shrunk to 3 points when polled as a three-way race including Green.

Then there’s the question of whether there are enough Green supporters out there who have not already mailed in their early ballots.

Figures Thursday from the Secretary of State show about 1.35 million ballots already have been turned in.

U.S Rep. Martha McSally

There are about 3.7 million registered voters. But that still leaves the question of how many will actually cast a vote.

The last midterm election in 2014 had a turnout of just 47.2 percent of those registered.

There have been some predictions that voter interest is stronger this year than it was at that time, especially with the fight over the Senate seat that became open when Republican Jeff Flake decided not to seek reelection.

By comparison, turnout two years ago, with a presidential election, was 74.2 percent.

“Sixteen years later and Kyrsten Sinema’s still the Green Party’s candidate,” said McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair. That is a reference to the fact that Sinema had aligned herself with the Green Party in her first bid for the Legislature in 2002; she did not get elected until two years later under the Democratic Party banner.

Green could not be reached for comment.

At least one area where Green’s views likely come closer to that of Sinema is on the issue of immigration.

“I, too, am an immigrant,” she wrote on the information submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. “That is why I support programs like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and laws that make it easier and more efficient for immigrants coming here to become valuable citizens in our society.”

McSally, by contrast, has hewed close to the positions of President Trump, promoting the fact that she supported legislation that includes building a wall. She also has come out in support of the president’s decision to send troops to the border.

Hobbs within striking distance as vote count nears end

Katie Hobbs and Steve Gaynor
Katie Hobbs and Steve Gaynor

New election returns Sunday put Democrat Katie Hobbs in striking distance in the race for secretary of state.

Late updated totals from the Secretary of State’s Office give Hobbs 1,057,229 votes. That’s enough to put her within 259 votes of Republican Steve Gaynor out of 2.1 million votes tallied in that race.

As recently as Saturday she was down by 2,000.

The new numbers also show that Democrat Kathy Hoffman continues to build her lead over Frank Riggs for superintendent of public instruction. She now has an edge of nearly 47,000 votes.

Democrat Sandra Kennedy remains ahead of both Republicans Justin Olson and Rodney Glassman in the race for the two open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission. But if the current patterns hold, Olson, appointed last year, will get a four-year term of his own as Democrat Kiana Sears continues to trail in fourth place.

But in the race most people are watching, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema now holds on to a lead of nearly more than 32,000 votes in the bid to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate. Her edge just a day earlier over Republican Martha McSally was only around 30,000.

McSally has been claiming for days that the tide will turn based on her belief that the early ballots cast at the last minute are more likely to have come from Republicans.

There is some indication of a small uptick in GOP ballots.

For example, state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, has increased her lead slightly over Democrat Christine Marsh.

But time may be running out, for McSally, Riggs and Glassman.

Maricopa County reports it is down to the last 162,000 votes to be counted. And that means the GOP candidates will need to turn around a trend that has so far produced more votes in the state’s largest county for the three Democrats — and even for Hobbs — than their Republican foes.

Overall the Secretary of State’s Office reports there are 211,000 ballots uncounted. Aside from Maricopa County that includes about 36,300 in Pima County, 7,000 from Pinal, 4,800 from Coconino, 650 in Cochise and 576 in La Paz.

The new numbers come as Republicans are mounting new attacks on Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes for setting up five “emergency” voting centers.

Arizona law specifically authorizes county recorders to establish procedures to vote for anyone who has an emergency between 5 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election and 5 p.m. the following Monday. But state GOP officials are charging that Fontes acted illegally as there was no actual emergency.

The law, however, has no such requirement. Instead, it defines “emergency” as “any unforeseen circumstances that would prevent the elector from voting at the polls.”

Fontes, appearing Sunday on KPNX-TV, said election officials from other counties have been allowing emergency voting “for decades.” And he rejected arguments that he should force those seeking to vote at the centers to prove they have some legitimate reason to seek special treatment.

“It’s not my business what your emergency is,” Fontes said.

“I’ve got HIPPA laws that prevent me from asking,” he said, referring to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 which has various provisions designed to protect the unauthorized release of anyone’s medical condition.

Fontes’ claim he cannot ask voters for an explanation hews closely to the position of F. Ann Rodriguez, his Pima County counterpart.

“If the voters say ‘it’s an emergency,’ we open it up and they vote,” she said, saying she’s not “judge and jury” over the matter.

Fontes also disputed charges that he deliberately set up these emergency centers in areas designed to benefit Democrats.

He acknowledged there were two in the largely Democratic West Valley area, one in Avondale and a second in Tolleson set up specifically at the request of the city mayor and the county supervisor who serves that area. But Fontes said there also were emergency voting locations in Scottsdale and Mesa as well as the county offices in downtown Phoenix.

But all the fuss about the emergency voting centers — and the possibility that Republicans may sue – may have little actual impact. Murphy Hebert, a spokeswoman for Fontes, said fewer than 3,000 ballots were cast at the emergency centers, unlikely enough to affect any of the statewide races.

Calvin Moore, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee that is pushing to get McSally elected, has sought to undermine Fontes’ credibility in other ways.

He said that before Fontes, an attorney, was elected county recorder in 2016 he “has an incredibly unscrupulous history of defending narco-terrorists” and that one of his clients was involved in the Fast and Furious investigation where federal agents sought to catch gun-runners.

There are other efforts aimed at discrediting Fontes.

On Sunday, calls were going out to homes in Maricopa County saying Fontes was allowing the election “to be stolen” and offering to connect the recipient of the call to the local county supervisor in a bid to have the board somehow exercise some control over him, something that likely is legally questionable.

When asked to explain who is sponsoring the calls, the woman at the other end, who clearly was in a room with others, responded only that it was “concerned citizens.” When questioned who actually was  behind the calls, the response was, “thank you for your time,” and hanging up.

The number on the caller ID proved to be fake. A spokeswoman for the Arizona Republican Party did not respond to inquiries about whether it is the source of the calls.

Hold politicians like anti-choice Senator McSally accountable

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix, campaigning in the traditional way. But now, the global pandemic that is shaking up life is also forcing Arizona's U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Over the last month, thousands of Arizonans have taken to the streets to demand the state take action to confront structural racism and entrenched white supremacy. In Arizona and across the country, it’s clear that the tides are changing. It’s also clear that in this time of turmoil for our country, we need leaders who will push Arizona forward. It’s time to say goodbye to elected officials hell bent on pushing an extreme, out-of-touch agenda and usher in a new era of leaders committed to upholding our fundamental freedoms. 

 Senator Martha McSally is not that leader. From exploiting the pandemic to exacerbating xenophobia and racism against Chinese Americans to introducing legislation that would threaten the health, safety, and reproductive freedom of Arizonans, she has weaponized disinformation throughout her short tenure in the Senate to further an extreme ideological agenda. Politicians like Senator McSally are not fit to lead us into a better, brighter future.

 McSally seems driven by her eagerness to appease President Trump, who has led the Republican Party’s agenda to control and criminalize marginalized communities – most recently by stoking racial tensions following the murder of George Floyd. Yet despite Trump’s overt racism and his botched response to COVID-19, McSally remains his cheerleader, happily rubber-stamping his extreme ideological agenda. As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Arizona and across the nation, we’re reminded that the stakes of this election could not be higher. 

© 2017 Adrienne Battistella Photography
Caroline Mello Roberson

 On June 29, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on June Medical Services LLC. v. Russo, a case that threatened to shut down abortion clinics, gut the protections of Roe v. Wade, and push access to care even further out of reach for millions. While the narrow 5-4 ruling upheld precedent and deemed Louisiana’s medically unnecessary, anti-choice law unconstitutional, it also left the door open for a more direct attack on Roe v. Wade. Make no mistake – this case was part of a coordinated effort by Republicans to criminalize abortion and roll back access to reproductive health care entirely. The fight for reproductive freedom is far from over.

 While the courts can sometimes be a vehicle for oppressed and marginalized groups to find justice, thanks to the efforts of Republican lawmakers like Senator McSally to stack the courts with right-wing ideologues, the threats to reproductive freedom increase by the day. Since McSally was first appointed to the Senate she has helped load the federal judiciary with unqualified, racist, anti-choice, anti-freedom judges with lifetime appointments. With a record like this one, it’s no surprise that Senator McSally currently has a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

 The reality is this: Arizonans currently face tremendous barriers to access reproductive health care. Arizona already severely restricts access to abortion, including interrogating patients about why they’re ending a pregnancy, forcing delays before a patient can receive abortion care, and subjecting patients to mandatory biased counseling. Black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by restrictions like these, and without access, the freedom to make personal decisions about abortion is a freedom in name only (so, not at all). 

 Before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, legalizing abortion nationwide, Arizona had already passed a ban on abortion. As it stands now, that law runs counter to the Supreme Court ruling and can’t be enforced. But if Roe falls, all bets are off, and Arizonans could see abortion in their state criminalized overnight.

 Given the anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court, and the more than 20 cases in the pipeline to challenge Roe, the threat is not a hollow one: it’s a painfully realistic scenario. As we have seen from demonstrations across the country, the criminalization of Black and brown people is a national epidemic – one that would only be further exacerbated by the extreme bans on abortion championed by the Radical Right. 

 Now here is some good news: Arizonans have real choices this election cycle. Mark Kelly is running against Senator McSally and he knows the decision about if, when, and how to have a child is deeply personal and must be safeguarded. 

The people of Arizona deserve leaders who will represent them fairly and advocate for them. Senator McSally has proven that she is not this leader, and will not fight for the freedom and dignity of all Arizonans. As we stand on the precipice of change, we cannot and will not back down in the face of attacks on our ability to determine our own destinies. We must hold politicians like Senator McSally accountable for putting our freedom at risk, and fight for the fundamental rights of everybody.

Caroline Mello Roberson is the Southwest regional director for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

House Dems walk out stalls GOP budget

lot of numbers on a spreadsheet (3d render)

House Republicans’ hopes of passing a budget Tuesday were dashed when the Democrats boycotted the morning’s floor session. 

Without the constitutionally required majority of members present in the building to conduct business, the House adjourned until 10 a.m. Thursday, when all of the Republicans are expected to be physically present and they will try again. 

Meanwhile, the Senate plowed ahead, advancing four of the eleven bills making up the spending plan before breaking for lunch Monday and planned to finish the remainder in the afternoon and evening.  

Reps. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa; Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert; John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction; and Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, were not at the Capitol Tuesday, although they had planned to vote on the budget bills via Zoom. However, with all of the Democrats except for Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, boycotting, the chamber was a few short of the 31 needed to constitute a quorum. 

“This is not normal,” said Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria. “This is not OK. What is happening is a complete disdain for the only constitutional duty that we have.” 

House Democrats protested that the plan, despite how closely divided the Legislature is, has not included any input from them, and that if the Republicans want to pass a party-line budget they shouldn’t count on the Democrats’ help to do it. 

“You can’t simultaneously ignore the wishes of half the state and then take us for granted to pass a partisan budget,” Bolding said. 

Before adjourning, Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, warned of potentially dire consequences if there isn’t a budget in place before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, including employees not getting paid, schools and local governments losing revenue and people not being able to visit relatives in prison. 

“I would ask us all, it may really be tough, but could we contemplate growing up and shouldering the responsibility together and think of together more than individual and pass a budget?” Bowers asked. 

Toma said Democratic leaders promised him, after they similarly delayed a vote on an elections bill two months ago by not showing, that they wouldn’t do that again. 

“This is just a step too far,” Toma said. “I really hope voters start paying attention because this is an epic joke, and not in a good way.” 

The budget, which was introduced a month ago, has been delayed as Republicans made changes to get a handful of holdouts in their caucus on board. It includes a proposal to phase in a flat income tax that Democrats have unanimously opposed. Aside from their problems with the flat tax and other provisions such as what Democrats see as inadequate funding for education and infrastructure, Bolding said the public and Democrats also need more time to evaluate the amendments Republicans released Tuesday morning. 

“Dropping a dozen new amendments this morning that rewrite major portions of their plan to vote on this afternoon is inappropriate,” Bolding said. “A budget should be developed with all voices at the table, but they don’t want the public to know what’s in this plan until it’s too late.” 

Other Democrats echoed his sentiments. 

“I refuse to be complicit in the @AZHouseGOP’s desire to permanently reduce our state revenue by $1.7 billion,” tweeted Rep. Andrés Cano, D-Tucson. “We can use that money to fund our schools, expand health care, and protect our environment. If the GOP wants to be reckless, House Dems will NOT give them cover to do it.”  

Republicans said Democrats would be to blame if there is a partial government shutdown on July 1. Isaac Humrich, who use to work for former Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, accused the Democrats of hypocrisy, highlighting a tweet from Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, who spent the morning at a protest calling on U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to support eliminating the filibuster. Humrich called the filibuster “a parliamentary procedure that bears striking resemblance to what House Dems just pulled.” 

Toma was guardedly hopeful the House will be able to pass a budget when it reconvenes on Thursday. 

“I’m as confident as anyone can be this session,” he said. “As far as I know, we have the votes.” 

Toma said he intends to pass a full budget. He said passing a “skinny budget” like last year’s that would keep state operations funded after June 30 without making other changes, which is one idea that has been floated, wouldn’t be as easy at this point as it might sound. For starters, it would have to be drafted, and that hasn’t been done. Toma said the House would move forward on Thursday whether the Senate passes a budget before then or not. 

“I can’t control what happens in the Senate,” he said. “I can only control what we do in the House.” 

Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act


There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, including 150,000 in Arizona. Over 16 million Americans provide unpaid care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, including 346,000 in Arizona.

As someone who has cared for someone with dementia, I understand the enormous burden dementia has on Arizona families and the economy. My family came together to care for my grandmother with dementia and are now having to do so again with my aunt.

The Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act would help educate clinicians on Alzheimer’s and dementia care planning services available through Medicare. For individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, care planning is essential to learning about medical and non-medical treatments, clinical trials, and support services available in their community. Accessing these services results in a higher quality of life, fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and better medication management. Thankfully, as of January 2017, Medicare covers critical care planning services. However, not enough patients and providers are aware of this resource.

That’s why I’m asking congressional members Debbie Lesko, Andy Biggs, and David Schweikert to cosponsor the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 880/H.R. 1873). I would also like to thank Senator Kyrsten Sinema and former Sen. Martha McSally and Rep. Ruben Gallego for supporting this much- needed piece of legislation.

Endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association and its advocacy arm, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act will give them the knowledge and tools to better help their patients and families living with dementia.   

Haleigh Collins is a volunteer for Alzheimer’s Association and resident of Scottsdale.

In GOP upset, Kelli Ward to lead Arizona Republican Party

In this May 17, 2018, photo, Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward talks about her platform policies at a Scottsdale Tea Party event in Scottsdale, Ariz. Arizona conservatives are torn between two icons of their movement - former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former state senator Ward - in the GOP Senate primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Kelli Ward (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Failed U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward, a conservative firebrand, will lead the Arizona Republican Party through the 2020 election.

In a contentious three-way race for AZGOP chair, Ward came out on top Saturday, defeating incumbent chairman Jonathan Lines.

Meanwhile, Arizona Democrats opted to retain their party chairwoman, Felecia Rotellini to another two-year term.

Upon her win, Ward issued a message of unity to the thinned out crowd at the AZGOP state committee meeting Saturday at Phoenix’s Church for the Nations.

“I hope that you will join with me because it is time to unite,” she said. “It is time to put past problems, issues, disagreements behind us so that we win big in 2020.”

Ward insisted she will be able to bring together the conservative and establishment factions of the state party by making re-electing President Donald Trump the top priority.

Ward defeated Lines 633-526, with a third candidate clinching 65 votes.

Republican losses in the 2018 election were a common refrain throughout Saturday’s Republican gathering.  

Prior to the election, Republicans held all statewide elected offices, a majority of the congressional seats and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Although Republicans kept their legislative majorities, Democrats picked up four seats in the House — bringing the chamber to a 31-29 split. Democrats also won four statewide elections and a majority of Arizona’s nine congressional seats.

Ward, a former state senator, placed the blame squarely on Lines, of Yuma.

“I was with you on Election Day and after, sharing the heartbreak with you of the crushing defeats we had across Arizona despite historic unprecedented efforts,” Ward said

The status quo isn’t good enough, she said. And echoing comments U.S. Sen. Martha McSally made earlier in the meeting, Ward said, “we need to do better.” McSally, though, was talking about Republican election performance as a whole and not specifically about Lines.

McSally defeated Ward in last year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Ward did not immediately endorse McSally after the contentious primary, so it is unclear if the animosity that lingered between the two will carry over into the relationship they will undoubtedly have in working to get McSally elected in 2020.

After her win, Ward brushed off any notion that she and McSally would be at odds with each other going forward.

“I look forward to working with Martha to make sure that when they talk about the female senator from Arizona, they’re talking about Sen. Martha McSally. That will happen,” she said.

In the past, many moderate Republicans have shied away from Ward, who has been seen as part of a more extreme faction of the party. Ward launched her bid for AZGOP chair in late November, mere weeks after the November 6 election.

When she launched her bid for chair, some Republicans joked Ward would have no luck fundraising — a major part of the job as leader of the state party. Ward insisted Saturday backhanded comments like that from members of her own party were just jokes.

“We’re going to raise money across the board,” she said. “Republicans, donors they understand that Arizona is a very important state as a whole.”

Strong fundraising is a part of Ward’s four-pronged vision that she laid out for Republicans after her victory.

She also highlighted filling all precinct committee positions, having more Republican involvement in the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission to make sure it is fair and ensuring election integrity by halting “Democratic ballot harvesting” and ending the practice of emergency voting centers.

Lines, who was elected party chairman in 2017 by 34 votes, conceded to Ward before the certified election results were publicly announced. In a Facebook post, Lines wished Ward luck and said it was his greatest pleasure to serve as party chairman.

McSally, in speaking ahead of the vote for party officers, praised Lines’ leadership during the 2018 election that she ultimately lost.

But the friction in the room was apparent as some people shouted digs at Lines while McSally was still speaking.

“With no results. We lost,” one person shouted from the audience. The snide comments foreshadowed Lines’ imminent loss.

The contentious intraparty GOP election underscored the division within the state’s Republican Party as Trump’s election has created fissures within the party.

Republicans even got into a squabble about the method for selecting a new chair.  A portion of those in attendance pushed for a public, roll-call vote. Others, wanted to cast secret ballots, as is done in typical elections.

Former Apache County supervisor Doyel Shamley was a last-minute addition to the race for chair, turning it into a three-way race.

While Arizona Republicans were divided on who should lead the party moving forward, Arizona Democrats overwhelming threw their support behind chairwoman Felecia Rotellini, who was unopposed in her re-election bid.

She was re-elected by acclamation Saturday.

The messaging within the parties couldn’t be more different following the 2018 election where Arizona Democrats made historic gains and Republicans were left licking their wounds.

At the AZGOP committee meeting, Republicans talked of coming together and unifying the party. Meanwhile, Arizona Democrats, after catapulting Democrats into four statewide offices and flipping just as many state house seats, are talking about building on those successes.  

“It’s a great contrast for the people of Arizona,” Rotellini told the Arizona Capitol Times. “I feel very confident that the Democratic Party has never been more unified.”

Democrats at the state party meeting, broke out into laughter, cheers and incredulous gasps when they heard the news Republicans had selected Ward as their chair.

Ward’s victory, which could take the state Republican Party in a more extreme direction, could give Democrats a leg up in 2020.  

After a “banner year” for Democrats, Rotellini plans to focus her efforts on reaching out to party leaders and precinct committee members across the state to take stock of what worked and what didn’t in 2018.

But looking ahead to the 2020, Democrats will focus on rebuilding party infrastructure by recruiting and training candidates, registering more voters and reaching out to minority and tribal communities, Rotellini said. Democrats will also work to build on the ground game they beefed up last year.

“I feel that [what] we’ve done in the past is great, but we will be able to enhance that with the continued momentum that we have going into the 2020 election,” Rotellini said.

Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Ward. 

International Affairs Budget imperative for helping world’s poor

Dear Editor:

I am an ambassador to the Borgen Project in the Arizona sector. In short, the Borgen Project regularly meets with congressional leaders to gain support in life saving legislation and programs. I am writing this letter for this news media to advocate for the International Budget Affairs. As a supporter, I would like many to know how important the International Budget Affairs is to the United States and to other countries. These funds are imperative for helping the world’s poor, and as global citizens, we must back initiatives that can save millions of lives both domestically and abroad. Currently, the International Affairs Budget makes up only a mere 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, but impacts all aspects of life in America. The current administration has proposed a 22 percent cut to the U.S.’ development and diplomacy cuts for FY2021. I strongly want our congressional leaders including, our Governor, Doug Ducey, our Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema and our district representatives to protect the budget to further global poverty reduction efforts, boost U.S. job creation and advance our national security interests.


Veronica Matuszewski
Cave Creek

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.

Jon Kyl to step down from U.S. Senate on Dec. 31, Ducey to choose replacement

Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl was appointed to the late Sen. John McCain's vacant seat on Sept. 4. Though Kyl accepted the appointment, he will not seek election in 2020 nor did he agree to serve out the full remainder of the term. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl was appointed to the late Sen. John McCain’s vacant seat on Sept. 4. Though Kyl accepted the appointment, he will not seek election in 2020 nor did he agree to serve out the full remainder of the term. PHOTO BY KATIE CAMPBELL/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl will step down at the end of the year.

Kyl, who never planned to serve beyond this congressional term, will step down from the appointed position, leaving Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint someone new to serve until 2020.

There is no word yet from the Governor’s Office on who Ducey will appoint to fill the seat until the 2020 special election.

Kyl informed Ducey of his decision in a Dec. 12 letter, in which he said it was an honor and a privilege to serve.

“When I accepted your appointment, I agreed to complete the work of the 115th Congress and then reevaluate continuing to serve,” Kyl wrote. “I have concluded that it would be best if I resign so that your new appointee can begin the new term with all the other Senators in January 2019.”

In a statement from the Governor’s Office, Ducey said Kyl served with the same integrity and statesmanship that defined his more than two decades in Congress

“When Jon Kyl returned to the Senate in September, our country faced many critical issues,” Ducey said. “Arizona needed someone who could hit the ground running from day one and represent our state with experience and confidence – and that’s exactly what Senator Kyl has done.”

Former U.S. Senate candidate Martha McSally and Kirk Adams, Ducey’s former chief of staff, are both rumoured to be on the shortlist of possible appointments.

Ducey met with McSally at the Capitol on Dec. 3, but he would not say what the two talked about when he was questioned by reporters at a recent event.

Ducey has previously said he will look to appoint someone who can run for the seat in 2020.

“Ideally, I’d like to find someone who could not only represent the citizens of Arizona, but that could run for re-election,” the governor said on a local podcast.

The Governor’s Office hasn’t given any details of when Ducey will make an appointment, but he will likely move quickly in order to get someone sworn in and settled before the new congressional term starts next year.

By law, Ducey must appoint a Republican to fill the seat that was previously occupied by Sen. John McCain. Ducey appointed Kyl to the seat on Sept. 4, shortly after McCain’s death and the memorial services that followed.

Democrats are already lining up to run in the 2020 special election. Rep. Ruben Gallego, former Attorney General Grant Woods and Mark Kelly, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, may all seek the Democratic nomination.

Arizona will hold a 2020 special election to fill the seat, but the seat will be back up for election two years later at the conclusion of what would have been McCain’s six-year term.


Judge hears arguments challenging state law on filling Senate vacancy

Detail of exterior of courthouse

An attorney for members of various political parties told a federal judge Friday she should order a statewide election − and soon − to let voters fill the Senate seat now occupied by Martha McSally.

Michael Persoon said there was nothing wrong with Gov. Doug Ducey initially appointing Jon Kyl to the vacancy created last year by the death of Sen. John McCain. When Kyl quit in January, Ducey tapped McSally.

But Persoon told Judge Diane Humetewa that Ducey has no right under the U.S. Constitution to have McSally hold that seat until the 2020 general election. He said the governor is required to give voters a chance as soon as possible to decide who should be their senator.

And by that, Persoon said, he means within 100 days of the vacancy.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks after delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. McSally is officially running as a Republican for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. Actually winning those seats and changing the face of the chamber are a different matter. Many of the women jumping into Senate races face uphill campaigns. (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. Senator Martha McSally (AP Photo/Matt York)

That date is long past, with McCain dying on Aug. 25. But Persoon said there’s still plenty of time for Humetewa to allow voters to weigh in.

But Michael Liburdi, representing the governor, said Ducey acted in accordance with state laws.

They say if a vacancy in the U.S. Senate occurs within 150 days of the next scheduled election − as happened here − then the governor can name someone to hold the spot until the following general election. And that means November 2020.

Persoon did not dispute that’s what state laws say. But he contends they violate constitutional provisions which require that voters get their say as soon as possible.

That’s not the only legal issue Persoon has with the state law.

He also wants Humetewa to void another provision in the statute which says that whoever the governor picks, whether on a shorter or longer-term basis, has to be of the same political party as the senator being replaced.

That’s not just an academic argument.

Persoon told the judge that Barry Hess, one of his clients, would have liked the opportunity to offer his name for the vacancy. Hess is a Libertarian who has run for governor, unsuccessfully, for more than a decade.

Liburdi defended the requirement, saying it ensures some continuity in the political representation of the state in the Senate. But he also suggested to Humetewa that the whole question is sort of silly, saying if Ducey is forced to make a new pick, regardless of political party, he still would choose McSally.

The heart of the legal fight is the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution added in 1913. It took the power to appoint U.S. senators away from state legislatures, as it had been until then, and provided for direct election, the same as has always been true for members of the House of Representatives.

“There’s a radical shift in who that senator represents,” Persoon said.

That amendment also says when there are vacancies, the governor “shall issue writes of election to fill such vacancies.” But it also says that state lawmakers may allow the governor to “make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

Liburdi said that last line is what backs the Arizona law saying any vacancy within 150 days of a scheduled election can be put off until the next general election. Anyway, he told the judge that makes more sense than calling a special election what with the expense and the anticipated low turnout.

Persoon, however, said 27 months − the time between McCain’s death and the 2020 general election − is far too long to leave the Senate seat in the hands of a political appointee. He said there’s no reason that Ducey cannot call for a special election sometime this year, giving voters a chance to decide who they want in the interim and not Ducey’s choice of McSally, who actually had lost her own Senate bid last year to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

He also brushed aside concerns about cost and turnout, pointing out that such special elections already are required for vacancies in the U.S. House.

That’s exactly what happened after Congressman Trent Franks resigned last year amid an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, setting up an election for his seat the following April. Republican Debbie Lesko defeated Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in that vote.

Lesko had to run again for re-election in November.

Liburdi said that quick turnaround occurred because, unlike the Senate, there is no legal provision for the governor to fill vacancies in the U.S. House, even on a temporary basis. And he rejected Persoon’s argument that having to wait until the 2020 election interferes with the right of Arizonans, including Persoon’s clients, to choose who represents them in the Senate.

“The plaintiffs have a right to vote,” Liburdi told the judge. “They will have a right to choose a successor to John McCain.”

It will just have to wait until next year.

Even at that, whoever wins in 2020 − assuming Humetewa spurns Persoon’s request − would get to occupy the seat for just two years, until 2022 which was the end of the six-year term to which McCain was reelected in 2016. Then there would be a race for a new six-year term.

Humetewa said she also wants to read legal briefs that will be submitted by Ronald Jacobs, a private attorney hired by McSally in her bid to convince the judge to let her serve through the 2020 election.

No date has been set for a decision.

Kelly meets with Ducey as he prepares to take seat in Senate

Mark Kelly, Arizona Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, waves to supporters as he speaks during an election night event Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Incoming Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly met with Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Nov. 24 as he prepares to take office as soon as next week.

The discussion at Ducey’s office in Phoenix touched on distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic, infrastructure and trade with Mexico, both said afterward.

“We’re both looking forward to vaccinating a large majority of the population,” Kelly said in a brief interview with The Associated Press. “We really need that and we’re going to probably see the first vaccinations here in the state as early as December.”

Kelly said he’s concerned about polls showing much of the country doesn’t plan to get vaccinated, which would prevent the herd immunity necessary to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check.

Ducey and Kelly agreed that Congress needs to do more to sustain families that are struggling during the pandemic, Kelly said.

Kelly echoed calls from the mayors of Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tolleson and Tucson for Ducey to institute a statewide mask mandate in public places.

“I think it’s a really strong message to have a governor say, ‘I want everybody to wear a mask and I’m going to require it and we’re going to enforce it,’” Kelly said.

Ducey said last week that he believes Arizona has achieved as much compliance with mask-wearing as it will get, adding that nearly everyone in the state lives in a jurisdiction with a local mask requirement.

Ducey’s office posted photos on Twitter showing the governor and his chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, meeting with Kelly and aide Tiernan Donohue. All were wearing masks when the photos were taken.

“There is no shortage of critical issues before our state and nation, and we’ll need both sides working together to really make a difference,” Ducey said in a statement.

Kelly defeated Republican Martha McSally, whom Ducey appointed to fill John McCain’s former Senate seat until the November election. Kelly will finish the last two years of McCain’s term and faces re-election in 2022. Kelly can be seated in the U.S. Senate after Arizona’s election results are formally certified on Monday.

Kelly sues website over claim he dressed as Hitler at ’85 party

Election 2020 Senate Debate

U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Kelly is going to court over uncorroborated claims by a web site that he dressed up as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler for a 1985 party at the Merchant Marine Academy.

Legal papers filed in Pima County Superior Court claim that Flyover Media, which operates the site known as National File, knew when it posted the photos and a video on its website that the person in the picture was not Kelly. Attorney Sarah Gonski said Kelly’s campaign even furnished statements by those who back the candidate’s response.

But she said the operation decided to put up the photo and the claim anyway. And as of October 28, it remained on the site.

In a written response, a spokesperson for National File said that the story, which remains online, has been updated “to reflect Mark Kelly’s denial and his classmates’ comments on the record.

Gonski linked the posting to efforts on behalf of the Senate Leadership Fund that has spent tens of millions of dollars in attack ads urging Kelly’s defeat. That organization also gave $3.5 million to Defend Arizona, a separate political action committee working to keep Martha McSally in office.

There was no immediate response from either of the GOP committees about their role in the posting.

But no one from the Kelly campaign would explain why they decided to file a lawsuit that would only generate more publicity about the photo, which was not in general circulation.

In fact, the legal papers do not seek a temporary restraining order to immediately remove the photo ahead of the General Election, but only unspecified monetary damages and a prohibition against further publication of the photo and the claim that the person pictured is Kelly. And the defendants have 30 days to respond.

“Since they have refused to take it down, we are taking the necessary steps,” said Jacob Peters, spokesman for the Kelly campaign. “I have nothing more to add.”

At the heart of the litigation is a page from the 1986 yearbook from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the year Kelly graduated. It details a Halloween Party at Delano Hall where “midshipmen were required to come in costume or attend in their drab liberty attire.”

One photo features five individuals, including one student in sunglasses that Patrick Howley, a National File reporter, identifies as Kelly.

“This is a lie, and defendants know it is a lie,” Gonski wrote. “Mr. Kelly never dressed as Hitler and does not even recall attending the event where the photograph was taken.”

She pointed out that none of the pages in the yearbook ever identifies who is dressed up as Hitler or even says that it was Kelly in any of the pictures with the person in the Hitler costume.

Gonski also said that National File was provided with statements by not just Kelly’s campaign but also others who were attending the academy that the person in the picture is not Kelly. And she said that both PolitiFact and FaceCheck.org, after doing their own independent investigations, both concluded there was no basis for the claim.

And PolitiFact said its own inquiry found one person, Ed McDonald, who said he had attended the party and that Kelly was not dressed as a Nazi. McDonald also was quoted as saying that the people in the photo were from the Second Company, different from that of Kelly.

“The fact that defendants insist on continuing to publish the article and video, despite confirmation that it is false from the Kelly campaign itself, numerous corroborating witnesses, and two independently conducted investigations, demonstrates actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth,” Gonski wrote.

That claim is crucial to Kelly prevailing in court.

Based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, public figures cannot win libel cases based simply on the fact that something said or published was false. Instead, they have to prove “actual malice,” which generally means that the publication was made even though the person doing it either knew that the statements were false or acted with reckless disregard for whether the statement was true or false.

Aside from the denials, Gonski claims there are “clear visual indicia” that Kelly was not the man in the photo. That, she said, includes differences in the haircut and style, jawline and “other facial features.”

But she said National Flyer decided to publish it anyway “because they knew it would generate attention and could devastate Mr. Kelly’s and the Kelly campaign’s chance in the upcoming election.”

The link to the Senate Leadership Fund is based on Gonski’s claim that Peter Lindsey, one of Kelly’s classmates, was contacted on September 10, before the story was published, by Karim Addetia, who sent a screenshot of the yearbook photo and asked Lindsey if the man was Kelly. She said Lindsey told Addetia that he “highly doubted” the man in the photo was Kelly.

Gonski said records at the Federal Elections Commission said that, at the time, Addetia was a consultant to the Senate Leadership Fund. And she said Addetia and the SLF communicated about the photos with National Flyer and Howley, the National File reporter.

Kelly takes commanding lead after early votes counted

Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, for the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Martha McSally, poses for a photo outside of the Udall Park Main Recreation Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, for the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Martha McSally, poses for a photo outside of the Udall Park Main Recreation Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated as more results become available. This story was first published at 9:04 p.m., and last updated at 1:13 a.m.

Democrat Mark Kelly will be the next U.S. Senator from Arizona flipping the second seat in as many years, defeating Republican Martha McSally who also lost in 2018.

Kelly has 53.4% of the vote compared to McSally’s 46.6%. Kelly is crushing McSally in Maricopa County by nine percentage points, where only one candidate has won a statewide race without taking the largest county in the state, which makes up about 60% of the electorate. 

McSally will also make history, but not for something in her favor. She will be the first candidate to lose two consecutive elections for the Senate to Democrats in state history. The last time Arizona had two Democratic Senators was in 1953 with Carl Hayden and Ernest McFarland.

There are still several votes to be counted. 

Now Kelly will join Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in Washington D.C. 

In the 2018 election between Sinema and McSally, it was much tighter and took several days to get the final results. But this cycle, Kelly led in virtually every poll by an average of 5.2 percentage points. 

McSally held a lead on election night and Sinema began to eat into that lead days later eventually coming out on top and emerging victorious by 2.4 percentage points.

Another difference this cycle is the amount of money each candidate raised. While the campaign trail was rough for both candidates each brought in an historic amount of cash. McSally broke records every fundraising quarter raising roughly $56.9 million to date, but Kelly outpaced her at every turn – raising nearly $90 million in total, which is unheard of in Arizona.

Sinema and McSally raised $44.5 million combined in 2018.

This Senate race is a special election after the death of Sen. John McCain in 2018 and the subsequent appointments of Sen. Jon Kyl and McSally. McCain was re-elected to the seat in 2016 so the winner will only hold it for two years before having to run again in 2022.

Kelly will be the sixth person to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate since August 2018 – joining the aforementioned four and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake who Sinema replaced after he retired.

And the winner of this race can also be sworn in as soon as canvassing is complete, a talking point that came up before the nomination and confirmation of SCOTUS Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Kelly: Border is porous, no opinion on single-payer health care

FILE- In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kelly said Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, that he's running to finish John McCain's term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., right, listens as her husband Mark Kelly, left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kelly said Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, that he’s running to finish John McCain’s term in the U.S. Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Former astronaut Mark Kelly waded into the political arena Tuesday, making a bid for U.S. Senate and hoping to prove to Arizonans he about more than just gun control.

Kelly officially said he wants the seat formerly held by John McCain and currently occupied by Republican Martha McSally. She was appointed to fill the vacancy by Gov. Doug Ducey but has to run in 2020 for the final two years of McCain’s term.

While Kelly has achieved some national attention, particularly for commanding the space shuttle, he is better known in Arizona as the husband of former state senator and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She left Congress after being shot in the head during a 2011 assassination attempt and mass shooting outside a Tucson grocery store that left her partially disabled and six others dead.

Since that time the pair have been on a crusade of sorts to convince state and federal lawmakers to enact what they believe are reasonable restrictions on weapons. That starts with closing what some have called the gun-show “loophole” that exempt people who buy weapons from another individual from having to go through the same background check as they would if purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.

Now Kelly needs to convince Arizona voters that he’s about much more than that.

In an interview with Capitol Media Services, Kelly provided some specifics.

For example, he said physical barriers do make sense along some areas of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, notably in urban areas.

“We can’t have an incredibly porous border,” Kelly said.

“But in some places it would be better if we applied technology,” saying that’s the way problems were solve at NASA with “a science-based approach.”

Still Kelly said he wants more enforcement border checkpoints.

“It’s too easy to illegally move drugs through these ports of entry,” he said.

Kelly said he got an important lesson in the importance of health care following the 2011 shooting and the hospitalization of his wife.

“She nearly died,” he said. “Her recovery took a long time.”

The issue, said Kelly, is that this kind of thing, whether it’s an injury or illness, happens to millions of others across the country.

“And often it happens when they don’t have health care coverage and it is devastating to them and their  families,” he said. “It often ruins their lives.”

That, he said, goes beyond the physical problems, leaving crippling medical bills.

The top priority, said Kelly, is ensuring that people have access to health care and do not lose their coverage for pre-existing conditions. But he balked at whether he supports some type of single-payer system where the government is responsible for obtaining coverage for all residents.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to have to figure this out over time.”

Kelly’s other key issue is climate change.

“I’ve seen changes in this planet from orbit,” he said. The problem, said Kelly, is that people in Washington are not taking this seriously.

“Often, we have people in D.C. that don’t even believe in science,” he said.

Kelly stressed that while he is campaigning for the Democratic nomination he is coming at the campaign and the job with the idea of being independent and working across the aisle on key issues.

“I don’t look at this through a partisan lens,” he said. “I think Arizonans need people who are independent, at least independent-minded.”

That may play in a general election campaign, as it did for Democrat Kyrsten Sinema who defeated McSally in the general election race for the Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.

But Kelly first needs to win the Democratic primary, a hurdle Sinema did not need to face last year. And former state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said Kelly is not simply going to be able to claim the Democratic nomination. What he said Kelly needs to do is provide Democratic voters with the kind the specifics on issues of importance to them to get their support.

“He’s going to have to demonstrate to voters he has a vision of some of the other big issues,” said Campbell, now a political consultant.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego

There’s also the question of whether Kelly, a relative newcomer to Arizona and Arizona politics, can gather the votes against those with deeper roots, including Congressman Ruben Gallego.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Gallego posted on Twitter shortly after Kelly’s announcement. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Gallego has his own back story, including being the son of Hispanic immigrants and a Marine Corps veteran serving in Iraq. More significant, he also has an extensive voting record both in the Arizona Legislature and, since 2015, as a member of Congress.

“Ruben represents a big challenge,” Campbell said, saying Kelly will need to “earn his Democratic credentials.”

Kelly brushed aside the question of that lack of a record for voters to consider.

“Well, I’m not a politician,” he said. “Obviously, I’m new to this.”

But Kelly said that he does have 25 years of service in the Navy, including his own military record during the first Gulf War where he flew 39 combat missions as part of Operation Desert Storm. Then there’s his record as commander of the space shuttle.

“I’ve solved problems looking at data and science and information and I hope to apply that in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Gallego is not the only obstacle to the Democratic nomination. Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, just elected to Congress this past November, also is exploring his options.

Republican political consultant Stan Barnes said whoever survives the Democrat primary will find that McSally will be a stronger candidate than she was last year when she lost the Senate race to Sinema.

Barnes said he believes McSally learned her lesson and will not wage the same kind of negative campaign that left her short of votes at the end. And he said McSally also will have the benefit of 2020 being a presidential election year, enabling her to take advantage of support from and for President Trump.

Land and Water Conservation Fund far reaching


While parks dot the urban and rural landscapes of Arizona, the critical connections these places have to the Land and Water Conservation Fund may not be as clear.

Created in 1964 with strong bipartisan support, LWCF has helped protect America’s greatest treasures: from national parks of outstanding beauty, such as the Grand Canyon National Park and Saguaro National Park, to historic sites embodying our nation’s past, such as the Gettysburg Battlefield and Monroe Elementary School  in Kansas – the school attended by Linda Brown of Brown v. Board of Education.

LWCF has successfully safeguarded countless acres of natural resources, greatly enhanced access to public lands, preserved our historical legacy, and supported local economies by boosting tourism. To this day, LWCF has helped protect more than 100 national battlefields, supported over 42,000 parks and recreation projects across the country, in addition to protecting more than 2.2 million acres of national parks.

Maite Arce
Maite Arce

Yet, it might be LWCF’s lesser known support of local communities, their parks, and the tourism and recreation economies that have been the most impactful. It has supported the development of facilities – sports fields, swimming pools and cultural centers – the expansions of parks, trails and outdoor activities and the maintenance of numerous sites. Its reach is so extensive – it has touched nearly every county in the country.

In fact, more than 700 parks and projects in Arizona, like South Mountain Park in Phoenix and Chaparral Park in Scottsdale, have been supported through LWCF. In total Arizona has received $235 million through LWCF with $60 million being used for state and local programs. Maricopa County alone has been the beneficiary of $28.8 million of those state-level funds.

During July’s sixth annual Latino Conservation Week, which was celebrated with more than 150 events nationwide and nearly a dozen in Arizona, thousands of Latinos enjoyed our nation’s public lands, including LWCF sites, and learned about stewardship. LWCF sites were home to Arizona events too. The organization Mi Famila Vota took participants to Montezuma Castle National Monument to explore the legacy of Verde Valley, while Las Vegas church Centro de Adoración Familiar took congregation members to Davis Camp in Bullhead City to expose their youth to the outdoors and perform baptisms in the Colorado River.

It’s also important to note that LWCF doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. LWCF funds are generated primarily through offshore oil and gas royalties. The purpose of the program was to ensure that as we extract natural resources, we should in turn invest in protecting other natural resources, like public lands and waters. While LWCF doesn’t cost taxpayers, its annual allocation is capped at $900 million and must be authorized by Congress, which has fully-funded LWCF only twice in its 54-year history.

The Senate and the House overwhelmingly supported the permanent reauthorization of LWCF earlier this year, but work is still being done to pass legislation that will secure permanent, full funding for the program.

In the meantime though, Congress still needs to step up. Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema supported the bill for permanent reauthorization of LWCF and now they need to make sure that it is permanently funded so the numerous LWCF-supported public parks of Arizona are accessible now and for future generations. We have a moral responsibility to take care of our public lands, and LWCF is an essential, cost effective tool in doing so.

Maite Arce is the founder, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. 

Leaders: Securing border part of fix for opioid crisis

In this Wednesday, May 30, 2018, photo, Arizona U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speak to reporters in phoenix, Ariz., following testimony in a field Congressional hearing on opioid abuse and the border. McSally and Ducey say it takes a holistic approach to battle the opioid crisis that has taken millions of lives. AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)
In this Wednesday, May 30, 2018, photo, Arizona U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speak to reporters in phoenix, Ariz., following testimony in a field Congressional hearing on opioid abuse and the border. McSally and Ducey say it takes a holistic approach to battle the opioid crisis that has taken millions of lives. AP Photo/Astrid Galvan)

A holistic approach is needed to battle the opioid crisis that has gripped many parts of the country, fueled in part by the high volume of drugs that come across the southern border, Arizona officials said Wednesday.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation along with Gov. Doug Ducey and top law enforcement officials made the comments during a Homeland Security congressional subcommittee hearing in Phoenix.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican running for the U.S. Senate, hosted the hearing. She said 90 percent of the nation’s illegal drugs come through ports of entry, often hidden in car compartments. McSally said it takes more than just law enforcement to battle drug abuse.

But some Democrats at the hearing criticized Republicans for their past support of legislation that would curb Medicaid and programs to treat addiction.

“How can we fight opioid addiction, how can Arizona take it seriously, while at the same time we’re taking efforts to gut Medicaid?” U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego asked Ducey. The Republican governor said he doesn’t think the two issues are mutually exclusive.

Ducey on Tuesday said he was ending the public health emergency declaration he issued last year in an effort to combat opioid abuse. The initiative helped create a new reporting and information-sharing system on abuse while also providing training on use of a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose to 1,000 police officers around the state, according to a news release.

McSally lauded the governor’s efforts, but said border security was also an important component.

McSally said a shortage of Customs and Border Protection officers at the state’s port of entries is at a crisis level even as officers from elsewhere in the country have been sent to Arizona to assist.

“It’s critical, as we talked about today, for our border security because a lot of these drugs are coming through the ports of entry on people or in deeply concealed compartments that are very difficult to detect,” McSally said.

Libertarian pushes court to rule on challenge to U.S. senator appointment

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., delivers her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. McSally is officially running as a Republican for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. Actually winning those seats and changing the face of the chamber are a different matter. Many of the women jumping into Senate races face uphill campaigns. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Then-U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., delivers her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office Tuesday, May 29, 2018, at the Capitol in Phoenix. McSally ran and lost as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retirement Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Gov. Doug Ducey later chose her to fill out the term of John McCain. The former chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party has challenged Ducey’s ability to name a replacement until the 2020 election.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

Saying time is running out, the former chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party wants the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to order an election – and soon – to decide who fills out the term of John McCain.

In new legal papers, Michael Kielsky notes that a lawsuit to challenge the ability of Gov. Doug Ducey to name a replacement until the 2020 election was filed in November. Now, more than six months later, U.S. District Court Diane Humetewa has failed to act.

Kielsky told Capitol Media Services that, at the very least, every day of delay is a day that the voters of Arizona do not get to decide who represents them in Washington. Instead they are stuck with Martha McSally whom Ducey appointed earlier this year.

But Kielsky, who represents two registered Democrats, one Republican, one Libertarian and one independent, said there’s a more practical reason to try to push the process along.

He said if the case drags on much longer it will end up being within six months of the 2020 election, when McSally will have to put herself before voters if she wants to serve out the final two years of McCain’s six year term. And the law is clear that the governor does have the legal authority to appoint replacements within six months of an election, meaning McSally would get to stay through at least 2020.

“We’re going to get to some point, and that point is approaching more quickly of course, where the whole lawsuit would be moot,” Kielsky said.

Ducey, however, is in no rush to have the case decided and risk the chance that a court would determine that there has to be an election for the seat McSally occupies before 2020. In fact, the governor’s attorneys already have filed legal briefs with Humetewa not only defending his right to keep McSally in office through 2020, but telling the judge there is no reason to force her to make a decision quickly.

At this point it doesn’t appear that the appellate judges are interested in stepping in.

In an order late Friday, they ordered Kielsky to either dismiss the appeal himself or show them why they should not toss the case due to lack of jurisdiction.

That order did not go unnoticed by Dominic Draye, one of the governor’s attorneys.

“I think that racing to the 9th Circuit before the district court has even entered a ruling is a bad idea,” he said. And Draye said the Friday afternoon order by the appellate court suggests that the judges agree with that analysis.

Kielsky’s argument is based on the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which took the power to name U.S. senators away from state lawmakers and gave it directly to voters.

It also says when there are vacancies, the governor “shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.” Ducey has done that, setting the primary for Aug. 25, 2020, and the general election for Nov. 3 of that year, to determine who fills out the rest of the term which ends at the end of 2022.

Kielsky, however, contends the Constitution requires the appointment to be temporary “until the people fill the vacancies by election as the Legislature may direct.” And he argues that there should be a special election long before next year, an election that could result in voters choosing someone other than McSally, and other than a Republican, to serve through the end of McCain’s term in 2022.

McSally actually was Ducey’s second pick after McCain died last August.

He originally tapped former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl who served through the end of the year and also provided a crucial vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kyl then went back into private practice.

That gave Ducey the chance to name McSally, who just months earlier had lost her own bid for the U.S. Senate as she was beaten by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Republican Jeff Flake.

Attorney Brett Johnson, one of the lawyers representing Ducey, has argued that the “inconvenience and expense of a special election outweighs any advantage to be derived from having a more prompt vacancy election.”

In his own legal filings, Johnson also told Humetewa that a special election would give an edge to “special interest groups and candidates with considerable self-wealth or funding” because of what he said is the cost of having to finance an off-year campaign. By contrast, he argued, having the vote to fill the balance of the Senate term at a regularly scheduled election “creates a greater opportunity for a stronger pool of candidates to run.”

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to add information on a late 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order. 

Major takeaways from last night’s primary elections

A woman arrives to her polling station, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. Elections officials say 62 polling locations in the Phoenix area weren't operational when voting began in Arizona's primary. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A woman arrives to her polling station, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. Elections officials say 62 polling locations in the Phoenix area weren’t operational when voting began in Arizona’s primary. (AP Photo/Matt York)

In case you missed our coverage of last night’s primary elections, here are the major takeaways.

  • Arizona voters handed Secretary of State Michele Reagan the pink card in an apparent rebuke over troubles and misfires her office has made. Challenger Steve Gaynor, a political newcomer and a businessman, crushed her at the polls.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas also appears to be on her way out, although the race on the Republican side remains too close to call. Fewer than 2,000 votes separate Douglas from front-runner Frank Riggs in the crowded GOP primary. Meanwhile, candidate and educator Kathy Hoffman is posed to pull off an upset in the Democratic race for superintendent of public instruction. Hoffman has built what appears to be an insurmountable lead over David Schapira, a former legislator.
  • David Garcia, a professor at Arizona State University, dominated his primary rivals to clinch the Democratic nomination, while Gov. Doug Ducey cruised to victory against former secretary of state Ken Bennett.
  • Darin Mitchell is struggling in his re-election bid for the House in Legislative District 13, where Rep. Timothy Dunn and Joanne Osborn appear to have secured the two spots in the GOP primary. In the Senate race also in the same district, former legislator Don Shooter, who was expelled from the Legislature over allegations of sexual harassment, failed in his comeback attempt. In Legislative District 5, Rep. Paul Mosley, whose campaign was engulfed in the controversy over his alleged abuse of legislative immunity, has fallen behind in the House race to incumbent Rep. Regina Cobb, and Leo Biasiucci.
  • Finally, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema will face U.S. Rep. Martha McSally in the general election for the U.S. Senate after the two candidates secured their parties’ nominations. For the first time in Arizona history, a woman is assured to hold seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring.


Mark Kelly is worthy of filling John McCain’s Senate seat

In this May 16, 2011, file photo, former NASA astronaut STS-134 commander Mark Kelly, front, waves a he leaves the Operations and Checkout Building with fellow crew members, including Mike Fincke, for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, and a planned liftoff on the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. A Kelly victory would shrink the GOP's Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicate the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
In this May 16, 2011, file photo, former NASA astronaut STS-134 commander Mark Kelly, front, waves a he leaves the Operations and Checkout Building with fellow crew members, including Mike Fincke, for a trip to Launch Pad 39-A, and a planned liftoff on the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. A Kelly victory would shrink the GOP’s Senate majority at a crucial moment and complicate the path to confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

I have been a registered Republican almost all my adult life who has always been comfortable engaging with people across the aisle on issues I care about deeply. I am still a Republican. But in the U.S. Senate election for Arizona, I won’t be supporting a Republican. I am supporting Democrat Mark Kelly.

To me, Mark represents the type of leadership that is becoming increasingly rare in Washington: he’s an independent thinker, focused on helping his constituents regardless of party, and is a veteran. Experience tells me that these are the type of leaders who get things done. I have spent over 25 years of my life working to get things done to make our communities healthier and safer. Mark Kelly will be a true partner in that work.

In October 1994, my life was irrevocably changed. My younger brother, an off-duty Rochester, Michigan, police officer, was ambushed and killed at the hands of a violent gunman. Adam was 27 years old; an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War. He left behind a wife who was five months pregnant and an 18-month old daughter.

The trauma of his murder left me reeling and questioning my privileged suburban life — I realized anyone can be touched by violence. The following spring, I saw an advertisement in The Arizona Republic for the Brady Campaign asking for volunteers. I called and was eventually connected with Sarah Brady, who invited me to Washington D.C. to meet with our elected officials. It was the first time I told senators my survivor story, and why we need to make sure our laws prevent firearms from being in the wrong hands.

The late Sen. John McCain was there in that Senate hearing room to listen to my testimony. We spoke about expanding the Brady Bill, which had been passed in early 1994, to protect Americans. Like me, McCain was a Republican who was concerned about making Arizona’s communities safer and was willing to talk across the aisle to look for solutions. John McCain was a man of honor, and he served our country with conviction.

Geraldine Hills
Geraldine Hills

Upon returning to Arizona, I founded a nonprofit, bipartisan group dedicated to fighting gun violence. We worked closely with Congresswoman Gabby Giffords when she was a state legislator – she sponsored bills protecting Arizonans from gun violence. In time, I met Mark Kelly.

Mark is a man of integrity and, importantly, he is a problem solver — he approaches issues from a practical point of view. He is not afraid to speak truth to power, unlike his opponent. Martha McSally has spent too much time and energy looking for ways to excuse President Trump’s behavior.

As a mother, a grandmother and a woman of faith, I believe Trump has deeply weakened the moral integrity of our country. We need leaders who will stand up for what is right — to tell us the hard truth, no matter what party they belong to.

Right now, our country is divided. We are sicker, we are poorer, and we are weaker in the eyes of the world. We need strong leaders who will rebuild our economy, fix health care, and protect Social Security, Medicare and the environment. We need to send people to Washington who can look for bipartisan solutions to the problems we face. I know that Mark will do that as senator.

In this election, we need to elect a senator worthy of filling the seat that belonged to John McCain — McSally is not worthy of that seat. Mark Kelly is.

So I’m calling on my fellow Republicans – it’s clear that Martha McSally will not be a senator for Arizonans and will not look for bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face today. Vote for Mark Kelly and send a real public servant to the Senate — a leader who will look out for Arizonans.

Geraldine Hills is the founder and president of Arizonans for Gun Safety.


Mark Kelly sworn into Senate, narrows GOP edge

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks with his wife former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., after participating in a re-enactment of his swearing-in Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, by Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks with his wife former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., after participating in a re-enactment of his swearing-in Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, by Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate on December 2, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state’s shift from ruby red to purple.

Kelly, 56, defeated GOP Sen. Martha McSally in last month’s election, making her one of only three incumbents to lose. By taking office, he has reduced the Republican edge in the chamber to 52-48.

That will have scant impact on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s control over the chamber for the final month of this congressional session. But it sets the stage for two pivotal Senate runoff elections in Georgia on January 5.

If Democrats win both, they will command the 50-50 chamber for the new Congress that begins in early January because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.

Kelly was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence, and both men wore masks and bumped arms in congratulations when the oath was over. Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.

Kelly’s Arizona colleague, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, held the Bible on which he took his oath. In what may be a Senate first for such ceremonies, Sinema, known for dramatic fashion, wore a zebra-striped coat and had purple hair, or perhaps a wig.

Kelly’s Senate arrival marks a political milestone for Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since January 1953. That is when GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater took office, barely a decade before he became his party’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential candidate.

In other evidence of Arizona’s political shift, the state backed President-elect Joe Biden last month, the first time it was carried by a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton won in 1996. Republicans held the Legislature by a slim margin and won convincingly down the ballot.

McSally was appointed to her seat in 2019 to replace the late GOP Sen. John McCain. Her appointment lasted only until last month’s special election was officially certified, which occurred this week. That cleared the way for Kelly to take office and fill the rest of McCain’s six-year term, meaning Kelly will face re-election in 2022.

Kelly was parachuting into a fractious lame-duck session in which lawmakers and President Donald Trump are so far deadlocked over whether to provide a pre-holiday COVID-19 relief package worth hundreds of billions of dollars. They’re also trying to address year-end budget work and a defense policy bill.

Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign. His slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he will be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.

In what was one of the country’s most expensive Senate races, Kelly raised $89 million. That was second only to the $108 million collected by defeated South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama were the only other Senate incumbents defeated last month.

The son of two police officers, Kelly is a retired astronaut who flew four space missions, including spending time aboard the International Space Station. He was also a Navy pilot who flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Giffords was grievously wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in which six people were killed and a dozen others hurt. She and Kelly became leading figures in unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to strengthen gun controls.

“Great day, excellent day,” Giffords told reporters afterward.

Kelly is the fourth astronaut to be elected to Congress. John Glenn was a Democratic senator from Ohio and Harrison Schmitt was a GOP senator from New Mexico. Republican Jack Swigert was elected to the House from Colorado, but died of cancer before taking office.


Masks become symbol of person’s politics, virtue

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, delivers a speech in the state Senate on May 8 as Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, listens. PHOTO BY ANDREW NICLA/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES
Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, delivers a speech in the state Senate on May 8 as Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, listens. PHOTO BY ANDREW NICLA/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

On most days, a stranger visiting the Arizona House or Senate with no prior knowledge of state politics could identify Democrats and Republicans easily: just look for the donkey or elephant baubles on their desks.

COVID-19 has provided a new form of party shorthand – look for the masks.

Every Senate Democrat wore a mask during their first floor session since recessing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and every Senate Republican left their faces uncovered except the chair and vice chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and a Republican committee member who owns a medical supply business.

The Senate served as a microcosm of the nation, where wearing a mask — or not wearing one — has become a political symbol for many. Largely conservative protesters who eschew facial coverings deride masks as virtue signaling, the 2020 version of the safety pins white liberals donned after the Brexit vote and the 2016 presidential election. And those who wear masks shame those who don’t as not caring about their fellow human beings.

 A partially masked Democratic state Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, decries the lack of personal responsibility he sees demonstrated by Republican colleagues who aren’t wearing masks on the floor of state Senate on May. 8. PHOTO BY BOB CHRISTIE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A partially masked Democratic state Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, decries the lack of personal responsibility he sees demonstrated by Republican colleagues who aren’t wearing masks on the floor of state Senate on May. 8. PHOTO BY BOB CHRISTIE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In an animated floor speech that caused his own mask to repeatedly fall below his nose, Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, decried the lack of personal responsibility he saw demonstrated by Republican colleagues who weren’t wearing masks. Quezada, who has Type 1 diabetes, is at high risk for a serious case of COVID-19 if he contracts it, and his desk on the Senate floor is surrounded by Republicans.

“Any one of you may have been exposed on your way over here, stopping for coffee in the morning, filling up your gas,” Quezada said. “You could have been exposed, and now you’ve impacted me. You could have impacted my elderly father who is filling up at the gas tank next to you. You could have impacted my nieces and nephews who are young children, anybody else who’s suffering from cancer who has a compromised immune system.”

Sen. Victoria Steele, the other Democrat who sits surrounded by Republican lawmakers, said she has to assume her colleagues took a cue from President Trump, who has notably refused to wear a mask, and Gov. Doug Ducey, who tells Arizonans to wear masks but has only worn one in public once. Bare faces seem to be a way for conservative men to assert that they’re big and strong and brave, the Tucson Democrat said.

“For them, the mask seems to be symbolic, a symbol of their liberty and their rights,” Steele said. “But what about everyone else’s rights?”

Veteran GOP consultant Matt Benson, likewise, pins the politicization of masks on Trump. This week, after several White House employees — including a former spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Martha McSally — tested positive for COVID-19, the Trump administration began requiring all staff members to wear masks. But the president still refuses to wear one.

“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the president said during a White House press briefing in late April announcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance on face coverings. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”

Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., greets President Donald Trump as he arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., greets President Donald Trump as he arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Conflicting messaging from the CDC and the World Health Organization, both of which spent several weeks telling people not to bother with masks because they were ineffective before reversing course and urging everyone to cover their faces to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the disease to others, didn’t help matters, Benson said.

But wearing or not wearing a mask didn’t become controversial until Trump publicly declined to wear one, he said.

“It’s a sad commentary on our modern politics,” Benson said. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if the president would wear a mask even from time to time, but he clearly views it as a weakness. We should be able to find common cause on at least this.”

Benson said he personally wears a mask when going to grocery stores or The Home Depot, because the evidence is clear that rates of transmission are lower in places where face coverings are common. But he won’t put one on while he’s outside walking the dog or while driving, when he’s in the open air and away from others.

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, uses similar calculations in deciding when to wear a face mask. She now carries one with her at all times, and decides whether to put it on based on the circumstances.

“If I’m in a situation where literally nobody’s around me, I don’t wear it. I would suffocate,” she said. “I always have it right there so that if I end up in a situation where I’m around other people and we can’t be at a safe distance, I have it.”

Gov. Doug Ducey waits to hear President Donald Trump speak after a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Phoenix. From left behind Ducey are U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. and Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. PHOTO BY EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS.
Gov. Doug Ducey waits to hear President Donald Trump speak after a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment, Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Phoenix. From left behind Ducey are U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. and Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz. PHOTO BY EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS.

Presiding over the Senate, where she sits alone on a dais several feet above and away from everybody else, was a clear situation where Fann felt she didn’t need her mask. Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he felt similarly.

Mesnard wore a mask when he entered the Senate, and again when he left. He has kept his face covered whenever he goes out in public for weeks, starting earlier than most mask-wearers because his wife’s a nurse, and he swapped the Spiderman mask he’s been wearing for a plain one more fitting the staid Senate.

Mesnard said he considered keeping a mask on for the whole floor session, before deciding he was far enough away from other lawmakers and staff that it was safe to talk without one.

Masks overall seem like they do more good than harm, he said. When it comes to their politicization, Mesnard said it probably behooves Democrats for the virus to appear as bad as possible to help their electoral chances in

“There’s a bit of an interest in the Democratic Party in making sure COVID-19 is perceived to be as serious as possible,” he said.

Other maskless Republican senators said they will cover their faces when out in public in other circumstances, but stressed their own personal strength while doing so.

“I have no personal fear of COVID-19,” said Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. “It’s part of life. If I get sick, I get sick. But when I go out and I go to stores, I wear a mask and I wear gloves. Why? Because I’m trying to be a good citizen.”

Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, the Phoenix Republican who chairs the Health and Human Services committee, said her decision to keep her face covered was made out of consideration and respect for her colleagues.

“We’re still finding out about this disease,” Brophy McGee said. “I would feel terrible if I were an asymptomatic carrier and infected a colleague.”

Masks have provided a way for people to make political statements, longtime GOP consultant Stan Barnes said.

“It’s proving to us all that in the year 2020 everything is political, even a global pandemic,” he said. “The mask has become a bit of a symbol. It seems to me it’s some sort of Rorschach test for the public.”

Barnes, who does not wear a mask, said he knows people who have been verbally attacked at stores for wearing one, and people who have been attacked for not wearing one.

He didn’t think of his own choice not to mask up before going into stores in political terms, and he imagines many other Arizonans who choose to wear or not wear masks aren’t thinking about political signaling. It’s a decision based on a variety of reasons, including their perspective on the risks of COVID-19.

But at some point, the knowledge that they will be judged by others for choosing to wear or not wear a facial covering seeps in, thrusting the idea of a mask as a political statement on people who didn’t think of their decision in partisan terms, he said.

“Everybody feels self-righteous about wearing one or not wearing one,” Barnes said.

McSally concedes, congratulates Sinema for becoming first woman AZ senator

U.S. Senator elect Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
U.S. Senator elect Kyrsten Sinema (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The latest batch of votes counted Monday put the U.S. Senate out of the reach of Republican Martha McSally and into the hands of an Arizona Democrat for the first time since 1994.

The GOP contender conceded Monday after new results showed Sinema’s lead statewide is now approaching 38,200 votes.

Sinema got another big boost from Pima County, where she is continuing to pick up four votes for every three for McSally.

And her vote edge in what is supposed to be Republican Maricopa County also stretched to 45,000 out of nearly 1.3 million votes tallied so far. That includes nearly 29,000 for Green Party contender Angela Green who dropped out several days before Election Day.

All this is significant because there are now only about 175,000 votes left to be counted.

Most of those — about 143,000 — are in Maricopa County where the numbers from the early ballots that are still being counted have so far broken Sinema’s way.

In fact, to make up Sinema’s lead McSally would have had to pick up close to three of each of the Maricopa County votes that remain to be counted for every two that are cast for the Democrat.

McSally, in a video released online, congratulated Sinema on her victory — and the fact that Sinema will be the first woman Arizona has sent to the U.S. Senate.

“I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate,” McSally said.

The outcome of the race also means that this will be the first time in five decades that Arizona has sent more Democrats to Washington than Republicans. The last time was in 1967 when Democrat Carl Hayden was one of the state’s two senators and two of the three House seats Arizona had at the time were held by Democrats.

With Ann Kirkpatrick taking the congressional seat that McSally gave up to run for Senate, Arizona will have five Democrats in the U.S. House versus four Republicans. And even with Jon Kyl remaining in the Senate — or whoever Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint should Kyl quit in January — having Sinema as the other senator means a 6-5 delegation.

Kathy Hoffman
Kathy Hoffman

Also finally winning Monday is Democrat Kathy Hoffman in her race for superintendent of public instruction. In fact, her 54,000-vote lead over Republican Frank Riggs is larger than the one that Sinema had over McSally.

She replaces Republican Diane Douglas who was defeated in the GOP primary by Riggs.

The new vote tallies also produced welcome news for Democrat Katie Hobbs in her bid for secretary of state.

With all the results of Monday added in, she now is formally nearly 5,700 votes ahead of Steve Gaynor who has found his lead shrinking since the polls closed and the first results were announced. That, however, remains too close to make any reliable predictions.

Incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan was out of the running in August after she was defeated in the Republican primary by Gaynor.

Democrat Sandra Kennedy also maintains a 10,000-vote lead over Republican Justin Olson, her closest competitor in the race for Arizona Corporation Commission. But even if that lead evaporates, she still has 15,000 more votes than Rodney Glassman, the other Republican running for one of the two open seats on the utility regulatory panel.

The continued strength of Democrats, especially in Maricopa County, showed up in other ways with the latest vote tallies.

Democrat Jennifer Pawlik, seeking one of two state House seats in LD 17 in Chandler now is outpolling incumbent Republican Jeff Weninger, though just barely. But she definitely is doing better than Nora Ellen, the other Republican in the race for the two open seats.

But incumbent Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix continues to hold on to a slim lead — just 549 votes — over Democrat Christine Marsh who is trying to unseat her.

McSally should stop misleading public about her health care record

Martha McSally
Martha McSally

Dear Editor:

I recently wrote to U.S. Sen. Martha McSally to express disappointment over her October 30 vote to allow insurance companies to sell “junk” health plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions. While I appreciated McSally replying to similar criticism, her response was filled with a number of mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods about the Affordable Care Act and her own record on health care.

In her reply, McSally said that “there is no doubt” that the Affordable Care Act has negatively impacted Arizona’s economy and the rights of individuals. That’s simply not true. In fact, the ACA has saved the U.S. economy $2.3 trillion. This year, Arizonans can choose among more plans than ever before.

McSally has said she supports protections for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But thanks to the ACA, those protections already exist, and now that she’s voted to allow insurers to sell junk health plans, those protections are threatened once again.

She said that “having an illness should not be a ticket to bankruptcy.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I was so disappointed by her vote to let insurers sell junk plans that don’t offer basic protections, including coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Lastly, McSally said that health care plans “must not discriminate against women.” Again, I agree, but I’m not sure McSally is updated on her own voting record. Before the ACA, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition, which allowed insurance companies to charge mothers more.

Sen. McSally, please stop misleading Arizonans about your health care record.

Pat Thomas


McSally, Kelly to face off in contentious U.S. Senate race

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix, campaigning in the traditional way. But now, the global pandemic that is shaking up life is also forcing Arizona's U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally has a commanding lead over her Republican challenger and will face Democrat Mark Kelly in the November election.

To nobody’s surprise McSally has a 57.2 percent lead over businessman and political unknown Daniel McCarthy, who goes by “Demand Daniel,” in early results. McCarthy challenged the appointed incumbent from the far right and ran a similar campaign to Kelli Ward in 2018 filled with attacks on McSally that include calling her a “liberal.” 

McSally already has support from the Republican establishment and President Trump is setting records in fundraising for her campaign. Even with her impressive numbers, she still trails Kelly, who is leading the country in fundraising as if he were a presidential candidate. 

Kelly brought in $44.6 million for his campaign to date and still has $21.2 million to spend. McSally raised $26.9 million to date and is left with roughly $11 million in the bank. 

McSally, a former Air Force colonel was the first woman to fly a jet in combat, an impressive feat, but voters will now get to choose between her and a former astronaut in Kelly.

Kelly has been soaring over McSally in virtually every political poll leading by an average of nine percentage points. Republican consultants say they are worried she doesn’t have much time to turn things around before some of her supporters will have to rethink their financial backing.

Former Arizona Speaker of the House and Gov. Doug Ducey chief of staff Kirk Adams said McSally has until Labor Day to turn her flailing campaign around and prove the race against Kelly is still competitive. 

“There’s no doubt about it, Mark Kelly has been running a fantastic campaign at this point … McSally has some work left to do,” Adams told 12 News on July 26. 

There are plenty of Senate seats national Democrats are trying to win to regain control of the chamber and Arizona is now viewed as the most likely to flip into Democratic hands. If that happens in November, McSally would be responsible for handing two U.S. Senate seats to Democrats over just two years. 

The seat McSally and Kelly are fighting for used to be filled by Sen. John McCain. The winner of the general election will only serve through 2022 since that’s when McCain’s term would have ended. McCain beat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in 2016, and when he died it was after the deadline to hold a special election in 2018 so Ducey had to appoint his replacement.

Ducey at first appointed former-Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican, who held the seat through the end of December. McSally was still battling Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a close battle to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and eventually lost. But having received more than 1 million votes, Ducey appointed her to hold the seat hoping she could win the next election. 

Ducey’s appointments of both Kyl and McSally, though in line with the Constitution, drew some controversy and a subsequent lawsuit arguing he should have issued an emergency special election rather than wait 27 months from McCain’s death to the next qualifying election on Nov. 3, 2020.

McSally: Veteran deportations should be reviewed individually

Gov. Doug Ducey and Sen. Martha McSally chat Monday with Alphonso Whitehead, one of the residents of the Arizona State Veteran Home in Phoenix. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Gov. Doug Ducey and Sen. Martha McSally chat Monday with Alphonso Whitehead, one of the residents of the Arizona State Veteran Home in Phoenix. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

The state’s Republican U.S. senator said Monday that immigration officials need to examine situations before veterans who are in this country illegally are deported.

“We want to give honor where it is due to all of our veterans,” said Sen. Martha McSally after touring the state Veteran Home. “Each case needs to be taken a look at based on what the circumstances are with that case.”

That is supposed to be what happens now.

But a report earlier this year by the federal General Accounting Office concluded that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has no actual idea about how many veterans it deported during the past five years.

Potentially more significant, the report said that ICE does not follow its own policies, which are supposed to help decide when a veteran should be allowed to stay.

“ICE policies require them to take additional steps to proceed with the case,” the GAO report says.

It also said that ICE does not have a policy to identify and document all military veterans it encounters. And even when agents learn they are dealing with a vet, the agency does not maintain complete electronic data.

The report says ICE targeted at least 250 veterans who are immigrants, deporting at least 84 of them between 2013 and 2016. But it says the numbers could be higher because the agency does not consistently ask those they encounter about their military service.

“Therefore ICE does not have reasonable assurance that it is consistently implementing its policies for handling veterans’ cases,” the report says.

McSally, questioned about that report Monday, did not dispute the findings.

“In our oversight role, we need to make sure it does happen,” she said.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who was with McSally on the tour, deflected questions about whether those who have served in the military should be allowed to remain despite being in this country illegally.

“Today’s Veterans Day,” he responded. “I’m here to honor the veterans.”

Anyway, the governor said, this is a federal and not a state issue.

“We want to pay all respect and gratitude to people that are defending our country,” Ducey said.

“This immigration issue is something that’s been left unsolved for some time,” he said. “It’s not going to be solved on Veterans Day.”

In general, veterans remain invisible to ICE until they get into some kind of legal trouble. That can range from domestic violence to more serious crimes.

NPR reports there are about 40 deported veterans who live in Tijuana, with another 24 in Ciudad Juarez.

Photos: Arizona’s 2019 inauguration

 Arizona’s statewide officials were sworn in during the state inauguration on January 7, an event that featured more than wonky policy talk.

Amid the speeches promising bipartisanship and action on urgent issues facing the state, officials shared tender moments with their loved ones on stage as members of the public and honored guests alike cheered.

 The action wasn’t all on stage. More than a few familiar faces dotted the crowd, including former Gov. Jan Brewer and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed in December to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat.

The day began another four-year term for Gov. Doug Ducey, but also featured the swearing in of two statewide Democratic officeholders: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, both of whom drew cheers from the crowd at just the mention of their names.

Click on the photo below to view slideshow. 

Standout moments from Arizona's 2019 inauguration ceremony

Plan to aid small businesses starts with grants – not loans

(Deposit Photos/Air Done)
(Deposit Photos/Air Done)

Small businesses like ours are fighting for survival, but so far our leaders have let us down. When communities are hurting we look to our leaders to help us get back on the right track. Senate Republicans have gone on vacation after offering a proposal that falls far short in scope and scale of the help small businesses and our employees need.

Community means everything to our businesses. Five years ago we started our first restaurant, The Coronado PHX, with a nod to our neighborhood and our city. We added a second coffee shop a couple years ago, and we’ve used both locations to hold community events and bring our neighbors together.

We’re absolutely committed to public health and so we are operating in a way that reduces risks for our community, even if that means sacrificing our own revenue. We haven’t opened for indoor dining or for patio seating even though we’re allowed to do so. We’ve retrofitted our space to keep our employees as safe as possible and we’re offering to-go orders as a way to survive until the crisis subsides.

Since March, sales at our two locations are down 30%-40%. Because of a mix of health concerns, family obligations and lower traffic at our locations, our staff is down by 25%. As a business, we have prided ourselves on providing benefits like health insurance and a living wage in an industry where that is far from the norm, and it’s been devastating to see our employees missing the hours they need to pay their bills.

We received some assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan, and we’re very grateful. It’s been a lifeline that has helped us keep people employed and on health insurance.

Elle Murtagh
Elle Murtagh

But for months we thought we wouldn’t receive anything. We were denied the PPP by our community bank, supposedly because we didn’t have any current loans with them. This was an arbitrary decision we found out, one of many that private lenders used to sort who got loans and who didn’t. Thankfully, after weeks of hanging by a thread we were accepted in the second round of applications with another bank.

We count ourselves lucky. We were persistent. We know others haven’t been as fortunate, especially businesses owned by people of color and very small businesses — those most likely to be excluded from these programs.

The trouble we’ve gone through to access relief has me worried about the plans to help small businesses and workers that Senate Republicans unveiled in August. They want to use the same structure for relief — loans from private lenders — that has been shown to prioritize large and profitable businesses while leaving real small businesses, especially those in most trouble, jumping through hoops for access if they can get to the programs at all.

Republicans are so out of touch with Main Street that they are holding all legislation hostage unless they get blanket corporate immunity so that bad actors can turn a blind eye and force workers into unsafe conditions without the possibility they might be held responsible for gross misconduct. This type of cynical partisan gamesmanship doesn’t put a penny in my cash register and it doesn’t do a bit of good for the millions of unemployed people and thousands of businesses on the brink of closing their doors permanently. It’s a slap in the face to business owners like me doing everything we can to keep our customers and employees safe.

Senate Republicans, including Senator Martha McSally, must do better. Instead of going to bat for hardworking Arizonans and keeping our own government response accountable, she’s wasting energy on bills that blame China for a public health crisis they got under control months ago.

A real plan to save our small business economy starts with grants — not loans — so we can cover payroll and keep people employed and will last the length of the pandemic. Funding eight weeks of recovery will put us right back where we are in October. We need a plan that acknowledges that the pandemic will be with us into the beginning of next year and its effects will linger for much longer. There is a program with bipartisan support that was included in both HEROES and HEALS—the Employee Retention Tax Credit, a fully and immediately refundable tax credit — that can be expanded to meet the needs of small business. This payroll subsidy plan that keeps businesses afloat and workers employed is what many other countries have chosen and that have saved their economies from crashing. The Employee Retention Tax Credit needs to be included at the level indicated in the HEROES Act or higher and provide assistance with operating costs like rent and mortgage payments.

In addition, no one should be evicted during a pandemic. It must provide real funding to turn the tide on the public health crisis. Public health and economic prosperity are not competing aims. One is a prerequisite for the other. And any plan has to have a realistic timeline.

Now is the time to get things right. We can’t afford another regression like we’ve seen across our state this summer.

Elle Murtagh is the owner of Coronado PHX and Dark Hall in Phoenix and a member of the Main Street Alliance.

Polls identify no leader in U.S. Senate race

U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Three new polls show Wednesday the race to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate is pretty much a toss-up.

A live-telephone survey done Sept. 4 through 6 by Data Orbital found Democrat Kyrsten Sinema supported by 46.1 percent of those questioned, giving her a 4.3 percentage point lead over Republican Martha McSally.

Pollster George Khalaf, who questioned 550 likely general election voters, also found Libertarian Adam Kokesh, who didn’t survive the primary, with the backing of 2.3 percent of those asked, with the balance held by the other 9.5 percent who for the moment favor neither major party candidate.

By contrast, a telephone survey of 597 likely voters done by Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights on Sept. 5 and 6, half live calls to cell phones and half automated to landlines, found McSally the choice of 49 percent, with a 3-point lead over Sinema in a head-to-head race.

And Fox News released its own live telephone poll of 710 likely voters conducted between Saturday and this past Tuesday showing Sinema at 47 percent to 44 percent for McSally.

In all cases, however, the spread is within the margin of error. And none of the surveys asked about Angela Green who will be on the November ballot as the Green Party candidate.

More to the point, Noble said all each survey represents is a snapshot in time of the views of the sample  that each of the pollsters got. And given what he said is the “ungodly amount of money” that both sides will put into the race in commercials — upwards of $20 million — those numbers are likely to change, perhaps radically.

Noble, whose firm has questioned voters about McSally versus Sinema for nine months, said that’s already proving to be the case.

Just a month ago, his poll showed Sinema up by four points. The reversal of fortune, he noted, follows the recent release by Republicans of some deliberately negative advertising about Sinema, including a 2003 picture of her, in a pink tutu, protesting the Bush administration policies of going to war in the Middle East.

McSally has sought to paint the protest of the war as “denigrating” the service of those in uniform — including McSally herself who was a fighter pilot.

And Noble said that the movement between polls appears to be largely in the “swing” voters, those not firmly attacked to either candidate, who also can be swayed by other news, including what appears to be the popular decision by Gov. Doug Ducey to name Jon Kyl to replace John McCain.

All that, Noble said, shows the volatility of the race, which is why he said that race watchers should stay tuned.

“We go back in the field in a week or so and we’re going to be polling multiple more times,” he said. “We’ll know in about a week or so whether that number stuck.”

But Khalaf said there’s something else that might explain why his survey has Sinema up over McSally versus Noble’s poll. Khalaf presumes that Democrats will have a higher turnout this year than they normally do in off-year elections than Noble.

That, he said, is significant, as it will cut into the advantage that Republicans, with their 153,000-registrant edge, traditionally have in statewide races. In fact, Khalaf said, the outcome of the election depends on it.

“In order for Democrats to be truly competitive … they have to limit the Republican ballot advantage to probably 4 or 5 percent,” he said. At 6 or 7 percent, Khalaf said, the race could go either way.

“Anything 8 (percent) or above, I don’t think you’re going to see much change on who’s in office,” he said.

There’s something else waiting in the wings.

President Trump is expected to visit Arizona, though the date for planned rally has yet to be hammered down.

Trump remains very popular among the GOP base, the same base that McSally appealed to in her successful primary race against the more conservative Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio.

But a Data Orbital poll showed that, among all likely Arizona voters, Trump’s 42.2 percent favorable rating is exceeded by the 48.7 percent who have a negative view of the president.

Despite that, McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said her candidate intends to stick with her backing of the president and will share a stage with him whenever he does come to Arizona.

Noble said that, at this point, McSally really has no choice.

“If you do that, you lose your base,” he said.

And Khalaf said there’s no downside to McSally staying cozy with the president.

He said Sinema and Democrats will link Trump and McSally together “because there are some negatives there with pockets of voters.” So if she’s going to be linked to Trump, Khalaf said, McSally might just as well take advantage of the popularity he does have “so the Republican base gets jazzed up.”

But Ducey, who will be faced with the same decision, would not make the same commitment to appear with the president as the governor attempts to ward off a challenge from Democrat David Garcia. He told Capitol Media Services that the question of sharing the stage is premature as a date has not yet been set for a Trump visit.

A year ago, Ducey did greet the president at the airport but did not go to the Phoenix Convention Center. Press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss was focused on working with law enforcement to ensure a safe event.

But Ducey did participate in a rally for Trump after he was nominated to be the GOP candidate in 2016.


Primaries set, some legislative incumbents face off

While some state Senate candidates can relax – nine are unopposed both in the August primary and the general, and a few others are facing only token opposition in districts that are safe for their parties – other would-be legislators have tough races ahead of them.

The deadline for candidates to file to run in the August primary passed on April 4.

The Democrats’ path to flip two more seats in each legislative chamber for a majority – already expected to be tough in a year where President Joe Biden is polling poorly and Republicans are hoping to make big gains nationwide – could be complicated in the Arizona House.

That’s because only one Democratic candidate filed to run for the House in three of the state’s most competitive districts, which guarantees that even if Democrats were to do well in these suburban Phoenix districts, Republicans will win the other seat in those three districts. That means the Democrats’ only hope for 31 House seats is to score some upsets in even redder territory.

However, running only one Democrat in these districts greatly increases the chances that the one Democrat will win in November, said political consultant Chuck Coughlin. In Arizona’s system, where up to two candidates from each party all run against each other in the general election for two House seats and the top two vote-getters win, only having one Democrat means all the Democrats will likely vote for that one person, and they can then focus on courting enough independents to ensure they get more votes than at least one of the Republicans.

It’s “highly disciplined, instead of the barroom brawl that Republicans are having,” Coughlin said.

“It’s actually the best way to pick up a seat,” Coughlin said. “They get all the Democratic votes and they’re not diluting all the Democrats between two candidates and they’re making their choice simpler.”

Before that happens, though, candidates need to get their party’s nominations first. Some of the most competitive primaries will likely happen in safe districts such as the very red District 7, or very Democratic districts 5 and 11 in Phoenix, which have drawn crowded fields of candidates, including some incumbents who will be running against each other due to redistricting.

“I think the Capitol crowd is going to focus on those races where we have incumbent versus incumbent, not only in the primary of course but in the general,” said Republican consultant Stan Barnes. “Like District 4, with Sens. (Nancy) Barto and (Christine) Marsh running against one another. It’s hard to avoid those races being the top of the stack of interest – after all, there’s going to be a losing incumbent that does not return, and everyone will want to know how that’s going to play out.”

Legislative races take shape

Thirty-three of the House’s 60 members are running for re-election to their House seats. In the Senate, five members are retiring and seven are running for other offices. Only half of the Senate Democrats will attempt to stay in their chamber, and some are in difficult races.

Wendy Rogers

All eyes are on District 7, which stretches from Flagstaff to the outskirts of Tucson and where conservative incumbents Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff and Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa will compete to keep their seat.

Rogers was censured by the Senate on March 1 for making violent comments, and Townsend denounced her for refusing to apologize for them. Shortly thereafter, Townsend dropped out of her congressional race and announced that she would run in the Senate again against her former ally.

The House races there could get equally messy, with Reps. David Cook, R-Globe, Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, and Brenda Barton, R-Payson, competing against newcomer David Marshall for two spots on the November ballot.

And this isn’t the only district where incumbents will be competing for their political futures. In District 5 Reps. Jennifer Longdon, Amish Shah and Sarah Liguori are running for re-election against two other Democrats. Marsh will face Barto in light-red District 4, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of Scottsdale and North Phoenix.

Kelly Townsend

Marsh isn’t the only Democratic incumbent who will face a tougher race due to redistricting – Reps. Judy Schwiebert, D-Phoenix, and Jennifer Pawlik, D-Chandler, will also face more Republican electorates in their suburban Phoenix districts than they did before.

The most crowded House primary will be in south Phoenix’s District 11, where Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez and six other Democrats are vying for two House seats. In District 4 six Republicans, including former Rep. Maria Syms and Ducey budget director Matt Gress, are seeking the two House seats, while only one Democrat, Laura Terech, has filed.

Barnes said he was struck by the number of people interested in running for the House this year, which he said seems unusually competitive.

“I think it reflects the political dynamics in both parties where the more pragmatic portions of the party are wrestling with the more ideological portions of the party both in the Republican and Democratic side,” he said.

However, even if Democrats win all the House seats in the 12 safely Democratic districts created by redistricting, plus both seats in the newly created District 9 – a Mesa district that leans Democratic by less than a point – even if Schwiebert, Terech and Pawlik all win, that would only give Democrats 29 seats in the House, the same as now.

From left are Reps. Jennifer Longdon, Amish Shah and Sara Liquori, Democratic incumbents running against each other for two House seats in Legislative District 5, where redistricting has resulted in the contest in which one of them will be eliminated. A similar situation is also occurring in the Legislative District 7 House GOP primary.

The next-most-competitive districts are the Casa Grande area’s District 16, where only one Democrat will be on the ballot alongside the two winners of the GOP primary, and District 17, a Republican-leaning district in northern Pima County where two Republicans and two Democrats will be facing off in November.

Then-President Trump and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally carried both districts, albeit by narrow margins and with a lot of ticket-splitting in 17 especially, according to an analysis by consultant Landon Wall.

Barnes agrees with the conventional wisdom that his party will expand its legislative majorities in November.

“Democrats have real headwind in redistricting and the extremely weak and unpopular president of their party in the White House,” Barnes said. “Those are two formidable challenges for successful Democratic takeover of one or both chambers.”

Whatever happens, Barnes said, there will be more new faces in the Legislature in 2023 than he has seen in any year since 1988. And, the Legislature will have its first parent/child pair since Pete and Rebecca Rios – Rep. Jacqueline Parker is running unopposed for re-election in District 15, while her mother Barbara Parker is running for a House seat in neighboring District 10. (There is a Democrat running but it’s a heavily Republican district.)

“There are going to be a lot of new people, a lot, because of the combination of retirements, term limits, people running for other offices, people running against one another where an incumbent will lose,” Barnes said. “There are just going to be a lot of new people, and there’s good and bad with that.”

The U.S. Capitol building is seen before sunrise on Capitol Hill in Washington on March. 21, 2022. Several congressional races in Arizona primaries have crowded fields PHOTO BY GEMUNU AMARASINGHE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Crowded field of U.S. House hopefuls

U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran is no stranger to close elections. His congressional district, which is the 2nd District on the new map, has been one of the most competitive in the state – it was the only one in 2016 to elect a Democratic congressman despite giving a plurality of its vote to Donald Trump.

However, with the addition of some Republican parts of Gila, Yavapai and Pinal counties, O’Halleran’s rural northeastern Arizona district has moved from six points redder than the national average to 15 points redder, according to FiveThirtyEight’s redistricting tracker, making an already competitive district even tougher to hold in a year when Biden is polling badly.

“We know this race will be tough, but I’ve never been one to back away from a tough race before, and I don’t intend to now,” O’Halleran said after the final maps were approved. “This election will require a lot of doors knocked, many phone calls made, and all-encompassing voter turnout from Arizonans across our beautiful state.”

Seven Republicans are seeking the party’s nomination to challenge O’Halleran, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Of them, former U.S. Navy Seal Eli Crane has raised the most money, followed by state Rep. Walt Blackman, a U.S. Army veteran and Republican from Snowflake. Other candidates include Andy Yates, who used to work for the International Republican Institute promoting democracy abroad; Williams Mayor John Moore; and Ron Watkins, who said he believes the 2020 election presidential election was stolen and who some journalists and researchers believe to have been behind QAnon. Watkins has denied this.

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is retiring from her position this year leaving the new 6h District open for a newcomer. Although Kirkpatrick is a Democrat, the new district leans blue and includes five Republican candidates and three Democratic candidates. State Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, joined the race with former Sen. Kirsten Engel. On the Republican side, no one is running who has experience in office.

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent David Schweikert will try to stay in office in a district that still leans Republican. In the primary race, Schweikert will go against two other Republicans. Two Democrats also made the cut for this election: Jevin Hodge and Ginger Torres. Torres has the endorsement of some current members of Congress, including Rep. Raul Grijalva.

U.S. Reps. Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar – the latter of whom has been a frequent target of national media coverage and Democratic criticism over his support for overturning the 2020 election and his coziness with white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes – aren’t opposed by any Democrats. Lesko doesn’t even have a primary challenger, while Gosar will have to beat three other Republicans before the winner cruises to election unopposed.


Projects to restore public lands, national parks can begin

This summer, all Americans should celebrate the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the most significant conservation legislation in a generation. Since President Trump signed this on Aug. 4, much needed projects to restore our public lands, national parks, and open spaces will commence, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund will see renewed funding in perpetuity. In fact, the GAOA is expected to create more than 100,000 new jobs to repair park infrastructure, including roads and bridges in adjacent communities that are struggling from a lack of tourism in this current pandemic.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislative victory did not come easily. It took decades of grassroots work and the tireless support of conservation champions in Congress to see permanent funding of the LWCF – a conservation program paid for by royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters that typically receives less than half of its allotment. The LWCF helps fund the four main federal land programs (National Parks, National Forests, Fish and Wildlife, and Bureau of Land Management) and provides grants to acquire land for recreation and conservation. We needed this.

As a life member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers–a bipartisan group of approximately 30,000 advocates for wild places–I would like to thank U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally and U.S. Reps. Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert and Greg Stanton for voting YES on the Great American Outdoors Act. Your vote for this landmark legislation will help ensure our outdoor traditions and sustain our public lands, waters, and wildlife for the benefit of future generations.

Joel Fugate

Proposed fed law could lower drug prices for Americans


Impeachment may be the only thing on the news these days, but it’s certainly not the only thing happening in Congress.

On Dec. 12, the U.S. House passed H.R. 3 , the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This is the most significant stand-alone prescription drug bill to pass either chamber of Congress since 2003.

Here’s how it works.

In a nutshell, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to bring down the price of some of the most heavily purchased medications in the United States.

Reginald Ballantyne
Reginald Ballantyne

Medicare is the largest customer of prescription drugs in the country, serving 59 million seniors and people with disabilities, including 1.2 million here in Arizona.

Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have effectively banned Medicare from negotiating lower prices. Any good business would look to negotiate lower costs because they buy in such volume, but Congress has made that impossible. Under this reform, that will change.

This law gives Medicare the power to negotiate for the medications it purchases instead of just accepting whatever prices the pharmaceutical companies want to charge.

Seventy-two percent of older Arizonans support Medicare negotiation , and independent analysts have found that it could bring down Americans’ drug prices by 55 percent. That aspect, along with the bill requiring those companies to abide by price transparency, without forcing government rate setting, ensures that pharmaceutical companies can still turn a profit and make investments in future research for new medications.

Insulin. Blood thinners. Cancer medications. Immunosuppressants to treat countless pre-existing conditions. The price of those drugs — as many as 250 in total — could be directly negotiated, rather than allowing the pharmaceutical companies to set their own rates and continue to rake in record profits as Americans struggle to afford the medications they need. That will benefit millions of Americans who use those meds, not just seniors enrolled in Medicare. And instead of diminishing pharma companies’ ability to turn a profit, the bill strengthens their incentives to research and develop pathways to even more cures.

Rising insulin prices have been particularly devastating for Arizonans. One in 10 Arizonans, including 20 percent of Arizona’s seniors, have been diagnosed with diabetes. Insulin is at the top of the list of medications that will be negotiated. And the nearly 40,000 Arizonans who were diagnosed with cancer just this year stand to benefit.

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act will also save taxpayers nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. At a time when the national debt has eclipsed $23 trillion, Congress should strongly support cost-saving measures — especially when they provide such a big benefit to consumers.

Here’s why it matters.

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act is the most significant drug pricing proposal passed by either chamber of Congress in quite a while. The Senate will have an opportunity to engage at the beginning of the new year, before electoral politics gets in the way of securing important policy.

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally should spearhead this bill in the Senate.

Sen. McSally has said that lowering drug costs is a high priority for her in her first session in the Senate. Indeed, that’s a goal that the vast majority of Arizonans share. In a recent AARP survey, 98 percent of Arizonans said that the cost of prescription drugs was important to them. And it should be. In the past year alone, 3 million seniors on Medicare have gone without purchasing needed prescription drugs because they simply couldn’t afford to buy them. In the richest country in the world, that’s incomprehensible.

With all of the challenges in our health care system, this ready-made solution addresses a key problem that Arizonans want remedied. Join me in urging Martha McSally to do this for us.

Reginald M. Ballantyne III is a former Chairman of the American Hospital Association and former commissioner of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Republicans, Democrats in court over election disputes

Wooden gavel


Arizona Democrats got a court order Thursday giving them access to a list of questioned ballots in a bid to have more of them verified even as Republicans go to court today to try to change ballot-counting procedures to help their own candidates in close races.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley ordered County Recorder Adrian Fontes to give the party a list of those early ballots where there are signature-verification issues.

That same order also requires Fontes to produce a list of “provisional” ballots, those that are cast at the polls but are set aside because of potential problems, like the failure to have the proper identification. If they show up with the required ID within five business days, the ballots are counted; otherwise they are tossed.

With the order, Democrats will get both lists. That, in turn, enables them to find people on their own to make sure that they do contact Fontes’ office and take care of any problems to ensure their votes, presumably for Democrats, do count.

Meanwhile Brett Johnson, representing the GOP, wants to block four counties which have been giving more votes to Democrats than Republicans to stop contacting voters who turned in early ballots on Election Day but whose signatures apparently did not match what was on file in county offices.

Johnson does not dispute that election officials are free to contact voters to see if there’s an explanation, like a change in signature over time or perhaps even an illness. But he contends that process of “curing” ballots has to stop at 7 p.m. on Election Day — even for people who submitted their early ballots on time that day.

Both moves come amid efforts by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema to defeat Republican Martha McSally in the race to succeed Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate, as well as the race between Democrat Kathy Hoffman and Republican Frank Riggs to be state schools chief.

What votes are counted from Maricopa County, along with Pima, Coconino and Apache counties, are important as all four are places where the Democrats outpoll the Republicans. More votes counted from each of these could break in favor of the Democrats.

At last count, Sinema and Hoffman had opened up narrow leads.

Central to the dispute before Mahoney later today is how early ballots are handled.

The first step is to see if the signature on the envelope matches the one they have on file. If not, most counties have procedures to contact the voter and see if they actually were the sender and if there is a reason for the disparity.

If everything checks out, the ballot is removed from the envelope and put into the stack to be counted.

In the four counties at issue, officials continue the verification process after Election Day.

By contrast, officials in the state’s other 11 counties — virtually of which have Republican voter registration edges and produced more votes for McSally and Riggs than their Democratic foes — do not contact voters when signatures do not match on ballots turned in on Election Day and do not count the votes inside.

Johnson, who represents Republican parties in the four affected counties, contends that disparity among the counties is unconstitutional.

“By arbitrarily counting and rejecting ballots from identically suited voters, defendants are systematically denying certain voters the right to vote in violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” he is arguing. And he contends there is “no statutory authorization” allowing county officials to do that after the polls close, saying the practice used in the four counties at issue “threatens to beget an extended period of confusion and uncertainty following the election.”

Johnson said the disparate decisions among county recorders on whether to try to contact voters means some people whose ballots are not counted “are suffering direct and irreparable injury.”

But attorney Colleen Connor of Maricopa County told Mahoney she should dismiss the lawsuit that was not filed until late Wednesday.

“This procedure was known prior to the election,” she said, saying if the Republicans had a problem with how those ballots were going to be handled they should have brought the issue to court earlier.

And Attorney Daniel Jurkowitz representing Pima County, said there is nothing in Arizona law requiring any verification to stop when the polls close.

“If plaintiffs want a deadline of 7 p.m. on Election Day to cure signatures on early ballots, they should seek a statute or regulation designating such,” he told the judge.

State GOP Chairman Jonathan Lines denied that the lawsuit is a bid to suppress votes from counties where the ballots were coming in more favorably for Sinema and Hoffman.

“We want all 15 counties to adhere to the same standards and timeline in fixing possible signature discrepancies on mail-in ballots,” he said in a prepared statement. “Voters have rights regardless of where they live.”

There was no immediate response from Lines to why the GOP did not file suit until the closeness of the races for U.S. Senate and state schools chief became apparent.

Mahoney may not even get a chance to decide the issue.

Connor pointed out that Johnson is alleging violations of the U.S. Constitution. And those, she said, should be heard in federal court.

If the case is transferred, that will only delay a resolution of the dispute. And that then threatens to violate a state law requiring that there be a formal canvass of election results within 20 days of the vote.

Senate appointment McSally’s chance for fresh start

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, speaks to supporters of President Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018.
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, speaks to supporters of President Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018.

Martha McSally scored the political redo of a lifetime when she was appointed to the U.S. Senate on December 18.

In a way, by appointing McSally to fill the seat that will soon be vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl, Gov. Doug Ducey wiped the slate clean for the two-term Arizona congresswoman who lost her bitter U.S. Senate bid earlier this year.

While her campaign loss and the political miscalculations that may have led to her downfall won’t quickly be forgotten, the appointment allows McSally to showcase another side of herself and gives her the chance to start fresh. A do-over could prove essential if McSally hopes to have a fighting chance of winning the Senate race in 2020 and again in 2022.

From when she is sworn in next year until 2020, McSally will have to walk a fine line if she wants to be re-elected in what may be an even tougher election year for Republicans. President Donald Trump will presumably be at the top of the ballot, and is sure to have an effect on down ballot GOP candidates.

Although McSally has not said if she will run in two years to keep her seat, it’s practically a given that she will mount another Senate campaign.

McSally’s already hinted that she wants to conduct herself differently than she did during this campaign cycle. At a press conference December 18 where she accepted the appointment, McSally vowed to serve by the guiding principles of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. She also praised McCain as a giant and an American hero.

“I’m going to commit to holding myself to the standard of service that Senator McCain indemnified, putting country before self and always striving to do the right thing for Arizonans,” she said.

McSally mentioned McCain more in her brief remarks than she did throughout her entire Senate campaign.

During the Senate race, McSally worked to distance herself from McCain for fear that she might alienate Trump voters. Her strategy was painfully obvious when she took credit for a new defense spending bill named after McCain and stood with Trump when he signed it.

But neither Trump nor McSally mentioned McCain’s name during the event.

The incident hurt McSally’s standing with the McCain family. McSally met with Cindy McCain just days before the appointment in an attempt to mend the rift.

If McSally is truly turning over a new leaf, she may also want to reconsider how closely she embraces Trump in the future, said Zachary Smith, a regents professor of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University.

“Things have changed. Her path is going to have to be, be with Trump but not be with Trump,” Smith said. “She’s still going to have to talk about how great Trump is, but I think she can now nuance that.”

In other words, McSally is going to have to take a page out of Ducey’s playbook.

The governor successfully distanced himself from the president throughout his contentious re-election campaign by intentionally keeping Trump and his administration out of his talking points.

Democrats made gains in Arizona in 2018 and early signs indicate Democrats could have a fighting chance again in 2020 because of the sheer emotional reaction many have to Trump.

If McSally thought her 2018 Senate bid was tough, she may have to wade through an even more complicated political environment in two years.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has classified Arizona’s 2020 Senate race a “toss-up” and predicts the state’s Senate race will be one of the most competitive in the country as Democrats look to take back the upper chamber of Congress.

The McSally appointment doesn’t change the rating.

Though she’ll technically be an incumbent, McSally won’t have the traditional benefits of incumbency, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Instead, she’ll have to reinvent herself and move to the political middle, which could help her in 2020, he said.

“She’s now in John McCain’s seat,” Kondik said. “I think it would behoove her to try to find a few places where she could move to the middle on issues to try to get back some of those swing voters who maybe voted for Donald Trump grudgingly and then maybe switched to Sinema in 2018 and are probably up for grabs in the next Senate race.”

But McSally’s ability to move to the middle depends on if she can fend off a primary challenge. She’ll likely have to move further to the right if she does face a primary against familiar foes like Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Kondik said.

This year’s GOP primary challenge between McSally and Ward devolved into a contest of who was closer to Trump, which made it hard for McSally to court moderate Republicans in the general election.

Sinema, who did not face a serious primary contest, was able to focus on defining herself for a general election electorate and did not have to spend campaign cash fending off primary challengers.

“I think what Republicans would hope for is that the shoe would be on the other foot this time,” Kondik said. “McSally could maybe use her appointed incumbency to fend off a credible primary challenger and for the Democrats to have a primary of their own.”

Some Republicans are also eager for a McSally transformation to include a complete overhaul of her campaign staff and consultants.

In a campaign postmortem, McSally’s campaign consultants, Axiom Strategies — a national GOP campaign firm — chalked up her loss to outside factors. Their four-page memo made the case why, for numerous reasons, McSally’s loss was not her fault.

The memo has irked some Republicans because it publicly gave the appearance that McSally was not owning up to her campaign mistakes.

Instead, consultants chalked up her loss in the Senate race to Sinema’s money advantage, lack of primary election and having the home court advantage in the state’s largest media market.

Ben Domenech, whose wife is Meghan McCain, a TV personality and the late senator’s daughter, called the memo “disappointing” in a recent post on “The Federalist,” a conservative online magazine he runs.

The memo doesn’t address any of McSally’s failures as a campaigner and seems to indicate the candidate and her team did not take a hard look at where they went wrong in the race, he wrote December 18.

“Whether she holds the seat in 2020 comes down to whether McSally has the capacity and the humility to learn from her mistakes as a campaigner, and chooses a new political team with a proven record of winning in purple states,” Domenech said.

Senate confirms appointment of new federal judge for Arizona

Mike Liburdi
Mike Liburdi

The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s appointment of a lawyer who formerly was Gov. Doug Ducey’s top staff attorney to be a U.S. District Court judge for Arizona.

The Senate’s 53-37 vote Tuesday confirmed the appointment of Michael Liburdi of Scottsdale to fill a vacancy.

Liburdi served as Ducey’s general counsel during Ducey’s first term and he currently is a shareholder with the Phoenix office of the firm of Greenberg Traurig.

Arizona’s two senators — Republican Senator Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema — supported the appointment, which was announced in January.

Settlement reached in tight Arizona Senate vote count

A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Republicans and Democrats agreed Friday to give rural voters an extra chance to fix problems with their ballots in the count of the state’s tight Senate race, resolving a GOP lawsuit that sought to stop urban voters from using those very same procedures.

The settlement was technically between Republicans and the state’s county recorders, but Democrats agreed to it as it was announced in a Phoenix courtroom Friday afternoon. Arizona’s 14 counties now have until Nov. 14 to address the issue.

The Republican lawsuit alleged that the state’s county recorders don’t follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to address problems with their mail-in ballots, and that Maricopa and Pima counties improperly allow the fixes for up to five days after Election Day.

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has jumped into a slight lead over Republican Martha McSally in the midst of the slow vote count.

Four local Republican parties filed the lawsuit Wednesday night challenging the state’s two biggest counties for allowing voters to help resolve problems with their mail-in ballot signatures after Election Day. If the signature on the voter registration doesn’t match that on the sealed envelope, both Maricopa and Pima County allow voters to help them fix, or “cure” it, up to five days after Election Day.

Many other counties only allow voters to cure until polls close on Election Day. Now, all will follow the standard set by Maricopa, Pima and two other rural counties that allow for post-Election Day cures.

Only a few thousand votes would be affected by the issue, but every one counts in the razor-close U.S. Senate race.

At a brief hearing Thursday, a Maricopa County official said only about 5,600 ballots are affected in her county and the rate is similar in the 14 smaller counties. More than 2.3 million votes were cast statewide.

The political overtones of the lawsuit were unmistakable. On Thursday, Sinema jumped into a minuscule lead of about 9,000 out of 1.9 million votes counted after trailing since Tuesday. Her lead came from the two counties singled out by Republicans in their lawsuit, Maricopa and Pima Counties.

On Friday, Republicans escalated their attacks on Democrats, claiming they were trying to disenfranchise rural voters — even though Democrats had little do with how the rural counties chose to count ballots. Those counties are predominantly run by Republicans. Democrats, in turn, said the GOP was trying to nullify cast ballots.

The race remained too close to call Friday with more than 400,000 ballots still uncounted. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said counting may continue until Nov. 15. “We know there’s urgency out there, but we want to get it right, not quick,” he said.

Arizona is notoriously slow at tallying ballots even though about 75 percent of votes are cast by mail. Each of those ballots must go through a laborious verification process.

Sinema takes lead in U.S. Senate race as ballots are counted


Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The latest returns from the state’s two largest counties has given Kyrsten Sinema the lead in her bid for U.S. Senate — barely.

New figures late Thursday from the Secretary of State’s Office find the Democrat has opened up a 9,610-vote edge over Republican Martha McSally out of about 1.9 million votes already counted, or about half a percentage point. That is a sharp reversal from just 24 hours earlier when Sinema trailed her GOP foe by about 15,000.

Those newly counted ballots also have given Democrat Kathy Hoffman the lead in her race for state superintendent of public instruction. She is now up by 20,348 over Republican Frank Riggs; a day ago he had 7,200 more votes than she did.

The change in fortune comes as the Arizona Republican Party and four of its county affiliates are trying to get a judge to block election officials in Maricopa, Pima, Coconino and Apache counties from counting some late-cast early ballots. Voters in those four counties all were breaking for the Democrat contenders.

At the same time, the Arizona Democratic Party filed its own lawsuit against Maricopa County in a bid to boost the Democrat edge there even more by helping to “rehabilitate” some ballots that were set aside for a variety of reasons, like lack of identification.

Sinema’s big surge comes as Maricopa County elections officials processed an additional approximately 127,000 ballots on Thursday.

As of Wednesday, Sinema had just an 8,000-vote edge in the county. But by the end of the day that had tripled, giving her more cushion to offset the lead that McSally has in 10 of the state’s 15 counties.

Sinema, who currently represents a congressional district that takes in portions of Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler, also boosted her lead over McSally in Pima County by about 7,000, up to more than 44,000.

The McSally camp indicated late Thursday it was not worried, saying they believe the latest batch of ballots to be counted arrived at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office on days when Republican early voting turnout was low. They contend the trend will change when the county gets to the approximately 200,000 early ballots dropped off on Election Day based on their belief that many Republicans who had requested early ballots had not turned them in before.

The change of fate for Hoffman also got a boost from Maricopa County, where she opened up a lead of more than 22,000, along with her now having a 55,000-vote edge in Pima County. Here, too, those strong numbers from the two largest counties helped offset the fact that Riggs outpolled her in 10 counties.

But Democrat Katie Hobbs, running for secretary of state, still remains more than 19,000 votes behind Republican Steve Gaynor.

That big dump of heavily Democratic votes in Maricopa County also breathed some new life into the hopes of the party to win a new seat in the state Senate.

Incumbent Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, now has a lead of just 808 votes over Democratic challenger Christine Marsh; that’s close to half of just a day ago.

What makes that significant is that Maricopa County Recorder said late Thursday he still has about 345,000 ballots left to be processed, with another 61,000 in Pima County. If the trend continues, that will boost the lead of Sinema and Hoffman.

The Maricopa numbers might even provide enough votes for Marsh to oust McGee. And if that happens, the Republican margin in the state Senate will be reduced to just 16-14.

The new ballots also have increased the chances that Democrat Jennifer Pawlik has of getting elected to the state House. On Wednesday she was up over her nearest Republican challenger by fewer than 500; that figure has now tripled.

They also represent bad news for incumbent Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, who seeks to hold onto her seat. Democrat Aaron Lieberman now has doubled his lead over her, with about 1,500 more votes.

In Pima County, the latest count also puts incumbent Rep. Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, further behind in his bid for reelection. He now trails Democrat Domingo DeGrazia by about 2,700 votes.



Sinema to be state’s senior senator; McSally pledges to work with former foe

Gov. Doug Ducey appoints Rep. Martha McSally to the fill John McCain’s senate seat currently held by Jon Kyl who will step down Dec. 31, 2018. PHOTO BY DILLON ROSENBLATT/ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES

Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema will be sworn into office before Martha McSally, who Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Tuesday to fill Arizona’s U.S. Senate vacancy.

Because she will be sworn in first, Sinema will become Arizona’s senior senator and first female senator, which Ducey said honors the wishes of the state’s voters.

Sinema defeated McSally by about 55,000 votes in Arizona’s Senate race where more than 2.4 million votes were cast earlier this year.

But McSally isn’t bitter. In accepting the appointment, she promised to work with her former opponent once they are both sworn in.

The concept of seniority, which is assigned based on when incoming senators are sworn in, was developed in the first half-century of the Senate, resolving the institution’s struggle to find an “equitable means for distributing special status among members,” including committee assignments and getting more desirable office space

McSally will be Arizona’s junior senator.

At a press conference Tuesday to announce the appointment of McSally to the U.S. Senate, Ducey said Sinema deserves senior standing.

“I’m also going to respect the will of the voters. Sen.-elect Sinema was elected to the office and she’s going to be first,” he said.

Ducey could have pushed for McSally to be sworn in immediately — as Sen. Jon Kyl was when he accepted the appointment to fill the seat previously held by Sen. John McCain. In that scenario, McSally would become Arizona’s senior senator.

McSally will fill McCain’s seat when Kyl steps down at the end of this year.

Although senior status is mostly symbolic, Ducey likely would have faced a wave of criticism if his administration pushed for McSally to be sworn in before Sinema.

Every state has a senior and a junior senator. Typically, there is a sizeable experience gap between the two senators and the senior member has more knowledge of the chamber and more clout amongst its members. In this case, both Sinema and McSally will be coming into the Senate at roughly the same time.

Sinema will be sworn in with other new senators on Jan. 3. McSally will be sworn in sometime after that, Ducey said.

Once they’re sworn in, McSally vowed Tuesday to work with Sinema — putting aside the “spirited” election matchup that pitted the two congresswomen against each other this year.

Arizona’s senators have a long, storied history of working together, McSally said, characterizing the teamwork as a state tradition. The two-term congresswoman from Tucson said she and Sinema share a lot of common ground and will work together just like they did when they were both in the House.

“The election is over and the people have spoken and I’m honored to have this appointment,” McSally said. “And now, for all of us, it’s about moving forward and it’s about the challenges that we have as a state and as a country and continuing to be problem-solving for the people that we represent.”

Her statements glossed over her contentious Senate matchup with Sinema in which the attacks turned both negative and personal.

Sinema has not publicly acknowledged Ducey’s appointment of McSally. McSally said she texted Sinema the news early Tuesday morning.

Part of the reason Arizona’s senators have often worked well together is that in the state’s recent history, both senators have represented the same political party. McSally, a Republican, and Sinema, a Democrat, represent opposing parties with Democrats in the minority in the Senate.

Arizona hasn’t had Democratic representation in the Senate since Dennis DeConcini took office in 1977, serving first with Republican Barry Goldwater and then McCain.

Now, of the six states with two female senators, Arizona will be the only one in which the women are from different political parties.

Some have criticized Ducey for appointing McSally after she lost the Senate race, arguing the governor’s appointment was unfair considering voters rejected McSally in November.

Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman Felecia Rotellini said McSally and Republican leaders in the Senate are rejecting the will of the voters to advance the GOP agenda.

 “After running a divisive, dishonest campaign for over a year, Arizona voters rejected McSally because they don’t trust her to fight for them when it matters most,” she said.

 Ducey credited Sinema for her decisive victory in November, but said McSally still earned votes of confidence from a large swath of Arizona voters.

 “The voters did make their choice and I believe that the voters had two excellent choices in this past election, he said. “Martha McSally received over 1 million votes to the United States Senate.”

Some Republicans blame ‘left’ amid calls to tone down rhetoric following Virginia shooting

James Hodgkinson
In this April 17, 2012, photo, James Hodgkinson of Belleville protests outside of the United States Post Office in Downtown Belleville, Ill. A government official says the suspect in the Virginia shooting that injured Rep. Steve Scalise and several others has been identified as Hodgkinson. (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat, via AP)

The revelation that alleged Alexandria, Virginia shooter James Hodgkinson was a Bernie Sanders volunteer whose social media postings were filled with anti-Trump and anti-Republican rhetoric brought a round of recriminations from some Arizona Republicans who blamed the “left” for the attack.

Others, however, called for a measured response to a shooting that wounded five, including U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who was practicing baseball along with other Republicans.

Some, like U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, lamented the toxic political environment, saying she fears it might push individuals teetering on the edge toward violence.

Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, took to Twitter to talk about prayers for the victims but also to call the shooting a “wake up call to the left.”

“U can’t laugh @ severed heads & cheer assassination plays, then act surprised,” he wrote.

Former legislator Kelli Ward, who lost to U.S. Sen. John McCain in last year’s primary and is now challenging U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, wrote on Twitter that the shooter was politically motivated.

“We must start taking threats seriously. The violent #progressive rhetoric to #Resist goes too far,” she wrote.

Flake was at the baseball practice when the shooting occurred, and CNN cited him as saying once the shooter was neutralized, he and U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup went out to where Scalise was lying to apply pressure to his wound.

Former lawmaker Adam Kwasman, who worked for the 2010 Jesse Kelly campaign that some Democrats unfairly blamed for inciting 2011 Tucson shooter Jared Loughner, urged people in a Facebook post to be “responsible and measured” in their responses.

“We must refrain from casting blame on anybody except for the madman who committed the crime. I sure wished others would have done the same in light of the Tucson attack,” Kwasman wrote, referring to the 2011 shooting in Tucson that seriously injured 13 people, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and killed six people.

While emphasizing that the investigation is ongoing and the shooter’s motive is being ascertained, McSally said that the shooting appears to be a “potential political act of violence,” and said she fears today’s political environment has created a toxic mix that could push people toward violence.

McSally said she hopes that today’s shooting will serve as a wake-up call, specifically to “tone the temperature down.”

McSally, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said she has fought for America, and the enemy is “not our neighbor or someone who is in our family or our community that’s of a different political view than us.”

She said folks can have differing views and rigorously debate the policy issues of the day, “but do it in a way that isn’t hateful, demonizing, with vitriol, that creates an environment that [pushes] someone who is maybe unstable or prone to acts of violence to take action.”

The circumstances behind the shooting or the shooter’s intentions are yet unknown, but, McSally added, “But people are fooling themselves if they think the environment that we’re in right now doesn’t have the potential to incite someone who is not stable to do something like this.”

She noted that the FBI has arrested a Tucson man on suspicion of threatening her. After that incident, McSally said she told her family, staff and friends that she feels that “it’s only a matter of time before these threats of violence turn into acts of violence toward somebody. And unfortunately, that prophecy came true this morning.”

Support reasonable liability protections for essential businesses

The rise of coronavirus cases in Arizona has caused Gov. Doug Ducey to shut down the state’s bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks for at least the next 30 days. As the rules and regulations regarding how businesses are supposed to conduct their operations continue to change rapidly, in the state and across the country, it serves as an important reminder why reasonable liability protections from coronavirus-related lawsuits are necessary and should be passed on the federal level.

 Liability protections provide businesses, particularly those that were asked to stay open as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure workforce, with security knowing that they won’t be sued out of business from frivolous lawsuits if they have been taking reasonable precautions during the pandemic to keep their employees and customers safe.

 In addition, it would encourage businesses that are legally allowed to open to do so safely knowing that they have these important protections, which would be a key component of stimulating the economy of Arizona and help address rising unemployment. As it stands, over 1.6 million Arizonans are now collecting jobless benefits. 

 Essential businesses like mine remained open over the course of the pandemic, providing consumers with fuel, groceries, over-the-counter medication, and cleaning suppliers, in addition to other necessities. But now, being a resource to the community has left me particularly exposed to litigation since we were open when few other businesses were.  

 And since the state is reversing course and closing more businesses, essential businesses are back to being one of the few targets for those looking to sue businesses with coronavirus-related lawsuits. 

 While there should not be liability protections for reckless business owners who purposefully broke the law and put the health and safety of their employees and customers at risk, that’s not most businesses. 

 The Arizona House rightly tried to provide a reasonable liability shield for businesses from coronavirus lawsuits. The liability shield would have raised the standard for people to sue businesses for coronavirus-related claims from negligence to gross negligence, meaning those who sue would have to show “clear and convincing evidence” that a business was grossly negligent. Unfortunately, this bill did not become law before the legislative session ended. 

 But this policy would have taken Arizona in the right direction, and a similar policy should be considered on the federal level. 

 While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that liability protections would be a key component of the next round of coronavirus relief, we have seen some Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, come out in opposition to this policy. But thankfully we are also starting to see growing support from House Democrats like Representatives Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, Lou Correa, D-Calif., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who have all come out in support of some form of liability protections for businesses. 

Now we are counting on our federal elected officials like Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally to support reasonable liability protections in the Senate. Given that many businesses operate in multiple states, a federal law would provide much-needed clarity for businesses and consumers alike. And essential businesses like mine deserve reasonable protections from frivolous lawsuits that could put us out of business. 

Ed Flores is the owner of Pic-n-Run in Flagstaff.

The Breakdown: Divided


redistricting map arizona620Democrats may be banking on a blue wave this year, but statewide candidates don’t seem to have embraced their most rural voters and their seemingly untapped potential.

President Donald Trump has been on the road to make sure no Republican stone is left unturned. He was in Mesa Friday to rally support across the state for Marth McSally and Doug Ducey.

And while there’s still time to vote for those candidates, there’s at least one candidate you shouldn’t bother voting for at all. That’s not bias – just the truth.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.

Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Piano Moment” and “Energy” by Bensound.

The Breakdown: Let’s consult the crystal ball



The end of this election cycle is upon us, and while some races are more than predictable, others may be too close to call.

Among them, the U.S. Senate race remains up in the air, and Democrats have a fighting chance for at least two statewide offices.

You’ve heard us and everyone else talk about the blue wave for months now – now, we’ll see if the promised surge will deliver.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.

Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

The Breakdown: The awards show no one asked for


Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally
Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally

Expulsions, elections, appointments, oh why?

2018 has been an exciting year from the start. As it comes to a close we’re looking back on some of the standout moments.

What caught our reporters’ attention, and what do those stories mean for the future of Arizona?

We’re doing today’s show Academy Award-style, except the academy is us and the awards don’t mean a damn thing.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.

Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

The Breakdown: The end is near


A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. There are several races too close to call in Arizona, especially the Senate race between Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A worker prepares volunteers to verify ballots at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Last Tuesday was supposed to conclude this election season, but in true Arizona fashion, the counting continues.

Where do some of the tightest races stand, and when will we really know who was victorious.

It’s already shaping up to be another long week, as we wait to see if the Blue Wave really hit Arizona and what that would even mean in a state where the Republican Party still clearly reigns supreme.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.

Music in this episode included “Creative Minds” and “Energy” by Bensound.

The Global Fragility Act of 2019 a path to better world order


In 1995, Martha McSally flew as a fighter pilot in Iraq and Kuwait. In 1999, she flew in the former Yugoslavia. In 2000, she was stationed in Saudi Arabia. In 2004, she was deployed to Afghanistan. As a Representative for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, she fought to continue funding the production of A-10 Thunder planes in her district. Currently, she sits on the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

For at least 24 years, McSally’s public service and, in extension, the onus of Arizona’s politics, have been dominated by the threat of global instability. Furthermore, several of the areas McSally fought in, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan, have remained in chaos albeit with different destabilizing forces. 3.3 billion people have been caught in regions with ceaseless conflict. Violence and conflict have displaced 70.8 million people, with millions more predicted to flee due to climate change intensifying.

Soham Mehta
Soham Mehta

Amongst this, the United States has scaled back its foreign aid, pushed back on international alliances, and refused to make meaningful policies to address the climate crisis and accommodate refugees. The United States’ central dogma of intervention, collusion with opposition forces, and regime change has failed to remedy the deeply entrenched issues that made the Middle East unstable and has proven to be unconducive to long-term stability. Using 2018 numbers, military spending is 3.2% of GDP, and about 15% of the federal budget. Foreign aid is a mere 0.2% of GDP. Even though politicians and activists alike openly deride military interventionism, our budget shows that international development and lasting institutional change are not yet seen as viable responses to global conflicts. For the first time in the 21st century, the United States is able to redefine its foreign policy strategy and its role in international politics. The Global Fragility Act of 2019 gives the United States an opportunity to stabilize conflicts rather than instigate them, and move into an era of peaceful, beneficial cooperation.

The Global Fragility Act aims to design a framework for managing and mitigating conflict hotspots by galvanizing several government agencies and NGOs. The Act will establish and appropriate funds to a Global Fragility Initiative, a cross department initiative to identify and evaluate areas prone to destabilization and conflict. Exceptionally unstable countries that also pose a risk to Americans will be chosen for peacebuilding efforts and economic aid. In order to execute the Initiative, the United States will create novel ways to study, detect, and eventually prevent conflicts. Progress on the Initiative will be reported to the public and Congress every other year, pushing many underreported crises into the political mainstream.

How can we justify this massive and expensive sea change in our foreign policy? Violence and war have robbed much of the world of economic opportunity and human capital. The Brookings Institute claims that half of the world’s poor will be in the crosshairs of violent conflict by 2030. This directly impacts Americans by disrupting supply chains (which makes products more expensive) and hampering innovation in much of the developing world. Countries with conflict experience three times slower economic growth, increasing global inequality and further diminishing these countries’ contributions to the global economy. This lost efficiency, innovation, labor, and trade resulting from global instability cost the global economy $14.1 trillion (or $1,853 per person) in 2018.

Furthermore, tax revenue going towards internal security and defense could go towards social programs, subsidies, or directly back into citizens’ pockets if the United States makes strategic investments in peacebuilding efforts. Preventing conflicts rather than responding to them is 16 times cheaper and the economic benefits from growing emerging economies would only compound savings for individual citizens. Peacebuilding would be a silver bullet for the country’s budgetary issues by increasing the tax base and reducing military expenditures. The tragic effect military intervention has had on veterans both economically and emotionally could be largely avoided; young veterans (18-34 years old) have the highest poverty rate of any demographic in the United States.

Arizona Senator Martha McSally supported the bill as a Representative, voting yes on the Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018. As a former veteran and a fiscal conservative, McSally has firsthand experience of the human cost of global instability and an understanding of its disastrous impact on the national debt and the global economy. It would be a shame if Senator McSally does not play a role in creating a more humane and peaceful global environment, along with a secure and prosperous America.

Soham Mehta is a student in Chandler.

Time to ditch ‘the free care in ER’ guy

 In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., makes a point during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rep. Schweikert has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and admit to 11 violations to settle a long-running investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee it was announced Thursday, July 30, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., makes a point during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rep. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, I personally experienced discrimination in the individual health insurance market and struggled to get coverage for a pre-existing condition. So when an email from Rep. David Schweikert bearing the subject line, “Myth vs. Fact on Healthcare” landed in my inbox, I opened it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Schweikert writes, “Attempting to stay well-informed on healthcare policy given the volume of information can be a full-time job in itself.”

Yes, my skepticism was well founded. But to fully appreciate the irony here, we need to travel back in time.

May 4, 2017: the U.S. House of Representatives is poised for a vote on the American Health Care Act. A last-minute scramble to secure additional votes has resulted in changes to the bill that haven’t yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. So lawmakers will cast their votes without knowing if the bill would insure more people or provide more affordable coverage. But for the first time since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Republicans now have a lock on the legislative and executive branches of government – and their dreams of obliterating the ACA won’t wait. As then-Rep. Martha McSally famously says, “Let’s get this f*cking thing done”.

Meanwhile, Schweikert takes to the House floor and begins a slightly less salty speech, surrounded by his usual assortment of charts and graphs:

Kimberly Dorris
Kimberly Dorris

“Since 1986…we in the United States have statutes that say if a sick person walks into a hospital, they have cancer, they’re bleeding, they’re going to get health services. …there’s no such thing as not receiving care in this country. It may not be the care you want at the place you want, but it’s the law and it’s been the law for 30 years.”

Now, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act does require hospitals with an emergency room to screen all patients and to stabilize those with an identified “emergency medical condition” before transferring them. But this doesn’t mean that people like me can show up in the ER and get free lab tests, a free endocrinologist appointment, free prescription medication, or free surgery.

Someone who was serious about his full-time job of staying well-informed on health care policy would have known that. Which brings me back to the present – and Schweikert’s email.

“I want to set the record straight: I support protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

What follows can only be described as AHCA fan fiction, cherry-picking the bill’s meager protections – while failing to mention that the law would have been a devastating setback for people like me who live with pre-existing conditions. But don’t take it from me.

Take it from the American Medical Association: “We are deeply concerned that the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing their current health insurance coverage.”

Take it from the American Psychological Association: “…we oppose the American Health Care Act due to the adverse impact it will have on Americans with mental health, behavioral and substance use disorders.”

Take it from a coalition of patient advocacy groups, including the American Heart Association, March of Dimes, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: “Weakening protections in favor of high-risk pools would…undermine the ban on discrimination based on health status.”

And take it from the final CBO analysis, which was released on May 24 (almost three weeks after Republicans pushed the AHCA through the House on a party-line vote) and predicted that the law would reduce coverage and increase prices in the individual market, with over 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026.

If Republicans had cared in 2017 about providing a robust set of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, they would have met with key constituencies before drafting the AHCA. They would have incorporated key policy components like Community Rating, Cost Sharing, Essential Health Benefits, and bans on annual and lifetime caps. They would have kept the ACA’s 3:1 age band. They would have done better research on the historical performance of high risk pools.

And if Republicans care today about protecting people like me, they’ll put the brakes on the lawsuit that currently threatens to dismantle the ACA with no backup plan. I’m not optimistic.

I am optimistic, though, about the November election. Arizona’s 6th Congressional District has an opportunity to ditch the “free care in the ER” guy and elect a representative who’s actually worked in an ER: Dr. Hiral Tipirneni. While Schweikert wants to rewrite history about a piece of legislation that was universally rejected by patients, doctors, and hospitals, Dr. Tipirneni understands the challenges in our health care system and wants to build on the ACA with a public option.

The contrast is clear. And so is our choice.

Kimberly Dorris is a Scottsdale resident.

Top aide to Arizona AG appointed as US attorney for Arizona

The top aide to Arizona’s attorney general is President Donald Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona, a position filled on an acting basis by the office’s top assistant for over two years.

Sen. Martha McSally announced Tuesday that Trump had nominated Michael Bailey for the post. The appointment is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Bailey has served as Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s chief deputy and chief of staff since 2014. He previously was a Maricopa County prosecutor and in private law practice.

McSally commended Trump for Bailey’s appointment, calling him highly qualified and saying Arizona had lacked a permanent U.S. attorney “for far too long.”

McSally said she’d work to have Bailey confirmed without delay.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Strange is the acting U.S. attorney.

Treason, Trump, Obamacare at issue in Sinema, McSally debate

Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema face off Oct. 15, 2018, in their only debate for U.S. Senate (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema face off Oct. 15, 2018, in their only debate for U.S. Senate (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Hoping to remind voters of her foe’s history, Republican senatorial contender Martha McSally said Monday that Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic foe, is guilty of supporting “treason.”

Near the end of the hour-long debate on KAET, McSally brought up a radio interview Sinema did in 2003 during her anti-war days. Asked if it was OK to fight for the Taliban, she said “fine, I don’t care if you want to go do that.”

Much of the campaign against Sinema has been focused on who she was more than a decade ago, including her opposition to war in the Middle East. McSally hopes to convince voters that Sinema, who since being elected to Congress in 2012, is not the moderate that she proclaims.

After the debate, Sinema brushed aside the questions of what she said years ago.

“Martha’s chosen to run a campaign that’s based on smears and attacks and that’s her choice,” she said. And what happened in the past, Sinema said, is history.

“Over time I think it makes sense for individuals who are willing to learn and to grow,” she said.

But Sinema wasn’t the only one on the defensive as the pair, in a virtual dead heat to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Flake, each sought to score points with the perhaps 10 percent of Arizonans who say they are undecided.

Sinema accused McSally of being an “apologist” for anything that the GOP – and Donald Trump in particular – want. And McSally was defensive about questions about her views on President Trump and her open support of him this year, versus her refusal to endorse him two years ago.

“Nothing’s changed,” she said.

McSally, first elected to represent Congressional District 2 in Southern Arizona in 2014, said she was focused on representing her district.

“But he’s in office,” she said. And that, McSally said, means she needs to work with him, as she said she did to preserve the A-10 attack aircraft that the Obama administration had tried to scrap.

She was a little less straightforward when asked if she was proud of Trump.

“I am proud to be working with him to provide more opportunities and to make sure we keep our country safe,” McSally said.

And she made it clear that she backs much of what the president has done.

“He’s a disrupter,” McSally said of Trump. “He went to D.C. to shake things up and he’s doing that.”

It is that attitude, she said, that has led to him make major strides like trying to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula and updating old trade policies.

But Sinema said the flip side has been a trade war.

“That is devastating for Arizona’s businesses and for our agricultural community,” she said.

And the effects, Sinema said, trickle down to everyone else. She cited the increase on tariffs on aluminum, something that will make cans more expensive.

“That’s something we all can agree on: Beer should not be more expensive,” she said.

McSally defended her votes to scrap the Affordable Care Act even as she conceded that the law she voted to repeal has made insurance available to some who did not have it before.

“We cannot go back to where we were before,” she said. But McSally said the program, known as Obamacare, just does not work as constructed and is financially unaffordable.

That, however, still leaves the hot-button question of what would happen to those now enrolled.

While the program has proven controversial, there is widespread support for a key provision: a requirement for insurance companies to provide coverage irrespective of preexisting medical conditions. Sinema charged that the GOP efforts to repeal the law would have once again left those people without insurance.

McSally said that while she wanted to scrap the Affordable Care Act she supports such a requirement. The problem, she said, is that “Obamacare was the wrong approach.”

Sinema, however, said the alternatives offered by McSally and Republicans would return the country “to the time when people couldn’t afford health insurance.”

“The solutions Martha has voted for actually make the system worse and hurt Arizonans,” Sinema said.

The issue of abortion underlined one of the stark differences between the candidates.

Sinema said that issue should be strictly between a woman and her doctor. McSally defined herself as “pro-life.”

But McSally sidestepped the question of whether she wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.

“I would support appointing justices that are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make,” McSally said.

McSally also gave a full-throated endorsement to the decision of President Trump to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the Senate vote to confirm him.

“He is highly qualified and he has shown I think what we need to be looking at in judges and justices, which is that they’re not going to be activist but they’re actually going to interpret the Constitution and the laws that we make in Congress,” she said.

Sinema was less direct in her answer, calling the confirmation hearings “a circus” in which both political parties participated. And she questioned both his demeanor and whether he lied during the hearings, ultimately saying she would have voted against confirmation.

McSally, whose congressional district includes a large stretch of the international border, said Sinema, whose district covers parts of Phoenix and Tempe, does not understand the issue of security. McSally said this is not just about illegal immigration but also drug and human smuggling.

Sinema said she did support a $1.5 billion border security appropriation which included money for Trump’s border wall

“I’m fine with a physical barrier being part of a total solution she said. But Sinema said it also requires more than “an 18th century solution to a 21st century problem.”

The questions McSally raised about Sinema’s fitness were not limited to her anti-war activities.

She pointed out that Sinema had accepted $53,000 in donations from the owners of Backpage.com, a now-defunct web site that prosecutors say was a front for prostitution. Sinema eventually donated the money to charity.

And McSally also lashed out at Sinema for her days as a legislator when she worked to alter a bill about penalties for men who had sex with underage girls to put in a requirement that the “john” actually knew the girl was not of legal age.

“I’m not making this stuff up,” McSally said.

Trump in AZ rally urges Republicans to ‘cast second greatest vote ever’ for McSally

President Donald Trump talks to a pilot in the cockpit of an F-35 aircraft during a Defense Capability Tour at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump talks to a pilot in the cockpit of an F-35 aircraft during a Defense Capability Tour at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Arizona GOP enlisted the party’s campaigner-in-chief at a Friday rally in Mesa to boost Republican enthusiasm for U.S. Senate candidate Martha McSally and down-ballot Republicans ahead of the congressional midterm election.

President Donald Trump praised himself for appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices, cutting taxes and pushing for a border wall and insisted that progress would be lost if “radical” Democrats won control of Congress this election cycle.

“If the radical Democrats take control of Congress on Nov. 6, they will try to plunge our country into a nightmare of gridlock, poverty and chaos,” he said.

Trump also touted McSally, who spoke for about five minutes in comparison to the president’s 50 minutes, as someone who fought for her country all her life and would do the same in the Senate. The president also tore down McSally’s opponent, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, as a “far-left extremist,” perpetuating what already has been a cutthroat and personal contest to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

The president praised McSally, the first female fighter pilot, as a hero for leading airstrikes against Islamic terrorists after 9/11.

“While Martha was bravely fighting the Taliban, Kyrsten said she had no problems with Americans defecting from our country to join the Taliban,” he said, referencing something Sinema said in a radio interview from the 2000s.

Sinema’s campaign has said her comments were clearly just offhand remarks that have been misconstrued.

Unofficial estimates from Mesa law enforcement was that there were about 6,300 Trump supporters inside the rally at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with an additional 3,000 people outside. Supporters waited in line for hours in the heat to see Trump at his only Arizona rally so far this year.

Trump also criticized Sinema for voting against his Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a vote he said she took because House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told her to do so. Sinema voted against the bill, saying it didn’t reflect the values of hard working Americans. But Sinema, a moderate Democrat who paints herself as an independent voice in Congress, is no friend of Pelosi, having voted against keeping her as party leader in 2016.

Both Trump and McSally said Sinema voted in favor of “sanctuary cities.” But Sinema was actually one of a small group of Democrats who voted in favor of legislation to bar “sanctuary cities” from receiving federal law enforcement grants if they fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.

McSally came out swinging against her opponent, tearing Sinema down for calling Arizona “crazy” and a “meth lab of democracy.”

“I just wanted to let you know, we are not crazy here,” she said. “We are not a meth lab of democracy.”

Video recently surfaced of Sinema calling the state both things after the state Legislature passed the widely disavowed immigration bill SB1070. The phrase “meth lab of democracy” did not stem from Sinema, but rather, a late-night TV show host.

McSally drew contrasts between her and her opponent, citing her support and Sinema’s opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. McSally also supported Trump’s tax cuts plan.

McSally also brought back Sinema’s past, telling the crowd Sinema was protesting the Iraq War in a pink tutu while she was wearing a flight suit and flying into combat zones.

Trump promised his supporters that a vote for McSally would be one of the best votes they would ever cast.

“It will be the second greatest vote you’ve ever cast,” he said. “The first greatest vote was for me.”

Trump also gave shoutouts to several Republican congresspeople from Arizona at the rally. He also praised Gov. Doug Ducey, who spoke before him, as a “fantastic governor and friend of mine.”


During his brief remarks, Ducey praised Trump’s steps on immigration and tax reform and applauded him for nominating conservatives Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ducey also twisted his Democratic opponent David Garcia’s immigration stances and criticized him for being proud to stump with Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders next week.

“Can you believe it? These guys are actually proud to stand with Bernie Sanders,” Ducey said. “Would you be proud to stand with Bernie Sanders?”

Garcia and Sanders will rally students at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University on Tuesday. Garcia has tacked to the left in his gubernatorial bid and run on a number of Sanders-style reforms, such as promising free college and calling for a single-payer health system.

Ducey also criticized Garcia’s positions on immigration, though he took liberties with some of his opponent’s stances. The governor riffed off Garcia’s speech at a progressive conference in New Orleans, in which the Democrat said, “imagine no wall in southern Arizona,”

“No wall in southern Arizona, is that the Arizona you want to imagine?” Ducey said. “No more national guard on our southern border, is that the Arizona you want to imagine? Abolish ICE, is that the Arizona you want to imagine?”

Garcia clarified his statement after the conference, saying he is opposed to Trump’s border wall. He has also said he would remove U.S. National Guard troops from the border and would replace the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

As he campaigns for re-election, Ducey has somewhat shied away from Trump as Democrats have tried to link him to the president whenever possible. Ultimately, the contentious national political environment has done little to hurt Ducey’s re-election bid.


The political newcomer and candidate for secretary of state criticized outside groups spending against his campaign and said socialism is this generation’s threat to liberty.

Gaynor, who faces Democrat Katie Hobbs, tied the argument to a history lesson on the Revolutionary War and Americans fighting for their freedom.

“It seems in every generation, a new threat to liberty arises,” he said. “This comes from those who believe socialism is better than free markets.”

Gaynor also criticized a group called iVote, which is spending millions to help get Hobbs elected. The group, which supports Democratic candidates for secretary of state, aims to get rid of voter registration because it leads to voter suppression, Gaynor noted with disdain.

Democratic response

While Trump stumped for McSally, Sinema was kicking off get-out-the-vote efforts with campaign volunteers in Phoenix. Her campaign put out a fundraising plea tied to Trump’s rally shortly after the president walked off stage.

Meanwhile, Garcia’s campaign criticized Ducey for supporting Trump at the rally while the president attacked American values.

“Trump has disgraced himself and the White House, attacked the free press, the rule of law and American values tonight at his rally for Ducey and McSally,” said Garcia spokeswoman Sarah Elliott. “In the face of this reckless and dangerous administration, Ducey has not once stood up for our values and sides with Trump time and again.”

State of the election

Ducey holds a comfortable lead in the polls. A Real Clear Politics average of multiple polls shows him leading Democrat David Garcia by double digits.

The contest between McSally and Sinema is much closer. Polls have consistently showed Sinema leading, but most of the polls have been so close that the results are within the margin of error.

Gaynor and Hobbs are close in the polls, but Gaynor leads his Democratic opponent.

Voters will head to the polls on Nov. 6.

U.S. Senate candidate sends racially-charged texts to business owner

A far-right candidate for the U.S. Senate allegedly threatened to deport family members of the owner of a signature gathering firm who refused to work for his campaign.

Andrew Chavez, the owner of Petition Partners, told the Arizona Capitol Times that Republican Craig Brittain lashed out at Chavez and his family after he declined Brittain’s request to hire Petition Partners to help gather enough nominating petitions to qualify for the 2020 primary ballot.

On August 21, Chavez tweeted a screengrab of texts he received from an unnamed source. At the time, Chavez only wrote that the sender was a candidate he declined to work for.

That candidate, who Chavez later identified as Brittain, lashed out at Chavez. 

Craig Brittain
Craig Brittain

“F*ckin piece of sh*t be glad you even get to stay in my country. Can’t wait to deport some of your family members. MAGA,” Brittain allegedly wrote. “Deport all invaders and deport anyone who is anti-deportation or pro-amnesty along with them… You are trash just like the invaders. Move to Mexico.” 

Brittain allegedly accused Chavez of refusing to work for his campaign “because you are just like all the other lazy invaders on welfare coming across the border.”

Chavez initially declined to identify Brittain, who he described as a long-shot candidate with little chance of getting on the ballot.

“He’s irrelevant. If he makes the ballot I’ll expose him,” Chavez said via text. “I don’t think he will though.”

One week later, Chavez told the Capitol Times he changed his mind after “I ran into him at (the) library and he was yelling at Mexicans.” Chavez also provided more screenshots of his exchange with Brittain that include Brittain’s phone number – the same number listed on Brittain’s own campaign website, where he encourages the public to send him a text.

“He needs to go away,” Chavez said.

Brittain, who filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC in February to run for the U.S. Senate, is best known for his first failed run for office during 2018 election, when the Phoenix New Times surfaced reports that he once operated a revenge porn site, IsAnyoneDown.com.

He’s recently blasted the Arizona Republican Party and President Trump for making the “mistake” of endorsing U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, who he describes on his campaign website as a “Mass Amnesty/Welfare supporter.”

Brittain denied that he sent the texts to Chavez, and called the story “Fake News.” 

“He offered to collect signatures 5 times for my campaign. I told him I wasn’t interested,” Brittain told the Capitol Times via text. Brittain later added that Chavez “contacted me 7 times between June and August because he wanted to work for my campaign,” and reiterated that the texts “are fake.” 

He complained that his campaign against McSally has received no coverage from the Capitol Times, until now, and criticized the paper for focusing “on a Fake News attack piece and try and aid a series of vulnerable anti-Trump candidates like McSally, (Mark) Kelly and whoever else.” 

Brittain also threatened a lawsuit “for publishing defamatory and false material and knowingly acting in bad faith.”

Uncounted ballots leave races undecided

An elections official counts ballots at the Tabulation and Election Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
An elections official counts ballots at the Tabulation and Election Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Some 600,000 ballots that remain uncounted Wednesday are leaving the race for U.S. Senate and the state schools chief up in the air – along with possibly some legislative races – perhaps for days.

Maricopa County alone was reporting about 472,000 untallied ballots.

The majority were those that were delivered by the post office prior to or on election day. But about 195,000 came from those who received early ballots but chose to drop them off at polling places on Tuesday.

Pima County is sitting on about 80,000 ballots, three fourths of those being what the county elections department got on Tuesday. There also are about 18,000 ballots that were cast provisionally pending verification, and another 7,000 that need to be examined and perhaps duplicated to deal with things like spilled coffee.

The number of uncounted ballots in the rest of the state is likely less than 60,000, with the majority of those from Pinal County.

What makes all of this so critical is that with about 1,7 million votes already tallied, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is trailing in the race for U.S. Senate by about 15,000 votes. More to the point, she has been outpolling Republican Martha McSally in both Maricopa and Pima counties, the ones with the largest number of ballots to be counted.

Sinema’s lead in Maricopa is only about 8,000 votes out of more than 971,000 already counted there.  But she leads by more than 46,000 vote of the nearly 302,000 tallied in Pima County.

And if the trend holds, that could close the gap, even with some rural counties going strongly for McSally.

The situation is even more pronounced in the race for superintendent of public instruction, where Republican Frank Riggs holds a lead of close to just 6,200 over Democrat Kathy Hoffman.

Here, too, Hoffman outpolled Riggs slightly in Maricopa County. But she had a 47,000-vote edge over her GOP foe in Pima County.

In both of the two large counties, new numbers won’t be announced before the end of the day on Thursday. That’s because officials say they need the time to do things like verify the signatures on the outside of the envelopes of all those early ballots.

The late counting also could affect the effort by Democrat Christine Marsh to oust state Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, with the incumbent having a lead of fewer than 1,500 votes.

Even closer is the bid by Democrat Jennifer Pawlik of Chandler to win a House seat being vacated by J.D. Mesnard, who is moving to the Senate. She has a lead of less than 500 over Republican Nora Ellen.

And the ability of Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, to hold on to her seat depends on her being able to make up the close to 600-vote deficit she has to Democrat Aaron Lieberman.

Less likely to be affected is the effort by Republican Rep. Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, to keep one of the two House seats in his district. He trails Democrat Domingo DeGrazia by about 2,000 votes.

And the late counting is unlikely to cut into the 3,100-vote lead that incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, has over Democratic challenge Wade Carlisle.

Overall, the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voter beware: Dem-controlled Senate would harm Arizona workers

From left are Democrat Mark Kelly and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., debate at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, Ariz., Oct. 6, 2020. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
From left, Democrat Mark Kelly and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., debate at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, Ariz., Oct. 6, 2020. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)

Arizona is blushing, slowly changing from red to blue. Polls continue to show Democrat Mark Kelly leading Republican incumbent Martha McSally.

The state of the Senate race should worry Arizona’s workers, as our state could prove pivotal in the Democrats’ desire to take both chambers of Congress. And if that happens — and Joe Biden takes the White House — our nation’s immigration laws will quickly and permanently change, ushering in a new era of lower wages and fewer job opportunities for hardworking Arizonans.

American workers have had a rough year due to COVID-19. Millions remain unable to find jobs. In Arizona alone, 5.9% of workers — over 200,000 in total — are out of work.

And that figure doesn’t include workers who’ve become so discouraged that they stop looking for work entirely. An estimated 150,000 Arizonans left the labor force from July to August.

With stats like these, it’s no surprise that voters are prioritizing the economy in the coming election. What is surprising, though, is the support Democrats are seeing. After all, the immigration agenda that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are pushing would depress wages, reduce job prospects, and tear apart the fabric of our nation.

Rusty Childress
Rusty Childress

Consider the 11 million people living illegally in the United States. Biden plans to offer all of them amnesty. He’s also promised to halt deportations of people residing in the U.S. without legal permission in his first 100 days and cease construction of the border wall the day he takes office, undoing years of progress and taxpayer funding – essentially ignore illegal border crossings.

Taken together, these moves will attract a flood of new immigrants eager to cross before amnesty takes effect.

Biden’s plans for legal immigration are just as worrisome. He wants to recklessly broaden the parameters for who can seek asylum in the United States. This change alone could open the floodgates to millions of new immigrants who fraudulently claim asylum in a bid to gain residency and work privileges. He also wants to lift President Trump’s moratorium on guest-worker visas, thus permitting hundreds of thousands of foreigners to swarm our labor market during a time of high unemployment.

Democratic control of the House of Representatives is all but guaranteed. So if Biden wins, only a Republican Senate could stop this agenda.

And make no mistake. A massive increase in overall immigration levels would mean fewer jobs and lower wages for Americans, particularly those with blue-collar careers.

Foreign born workers are less educated than those born here. Last year, 20% of foreign-born workers age 25 and over lacked a high school diploma. For native-born workers? Less than 4 percent. With a relatively limited skillset, foreign workers usually flock to blue-collar jobs, competing directly with less-educated Americans who depend on hourly wages to make ends meet.

Americans would thus see their wages drop. Flush with immigrant workers willing to jump in and work for cheap, employers could easily justify slashing wages. Analysis suggests that a 10 percent increase in the number of workers can lower wages by at least 3 percent.

Nearly 20% of construction and mining workers lost their jobs because of Covid-19. That same group saw wages drop by 30%. Likewise, more than a third of all service-industry workers were sent pink slips. And pay dropped 43%. The hardworking Americans in these sectors are already experiencing economic hardship. The last thing they need is more obstacles to good-paying jobs.

The Democrats’ immigration agenda is reckless. America’s workers can’t afford for Republicans to lose the Senate majority.

Rusty Childress is founder of Remember 1986.

Voting this year is a matter of life or death


In the midst of a global health crisis and approaching the most important election of our lifetime, voters look to Sen. Martha McSally’s reprehensible record on health care to make their decision.

Six weeks to live. This was the fate Jeff Jeans’ doctor prescribed to him while diagnosing the Sedona small-business man with a curable yet fatal throat cancer. Out of a job and uninsured, Jeans – a lifelong conservative Republican – relied on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to access the health care services that saved his life. What Jeans quickly learned was that in life or death, no one is a Republican or a Democrat – we are all just people whose diagnoses should not mean a death sentence or bankruptcy and whose fundamental rights include access to health care.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Jeans took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to advocate for the ACA and one of its critical supporters, Joe Biden. Jeans’ riveting journey from one side of the political aisle to the other is deeply symbolic of how one’s livelihood supersedes political ideology. Moreover, Jeans’ experience highlights some of the issues that matter most to Arizonans.

Kristi Johnston
Kristi Johnston
Health care is a top priority for Arizona voters, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has highlighted its faults and cracks. As we approach November, health care is shaping up to be a defining issue in the race for U.S. Senate: for Sen. Martha McSally, the inability to escape her record on health care was the nail in the coffin for her 2018 failed campaign against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. As much as McSally attempts to invoke the same tactic on voters again this year, her voting record will do all the talking for her.

There are three fundamental truths at play. The simple truth is that McSally has done everything in her power while in office to undermine and destroy health care coverage, particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions like Jeff Jeans. The gut-wrenching truth is that if McSally, who repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA during her terms in the House of Representatives, had gotten the “f–king thing done” – a phrase she used in 2017 to encourage her GOP colleagues to join her on the vote – there is a very real possibility that Jeans would not be alive today to tell his story. The promising truth is that Arizonans deserve better than a comically transparent phony politician attempting to backtrack on a continuous and deliberate effort that could have cost them their lives – and are fired up to vote this November.

At NextGen Arizona, the organization leading the largest youth vote mobilization in the state, we hear from thousands of voters each week expressing that health care is a driving force for them casting their ballots this year. With the pandemic ravaging through our Republican-led state, posting record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths and leaving thousands without jobs and uninsured, a system without the ACA is unimaginable. We are talking to countless Republicans, much like Jeff Jeans, who are reckoning their ideologies with their livelihoods. Many of these voters are now feeling the failures of our leadership very deeply and personally, no longer blissfully detached from the grievances gone unaccounted for in a pre-COVID world.

With the nation’s eyes on us in less than three months, we are reminded that Arizona is on the brink of palpable change. In an election where voting could literally mean life or death, and we have the power to vote against the same people who attempt to destroy our health and livelihoods, let’s get this f–king thing done.

Kristi Johnston is the Arizona press secretary for NextGen America.

Water wars an issue in Arizona’s Senate race

The low level of the water line is shown on the banks of the Colorado River at the Hoover Dam Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Hoover Dam, Ariz. Arizona is renewing a focus on a drought contingency plan for the shrinking supply of Colorado River water, and other Western states are paying close attention. PHOTO BY ROSS FRANKLIN/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The low level of the water line is shown on the banks of the Colorado River at the Hoover Dam Thursday, May 31, 2018, in Hoover Dam, Ariz. PHOTO BY ROSS FRANKLIN/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Editor’s Note: The story is reprinted from OZY.com

Things aren’t quite right at Lake Mead. When full, it’s the largest reservoir in the United States, a receptacle for the Colorado River that flows from Utah to Arizona, tapping the Nevada border at Hoover Dam before heading to California. But on a toasty Sunday, the cliff faces with bronzed tops reveal a crisis: They pale and whiten toward the bottom. This so-called bathtub ring effect has scientists, policymakers and voters across the West worried. And nowhere more so than in Arizona, where there’s a key election at stake.

A decades-long drought and increased evaporation owing to climate change have decimated water levels of Lake Mead, creating problems for the seven states that rely on it. But the concern is especially acute for Arizona, which relies on the river water to supply irrigation to countless farms, and to two-fifths of the Phoenix metropolitan area. If the reservoir falls below 1,075 feet above sea level — it’s currently at 1,077.75 feet — water shortages result, and Southern Arizona farmers would bear the brunt, losing “half of their water supply” overnight, says Paul Orme, a lawyer who represents agriculture-heavy Pinal County and other affected irrigation districts.

Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema fills bags at a food bank in Phoenix, Ariz., Friday Oct. 19, 2018, while campaigning for an open U.S. Senate seat. Her opponent, Republican Rep. Martha McSally, was spending part of the day at a rally in Mesa, Ariz., with President Donald Trump, escorting him on a tour of Luke Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema fills bags at a food bank in Phoenix, Ariz., Friday Oct. 19, 2018, while campaigning for an open U.S. Senate seat.  (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

Typically such matters are handled by state laws and judicial decisions between states. But the Arizona governor and state Legislature failed to find a solution this past session and have kicked the problem to the future. The courts are bogged down with interstate disputes over how to divvy up the cuts if water levels dip even lower. That means one of the country’s hottest U.S. Senate races could turn on how to quench the state’s thirst — that is, if any of the candidates manage to come up with a coherent plan.

The Democrats’ favorite is Kyrsten Sinema, a congresswoman who grew up in a gas station without running water. “Water is a long-term issue,” she told Colorado River Public Media in May, but she hasn’t released or published any policy plans to make sure the taps keep running in Arizona.

It’s a challenge elsewhere, too. Even as the drought in California has slowly eased since 2015, when experts estimated it cost the state $1.84 billion, scars remain in the farms throughout the dusty Central Valley, where farmers protested the state’s strict water storage policies in 2016 with signs reading: “Is Growing Food a Waste of Water?” Dozens in the California delegation who helped pass a bill that year to steer more water to farmers and dam construction — including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — will have the $588 million water deal on their record as they face re-election in the November midterms.

Ordinary citizens care. Last year, Gallup reported that concerns over water pollution were at their highest since 2001, with 63 percent of Americans saying they worried a great deal about contamination. The Flint water crisis, as well as similar access and contamination concerns in Texas and Pennsylvania, have raised the profile of the issue. “Flint was a wake-up call, as it should have been,” says water expert Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor.

The Arizona candidates have precedent. For nearly two decades, Jon Kyl, a former Arizona water attorney, served as guardian of the state’s water needs from his Senate perch before retiring and being replaced by Jeff Flake in 2013. In September, Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Kyl to replace the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. Kyl is expected to stay until the end of the year, which means Ducey would have to appoint another person to the Senate seat in 2019.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, speaks to supporters of President Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018.
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, speaks to supporters of President Trump at a rally in Mesa on Oct. 19, 2018.

Considering the Department of the Interior’s role in determining interstate water policy, there is “huge federal legislation” regarding the Colorado River, says Kathy Ferris, a former director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Plus, senators can strong-arm lawmakers to “confront the potential shortages that are upcoming,” says Glennon.

But as Kyl’s former seat becomes open again, his heir apparent isn’t clear. Sinema says she wants to “pick up” where he left off. Water policy, though, is complicated, making it hard to tout from the stump. Its importance has been overshadowed by the immigration debate, the future of migrant families separated from their children, a border wall and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Combined with typical economic angst and lingering arguments over the Affordable Care Act, there just isn’t much of a spotlight on water concerns. “It’s not to the point where it’s an easily digestible talking point,” says Chuck Coughlin, a political adviser for former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants.

Still, politicians could gain from addressing the topic. Inevitably Sinema, who has represented a downtown Phoenix district since being elected to the U.S. Congress in 2013, will be painted by Republicans as a city dweller prioritizing urban needs. On one campaign trip through southern Arizona, the Tucson native listed water as one of the region’s unique needs — particularly caring for “our agriculture community, ensuring we have a water supply for the future.” Even if there isn’t much “daylight” between her stances and others, Democratic political consultant Chad Campbell says her outreach builds trust with those voters.

Water becomes an issue not of partisan belief, but of competency. On that point, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who is the GOP nominee for Flake’s U.S. Senate seat, can also benefit from highlighting her experience already tackling some of these issues in Washington. She worked with the federal Bureau of Reclamation on preserving Arizona water, supporting everything from WaterSmart Grants and Watershed Act programs to eradication plans for quagga and zebra mussels that produce toxins harmful to people and marine life in Lake Mead. “In the Senate, Martha will continue these efforts,” says McSally spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair.

Ignorance simply won’t work, considering Arizona’s past with water scarcity. “It was the last continental state to join the Union for a reason — it was uninhabitable prior to the building of those dams,” Coughlin notes. Arizona can’t afford to forget that past. Ahead of the polls in November, neither can the candidates vying for the state’s love.

We deserve the full Mueller report, but our leaders aren’t fighting for it


Accurate information is the lifeblood of our democracy. As an eighty-year-old, I have seen sad periods throughout my lifetime when important information has been withheld from voters and I have witnessed the long-term negative impacts of such. A great example is taking a look at the “facts” of the number of deaths and the lack of progress in the Vietnam war were a major factor in the prolonging of the war and of the loss of confidence in the American government for a generation of voters. That’s why I’m speaking out now. I see something similar happening and it’s frightening to think that another generation of young people could become disillusioned with American democracy and the efficacy of their votes.

Rivko Knox
Rivko Knox

We currently see that with the Mueller report. The final findings revealed abuse of power and multiple instances of obstruction of justice, however, as I write this, the full report has not yet been released to the public and too few Arizona elected officials have spoken up forcefully to demand that full release.

A recent poll showed that Arizonans were overwhelmingly in favor of transparency about the Mueller probe’s findings with over 70 percent saying they felt the Department of Justice needed to release a full, public report upon the investigation’s conclusion.

Instead, as we all know, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who wrote a 19-page memo prior to his appointment justifying the fact that the President’s executive privilege was very broad, instead said that the Mueller report concluded that the President was innocent, which was not supported by even the heavily redacted report that he finally did release. Given Barr’s partial behavior, Congress must continue investigating the president and anyone implicated of wrongdoing in the version of the release we have seen.

As the overwhelming percent of Arizonans have said they wanted the full report released, I have been disappointed by U.S. Sen. Martha McSally’s statements praising Barr and not demanding the full release of the report. To me, that indicates that she is not listening to her constituents and thus cannot be counted on to reflect our priorities. Arizonans have yet to receive a response to the report from U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, though I remain hopeful that she will speak out on the side of Arizonans for the transparency we deserve.

Dire as this may sound, I believe that the very foundations of our democracy are at stake. We the people (the very language in our Declaration of Independence) demand the information that is our right as voters so that we can make intelligent decisions about our elected officials.  Further, Arizonans were among the thousands of Americans who rallied last month as part of a national day of action opposing anything but total transparency. Grassroots groups in our state won’t accept the silence or the arguments that we need to “move on.” As the old saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we the voters cannot learn the truth about what happened before, during, and since the 2016 election, we will not know how to fully defend our democratic values in the future.

Arizona’s Sens. Sinema and McSally need to remember the release of the full Muller report is not a partisan issue. The U.S. House of Representatives already voted 420-0 in favor of a public disclosure of the report. Therefore I call on Sens. Sinema and McSally to fight to get the full, unredacted report because based on the discrepancy between what Attorney General Barr said and the limited information in the heavily redacted report, it is obvious that we cannot take his word nor trust his judgment.

Full access to the Mueller report – or lack of such – will impact a generation of young Americans. Therefore we need all of our elected officials to speak out in favor of the release of the Mueller report, so that we know they are listening to us, the voters, and we can trust them to advocate for us.

Rivko Knox is a member of the League of Women Voters of Arizona and also a precinct committeeperson for the Democratic Party.

Women, minority candidates emerge in Democratic slate


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.

congressBut 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.

Side effect

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.”

Young voters will save our democracy


Dear Editor:


If the nation’s eyes weren’t already on Arizona for the most expensive and consequential U.S. Senate race in our state’s history, the possibility of Mark Kelly being sworn in to replace Sen. Martha McSally in time to vote on a new Supreme Court nominee has now put us under an inescapable microscope. The despicable but not surprising reality is Senator McSally’s complete inability to even pretend that she’s anything more than Trump’s puppet, as if she could even attempt to muster up whatever dignity she has left to take a stand for our democracy and the people she was appointed to represent.

Instead, typically and in line with her brand, she has once again left Arizona voters behind, leaving all principle and morality in the trash alongside us. She and the rest of the GOP know that voting for a Supreme Court justice now is a stark contradiction to what they did in 2016 when Mitch McConnell said – nine months out – that an election year was no time to fill a spot on the Supreme Court.

Here we are, six weeks until a presidential election, with some parts of the country already voting, and Republicans are attempting to sell out and undermine the power of our democracy for a greasy, malicious political power grab. There’s no question that Republicans are scared of what this country is starting to look like and consequently the result of a government truly based on the people’s choice isn’t something their party can survive right now.

The simple fact is that the GOP has completely lost their way. They elected a racist reality TV star as their leader, installed a cheap loyalist with no backbone in Arizona, and are now further spiraling down a path that is a far cry from John McCain’s party. They are going back on their word, throwing out decency, and hastily speeding up this process because they know it is one of their last chances to hold our country back from progress.

However, the young people of Arizona have a message for them: if Republicans want to play dirty, then they’ll find the fight they’re looking for here. If they think the largest, most diverse, most educated generation in American history will take this lying down, they have another think coming. At NextGen Arizona, the largest youth vote organization in the state, we’re prepping for the biggest battle of our lifetimes. We’re suiting up in droves right now to show the GOP where the real power lies. The future of Arizona and this country belongs to young, Black, Brown, LGBTQ, working-class, multiracial Americans and we cannot wait to stand over Senator McSally and Trump when we prove that in November. Shots fired and it’s on.

Kristi Johnston

Arizona press secretary for NextGen America.